Driving from Farwell Canyon to Cache Creek

On Day 6 of the trip – Tuesday, May 1 – I drove from Farwell Canyon west of Williams Lake to the Redhill Rest Area south of Cache Creek, then did some exploring in the Tracker the next morning.

Tuesday had started out very cloudy, and there was extensive cloud to the east, the direction I was going. By the time I took this photo at 08:25, at a cattleguard about 3 km from Highway 20, the skies had cleared and it looked like a beautiful day coming.

Cattleguard on the Farwell Canyon Forest Service Road
Eastbound on Highway 20, the hill down to the Fraser River is very long and very steep. There are several runaway lanes for truckers who screw up and lose their brakes.

Fraser River Bridge on BC Highway 20
The variety of terrain in this area west of Williams Lake is quite remarkable.

BC Highway 20 west of Williams Lake
My first stop in Williams Lake was at the beautiful Visitor Centre, built of massive logs. It’s a great place to walk the dogs on soft grass with no cactus, and then I went inside with some questions, and to hook up my laptop, for charging and to post the last 2 blog posts.

Williams Lake Visitor Centre

Once I got my computer work done, the visitor centre person said that Canadian Tire could do an oil change on the motorhome, and that the flooding danger on the highway ahead was now over. When I went to Canadian Tire, though, the response was “it’s tire changeover season” but that they’d fit me in at 10:00 am the next day. I thought about that for a minute and decided that it could wait for a while yet. Wile I could easily fill 24 hours in the Williams Lake area, my head just wasn’t there – I had too many things in mind further south. I next went to dump and fill my rv tanks, then washed it, and headed south just after 1:00 pm.

At about 2:30, I stopped at a large pullout beside the Mile 108 airport to make a late lunch and take Bella and Tucker for a good walk.

Walking the dogs at Mile 108 on BC Hwy 97
South of Cache Creek, the evening light was gorgeous, and I stopped at the Redhill Rest Area with the intention of unhooking the Tracker and going back for some photos. But when I went to fire “Goldie” up, she was completely dead! After setting up for the night and having dinner, I backed the motorhome up, and hooked jumper cables up to the Tracker. She started no problem. So at least it’s some minor thing, though at this point I have no idea what. Carrying a spare vehicle is sure easier than calling BCAA when things like this happen 🙂

I shot the next photo at 06:20 the next morning – four other vehicles had joined me at the rest area overnight.

After breakfast, the dogs and I left Molly behind and went exploring in the Tracker. We’d just backtrack to the north and see what came up that was interesting.

My cat, Molly, in the RV
From the irrigated and now-productive desert to the snowy peaks, with a whole lot of country burned in last year’s massive wildfires.

From the irrigated and now-productive desert to the snowy peaks south of Cache Creek, BC.
The light wasn’t nearly as good as it had been the previous evening, but it’s really pretty country in any light.

Along Hwy 97 south of Cache Creek, BC
Within a few minutes we came upon 4 cowboys and 2 dogs herding about 250 cows and new calves. We spent a few minutes watching and listening to them. The cowboys with dogs were constantly yelling commands. One cow decided that the dog wasn’t her boss, and turned with her head down in defiance. Within a few seconds of darting back and forth and barking, the dog had changed her mind. Tucker was fascinated by the whole thing, but Bella quickly got bored and went to sleep. I wonder if the cowboys, at least the ones with dogs, do contract herding – I wondered think that one cattle operation could keep tem busy.

4 cowboys and 2 dogs herding about 250 cows and new calves south of Cache Creek, BC

4 cowboys and 2 dogs herding about 250 cows and new calves south of Cache Creek, BC
Photos from the shoulder of the road always look awkward to me, so it’s nice to be on a highway with little enough traffic that I can step out into the “correct” location for a shot 🙂

Highway 97 northbound, south of Cache Creek, BC
Cattle operations fascinate not only Tucker, but me as well. This small one offered a few good photo ops.

A cattle ranch south of Cache Creek, BC
I imagine that people in this area figure that anyone taking pictures of cows must be a city-slicker from Vancouver, not thinking that there actually are rural and remote places that don’t have cows 🙂

Cows and new calves south of Cache Creek, BC
I stopped along the highway for a couple of photos of the long-abandoned Ashcroft drag strip. Did that ever bring back some good memories. I could almost smell the nitro-methane fuel from 45+ years ago. This was a great little strip that attracted racers from hundreds of miles around – as far as Seattle.

The long-abandoned Ashcroft drag strip
Back in the day, Cache Creek was very car-oriented, with the drag strip, and as the destination for many car club poker runs and such events. In the village crest is a ’57 Chevy.

Just a few days before, downtown Cache Creek was badly flooded, but other than a whole lot of sandbags around buildings and driftwood along the streets, there was no sign of a problem now. Coming south with gthe motorhome, I couldn’t figure out how it could flood, but on this pas through, I could see that debris from a small creek beside the Dairy Queen had blocked the culvert and caused the flood.

Further north of Cache Creek, the Bonaparte River was causing some residents concern, but there didn’t appear to be any damage despite dire warnings in the media about “biblical” flooding coming right about now.

Bonaparte River north of Cache Creek, BC
A productive farm, dry hills, and burnt mountaintops north of Cache Creek.

It looks like some of the wildfire areas got extremely hot (the way the rocks are scorched), and some fires came right down to the highway. A memorial cross was burned here. Many miles of fencing (many hundreds of miles, I expect) have been or are being replaced.

Wildfire are north of Cache Creek
I backtracked as far north as the historic Hat Creek Ranch, where the highway was completely closed by flooding a few days ago. There was no sign of problems now. I wonder what crop requires that sort of preparation, in a field adjacent to the Hat Creek Ranch.

On the northern outskirts of Cache Creek, a good example of how you make a desert bloom.

Irrigating the desert for farming at Cache Creek, BC
Across the road from that irrigation, there’s a bit too much water on this property.

Flooding at Cache Creek, BC
I decide to go up the hill to have a look at the Cache Creek airport (named the Campbell Hill Airport, it just opened in 1985). This is the road to it.

The road to the Cache Creek airport, BC
One of the 3 aircraft at the airport is C-IKGY, a Zenair CH701 SP. At least two aircraft hangars here were burned during last year’s fire that swept through this area.

C-IKGY, a Zenair CH701 SP at the Cache Creek airport, BC
I kept thinking about the Ashcroft drag strip, and went back to see if I could get closer. Much to my surprise, the property is wide open. This view shows the staging lanes for cars getting ready for their spot on the starting line.

Ashcroft drag strip, BC
“Goldie”, staged and waiting for a trip down the 1/4 mile! A slow trip, very unlike the ones my heavily-modified ’69 Camaro used to make 🙂

Ashcroft drag strip, BC
The timing lights at the end of the 1/4 mile, with the sloped shutdown area ahead. Spend a small fortune and hundreds of hours for that 10-12 second drive on a straight piece of road. Crazy, eh? 🙂

Ashcroft drag strip, BC

By about 11:30, Goldie was hooked up to the motorhome again and we were on our way south. Destination? Lytton, perhaps.

Exploring Farwell Canyon and the historic Pothole Ranch

This was my third annual visit to Farwell Canyon with the RV, after a high school friend bringing me here in 2015. The more I see of the area, the more captivated I am by it. The stark, spectacular beauty of Farwell Canyon, and the history of the Pothole Ranch, in a location that few people visit, make this one of the finest RV boondocking sites I’ve ever been to (boondocking is camping without any services or amenities).

This ws the view of the Chilcotin River and a bit of Farwell Canyon from the cliff edge 100 feet from the motorhome, shortly after getting set up mid-afternoon on Day 4 of the trip (Sunday, April 29th).

Chilcotin River and a bit of Farwell Canyon
Looking to the left from the same spot, the Pothole Ranch. Being a beautiful Spring Sunday, it was a busy day, with 4 vehicles.

The historic Pothole Ranch
We had covered a lot of miles in the past 3 1/2 days, and now, haing reached warm sunshine and seclusion, it was time to relax. There isn’t even cell service at Farwell Canyon, so I just made a post to Facebook from my inReach: “satellite comm only for 3 days”, and went black 🙂

Murray relaxing in front of the RV at Farwell Canyon
The Pothole Ranch is my regular dog-walking destination. That evening at about 7:00 pm, we went for our first look of this trip. The long-abandoned homestead of Gordon “Mike” Farwell is a big part of the magic of Farwell Canyon for me. Mike bought the place in the early 1900s from the original settler, Louis Vedan. Farwell named the place “the Pothole Ranch”, and in 1912, teamed up with Gerald Blenkinsop. The both married and brought the wives to the Pothole Ranch – and although they’re not blooming yet this year, during past visits, their wives’ fragrant lilacs still bloom to evoke a gentler part of life out here. In the next photo is the smaller of the two homes on the property.

Pothole Ranch, BC
The living room of the main house. It’s worth noting that neither Farwell Canyon nor the Pothole Ranch are protected by any ecological or historic designation.

Pothole Ranch, BC
At the downriver point of the property is a memorial to Norman Louis Stieman, 1930-2014.

Memorial to Norman Louis Stieman, 1930-2014, at the Pothole Ranch
The full moon rising over the ridge to the east at 8:41 pm.

The full moon rising at Farwell Canyon
On Monday morning, the first job was to administer the next dose of tick (etc) medications for Bella, Tucker, and Molly. The dogs are really good about it, Molly not so much 🙂 We use Advantix II for the dogs, Advantage Multi for Molly.

Tick medications for all our pets.
When we were in Telegraph Cove on Vancouver Island, we bought this print and have it taped up in the rig as a reminder of a trip that we must do again. I phoned Cathy from Williams Lake, and another 3-4 weeks on “the Island” just may be on for September 2019 (September offers the best orca experiences).

Telegraph Cove, BC
At 07:30, with the temperature at +4°C and a chilly wind, the dogs and I had a walk and ball-play near the motorhome.

The hoodoos are so incredible. It’d be cool see a multi-decade time-lapse to see the changes – some of them must collapse, and forming them is probably a continuing process.

Hoodoos of Farwell Canyon, BC
A look over the edge was all it took to get us walking back down the ranch. You might wonder why I don’t camp down at the ranch. It’s a combination of the road being dicey for a rig this size, and I like the expansive views up top. I also really like watching the logging trucks go by (though there weren’t very many this year).

Historic Pothole Ranch, BC
Just upriver of the main ranchhouse is a bench sitting on top of what appears to be a man-made hill, though I can’t imagine what purpose it would have been built for.

Enjoying the view from the Pothole Ranch
The tiny creek that flows along the upriver end of the property was a raging torrent.

Spring runoff creek
Another view of the main ranchhouse.

Pothole Ranch
In previous years, the majority of the traffic going by has been logging trucks. This year, there was a lot of traffic, including a large fleet of what appear to be grocery-carrying pickups and light trucks that I hadn’t seen before.

The lighting connection between the RV and the Tracker had quit working, so I bought a new connector set in Whitehorse to fix it with when I had some calm time (and the right mood – I hate electrical work). As soon as I took the old connector apart, it was obvious what the problem was. When Fireweed RV installed it, they didn’t seal it, so water got in and everything corroded.

Corroded electrical connector on the RV
Everything ready…

Replacing a corroded electrical connector on the RV
The sun was lovely but that wind was bloody cold! Anyway, the lights on the Tracker were soon working again.

Replacing a corroded electrical connector on the RV
By noon, it had warmed up nicely. Sometimes I need to go for a walk without the dogs – on this road, they got cactus in their feet both times I took them.

Walking at Farwell Canyon, BC
From the end of that road, I could see 2 people and 3 dogs up on the top of the sand dunes. A drone was also flying above me – a couple of fellows from Forestry had come by the previous day to tell me that they were going to be flying one to do some aerial mapping. I’d like to see one of those mega-buck drones up close.

Sand dune at Farwell Canyon, BC

Just before 1:30, I headed out on the major event of my Farwell Canyon visits – a hike to the sand dunes. Because of cliffs and cactus, Bella and Tucker didn’t get to come.

I stopped at the one-lane Chilcotin River bridge and walked back for a few photos. As well as the bridge itself being really interesting, there’s a fishway through the rapids below the bridge.

Chilcotin River bridge, Farwell Canyon
Just north of the bridge, this rest area was installed in 2016. The sign advises that this is a “User Maintained Site” and that “abuse of this system will result in the removal of all facilities.”

There are often cows hanging around the start of the trail to the sand dunes.

Cows at Farwell Canyon, BC
The trail begins by dropping into and climbing back out of this large gully, and there are two more to traverse along the route as well.

Trail to the Farwell Canyon sand dunes
A sign note that this is private property, and although everyone is welcome, only foor traffic is allowed – no bikes and nothing motorized. The sand dunes can be seen right ahead.

Trail to the Farwell Canyon sand dunes
I soon came up with a much more ambitious plan – I wanted to see what the top of the entire canyon ridge looked like. I switched to my 10mm lens to get this broad view just past the sand dunes.

Trail to the Farwell Canyon sand dunes
A different look at the Pothole Ranch.

Pothole Ranch, Farwell Canyon, BC
The Chilcotin River bridge.

Chilcotin River bridge, Farwell Canyon, BC
Did I mention cactus? These little buggers really hurt when you’re pulling them out of a dog’s foot (the spines easily go through normal gloves)!

Cactus on the trail to the Farwell Canyon sand dunes
Here’s a good look at the sand dunes. Pretty incredible, very special.

Farwell Canyon sand dunes
Looking pretty much straight down at some of the hoodoos – yikes!!

Looking pretty much straight down at some of the Farwell Canyon hoodoos
Some people had recently been mountain-biking along this path, but I could barely walk it, with a strong wind blowing from the right. One section was much worse, and I couldn’t walk along it – I took a route through the bushes. That sort of exposure didn’t use to bother me – I must be out of practice.

Trail along the top of Farwell Canyon, BC
This was as far as I went. The ridge in the photo was the actual end but didn’t appear to offer anything that my location didn’t have, and it looked like few people went out there.

Trail along the top of Farwell Canyon, BC
The Pothole Ranch from the end of the trail, a couple of minutes before 3:00 pm.

The Pothole Ranch from the top of the canyon
Okay, back to the sand dunes. With a strong wind blowing, I expected that it might be a short visit.

Farwell Canyon sand dunes, BC
Parts of the trail beyond the dunes are quite steep.

Farwell Canyon sand dunes, BC
On a windy day like this, the sand dunes are very active as well as beautiful.

Farwell Canyon sand dunes, BC
Warm sun, soft sand, incredible views, and nobody around for miles… 🙂

Farwell Canyon sand dunes, BC
The wind very quickly removes all traces that anybody has been here before you. There was no sign of the 2 people and 3 dogs that were here (they were getting into their car to leave as I arrived at the trailhead).

The wind was even stronger out at the peak, so I didn’t hang around. I’ve seen some people climb up from that side of the dunes – the trail starts at the Chilcotin River bridge, but although it’s very short, it’s also very steep.

Farwell Canyon sand dunes, BC
For my first hike of the year, this one might have been too ambitious – I was very glad to get back to the Tracker at 4:15. Bella and Tucker didn’t even get a walk down to the ranch that evening.

We got hit by extremely high winds last night. It scared Bella, and took my deck chair for a trip. The winds are light this morning but there are lots of clouds, so after breakfast, we’re going to head back into Williams Lake. The visitor centre will be open now so I can post the last couple of blog posts, and hopefully find a place to do an oil change.

Days 3 & 4: Driving from Dawson Creek to Farwell Canyon

Although I had planned to get some work done on the RV in Dawson Creek on Saturday, April 28th (Day 3 of the trip), that didn’t work out. As a result, I was away early, with no real schedule for the day. I’d just see what was happening along the Hart Highway, and park for the night where it seemed appropriate.

There was a fair bit of flooding along Dawson Creek, and I had an urge to do some wandering and get some photos, but kept on going. Along the section of BC Highway 97 known as the Hart Highway (from Dawson Creek to Prince George), there was still a fair bit of snow.

Late April along the Hart Highway
Although there was no dangerous flooding, there was a lot of water, and creeks were all flowing pretty much at capacity. There is normally no water along the highway here, just grass.

Water along the Hart Highway in late April
I had been so focussed on the motorhome that I’d neglected to fuel up in Dawson Creek (at $1.299 per liter). I realized it within a few minutes, but decided that Chetwynd, seen in the next photo, would work. Both gas stations there were busy, neither are big-rig-friendly, and gas was 9 cents per liter more expensive, so I just put $100 as a comfort level to reach Prince George. The station was out of regular, so they were pumping premium at their regular price ($1.389).

Going south from Chetwynd, you’re soon back in the mountains (which is where I like to be). Massive flooding and highway damage here 2 years ago resulted in tens of millions of dollars being spent on creek control and new, higher bridges. With one exception, those projects were easily containing this year’s flow. The exception was where the controlled creek was almost dry, but an uncontrolled torrent was about 100 yards away – apparently the creek cut a new channel further up the slope.

The Hart Highway north of Pine Pass
This isn’t a dramatic drive, but it’s very pretty, with the Pine River alongside the highway for much of the way.

Pine River along the Hart Highway
The Pine River is often a broad, wandering stream, with lots of logjams. It would be a very poor river to canoe/kayak.

Pine River along the Hart Highway
The East Pine Rest Area is usually a good place to let Bella and Tucker play free, but this year, there was too much snow. About 10 km back, though, a pipeline crossed the Pine River and there was a large grassy area there, so I unhooked the Tracker and we headed back.

The Pine River, and a railway overpass ahead.

The Hart Highway, Pine River, and a railway overpass
This pipeline crossing has always intrigued me. I remember it being built, and that seems like a long time ago – the 1970s, perhaps.

Pipeline crossing the Pine River
Above the pipeline, 4 power lines taking electricity south from the W.A.C. Bennett Dam at Hudson’s Hope. There’s quite a buzz coming from those lines. It’s hard to imagine the billions of dollars that have flowed through this valley via wire and pipeline over the past few decades.

Powere lines from the W.A.C. Bennett Dam
The pipeline crossing is an interesting structure – nothing fancy but very efficient. Spectra Energy now owns it, but I think West Coast Transmission built it.

Pipeline crossing the Pine River
Near the pipeline bridge is a memorial with a plaque that says “August 16, 1996. Barry and Vijay. Always with us.”.

Memorial along the Pine River - 'August 16, 1996. Barry and Vijay. Always with us.'
Bella never passes up an opportunity to get her feet wet. Tucker, on the other hand, isn’t a big fan of water.

Murray's dogs in the Pine River
Tucker was much more successful getting Bella to play than he was at Muncho Lake. Here, they played hard, mostly in the soft, wet snow 🙂

Murray's dogs playing

Murray's dogs Bella and Tucker playing
By 1:30, we were climbing up to Pine Pass, where a few snowmobilers were getting their final play of the season in.

Climbing up to Pine Pass

From East Pine, it was a long day of driving, but with the great play the kids had at the Pine, I didn’t feel too bad about it. I stopped to fuel up in Prince George, which consistently has the lowest prices in BC. Most stations were $1.249, a couple were $1.234.

Just bafter 5:30 pm, I stopped at a rest area north of Hixon – a spot that my weather app calls Woodpecker. Nobody sleeps well while I’m driving, and Bella and Tucker crashed as soon as we got back from a walk.

Husky/Shelty cross Bella sleeping on the couch in the RV
Molly was content in her sunbeam.

My cat Molly was content in her sunbeam.
Signs like this aren’t often seen in BC anymore, but when there are no campgrounds open yet, the rules don’t apply anyway. Signs asking people to not stay more than 8 hours are more the norm in BC now. That’s a much more reasonable rule – when I’m tired, I’m stopping, and don’t care what any signs say.

No camping or overnight parking sign
The rest area is well below the highway, and it was a peaceful night, those I was surprised to hear vehicles driving through the rest area all night. In the morning (05:30), it was -1½C, and there was no hint of Spring.

Hixon Rest Area, BC Hwy 97
The rest area was much nicer when the sun finally came over the mountain and lit it up. I shot this photo just as we were about to leave, at 08:25.

Hixon Rest Area, BC Hwy 97

I had planned to talk to the folks at the Williams Lake Visitor Centre about weather and road conditions, but they were closed – Monday-Friday during the off-season. I checked what I could on my phone, and finally decided to head west on Highway 20 and then to Farwell Canyon. That had been my plan, but the weather looked like it was to get cold and cloudy, so was thinking about changing that plan.

From the Visitor Centre I drove over to the Stampede Grounds to top off my water tank, but the water hadn’t been turned on yet. I didn’t need water yet, but I have water from my well at home in the tank now, and I like to add treated city water as soon as I can so it stays fresh longer. It was fun stop anyway, though. While chatting to a couple of local guys dumping their trailers’ tanks there, one noticed Bella sitting the driver’s seat as usual, and asked if his daughter could meet her. Hell yes – they both had a very good visit. Bella with a kid who wants to snuggle is at her most adorable 🙂

Williams Lake Stampede Grounds
At 1:45 pm, the turn off Highway 20 onto the 2000 Road, the Farwell Canyon Forest Service Road, was just ahead.

The turn off Highway 20 onto the Farwell Canyon Road just ahead
The Farwell Canyon Road begins in high cattle country, just below the tree line.

Along the Farwell Canyon Road
The gravel road was a bit rougher than it has been, but not bad. I soon stopped, took the burner gate off the stove ad put it on the floor so it didn’t bounce off and scare the kids (Bella in particular). At about Km 16, I stopped again to take a photo of the warning signs just before the steep, winding drop down to the Chilcotin River.

Warning signs on the Farwell Canyon Road
Did they miss and dangers that might be ahead? 🙂

Warning signs on the Farwell Canyon Road
Nearing the bottom of the grade.

The Farwell Canyon Road


By 2:30, I was set up and ready to chill. The sun was gorgeous and it was probably about 22°C. Tomorrow would be exploring day.

RV at Farwell Canyon

As I finish writing this post, it’s Monday at 06:45. There’s not a cloud in the sky and the sun just hit the rig. Time to get breakfast on and get this day going (though everyone’s asleep and I hate to wake them). At this point I don’t know how long we’ll be here – 2 or 3 nights. It’s great being able to say that I’ll leave when I’m in the mood to leave.

RV Season 2018 has begun – Days 1 & 2, the Alaska Highway

My plan for RV Season 2018 had been to leave Whitehorse on April 20th. That didn’t happen, though – I caught a nasty cold that Cathy had, and I wasn’t well enough to hit the road until Thursday, April 26th. And that was a stretch. As I begin writing this blog at 06:20 on Day 2, I’m still very congested and achy. But I’m surrounded by the incredible peaks of Muncho Lake Provincial Park – how bad can life be? 🙂

Anyway, this post is about the first two days of the trip, 1,410 km down the Alaska Highway from Whitehorse to Mile 0, Dawson Creek, BC.

Backing up to April 18, I was busy with all the jobs that needed to be completed before leaving. Mother Nature was not helping, though, with morning temperatures dropping to around -10°C.

Draining the hot tub is usually a simple job, but this year, I had to run plumbing anti-freeze through it so nothing would burst.

Draining the hot tub with temperatures well below freezing
I took the motorhome in and got the front wheels balanced, and got winter tires put on the summer rims of the Tracker. I’m going to run winters year-round on the Tracker now because they’re much better for off-road use.

Integra Tire, Whitehorse
My en suite bathroom is unfortunately still a project, mostly because of a many-week delivery time for the cabinetry we finally decided on.

I had hired a plumber to do the en suite plumbing and some other work, and his final visit was on Monday, April 23rd – when I should have been 1,000 miles away. Cathy was going to come home, let him in, and go back to work. To keep a long story short, the last few gallons of water from the hot water tank that the plumber was servicing came back up from the floor drain onto my basement floor. If I hadn’t been there, and been quick getting every towel in the house down on it – well, it could well have been a messy insurance job.

An emergency call to Northwest Vacuum had a truck out within about 40 minutes. They’ve always been good, but they sure got bonus points for this one.

Septic tank pump-out in the winter
I had a hell of a time finding the septic tank pump-outs. While I knew roughly where they were, I moved a whole lot of snow very quickly before finding them just beyond where I expected they should be. I’m still not sure why this happened – I think that the thaw and re-freeze we had a few weeks ago put a lot of water into the system and then froze.

Septic tank pump-out in the winter
By Tuesday afternoon I was down to the final sorting of supplies, spare parts, and tools to take in the motorhome. Once I got that done, I did some more work on the motorhome floor, which is almost finished but not quite. Between the cold weather and being sick, nothing was on schedule.

Regardless of what else is going on, Tucker and Bella can always make me smile. They are so good together, and often very funny. In this photo, Bella had started to dig a hole in the snow, from which she soon pulled a bone. Tucker had joined in the dig, and soon pulled a bone of his own from the excavation 🙂 When either Cathy or I aren’t feeling well, Tucker becomes the most wonderful little nurse dog – and all 3 of the fur-kids (Molly included) think that the extra naps I was taking were great.

Murray's dogs Tucker and Bella
Finally, yesterday, Thursday, April 26th, everything was ready. At 08:20, the fur-kids and I pulled away from home, which we won’t see again for 8 weeks. The map shows the first 2-week period (actually only 11 days now), from Whitehorse to Kelowna, where Cathy will fly to meet us on May 6th. Then the daily miles we put on as we explore the Okanagan, Kootenays and southern Canadian Rockies drop substantially. Click on it to open an interactive map in a new window.

You can also follow along with the data that my new Garmin inReach loads to a very detailed map every 10 minutes.

RV trip map - Whitehorse to Kelowna, the wandering way

Driving along Marsh Lake on the Alaska Highway, it really still looked like winter, with only a small stretch of open water on the far side of the lake where thousands of migrating swans have started to gather. It also still felt like winter – it was -5°C when we left home.

Frozen Marsh Lake, Yukon, in late April
I rarely go by White Mountain at Jake’s Corner without at least one photo. I also shot this scene with my phone and posted it to Facebook and Twitter.

White Mountain at Jake's Corner, Alaska Highway
Tucker doesn’t ride shotgun while we’re moving, preferring to be snuggled up with Bella on the dog bed. When I made a photo stop, though, he wanted to see what was happening. It feels incredibly good to see how much all 3 of them love the RV life. For Molly, I think that a lot of it is because her family is always really close.

Murray's little dog Tucker in the RV
At the Teslin Lake viewpoint at 10:30, it was time for a dog-walk. The breeze coming off that huge sheet of ice had quite a chill to it, but the kids were enthusiastic.

Teslin Lake viewpoint in late winter (late April)
As is common this time of year, there were a lot of bad pavement breaks south of Teslin. Most of them can be avoided if you’re paying close attention, but not all can, especially when oncoming traffic occupies the unbroken pavement you need. At 12:20, I was starting to feel the need for a nap, and just beyond this very cool butte…

…is a large pullout that was perfect for an hour-and-a-half stop. The kids are all big fans of these long afternoon stops! The vehicles in the photo (3 of them in a northbound convoy) arrived right after I did, and were still there when we pulled away.

Afternoon nap stop along the Alaska Highway

I made a very long fuel stop at the North 60 cardlock at Watson Lake. It was very long because the rig has become difficult to fuel – the gas bubbles up and shuts the hose off. It’s extremely frustrating. It used to happen occasionally, but now it’s the norm, and I haven’t found a solution yet.

On my way through Watson Lake, I moved over to the frontage road to get some photos. First, a gas station and restaurant (Bee Jay’s?) that closed 4-5 years ago.

Bee Jay's gas station and restaurant in Watson Lake
And the 1950s Cedar Lodge Motel. When they installed a new sign on the pole last year, I was very pleased to see that they saved the old sign, which is a classic (I have a few photos of it in place on the pole).

1950s Cedar Lodge Motel in Watson Lake
At 5:00 pm, it was time for a dinner stop at Km 905, the Yukon/BC border pullout south of Contact Creek. The kids ate first, then I opened Murray’s Burger Barn, a cozy little place along the Alaska Highway. I had barbecued up a few of my awesome burger patties for quick meals along the road.

Murray's Burger Barn, a cozy little place along the Alaska Highway
At Swan Lake, it had rained just enough to get the rig dirty (of course). It was great to see the sun come out, and the forecasts I’ve looked at show that a whole lot of that is ahead. The next photo shows the road ahead at about Km 799, twenty minutes north of Liard Hot Springs. It’s a must-stop in most people’s books, but after probably 40 visits over the years, I seldom stop anymore.

Alaska Highway southbound at Km 799
At 7:30, we stopped for the night at a huge pullout just north of Muncho Lake. This is where we camped for several days last year while hiking several of the many canyons in the area. I love this spot – the views in every direction are simply stunning. At this point, we were 693 km from home, 717 km from Dawson Creek.

RV parked at a pullout in Muncho Lake Provincial Park, BC
From the rig, I could hear water running at the far side of the outwash plain, about half a kilometer away. I expected to find a large run-off flow, but instead found just this tiny creek. The high berms give an idea of how heavy the run-off is occasionally – I’d like to see that!

Run-off creek near Muncho Lake, BC
Tucker stalking Bella. He wasn’t particularly successful in his attempts to get her to play in the snow.

Tucker and Bella
While the dogs explored and played a bit, I took a few photos of the creek as well as them.

Run-off creek near Muncho Lake, BC
Seeing this Greyhound go by was a reminder that I need to get photos of everything Greyhound on this trip, as they’re cancelling all Northern service very soon now.

This was the view out the front window of the RV on Friday morning just after 07:00. I was in no hurry to leave, so had breakfast, got the first half of this blog post done, and went for a long walk, with the temperature at about -2°C.

The view from my RV at a pullout along Muncho Lake, BC
We finally pulled away right at 09:00, with the sun nicely lighting up the world ahead.

My RV at a pullout along Muncho Lake, BC
The more time I spent at Muncho Lake, the more I love it. It’s spectacular and it’s powerful, and the walking or hiking options are endless.

Muncho Lake, BC, in late April
Back into the chilly shadows below the dramatic cliffs along the Toad River at Km 660.3

Dramatic cliffs along the Toad River at Km 660.3 of the Alaska Highway
An interpretive panel at Km 658.8 uses Folded Mountain, seen in the next photo, to explain plate tectonics and the process of building the Rocky Mountains. The rock once lay flat on the bed of a shallow sea, but about 175 million years ago, the continental plate (the continent of North America) started moving westward, buckling the sea floor and forcing it upwards. It’s hard to believe that the Rockies are now a tiny fraction of their original size, reduced by erosion.

Folded Mountain, Alaska Highway
We had pretty good wildlife viewing coming down the Alaska Highway, with bison, caribou, moose, mule deer, lynx, and coyote. This caribou was on the highway along the Racing River on Friday morning.

Caribou beside the Alaska Highway
There’s very little traffic on the Alaska Highway. What RV traffic there is, is largely Alaskan snowbirds heading home, but there are also rental RVs being moved north, and seasonal employees. The number of actual tourists is tiny, but that will change quickly in the next couple of weeks.

The empty Alaska Highway
The MacDonald River Bridge is one of the few remaining open-web girder bridges on the highway. With an open-grate steel decking, it makes an interesting sound when you cross it (Bella hates the noise), but they’re quite treacherous on a motorcycle.

MacDonald River Bridge, Alaska Highway
Spring is just beginning to make its mark on the ice of the MacDonald River.

MacDonald River, BC
“The Cut”, which takes the highway from the bottom of the MacDonald River valley up to Summit Lake, is one of my favourite sections of the highway, Narrow, twisty, and steep, it’s a good look at how many parts of the highway were not that many years ago.

The Cut on the Alaska Highway
Summit Lake. I still have a lot of exploring to do in this area. Hiking the Summit Peak Trail four years ago whetted my appetite for the incredible high country. I have planned on getting there last year, but the canyons of Muncho Lake took all my available time.

Summit Lake, Alaska Highway, BC
Dropping down to Fort Nelson, it was starting to look like Spring wasn’t far away, and I even spotted a few pussy willows.

The Alaska Highway west of Fort Nelson
Just after I passed Teslin on Thursday, the dashboard panel announced that I need to do an oil change. With these computerized oil change messages, you never really know when those are going to pop up, so they’re hard to plan for. A billboard along the highway had announced that I could get the RV washed and the oil changed in Fort Nelson an hour and a half ahead, but the business has closed, and no other is available. I guess it’ll get done in Dawson Creek

RV service in Fort Nelson - business closed
Nearing Dawson Creek, almost all the snow was gone. The melt has apparently come quickly – in Dawson Creek, the creek of that name was once again flooding a few roads and properties.

I parked at Walmart, which has all the RV-park services I need (good wi-fi – and it’s better than at most RV parks that charge $40/night). It’s now Saturday morning at 06:10. I may be in Dawson Creek for a few hours, as I have a fair bit to do, including the oil change, washing the rig, repairing the light connection to the Tracker, checking out the water system and some fiddly stuff. The plan is to be heading towards Prince George sometime today.

Almost ready for a 9-week RV trip around BC and Alberta

I had planned to start our season-opener RV trip 2 days ago, but Cathy passed on her nasty cold to me, and I’ve spent much of the past 3 days in bed instead. As I write this, I’m still far from feeling well, and although I’m hoping that I can get away tomorrow, it may well be Tuesday (the 24th).

As has been the case for many other areas across North America, Father Winter has refused to leave the southern Yukon. This is what we woke up to a week ago, on April 15th. As well as the fact that I’m not taking the motorhome out on roads like that, it makes getting a lot of the work that needs to be done around the house and on the RV much more difficult.

Snow on April 15th in Whitehorse
The cold weather that’s hanging on has in particular made getting the new flooring in the motorhome difficult. I should get it finished today, though. All that’s left is the small areas in front of the driver’s and passenger’s seats, and the “doghouse” (the engine access cover). And then bolting the couch back in and installing trim.

New tile floor in the RV
I had to get new summer tires for my car last week. Although “Ruby” is now raring to go on a road trip to test the Michelin Premiums on her summer chrome wheels, she’s getting stuck in the garage for 9 weeks tonight instead. Homely little Goldie behind her, though, is getting towed away on another Most Excellent Adventure behind the motorhome 🙂

2010 Cadillac CTS in the Yukon
It’s still well below freezing at night, so I won’t be filling the water tank in the RV before I leave. A blue jug of water will do until I get to at least Dawson Creek, 3 days down the Alaska Highway. I prefer to fill the tank with treated city water rather than from my well in any case, to keep it fresh. The photo shows the ice from the barrel that one of my roof gutters drains into.

Spring ice in the Yukon
Even draining the hot tub has been made more difficult, as once I drained it, I had to run plumbing antifreeze through it to prevent pipes from bursting.

Pre-trip draining of the hot tub
And the en suite bathroom project I’ve told you about? Well, bad timing and “stuff” (mostly the hundreds of hours I’ve put into my Yukon History Group) delayed it over and over, and as I’m about to leave for the summer it’s still a project rather than a bathroom. The cabinetry just arrived a few days ago – that’s been the biggest hold-up, and that was simply our late decision on what to get. The plumber I hired returns tomorrow to hook everything up, and I’m going to try to have everything ready so that it is then usable, in case Cathy at some point decides that she needs a third bathroom 🙂

Counting down the hours now, I’m really excited about this year’s exploring. I have some amazing places to show you – many that haven’t been on the blog before, or only got brief mentions. Bella, Tucker, and Molly don’t seem to know what’s up yet. This photo from last year is one of the ones I use to remind myself how wonderful RV life is for all of us. Little Tucker is the most wonderful, adorable nurse dog when Cathy or I don’t feel well, so he’s been working hard for over a week now, and is certainly due for a break 🙂

And Cathy? Well, she’s stuck in Whitehorse for 2 weeks yet, then will fly to Kelowna to meet us. That’s working out very well for us – I get the high-mileage days taken care of, and then we wander very slowly for the month she’s with us.

A Kluane Lake day – sunshine, sheep, and an ice cave

I’ve been so busy for the past many weeks that I’ve hardly been out exploring at all. Yesterday, though, a friend and I drove out to Kluane Lake, and it was superb – an absolute 10/10 day. Though very cold, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, we got some great wildlife encounters, and we even found an ice cave.

What am I busy with? Well, on Tuesday and Wednesday last week, we got another 6 inches of snow. Luckily, I already had a Bobcat booked to come over and get rid of the 4-5 inches of hard-packed snow that had accumulated over the winter, so he took care of the new stuff as well, and the driveway is now pretty much clear. That was only the third time I’ve ever called an outside contractor in for snow – once at our city house 12 years ago, and once here 5 years ago. Usually I spend dozens of hours chipping away at the hard-packed stuff for weeks – for $110, the Bobcat solution is much better.

A Bobcat clearing hard-packed snow from my Yukon driveway
The cabinetry for the new en suite bathroom won’t arrive for 3 weeks or so yet, so I’m still just working on it slowly. I got the shower fully installed and most of the drywall put up on Friday and Saturday. I’ll get the drywall finished today and start mudding it.

Building a new en suite bathroom.
The temperature on Saturday morning was nearing the all-time record low for the day, bottoming out at -31°C (-24°F). The forecast was for a high of -9C/+16F at Kluane Lake, so I picked Karla up at 10:00 and we headed west. An hour later, we took a detour off the Alaska Highway to go through the tiny village of Champagne, and stopped there for a few minutes. These hubcap “totem poles” are always a popular subject for photos.

Hubcap totem poles at Campagne, Yukon
Mileposts at Champagne – the new Kilometer 10 of the Champagne road, and the old M.P. 974.6 from when this was part of the Alaska Highway.

Mileposts at Champagne, Yukon
When looking for scenic mileposts on the Alaska Highway, it’s pretty hard to beat Km 1526 on a day like this.

Km 1256 of the Alaska Highway
Dimok Timber, the lumber mill along the Alaska Highway at Canyon Creek, is a fairly frequent photo subject for me.

Dimok Timber, Yukon
The views just keep getting better and better as you near Haines Junction. Many people who live in Whitehorse never leave town in the winter. I really think they’d enjoy getting out and learning to appreciate what we have in the Yukon.

The Alaska Highway near Haines Junction, Yukon><br />
There a huge ice cave west of Haines Junction, a 14-km round trip hike from the highway. It’s become a very popular destination recently. Yesterday there were 17 vehicles at the trailhead! I want to get up there, but it will certainly be a mid-week hike – there’s no way I’m going to a place like that with a crowd.<br />
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Karla is as passionate about photography as I am, so we stopped quite a few times. She also did some shooting through the windshield. The beauty on a day like this does pretty much leave you speechless after a while.

The Alaska Highway west of Haines Junction, Yukon
Where the highway drops down to Christmas Creek, the curving road and spectacular peaks make it an irresistible photo stop. There are decorated Christmas trees at both ends of the little bridge that crosses the creek 🙂

The Alaska Highway at Christmas Creek
We stopped at the Slims River Bridge for a few photos. Karla got down for a low shot. I was surprised by how little traffic there was – almost none.

The Alaska Highway at Slims River
There were about a dozen Dall sheep low on Sheep Mountain, including a ram and a ewe about 100 feet above the highway. I parked the car before getting to them and we walked up the highway to shoot them from below.

Dall sheep on Sheep Mountain, Yukon
What a surprise when the ram and ewe both climbed down the cliff for a visit!

Dall sheep beside the Alaska Highway at Sheep Mountain, Yukon
Meeting sheep who are this comfortable with people is really unusual, in my experience. Looking at the ram’s substantial horns and power, Karla called back to me, “Is this how I die?” 🙂

Dall sheep on the Alaska Highway at Sheep Mountain, Yukon
After a few minutes, the sheep climbed back up the cliff.

Dall sheep above the Alaska Highway at Sheep Mountain, Yukon
A final pose by the ram at a distance that didn’t even require a telephoto (well, a short one – 105mm). They then both climbed back up to where they had been, and we went back to the car and continued on.

Dall sheep ram above the Alaska Highway at Sheep Mountain, Yukon

Dall sheep above the Alaska Highway at Sheep Mountain, Yukon
Trucking the Alaska Highway looks like a pretty fine gig on a day like this! Some days, not so much…

Trucking the Alaska Highway
As I drove up the highway a bit further, we could see a massive pressure ridge on the lake, and it came to shore at a spot where we could walk down to it, at tiny Horseshoe Bay. A walk in the sunshine for some exploring – just what the doctor ordered. It had now warmed up to the forecast high, -9C/+16F.

A pressure ridge on Kluane Lake, Yukon
Pressure ridges are often formed when the water freezes and expands, and wind can often enhance the ridges. I had never seen one this large or complex, but conditions were perfect to create this.

A pressure ridge on Kluane Lake, Yukon
The pressure ridge stretched as far as we could see in both directions. This was the view back to the east.

A huge pressure ridge on Kluane Lake, Yukon
Thawing and re-freezing of some open leads added to the complexity of the scene.

A pressure ridge on Kluane Lake, Yukon
Karla found an ice cave that could be accessed by a hole just big enough for a person to get through!

Ice cave in a pressure ridge on Kluane Lake, Yukon
The cave is about 20×10 feet and 5 feet high. The colours and patterns inside were wonderful. Karla’s little dog Meeko usually has a really good sense of adventure, but she wanted nothing to do with his. It’s hard to say how long this will last – I expect a few weeks yet unless we get a very warm spell.

Ice cave in a pressure ridge on Kluane Lake, Yukon

Ice cave in a pressure ridge on Kluane Lake, Yukon
This was an incredible location to sit and enjoy life for a while. I found that it was about 5 degrees too cold for proper suntanning, but today I can see that my face sure got some sun.

Murray Lundberg at a pressure ridge on Kluane Lake, Yukon
This was the view along the pressure ridge to the west.

A pressure ridge on Kluane Lake, Yukon
It’s hard to imagine the forces and conditions that could bend and not break a sheet of foot-thick ice.

A pressure ridge on Kluane Lake, Yukon
We finally decided that it was time for a late lunch or early dinner, and at about 2:30 started walking back to the car. The Talbot Arm Motel in Destruction Bay seemed like a good option. The food was good, the view exceptional. Heading home, we had just passed through Haines Junction and Paint Mountain was ahead at 4:55.

Paint Mountain at Haines Junction, Yukon
At this point, we were both extremely pleased with the way the day had gone. It couldn’t have been any better. Until the herd of elk appeared 🙂

A herd of elk along the Alaska Highway east of Haines Junction, Yukon
There were about 25 elk in total, in two loose groups. There were quite a few yearlings.

Elk along the Alaska Highway west of Whitehorse

Elk along the Alaska Highway east of Haines Junction, Yukon
One final photo, of the wonderful light on the peaks right at Km 1490.

Snowy peaks along the Alaska Highway at Km 1490, west of Whitehorse

I got home at about 7:00. Although it’s gorgeous again outside (but very cold again), as soon as I post this, I have to get back to work on bathroom drywall…

Aurora Borealis hunt along the Tagish Loop

After hardly taking any pictures for many weeks, I’ve been trying hard to make up for lost time lately, especially when the aurora may be visible. Whoops, Cathy says that house renovations are NOT “lost time”! 🙂

Since buying a lens specifically for photographing the aurora borealis last November, I haven’t yet had a good night to use it. While there have been some good Northern Lights shows, they haven’t happened at times when I had enough energy left to get out for a few hours in the middle of the night. Last night, I was hoping that the Rokinon 10mm f2.8 lens would get the opportunity to work. It’s very wide, very fast, and very sharp – a great addition to my Canon EOS 7D.

Rokinon 10mm f2.8 lens
The aurora forecast was extremely good, but as the sun went down, the skies were mostly cloudy. Within a couple of hours, though, the clouds dissipated, and I got my gear together, planning on a long night.

Aurora forecast for March 18, 2018

As I left the house at 10:00 pm, a band of aurora could be seen low on the northern horizon. I headed for the Yukon River bridge. At a section of the Alaska Highway that overlooks the Yukon River, with a good view to the north, I parked on the shoulder about half a kilometer past another photographer who was already set up. Setting up my tripod, though, I found that the quick-release head wasn’t there! Without it, I couldn’t shoot. I remember taking it off my camera after my last outing, so I knew that it was still in my office.

As I headed home at high speed, the aurora got very good, and as it turned out, that was the best it got all night. By the time I got back right at 11:00, the show was much diminished 🙁

I took a few shots from that spot overlooking the Yukon River. The pinkish glow to the left is the lights of Whitehorse.

The Aurora Borealis over the Yukon River near Whitehorse, Yukon
I then drove to the Lewes River Dam. You may notice that the aurora is a slightly different colour here – that’s just the lights on the dam throwing the camera’s colour balance off.

The Northern Lights and the Lewes River dam
I only stayed at the dam long enough to take a couple of shots. With the aurora fading, the Yukon River Bridge was my next stop. I slogged through the snow up to the viewing deck, which wasn’t quite the view I wanted, so I moved down and set up my tripod about 100 feet away at the edge of the embankment dropping down to the highway. This photo looking over the highway and up the Yukon River was shot at 11:45 pm.

Traffic on the Alaska Highway at midnight
It can be a long wait for another vehicle to come along the Alaska in the middle of the night, but here I caught two – a car southbound (coming towards me) and a semi northbound. This is a good image to show you the quality of this lens – click on it to greatly enlarge it in a new window.

Traffic on the Yukon River Bridge at midnight
I stayed at the Yukon River Bridge for about an hour, but the aurora never returned except as a dull glow. I then moved on to the Tagish Bridge, and a few minutes before 01:00, the aurora began to brighten up. This photo was shot from the Recreation Area right at 01:00. Those two bright area turned out to be an indication of what was happening further north, from where some wonderful photos have appeared online.

The Northern Lights and the Tagish Bridge, Yukon
Twenty minutes later, I shot this self-portrait in the middle of the bridge.

Self portrait with the Aurora Borealis - on the Tagish Bridge, Yukon
I got a few more photos, then the aurora went dim again.

The Aurora Borealis from the Tagish Bridge, Yukon

And that was basically the end of the night. I had to stop for a power-nap at the Carcross Desert, but got home right at 03:00. It wasn’t the super-storm aurora that was predicted, but any aurora is a good aurora. The forecast for tonight is actually even stronger but we have a very heavy cloud cover.

Road Trip – only to Skagway but it’s a start…

I had planned to drive to Skagway on Monday, but a heavy snowfall on Monday night resulted in the South Klondike Highway being closed for avalanche control between Skagway and the summit. Early on Tuesday, though, I headed south.

The glorious colours of the sunrise on the peaks of Gray Ridge at 07:24 put the day off to an excellent start.

Winter sunrise along the South Klondike Highway, Yukon
After a few minutes of great colour, the clouds closed in and the light went flat. Even in flat light, though, this view of Lime Mountain is one of my favourites along the highway, and it often stops me for a photo or two.

Lime Mountain - South Klondike Highway, Yukon
The light wasn’t conducive to doing any more shooting until I got near the White Pass summit at 08:30. There, there was some wonderful contrast in the light – the foreground wasn’t any brighter, but the extremely dark skies towards Skagway made it seem so.

Winter in the White Pass summit area
Looking across Summit Lake to the railway summit and the Sawtooth Range of mountains.

Winter in the White Pass summit area
The final climb up to the White Pass summit, which tops out just south of the BC/Alaska border at 3,292 feet (1,003 meters). The temperature at the summit was -1°C (+30°F), very mild for mid-March.

Winter on the South Klondike Highway in the White Pass summit area
Heading downhill to Skagway. A friend had told me that the summit had gotten a foot of new snow on Sunday night, but it looked like about half that. The total snow depth now is perhaps half of an average year and 1/4 of what it is in a heavy year.

Winter on the South Klondike Highway in the White Pass summit area
The project to replace the William Moore Bridge will start again in about a month, I expect. The project just says “after the spring thaw.” By the end of August, traffic will no longer go across this bridge, though it’s thankfully being saved as an historic artifact.

William Moore Bridge, South Klondike Highway

With virtually no wind (quite unusual for Skagway), there was a bit of a temperature inversion happening. The temperature climbed to +5°C (41°F) at the US Customs post as expected, but then dropped back down to +2/36 in Skagway.

This trip had one major purpose – to pick up a new lens for my camera. A quick stop at the post office, a loop around town, and I’d be heading north again. I’m dog-sitting for a few days, and though I don’t mind leaving Bella and Tucker for 8 hours, I’m not confident that the enlarged pack won’t look for trouble 🙂

The Skagway post office
At the far end of Broadway, crews were busying hauling snow away. In about 6 weeks when the first cruise ships arrive, Broadway will look very different!

Winter on Broadway in Skagway, Alaska
Over at the Small Boat Harbor, the snow was deep and sloppy – not a good day for even a short walk.

Snow at the Small Boat Harbor in Skagway, Alaska
I was hoping that Alaska Seaplanes’ new Pilatus PC-12 would be at the airport, but it was the usual Cessna 208B Grand Caravan. Still a fine aircraft, but I wanted to see the Pilatus. Actually, I really want to fly in the Pilatus – it’s very fast, cruising at 528 km/h / 328 mph or climbing at 1,920 ft/min.

Cessna 208B Grand Caravan N754KP at Skagway
There goes the Caravan, off to Juneau. That is an incredible route to fly.

Cessna Caravan taking off from Skagway on a snowy March day
It took a few minutes to do the paperwork to get my lens into Canada, but once across, it was great to see a helicopter about to take off from Yukon Heliskiing’s camp at Fraser. That’s Horizon Helicopters’ 1998 Eurocopter EC120B, serial #1019. With the new lens now on the camera, I was pretty excited to see how it performs.

Eurocopter EC120B at the Yukon Heliskiing camp
The light still wasn’t very good for photography until I started to drop down to Windy Arm.

South Klondike Highway in the winter
That’s a lot of bare rock on Dail Peak!

Winter on Dail Peak, South Klondike Highway
Looking north along Windy Arm from the historic Venus silver mill.

South Klondike Highway along Windy Arm
I stopped to get a few photos of a project that has just started at Carcross, to replace the wooden highway bridge. This is a job that should have been done about 20 years ago, but they just spent weeks putting a new deck on the bridge a few months ago.

South Klondike Highway bridge over the Nares River at Carcross

South Klondike Highway bridge over the Nares River at Carcross
I got home at about 1:00, and the fur-kids were raring to get outside and play! And I was happy for more opportunities to test the lens. Granite, who joined us as a foster puppy 16 months ago, is a very comfortable part of our pack now and we’re always happy to have him back.

Our rescue dogs Tucker, Bella, and Granite
I’m thrilled to have a lens that can capture Tucker like this. Our vet said that he’s “18 pounds of pure muscle”, but she didn’t notice the 2 pounds of attitude 🙂

Our rescue dog Tucker
When he was a baby called Raspberry, we thought that Granite was going to be a big dog, but he’s just a little guy.

Our rescue dog Granite
This will be my standard setup for normal shooting now – a Canon EOS 7D with a Canon 24-105 lens. The camera body is 28.9 oz./820g, and the lens is 28 oz./795g. The EF-S 18-200 that had been my standard lens was 21 oz./595g, so I added half a pound. Seeing the results from this lens, though, I’m actually glad that I dropped and smashed the 18-200 – it was a really poor lens that I should have gotten rid of years ago.

Canon EOS 7D with a Canon 24-105 lens

Midnight Sun flights in Alaska, the NWT, & the Yukon

Getting into old newspapers has once again sent me on a long wandering path. This time it was a path in the midnight sun, one of the things I love the most about the North.

This little journey began when I stumbled across an ad for Alaskan Airways’ Midnight Sun flights in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner of June 27, 1930. The more impressive ad seen below was published the following year – to read more about those flights between 1930 and 1940, click on the image below.

Midnight Sun flights in Alaska, 1931
Once I finished writing about the early midnight sun flights at Fairbanks, my thoughts turned to my own flights in the midnight sun. The first was in 1985. This isn’t quite the midnight sun, but this view from my Cessna 172 crossing the incredible Mackenzie Delta to Inuvik at 10:30 pm on June 20, 1985, gives you an idea of how high the sun stays. We landed at Inuvik about 15 minutes later.

Flying across the Mackenzie Delta to Tuktoyaktuk at 10:30 pm on June 20, 1985
The next day, June 21, 1985, I shot the flags on the terminal at the Inuvik airport lit up by the sun right at midnight, shortly after landing following a flight to Tuktoyaktuk.

The Midnight Sun lights up the flags on the terminal at the Inuvik airport on June 21
I then enjoyed the midnight sun from the ground for many years, but on June 21, 2003, Cathy and I and some friends from out of town booked a midnight sun flight with Yukon Wings. Right at 10:30, we started our takeoff run across Schwatka Lake in their gorgeous 1950 de Havilland Beaver, CF-FHZ.

Taking off from Schwatka Lake, Yukon, in a Beaver floatplane at 10:30 pm

Taking off from Schwatka Lake, Yukon, in a Beaver floatplane at 10:30 pm
We flew up the Yukon River a few miles…

Flying in a Beaver floatplane near Whitehorse in the midnight sun
…then made a wide loop into the mountains to the east…

Flying in a Beaver floatplane near Whitehorse in the midnight sun

Flying in a Beaver floatplane near Whitehorse in the midnight sun
At 10:57, we skirted around a bit of rain and were treated to a rainbow.

Flying in a Beaver floatplane near Whitehorse in the midnight sun

Flying in a Beaver floatplane near Whitehorse in the midnight sun
This is the Yukon River as it nears Lake Laberge.

Aerial view of the Yukon River as it nears Lake Laberge
Coming in over Whitehorse from the north to land.

Aerial view of Whitehorse
At 11:18 pm, we were on final to land back at Schwatka Lake.

Landing at Schwatka Lake, Yukon, at 11:18 pm
Disembarking from the Beaver 35 minutes before midnight. What a superb way to experience the Midnight Sun!

Returning from a float plane trip in the Yukon at 11:25 pm

Catching up: History, downsizing, and house work

It’s been almost 2 months since I last posted here. That’s one of my longest absences ever, but as my long-time readers probably know, it’s not because there’s nothing going on. It’s actually just the opposite – my life is so crazy that I hardly know which way is up. Here’s a brief look at the self-inflicted chaos.

While each one of these projects would nicely fill the time of any sane person who claims to be retired, I’ll start with the most amazing one. In November 2014, I started a Facebook Group that I called Yukon History & Abandoned Places. It had been growing slowly but steadily, and with just over 300 members we were getting some great material posted. All of sudden in January, something clicked – I have no idea what – and membership went crazy. As of a minute ago, there are 8,607 members! Some of the stories and photos being posted are simply amazing. For me, seeing this many people getting interested, and even excited, about our history is wonderful, but it has also made thousands of people aware of the fact that their family photo albums may very well contain images that are important in interpreting our history.

CBC reporter Sandi Colman noticed what was happening when she and I started talking about the old hospital in Whitehorse, and invited me in to their studio to talk about the group. You can hear that 8-minute interview here.

Yukon History & Abandoned Places
The weather has been very erratic this winter – it seems to be getting more so each year. In mid-January, we had another dip to -40° (which is the same in Celsius and Fahrenheit) – I think it bottomed out at -43°C (-45.4°F). Although I don’t want those temperatures to hang around for very long, I don’t mind a few days.

Yukon thermometer reading -40 degrees
Cathy and I have always hated the en suite bathroom in our house, and I finally came up with a plan for it. On January 15th, I began the demolition. The jetted tub has never been used in the 10 years we’ve been here, so one of the biggest changes in the bathroom would be to replace it with a shower. The black tiles are high quality and may have been cool in 1992, but they’re quite awful now.

En suite bathroom with jetted tub and black tile surround
The wall that divided the bathroom into 2 rooms was the main thing that I couldn’t wrap my head around – it had to go before I could get a proper vision for the new room.

En suite bathroom
I gave the jetted tub away, and on January 17th could finish off removing the tiles. It was very well attached, and the drywall came with it, so smashing holes with a hammer and then ripping off large slabs was the easy way to deal with it.

Removing bathroom tiles with a sledge hammer
With the tub and dividing wall gone, we could see that the room had a lot of potential. By moving the toilet and swapping the 30-inch vanity for a 48-inch, installing a large modular shower, and adding linen closets, we’d have a much more functional and pleasant en suite. The sheet at the far end is keeping demolition dust out of the walk-in closet. Another big change was making the door frame between the bathroom and bedroom smaller and installing a real door to replace to bifolds.

Bathroom demolition
I’ve parked my old F-150 pickup and it’ll be for sale soon, so moving stuff now entails renting a U-Haul. For the 3 or 4 times a year that needs to happen, the trailer rental is much cheaper than keeping the truck on the road. Not as handy by a long shot, but much cheaper. This was the bathroom demolition load to the dump, on January 20th.

Hauling bathroom demolition scrap to the dump with a U-Haul trailer
We had a few days of spectacular weather, with sunshine and thick hoar frost. This photo was shot on the Alaska Highway heading into Whitehorse on January 22nd.

The Alaska Highway at Whitehorse in January
Man Not Working! Taking a break on January 25th at my favourite pub, The Cut Off, a couple of miles down the highway.

Taking a break at the Cut Off Pub, Whitehorse
The delivery guys from Home Hardware scratched the modular shower getting it off the truck, and I refused to accept it. They had to order another one in, and on January 30th, a different crew successfully got it into my garage.

Modular shower in my garage
I’ve hardly taken photos of anything except stuff from my collections for weeks now, but did manage to stop long enough to get a few shots of the Toyota dealership’s new building on the Alaska Highway near the airport.

Whitehorse Toyota dealership's new building
The City of Whitehorse arranged an Indoor Garage Sale for February 10th, and I booked a couple of tables to see if I could make some substantial headway in my downsizing. I had a whole lot of stuff to go through, and some of the bulkier stuff like this router system went on the local Buy & Sell site, priced to sell (and for $50, it did quickly).

Router for sale
Holey moley I have a lot of stuff! Sorting, sorting, sorting… It took me about a week to make some sort of sense of what needed to go. A lot went on the Buy & Sell site, but I soon had far more than what would fit on the 2 tables at the Indoor Garage Sale.

Sorting my collections during the downsizing
The Indoor Garage Sale was very successful. Not only for me – everyone seemed to be pleased. As fast as a spot opened up on my tables, I added something else from the boxes below. I went home with a full wallet and half a dozen fewer boxes 🙂 I also heard about an Antiques and Collectibles Sale coming up in a couple of weeks – more about that below.

Indoor Garage Sale in Whitehorse
Even with all that’s going, it’s very much in my mind that Spring is coming quickly. April 20th is still my planned date to be on the road in the motorhome, so on Valentines Day, I shovelled the snow off its roof and took it for a short run.

Shovelling snow of the RV roof
With the Antiques and Collectibles Sale coming up on February 24th, I booked 3 tables and got back to work. With the material for this sale, there’s some scanning of documents to do before I let them go. This is a photo of what is now known as Old Valdez (Alaska) because it was completely destroyed by the tsunami that followed the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake. It’s in an album of photos from an Alaska cruise in 1930.

Old Valdez in 1930
I have many envelopes (called “covers”) that have been carried by sled dog teams, including this one from the 1987 Carcross-to-Atlin Commemorative Mail Run.

1987 Carcross-to-Atlin Commemorative Mail Run cover
Pretty much anything that doesn’t store well will be on the block, like this limited-edition diecast Alaska Highway Jeep Cherokee (it left the table very quickly at the sale).

Limited-edition diecast Alaska Highway Jeep Cherokee
It really pains me to get rid of some stuff. For 60 years now, I’ve been moving/storing/moving/storing an extra roll of wallpaper from when Dad papered my bedroom in our home in Surrey. Is this design classic or what? It went to the first person I showed it to at the sale, a collage artist 🙂

Vintage car wallpaper
I have a lot of royalty china. In theory, the Antiques and Collectibles Sale would be the perfect place for it. I only took a haf-dozen pieces, and there was zero interest in it at any price 🙁

I’m still pulling out other stuff as well, such as my scuba gear. It went on the Buy & Sell – I could have sold 6 tanks, but to get it, you have to take everything, and I still have it all.

Sure, let’s babysit a puppy for a couple weeks, too! Elvis is a cute little bugger, but Tucker hated him. He’s a pug and Brussels Griffon mix – apparently a popular designer-dog.

pug and Brussels Griffon mix
Regardless of what Tucker thought, Elvis got very comfortable. This is what happened a few seconds after I sat down on the couch to make a phone call one afternoon 🙂

pug and Brussels Griffon mix
We had very little snow until February 23rd, and then Mother Nature dropped a load that came close to breaking that day’s record. Which still wasn’t a lot – about 9 inches.

Heavy snow in Whitehorse in February
Bella loved the deep snow and fairly mild temperatures (about -15°C). With the snow pretty much over his head, Tucker more shared my level of enthusiasm about it.

Heavy snow in Whitehorse in February
The Antiques and Collectibles Sale was very successful, and the Yukon Historical & Museums Association (YHMA) hopes to be able to sponsor another one in April. As well as selling a lot, I met a few people from my Yukon History group, which was fun.

Antiques and Collectibles Sale in Whitehorse
February 27th – more snow. *sigh*…

Heavy snow in Whitehorse in February
A post by the Yukon Animal Rescue Network (YARN) a few days ago, looking for a short-term foster to help get a dog from Carmacks spayed, put me back in dog mode. I met her family in Whitehorse on Tuesday, and once we got home, Ruby settled in quickly. She’s a Siberian husky, but I think there’s a pit bull in there as well. She’s incredibly sweet, and she and I bonded quickly and deeply.

Ruby, my foster Siberian husky
Even in dog mode, there’s lots of other work to do. Raking the snow off the roof is one of those jobs. The overhang and the gutters are the only worrisome areas – other than that, the roof will take far more of a load than we’ll ever get.

Yesterday, March 8th, I took Ruby to the vet to get her spayed. I had planned to keep her for a few days after the operation, but that didn’t work out, so after I picked her up, I drove an hour north to the Braeburn Lodge where I met her family. It was lovely evening for a drive.

One last photo of Ruby as we waited for her family to arrive. She’s a very special girl, and she made me wish that she could join my family. Cathy jokes that I do this with all dogs, but that’s not true – very few dogs get this reaction from me. Anyway, she has a wonderful life in Carmacks now 🙂

So there we are, all caught up. The craziness isn’t quite over yet, but the end of the tunnel is near. Soon – very soon – I’ll be talking about the summer’s plans. And have I got some cool places to show you this year, my friends! ttyl…