I have a very understanding wife. Despite the fact that Saturday was our anniversary, I needed to go to Atlin for an article that’s due in a few days (now posted at Destination BC as A Winter Road Trip to Atlin). We had gone out for a very nice dinner at The Wheelhouse Friday night, though, and Cathy needed some bonding time with the fur-kids anyway 🙂
Sunrise was at 08:35 on Saturday, and I was almost at the Atlin Road junction with the Alaska Highway by then. I stopped for a few photos at Little Atlin Lake, then at Km 52.4 (seen in the next photo), which is one of the best southbound views along the 96-kilometer road (60 miles). There were some clear skies, and the temperature had been holding pretty steady at around -13°C (+9F) for the hour since I’d left home.
Reaching Atlin, I spent a while driving and walking around town, mostly looking at old buildings like the Moose Hall, which was moved here from the nearby gold-mining town of Discovery in the 1920s. It’s unlikely that it will ever be restored – it wasn’t put on a proper foundation, and the back of the building has been broken.
I was extremely pleased to find that a lot of restoration work has been done on the lovely little launch Atlinto. There are at least 3 stories about her construction, which I’m still trying to figure out, but she was built sometime before World War I. My thought at this point is that there were 2 virtually identical boats, Atlinto and Atlintoo, which is part of the reason for the confusion.
I had brought my new quadcopter (drone) with me and was dying to try it out some place private, so Warm Bay was my next destination. I was very surprised to find that the only place on Atlin Lake that was frozen was Warm Bay – which is obviously not warm enough! 🙂 I walked out to near the end of the ice, and launched the aircraft from there.
I’ve got a lot to learn about both the aircraft systems and shooting good video, but this gives you a good idea of what the day was like.
The Grotto, which is at the end of the road in the winter, is another must-see in the area. It’s pretty cool to see the creek just pouring out of a cave. The water is cold (about 9°C / 48°F), but never freezes, and watercress (Nasturtium officinale) is abundant year-round.
The main warm springs are a popular camping spot year-round judging by the very recent tent clearing and campfire remains. The water is neither deep enough nor warm enough to spend any time in, but going for a dip in the middle of winter is silly enough to be a must-do. The water temperature is about 29°C (84°F) now, but I’ve read accounts from a century ago that indicate that it was much warmer then.
Surprise Lake was the next destination. In the winter the road ends at the Surprise Lake Recreation Site, which is one of the many popular spots around Atlin for snowmobilers to start from. On the way back I stopped at Discovery for a few minutes. I had planned to launch the quadcopter at both places, but a fairly strong south wind had blown up, and I’m not ready to tackle winds with it yet.
By the time I got back to Atlin, there was a storm brewing down the lake.
One of the things I really like about Atlin is the people. While walking around some more, a fellow in a pickup stopped and asked if I wanted to go boating on the lake. That simple comment about a rather unusual occurence (the lake being open in late February) led to a half-hour conversation with Archie Knill, whose name I knew but I don’t think we’d ever met. Archie is one of the Northern old-timers who can tell stories for days – and he says that he can back up all of his stories with photos 🙂
It was after 4:00 by then, and I decided to check into the Atlin Mountain Inn, a hotel that I’ve spent many nights at over the past 26 years. It’s new owners, Edie and Len Graf, are doing a wonderful job in renovating and reviving the place. It’s very quiet this time of year, and Edie was happy to show me around to see some of the changes they’ve made since I last looked at it when Cathy and I came down with the motorhome in August 2014. They’re almost finished all of the room renovations, and #4 is typical.
Edie is very proud of supporting other local businesses and artists, from virtually all of the art on the walls, to the organic, fair-trade coffee roasted by Philippe and Leandra Brient (Atlin Mountain Coffee Roasters).
I discovered that funding the renovation of the Atlinto is being helped by the sale of a book of photographs by many locals. Titled “Atlinto”, it was the brainchild of Insa Schultenkotter and has sold very well judging by the fact that my copy, seen on the desk here with the Atlinto in view, is from the 7th edition.
Room #10 is the one I get whenever possible – this is why. The mountain views from most rooms are spectacular, but this view of the lovely old Tarahne is one that I never tire of. Not that I get tired of the mountain views either!
I seldom sleep well, but at least I could spend some of my time shooting the Tarahne in the light of a full moon.
I had a breakfast meeting set for Sunday morning, but my new friend had gotten sick and had to cancel. Between that and a storm that made any productive shooting or drone-flying unlikely, I headed home after breakfast at the Pine Tree (which is the only place to eat in Atlin now). That early departure also allowed me to spend at least part of our anniversary weekend with Cathy.
A tip for anybody planning to go to Atlin – gas at Jake’s Corner, at the junction of the Alaska Highway and Atlin Road, was $0.918/liter, while at the Pine Tree in Atlin it was $1.299.
We have a very good weather forecast for the next week, and I’m planning to be spending a lot of time out shooting and flying – ttyl 🙂