An All-night Northern Lights Road Trip

Just after 9:00 last night, taking my puppy out for a short walk turned out to be the start of a very, very special night. At that time, there was just a small aurora borealis display showing on the north-eastern horizon. I think that it’s worth noting that none of the images in this post have been manipulated in any way – this is what came out of the camera. You’ll see a lot of very heavily manipulated aurora images being published in magazines and online, but these photos show what the lights actually look like.

After bringing Bella back in the house, I posted a note to a Yukon Aurora Alert page that I set up on Facebook, got my camera gear together, and, still dressed in my pyjamas so I didn’t miss what I expected would once again be a brief show, went out in the driveway and shot a dozen or so images. I came back in, posted one of the photos on Facebook, and when the display was clearly getting better, decided to go for a drive.
The Northern Lights from my drivway in Whitehorse, Yukon
I shot this in the back yard in case the display quit while I was en route to my favourite photography spot, the Yukon River Bridge at Km 1393 on the Alaska Highway (that’s about 17 km – just over 10 miles – from my house).
The aurora borealis from my back yard in Whitehorse, Yukon
The bridge area offers a lot of variety in possible shooting locations. It takes patience if you want a vehicle, or vehicle lights, in your photo – there’s very little traffic on the highway late on a winter night. This was shot at 10:18.
The Northern Lights at the Yukon River Bridge on the Alaska Highway
The lack of traffic means that I can set up my tripod in what would be a driver’s normal viewing position on the highway, even for 30-second exposures. Thirty seconds feels like a very long time when you can hear a vehicle coming, though!
The aurora borealis at the Yukon River Bridge on the Alaska Highway
One of the places near the bridge that I always visit on my aurora shoots is a bluff high above the Marsh Lake Dam, or Lewes Dam. The orange lights in the distance are the lights of Whitehorse, the purplish light to the right is from the dam. The vertical shaft of aurora light in the centre is very unusual.
The aurora borealis over the Yukon River
It takes a very strong auroral display to be visible over the lights from the dam!
The Northern Lights at the Marsh Lake Dam, Yukon
My “itinerary” for the night was open – while I had told Cathy that I’d probably be a couple of hours, she knows that that is a very flexible number 🙂 I headed down the Alaska Highway, taking a few shots looking north along Marsh Lake at the truck pulloff at Km 1376. The streak of light at the lower left is almost certainly a small plane taking off from the Whitehorse airport.
The aurora borealis over the Alaska Highway at Marsh Lake, Yukon
Further south along the Alaska Highway towards Jake’s Corner. The red glow on the snow is from my car’s taillights.
The Northern Lights over the Alaska Highway near Marsh Lake, Yukon
Before getting out of cell phone range, I pulled up the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center site to see what they thought the night might look like. Excellent – an all-nighter coming!
NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center
Reaching Jake’s Corner at 11:40, I turned off the Alaska Highway and headed back towards Carcross on the Tagish Road. This is a loop that I enjoy in any season, in/on any vehicle 🙂
Tagish Road, Yukon at night
There was an excellent aurora display as I neared the Tagish Bridge, a spot that I had high hopes for. There’s a lot of open water there, though, and with the temperature sitting at -23°C (-9°F), there was also a lot of fog, and the Northern Lights had changed to just a glow by the time I got a fairly clear view of the sky.
The Tagish Bridge, Yukon, in a winter fog
The stunning view to the west on the Tagish Road at Choutla Lake, at 12:46 a.m..
The Northern Lights on the Tagish Road, Yukon
The viewing deck over Lake Bennett at Carcross. The focus is off – more than once, I’d forgotten to re-check to focus ring every time I set the tripod up (auto-focus doesn’t work in conditions like this – you have to go manual, and because it’s so dark there’s no way to check whether you have it exactly right) 🙁
The aurora borealis at Lake Bennett, Yukon
I shot this in Carcross specifically to post on the Cadillac page on Facebook 🙂
My Cadillac CTS under the Northern Lights at Carcross, Yukon
The moon rose at about midnight, and even at 80% full it has enough power to dull the aurora quite substantially. This was shot near the Bove Island viewpoint on the South Klondike Highway at 1:35 a.m..
The aurora borealis Yukon
Looking south down Windy Arm at the historic Venus Mine. By this point the aurora was simply a bonus to an incredibly beautiful night. I hadn’t see another vehicle in well over 2 hours at this point.
The Northern Lights over the South Klondike Highway, Yukon
The aurora borealis over Windy Arm, Yukon
This is where I turned around – the boat launch on Tutshi Lake at Km 64.3 of the highway, at 2:30 a.m.. By now the aurora had changed to a fast-moving, vaporous sort of cloud – fascinating to watch but impossible to photograph because of the combination of low light and fast movement.
Tutshi Lake, BC, on a winter night
I drove past Emerald Lake, then decided that the auroral light might have just enough power in it still to photograph, so backed up to get this shot.
The aurora borealis Yukon

I got home at 4:00 a.m., and Monty was happy to share his basement couch with me so I didn’t wake up Cathy and Bella. While I really wanted to go through the photos I’d shot, I was absolutely exhausted. I got about 2½ hours sleep before I heard Cathy getting ready for work, so an afternoon nap is planned for a bit later today!


The Drive to Skagway in Snow-free February

Okay, most of the route isn’t quite snow-free, but as you’ll see in the photos below, there’s not much of the white stuff anywhere. The poor organizers of even the Iditarod sled dog race are stressing about where they’re going to find a suitable route.

I needed to go to Skagway yesterday for 3 reasons – I had stuff to pick up at the post office, the weather was forecast to be sunny most of the way, and Monty needed a day alone with me to reinforce his position in the pack now that a new puppy has no doubt made that unclear to him.

With the puppy, Bella, in her crate while we were away, Monty and I hit the road a few minutes after the 08:50 sunrise, with the temperature at -28°C (-18°F). I decided to make a little detour through Carcross to get this shot in particular, and a couple of minutes later discovered that there was a much better reason for me to have gone that way. I met an old friend who I really needed to see but haven’t called in a long time – we spent a wonderful hour chatting over coffee, and I’ll be seeing her a fair bit in the coming weeks to help her with a difficult project of a type that I’m good at.
Lake Bennett, Yukon, in the winter
Every now and then I think that maybe I do the drive to Skagway too often. Then I come around a corner…. and say “no, I’m good with this!” 🙂
The South Klondike Highway in the winter
We stopped at Log Cabin so Monty could go for a good run (this is the view north from there). This is where I really noticed just how little snow there is. I’m still quite stunned by what I saw on the drive.
Log Cabin, BC
The WP&YR railway runs along the lake at the base of the rock in the centre. That curve is known as Ptarmigan Point. There’s not likely to be much snow for the railway crews to clear this Spring.
Ptarmigan Point on the WP&YR in the winter
There’s not much danger of an avalanche at the White Pass summit now – there’s not even enough of a base for the snowmobilers.
White Pass summit in the winter
It was intended to be a quick trip, as this was Bella’s first time being crated during the day. Even if we’d planned on spending some time in Skagway, though, that would probably have been changed, as it was -17°C (+1°F) with a strong North wind that made walking quite unpleasant. I did see this new sign on the walkway along the Small Boat Harbor from the main cruise ship dock, though – very nice.
Welcome to Skagway, Alaska
The White Pass folks have been doing some really nice decorating lately as well – I don’t know if the caboose is intended for a purpose other than decoration, but it looks good, as does the new sign on the paint shop to the left.
The White Pass & Yukon Route Shops at Skagway, Alaska
Water has been a bit of a problem along the Alaska section of the highway, but it’s all frozen tight for a few days at least. A grader was working at cutting a drainage ditch in the ice just south of this waterfall.
Frozen waterfall in the White Pass, Alaska
The avalanche gate at Mile 8.2, and Mine Mountain – the historic Inspiration Point Mine is located high around the right side of it.
MIne Mountain, Alaska
One final photo stop to capture Lime Mountain, and we were home just after 2:30.
Bella was happy to see us and get out of her crate, though Cathy had come home from work to see her at noon. I’m thrilled to see Monty’s reaction to his little sister. Although a bit unsure of her in the house, he’s wonderful with her outside – so I’m very much looking forward to the warmer weather that’s coming back starting today so we can spend a lot more time outside.
Huskies Monty and his baby sister Bella going for a walk


A Quick Flight to Calgary for a Husky Puppy

After a few days trying to adopt one of the husky-cross (a.k.a. “Alaskan Husky”) puppies from a rescued litter near Canmore, Alberta, it finally came together on Thursday. I booked a flight for the next day to go down and get her. Air North is well known for giving great service for this sort of thing in particular, and being an Air North shareholder helps to make last-minute bookings affordable.

Lining up for takeoff at 09:03 Friday morning. The weather called for deep cold both at home and in Calgary, with mixed sun and cloud for all 3 days of the trip.
The main runway at Whitehorse, Yukon
The view south over Lake Bennett, 7 minutes later.
Winter dawn over Lake Bennett, Yukon
There is some really intriguing geology in British Columbia – this is in the Dease Lake / Telegraph Creek area.
Aerial view of northern British Columbia mountains
Drainage patterns on Williston Lake.
Drainage patterns on Williston Lake
A broad view of part of Williston Lake, a 250-km-long lake created in 1968 by the building of the W. A. C. Bennett Dam on the Peace River.
Williston Lake, BC
Coal mining along Highway 40 north of Grand Cache, Alberta, with vapour coming from the H.R. Milner Generating Station, a 150 MW coal-fired power station. It’s always particularly interesting to an aerial view of places that I know from the ground – I last drove that road in May 2013.
Coal mining north of Grand Cache, Alberta
In the center is Mount Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies at 3,954 meters (12,972 feet).
Mount Robson, BC
We flew down the eastern flank of the Rockies at 37,000 feet to avoid the turbulence that’s common over the mountains. In the centre can be seen one of the large icefields that gives the highway known as the Icefields Parkway its name.
Icefield in the Canadian Rockies
Descending into Calgary, looking down on Big Hill Springs Provincial Park in the centre, with the town of Cochrane in the distance.
Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, aerial view
Patterns in Alberta ranching country – the way this area is growing, there may be a mall there in 20 years.
Patterns in Alberta ranching country
The Bow River north of downtown Calgary.
This would have been prime property until the incredible floods along the Bow this past June – I wonder what prices are like now. Many businesses and homes are still being rebuilt.
Townhomes along the Bow River
The Aero Space Museum of Calgary is highly recommended for anyone with an interest in aviation.
Calgary International Airport (YYC) seems to have had major construction going on constantly for the past couple of decades. It’s one of my favourite airports, though access is a bit tougher than it used to be.
Calgary International Airport
YYC is trying out a cellphone waiting area, and it worked great for my daughter and I. Rather than circle around and around, she just waited for my call and then drove over from a small parking lot a few hunded yards away.
I had arranged to meet my pup’s foster parents at 1:00 Saturday. As we got close to their home in south Calgary, we pulled in behind this truck – with a plate like that, we thought that it might be them! It wasn’t – just a funny coincidence.
Alberta licence plate SHELTER
My first cuddle with “Cuddles”, the pup that we’ve named Bella. The black-and-white pup is Lemon, from the same litter. The rescue director sent me a message saying that she thought that we might like Lemon better, as she has a thicker coat and “looks more husky”. No thanks, we were already committed to being Cuddles’ forever home.
Alaskan huskies Cuddles and Lemon
Taxiing for takeoff at 1:10 yesterday afternoon. Getting through the airport took much longer than I thought – I got stopped over and over by people – airline agents, salespeople, passengers – with comments that often started with “OMG she’s adorable!” 🙂
Taxiing for takeoff at YYC
A great view of downtown Calgary with the Rocky Mountains to the west.
An aerial view of downtown Calgary in the winter
Looking over YYC to the northeast.
An aerial view of Calgary International Airport
Looking down on my daughter’s neighbourhood, with 2 more large subdivisions just starting to the south of it.
Airdrie, Alberta
Here’s a new subdivision south of Edmonton that leaves me wondering what the attraction is. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, with no lake, no trees, no anything that I can see. Different strokes, I guess 🙂
While the Air North flight from Whitehorse to Calgary is direct, on the way north there’s a 25-minute stop in Edmonton (YEG) to drop off and pick up passengers, many of them people who look like they work in northern Alberta’s booming oil and gas industry.
Edmonton International Airport - YEG
Looking down on downtown Edmonton at 2:50pm – our stop in Edmonton had been a bit longer than planned. The airport at the upper left is the former Edmonton City Centre Airport (Blatchford Field), which closed permanently in November 2013.
Looking down on downtown Edmonton
Highway 658 crosses the Athabasca River north of Blue Ridge, with the large Blue Ridge Lumber mill to the east of the road.
Almost home, over Teslin at 3:50 pm (we changed time zones going into BC and the Yukon, gaining an hour).
We made a very long, very low approach to Whitehorse. This has happened before when the guy who owns the airline, Joe Sparling, was flying the plane I was on, as happened yesterday. I love flying with people who love what they’re doing. This is the Yukon River Bridge on the Alaska Highway just east of Whitehorse.
That’s Bella’s crate being loaded onto the cart behind another, older Alaskan Husky.

Cathy saw first-hand the sort of reaction Bella got at the Calgary airport, because the same thing happened in Whitehorse. In Calgary, one of the Air North agents took a photo of her, in Whitehorse, one young fellow took quite a few.

Cathy and I were thrilled beyond words at how Bella’s first meetings with her new family went. Not only was Monty great, so was Molly (our cat), who walked right up to her and rubbed her head on her. The fact that Molly and Bella are pretty much the same size (for now) may help that relationship get off to a good start.

As I write this, my little “pocket husky” is napping at my feet. She’ll quickly realize that “the new guy” is her forever Dad. We’re going to have such fun 🙂


Cold, Art & Husky Puppies – Keeping the Variety Going

After our long spell of warmer-than-normal temperatures, Winter has returned, plunging the thermometer to levels well below normal. But, life goes on, although a hoped-for flight this weekend is probably going to get cancelled as a result of the deep cold.

It’s bottomed out at -31.2°C (-24.2°F) here in Mary Lake this morning. The usual lower-than-Whitehorse temperatures mean that we’ll probably hit -40 (that’s where Celsius and Fahrenheit are the same) or lower early next week. Click on this image to see the current forecast, opening in a new window.

Weather in Whitehorse, Yukon
Yesterday, I finally got at a project that’s been on my to-do list for just about forever – taking photographs of the famous “stained glass” mural in the main Yukon Government building. I was a bit late, though, as some of the panels are deteriorating and one has been removed to try to find a way to repair them. This morning, I posted the photographs of each panel with explanations of what is featured in them – that article can be seen here.
The stained glass mural in Whitehorse, Yukon
It was gorgeous yesterday. Even though it was -25C (-13F) when Monty and I were in town, the sun had such warmth that my heavy jacket wasn’t zipped up and I didn’t wear gloves! The Yukon River didn’t feel that warmth, though, and was steaming nicely.
Yukon River steaming in the sunshine at -25 degrees
After being very patient while I dealt with a long list of errands, my buddy got to go for a good run at Schwatka Lake on the way home. “Look, Dad, I can fly!” 🙂
Monty, the flying husky
Cathy and I have been thinking about getting another dog ever since Kayla died, but the right dog just hasn’t appeared. Well, Cathy found one in Whitehorse that she fell in love with a few weeks back, but I just didn’t get the feeling. A few days ago, though, a private rescue in Canmore, Alberta (Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue), took in some husky-cross puppies, and Cathy and I both got the message that it was the right time and the right dogs. We currently are trying to adopt the little female in the middle of this photo – this cold may mess up the plan I had to fly down this weekend to bring her home, though.
Husky-cross puppies in Canmore, Alberta

It’s another busy day coming – I have a lunch meeting with a Whitehorse fellow who’s researching Alaska Highway roadhouses, I have to dig out my greenhouse to get some lumber I need for the bathroom reno, I need to see how the puppy adoption is progressing, and I have some writing to do for another blog (a new project which I’ll tell you about when that article – about our recent trip to Vancouver – is posted).


History and Renovations fill my days

After the very long, very warm spell of weather, we’ve started to drop back down to normal temperatures – it’s currently -15°C (+5°F), a nice mild day in a normal January. We have a lot of sunshine forecast for the next week, and I hope to be able to get out and take advantage of some of it, but right now, history-related projects and house renovations are keeping me busy all day, every day.

This photo that I shot in Dawson City in July 1992 was one of the spurs to write up a history of all 5 of the DC-3s and C-47s that Air North operated until 1998. As part of that, I was also busy on eBay and other sites, buying photos of the aircraft from Great Britain, the Czech Republic and a couple of places in the States. You can see the result at Air North: the DC-3 / C-47 Era.
Air North DC-3 in Dawson City, Yukon
Old newspapers are very difficult to store, so I have very few in my collection. This copy of the New York Tribune of September 14, 1883 is so fragile that I don’t even know how to deal with it – photographing it seems to be the only option. Part of the article that I bought it for 20-odd years ago, about the attempted rescue of the crew of a steamer wrecked in the Arctic, is missing. I’ve recently signed up for an account with Newspapers.com – they’ve posted over 220,000 pages from historic Alaska newspapers alone, and more are being added all the time.
New York Tribune of September 14, 1883

I did finally deal with a scrap of newspaper from 1937 that had the dramatic headline “9 LOST ON AIRLINER – Plane Missing on Hop Over Alaska”. That article can be seen here. And a different and more complete 1937 paper that I’ve been posting articles from for quite some time yielded a history of Circle Hot Springs, Alaska.

Yesterday I started another big renovation project – the complete rebuild of the main bathroom. The black tile and black vinyl floor have been allowed to live here for far too long! It’s a fairly complicated job, and I have my heating contractor in today to take advantage of the gutted bathroom to run new vents to improve the return air on the new furnace. That’s the new chimney for the woodstove to the left.
Bathroom renovation
Getting this bathroom finished will also get my garage cleaned up so we can get both cars in. Cathy has been scraping frost off her windows for quite a few weeks, since a good sale on the tub/shower we wanted took her space in the garage. Yes, I offered to keep my car outside, but she declined.
My garage during the bathroom renovation

Okay, that’s enough diddly-dallying – back to work! 🙂


Spring in January in the Yukon?

It’s now been a month since I last posted – that may be the longest “dry spell” here in 4 years. I’ve been so busy that I hardly know which direction is up, but this morning I’d like to tell you about some of what’s been going on, starting with today and going backwards.

This is the weather report as of a few minutes ago. This record-breaking warm weather just keeps going on and on.
Weather forecast for Whitehorse, Yukon - January 23, 2014
I hadn’t been to Skagway for a month, and the sunrise as I was coming home from town yesterday morning provided the extra boot I needed to hit the road with my fur-buddy. The photo was shot at 09:12.
January sunrise on the Alaska Highway

It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen a good weather report for Skagway, so I wasn’t expecting much for the day, but even so I was in for some surprises. The temperature was a very mild -4°C (25°F) when we headed south, and slowly dropped to -15°C (5°F) by the time we reached Robinson at 09:30 – I actually pulled over and noted that in my journal, as I expected it to be the lowest temperature of the day. Just 7 minutes later, though, with virtually no change in altitude, the temperature had climbed to -1°C (30°F)! That is one of, if not the most dramatic temperature changes I’ve ever seen.

Conditions got quite ugly as we neared the south end of Windy Arm (Km 81 on the South Klondike Highway). There was apparently a warm, wet layer of air above the cold one, and though the ground-level temperature was -5°C (23°F), a light rain was falling, of course freezing as it hit the car and road. The temperature slowly climbed to the freezing point as we neared the White Pass, but the visibility dropped to less than 50 feet for several miles across the summit. Don’t I know how to have a good time? 🙂

I picked up most of my stuff at the post office, though a post office rule that they only keep parcels for 2 weeks is now being enforced for the first time in the 20 years I’ve had a box there, so one book got returned to the merchant. From there, I went over to the mouth of the Skagway River. The view of that great sandy beach was all the encouragement I needed to take Monty for a long walk.
A sandy beach at Yakutania Point, Skagway
Monty spotted a dog that he would really have liked to play with, but when I insisted that he get in the car to drive to the Yakutania Point trailhead instead, he did. I occasionally get asked what breed Monty is – he’s a Seppala Siberian Sleddog, a breed of husky developed in the Yukon about 25 years ago.
Monty, a Seppala Siberian Sleddog
With the high country frozen, the Skagway River doesn’t have much water flowing. This is the view north from the Yakutania Point footbridge.
The Skagway River in January
Ahhhh – soft sand in January! I really wanted to go barefoot, but it was much too cold 🙂
A sandy beach at Skagway, Alaska
Yakutania Point.
Yakutania Point, Skagway
Looking south down Taiya Inlet.
Taiya Inlet, Skagway, Alaska
I could see a forecast rainstorm heading up the channel, and knowing what that could turn into up in the White Pass, cut the walk a bit shorter than I’d planned. The temperature was still sitting at the freezing point through the pass, and conditions were slightly better than they’d been a couple of hours before.
Driving through the White Pass, Alaska in January
With even warmer temperatures forecast this week, Highways crews were very busy getting as much snow and slop off the road as possible.
Snowplow on the South Klondike Highway
Even though I took the photo, I still find myself shaking my head in amazement that the Yukon can look like this in January.
A warm January along the South Klondike Highway, Yukon
This past weekend, Cathy and I went to Vancouver for 3 nights – I’ll tell you about that trip in another post once I digest it all. While there, I did some experimenting with HDR (High Dynamic Range) images. While I think it’s a gimmick that’s being over-used, it’s pretty cool with the right subject – this is Coal Harbour in Vancouver.
Coal Harbour, Vancouver, in HDRI
One of the projects that I’ve gotten back into is working on the Bill Lythgoe collection of photographs of British Columbia in the 1950s and ’60s. You can see much more about the collection here.
Working on the Bill Lythgoe photo collection
This is the Lakeview Lodge at Mile 462, Alaska Highway, as Bill saw it in about 1963.
Lakeview Lodge, Alaska, in the 1960s
Back outside, Monty has been enjoying the warm weather, and I ran the snowblower around the property a couple of weeks ago so he could RUN! A husky racetrack is just plain fun 🙂
Renovations continue on the house – the next pair of photos show the change in the furnace/laundry room is the past few weeks. The list of things accomplished is very long, but there’s lots more to do, and I’ll be at it all winter. Next Monday, I’ll be gutting the main bathroom for a complete re-do.
Home renovation - laundry room before-and-after

Well, that’s a brief look at what’s been going on. I know that some of you are getting truly awful weather, and hope that you all stay safe.


A Christmas Drive to Skagway, and Other Stuff

We’re 3 days past the shortest day of the year now. That’s always a significant point for me – PLEASE come back, Sun! 🙂 It’s actually been an easy winter so far, probably because I’m so busy with all kinds of projects. I’ll tell you about some of them, but first, I want to show you the drive to Skagway that Monty and I did yesterday.

The first photo was shot just south of Carcross at 10:24, 14 minutes after sunrise.
December sunrise along the South Klondike Highway
I made a change to the car a few days ago. The licence plate I had on the Outback, XPLOR, just wasn’t working for me on the Cadillac, so I got a new one (I was surprised that CRUZR was still available). I’m holding onto the old one for another vehicle, but I’m not sure yet which one.
Cadillac CTS with Yukon CRUZR plate
It wasn’t a very photographically rewarding trip. I’d been waiting for a good weather forecast for a while but it just never came, so I gave up. Luckily, I don’t mind driving in this sort of condition. This is the US/Canada border, a few hundred yards north of the White Pass summit.
The US/Canada border on the South Klondike Highway
More and more, I spend much of my Skagway time down at the water. If Cathy and I ever leave the Yukon, it will be to a place within walking distance of the sea – we both love it.
Small Boat Harbor at Skagway in December
Out at the fuel dock. It would be quite a day to be on a ferry coming up Taiya Inlet with a screaming south wind!
Taiya Inlet on a windy December day
The tug Anna T from Ketchikan was docked, but it wasn’t clear why – perhaps to take away the crane that was working on the Small Boat Harbor improvements.
Tug Anna T
Skagway got a couple of inches of snow overnight, and crews were busy cleaning up. The temperature was -15°C (+5°F) when I left home, +3°C (37°F) in Skagway. Ah, Spring! 🙂
Snow cleanup in Skagway
Cute. That’s probably illegal everywhere except Skagway.
Christmas decorations on a car in Skagway
Monty loves road trips, at least partly because he gets to go for lots of walks. Walk #4 was at the Pioneer Cemetery. Clara Amelia Patton was only 29 years old when she died on December 13, 1904. Going to these old cemeteries that have so many young people and babies buried always reminds me how easy life is today. The stories seem even sadder when the graves are covered by snow.
Grave of Clara Amelia Patton at Skagway
I had a good lunch, and headed north again just after 1:30 Yukon time. The new avalanche signs through the pass look more in character now 🙂
Avalanche warning sign in the White Pass, BC
Out in the middle of nowhere along Windy Arm, a Christmas tree appears every year. Thanks for putting it up, Jacqueline – Merry Christmas to you, too! She actually came along just as I was about to leave after taking this photo, and we chatted for a while.
A Christmas tree out in the Yukon wilderness
So, that was yesterday. Now, what else is going on? Well, the big excitement is that we have a moose hanging around the property again. This very poor photo taken in the pitch dark a few days ago is the only one I have of her yet, but there are lots of new tracks day after day, so she’s back pretty much every night.
Moose in Whitehorse
I got a dedicated photo scanner a few days ago, so I can finally start scanning my thousands of slides. Most of the ones I’ve done so far have been old family photos, but this Air North DC-3 that I flew from Dawson to Whitehorse on in 1992 made the cut as well.
Air North DC-3 at Dawson
Speaking of airplanes, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my head in the air lately – both my Alaska Aviation and the equivalent Yukon page have gotten dozens of additions, including this one shot in Fairbanks while I was on the Riverboat Discovery with one of my tour groups.
High performance bush plane in Fairbanks
The main reason for the drive to Skagway was that I had a few packages to pick up at the post office. I’ve added a large number of old transportation and tourism brochures and photos to the collection. If I run out of things to do, yesterday’s additions will keep me busy for many days. Here’s a sample of the sort of thing that I find interesting – from back in the days when the only way to get your vehicle from Skagway to Whitehorse was to put it on a White Pass rail car.
WP&YR brochure from the early 1970s
And finally there are the house renovations that I’m chipping away at. The first complete job is the basement bathroom – the before and after photos are below.
Bathroom renovation - before
Bathroom renovation - after

Well, the sun will be up in 4 hours, but I have to get into town long before that to pick up a couple of things, and I certainly want to be there before today’s craziness starts.

I hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas, in whatever way you celebrate or don’t 🙂 Cathy and I are pretty much on the “don’t” list except for having a dinner and a brunch with long-time friends. No stress, just a peaceful evening and morning.


Digging out of a Record-Breaking Snowfall

Yesterday was a busy day, and I can sure feel it in my old bones this morning. I haven’t seen official confirmation that the snowfall that ended about noon yesterday was a record, but I’m quite sure that it was. The Environment Canada weather statistics say that the record one-day snowfall was 27.2 centimeters (10.7 inches), on March 8, 1967. At 04:00 yesterday morning, 24 cm (9.5 in.) had fallen in Whitehorse according to The Weather Network, and we got a lot after that, so I expect that the total was in the 40 cm (15.7 inches) area.

I know that many people think that we get buried in snow on a regular basis, but as you can see, that’s not so. The Yukon is actually a very dry place – in the case of Whitehorse, that’s largely because we’re in the rain shadow of the coastal mountains.

When I shot this picture from the back door at 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday night I was already wondering aloud on Facebook what the record was, and it continued snowing all night.
Record Snowfall in Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2013
The view out the front door at 05:13 yesterday (Thursday). Time to get to work.
Record Snowfall in Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2013
The plow truck looked like it had been sitting there for weeks…
Record Snowfall in Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2013
…but I had just parked at at 1:00 p.m. the day before, so that’s what had fallen in just over 16 hours.
Record Snowfall in Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2013
The first pass up the driveway with the truck plow. I dump the snow in the ditch across the road, which is technically contrary to bylaws, but everyone does it. When I saw the condition of Sage Place, I thought about my neighbours who have little cars – it could be days until City plows get out here.
Record Snowfall in Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2013
So I made 4 passes up and down the street – the main street in Mary Lake, Fireweed, was not too bad, as it gets a fair bit of traffic. It’s always good to live on a street with a retired guy with lots of toys 🙂
Record Snowfall in Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2013
The preferred snow dump on our property is down the north side by the wood pile.
Record Snowfall in Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2013
By the time Cathy headed into town at 08:30, things were in pretty good shape so I got back on the computer for a while.
Record Snowfall in Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2013
The truck uses an enormous amount of fuel plowing in low range 4-wheel-drive, so to get back to work at 10:30 Monty and I had to go into town for fuel. This is where the long-abandoned tracks of the White Pass & Yukon Route railway cross the Alaska Highway at Macrae.
Record Snowfall in Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2013
The North 60 card lock at Macrae.
Record Snowfall in Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2013
I often wish that I could make one more road trip with a semi – but not on days like this! I cringe when I recall some of the trips I made with semis and buses in weather like this over the 35 years I drove them.
Record Snowfall in Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2013
With the front yard basically done, it was time to move into the back yard, which requires different equipment and much more hand work.
Record Snowfall in Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2013
Big sigh* – get at ‘er, buddy!
Record Snowfall in Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2013
The snowblower, a fairly new addition, does a great job of putting in trails out to the barn, to the doghouse, to the storage shed, and moving the snow accumulation from around the deck.
Record Snowfall in Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2013
Lots of shovel work is needed on the deck, then it’s back to the snowblower to move those piles further away.
Record Snowfall in Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2013
At about 3:30, I had had enough and quit for the day. I took this photo at 3:54, 7 minutes after sundown. That’s a pretty end to the day. I went downstairs, turned on the Spa Music channel on the TV, and cuddled up with Monty – that’s where I was when Cathy got home almost 2 hours later.
Record Snowfall in Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2013
As I finish this post, the weather forecast is interesting – 0°C (32°F) tomorrow, dropping to -35 (-31°F) on Tuesday night. Note the wind chill in town right now, -29 (-20°F).
Weather forecast for Whitehorse, Yukon, December 2013

There’s still a lot of snow work to be done around the property. I just got started on the upper deck, and then I’ll get some of the snow on the roof raked off the spots where the drift are deeper then I like. But, I also have lots of finishing work to do in the basement, putting baseboards and door and window trim in the areas I’ve otherwise completed. Now, it’s time to post this and get breakfast made for Cathy so she can head out into the real world 🙂


Early Yukon Motoring – and other stuff…

With the weather not very conducive to Adventures lately, the vast majority of my time is being spent on house renovations. But History is always part of my life, and I’ve spent a bit of time going through my files of old newspaper articles. A couple that caught my eye have been transcribed and interpreted this past few days, and have now been posted on ExploreNorth.

Auto Fails on Yukon Road” describes the attempt in the Fall of 1911 to drive a 1910 Abbott-Detroit touring car from Skagway to Dawson City. Although they only made it to Carmacks, driving the car on the railway grade all the way from Skagway to Carcross is notable.
Auto Fails on Yukon Road, 1911
Crack New Car Brought to Dawson” describes the arrival of the first Cadillac, an 8-cylinder, 7-passenger touring model, in the Yukon Territory, in the summer of 1915.
Cadillac brought to Dawson City, 1915

Following a request for information from a fellow in southern B.C. who’s building a 7-foot-long model of the SS Klondike, I’ve also added several more photos to my SS Klondike Photo Album that he can use to scale some features properly.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, work continues on the basement. As soon as I post this blog, I’ll be painting the bathroom walls and grouting the new shower. Then a trip to town for new baseboards, and that job will be substantially complete.
Bathroon renovations


All Work and No Play…

… makes Murray a dull boy – and am I dull! Between Web site work and house renovations, I haven’t been out of the house much lately except to go to the hardware, and I have a basement full of materials for the winter.

The big Web job is a near-complete rebuild of ExploreNorth. New search engine rules put serious penalties on sites that they seem to feel are competing with them – that have “too many” links to other Web sites. The number of visitors to the site plummeted starting in May, and since I started this rebuild by deleting a few hundred pages, it’s coming back nicely. The focus is now to have the majority of the site’s content original content – the hundreds of articles I’ve posted since 1997, and the thousands of photos.

ExploreNorth now has a much tighter focus. Rather than being “the world’s largest guide to the circumpolar North”, it now just covers Alaska, the Yukon, Northwest Territories and northern British Columbia – the areas that I explore in. The hundreds of pages about Greenland, Russia, Iceland, Norway, etc, are history as of a few weeks ago.

Many of the other pages that were deleted were Alaska community guides that consisted mostly of links to related sites that I thought people would find useful in various ways. Guided by my site stats, I’m now in the process – the very time-consuming process – of creating new guides to the handful of communities that my readers actually look for information about. The first of those guides, on Skagway, is virtually complete as of this morning, with a new name and new focus. An Explorer’s Guide to Skagway, Alaska has a summary of the community and its attractions and activities, with a large photo album, a history page, and some basic links to sites like weather and the Chamber of Commerce. This will be the model for the dozen or so Alaska guides to follow.
The Explorer's Guide to Skagway, Alaska

Even the ExploreNorth search engine has been reconfigured to make it more useful. The pages that just contain enlarged images from the photo galleries no longer show in search results – in some cases that has cut search results dramatically so you can find what you want quicker.

There’s a very long list of house reno projects – currently working on 2 bathrooms, but there are large stacks of flooring and light fixtures for the basement as well, and some kitchen enhancements in case I get bored. Part of yesterday’s work was getting things re-arranged in the garage so I can get 2 cars, a motorcycle, and a large new bathtub-shower unit all in it (mission accomplished 🙂 ).
Bathroon renovations - the dirty work

So if there’s a long stretch with no adventures being posted here, I’m not dead, just dull 🙂