I’m playing catch-up here again. Since getting home from the big trip, I’ve been having too much fun to even take time to write about it. This post is about a ride on the motorcycle down to see my friend Michelle Phillips’ new sled dog operation on the South Klondike Highway between Skagway and Carcross, on June 27th.
It was a gorgeous day to get the bike out, and the South Klondike Highway is the best bike road around. I made a stop at the old Venus silver mine concentrator site when I noticed a new sign. It’s a federal government one warning about the presence of arsenic and heavy metals in some surface soils in the area, concluding with “Do not use area for recreation or food/medicine harvesting”. The arsenic isn’t something that humans have spilled here, it’s naturally occurring because of the oxidization of the arsenopyrites among the rocks mined at the Venus.
A few hundred feet further along is one of my favourite views along the highway.
I reached Michelle’s camp at 11:30. She ran the husky camp at Caribou Crossing for many years, but moved here this spring, opening in mid-May. As at Caribou Crossing, the main clientele will be cruise ship passengers from Skagway.
The entrance to Tutshi Sled Dog Tours, which is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm. The property is another former Venus silver mine mill site. The mill here only operated for one year in 1980-1981, and was finally disassembled and the area cleaned up in 2003-2004.
Basic admission to the camp is $5, which gives you access to the husky puppies. If you ever need to get rid of a bad day, cuddling sled dog puppies will do it. This little guy had apparently been busy, but wasn’t giving up his stick while he caught a nap! 🙂
The camp is wonderful. Michelle has clearly put everything she’s learned about what people want to see into designing it. The spectacular scenery is quite a bonus.
The view from inside the musher’s cabin seen in the photo above. Tutshi Lake is at the base of the mountain in the background.
The cart rides are the feature attraction, and seeing a team of very happy dogs arrive got everyone’s attention.
Michelle and her helper were quickly busy switching all the dogs in the team to go for another ride – one that I’d be on, riding in the back of the ATV. Hanging on and shooting takes some dexterity!
Only a video can show you how excited the dogs are as preparations are made to go for the 1.3-mile run.
I’d never been down to the back of this property, so was curious about what was there. Wow – what a gorgeous spot for a sled dog ride!
It was very warm, and when we reached a line of kid’s wading pools along the road, most of the dogs jumped in to cool down 🙂
With no command from Michelle, the team quickly got themselves back into line and were ready to go again.
There’s quite a network of roads back there, and most of them have great views.
Another cooling-off break was joyously received.
With the team back in line, Michelle used that spot to take photos of our group.
Heading back to camp. On some of the steeper hills, I noticed that Michelle fired up the ATV to help the dogs make the climb. I can think of some spots on the Yukon Quest trail where mushers would probably welcome that ability!
Almost back to the shade and sprinklers.
Switching dogs for another go 🙂 Several of the smaller tour companies are already stopping at the camp (word about high quality attractions gets around quickly in Skagway), and things were hopping.
Many people who stop just to cuddle a puppy soon decide to take a cart ride, and upgrade to the full $39 package. It looked for a while like everyone wanted to go for a ride 🙂
Maybe just a little more puppy time before I leave. As content as they look here, they never complain about being picked up. These puppies were 7 weeks old, and there was a 5-week-old litter as well.
There’s a gift shop, of course. The next time I go down, I’m going to get a tshirt – I love the design.
As I got my riding gear back on, I was a bit surprised to see that I’d spent 90 minutes at the camp. Time does fly when you’re having fun.
On the way home, I made a short side trip to the new Conrad Campground to see if anything had changed since my visit in April.
I was very pleased to see that two of my biggest complaints about the campground have been rectified. Vehicle access to the historic townsite is now blocked by a gate, and a trail has been built from the far end of the campground to the lake.
That was an excellent day, putting almost 300 km on the bike, playing with dogs, and seeing progress being made on the campground. Back home, I had lots of work to get done so I could leave the next morning for 5 days camping at Kluane Lake.