The Yukon Quest in Dawson City: Day 2

Thursday, February 7th, was the second full day in Dawson City for my Journeys by Van Dyke Yukon Quest tour group. It was a busy day, and for me, it took an odd twist.

I went down to the Dawson finish line downtown at 06:00 (3½ hours before sunrise), to find out where the trail past town would be on the race re-starts. It was down on the Yukon River.

Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City
I certainly couldn’t go by the historic sternwheeler Keno without a photo.

Sternwheeler Keno in Dawson City
I found a spot on the river just as a musher was approaching – I forget now who it was, though. I had an awful time trying to get my lens to focus in the dark.

Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City
I went back to the hotel to join some of my guests for breakfast, then at 09:20, a few of us drove back to the dyke above an easy access spot to walk to the river trail. A snowmobile coming down Third Avenue was a good photo op 🙂

Snowmobile coming down Third Avenue in Dawson City
A directional sign on the Yukon Quest trail. Eagle is 150 miles straight ahead – for Dawson, veer right.

A directional sign on the Yukon Quest 2019 trail at Dawson City
Swedish musher Torsten Kohnert, running his fifth Yukon Quest, was the first to appear after we got down to the river. At that point he was in 8th place.

Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City
Off to Eagle they go!

Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City
Nathaniel Hamlyn was the next musher to approach a few minutes later, in 9th place.

Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City
The Yukon Quest trail gets rough just past Dawson, with jumbled ice on the river and some extreme summits beyond. A later musher got just past Dawson, I assume saw what was ahead, then returned and scratched.

Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City
We did a bit more touring of Dawson, starting with the Dawson City Museum, which is housed in the beautifully restored Territorial Administration Building.

The Dawson City Museum
The museum’s Executive Director Alex Somerville gave us an excellent introduction to the area’s mining history and then there was free time to explore the museum on our own.

The Dawson City Museum
We next went to the historic Oddfellows Hall, now the home of the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC). They were having a show by local artists in a wide range of media. The workmanship on this full-size canoe was wonderful.

Klondike Institute of Art and Culture
This dog made from found materials attracted a lot of interest 🙂

Klondike Institute of Art and Culture
By 1:30 we were back at the dog yard to watch some re-starts, and preparations for re-starts.

Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City
The veterinarians were all out inspecting some of the 300 or so dogs at the camp by then.

Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City
The first re-start after we arrived. I always think I can figure out later who the various teams are that I’m photographing so don’t take notes, but sometimes I can’t. This is probably Curt Perano, in 14th place leaving Dawson in his first Yukon Quest.

Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City

Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City

Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City
Some teams, though, are very easy to identify. At the top of that list is Brian Wilmshurst from Dawson. He left Dawson in 15th place, in his sixth Yukon Quest.

Brian Wilmshurst in Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City

Brian Wilmshurst in Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City

Brian Wilmshurst in Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City

Brian Wilmshurst in Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City
I discovered that we had just enough time to watch a re-start and then drive to a spot where we could walk down to the river to watch the teams go by. This is Brian Wilmshurst approaching.

Brian Wilmshurst in Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City
When I had returned to the hotel the previous evening, I had gotten into a long discussion about the “wolf” that musher Chase Tingle had seen the previous day. Was it really a wolf, or was it perhaps a husky who had gone missing from a mining camp about 60 km south of that spot back in August? One of the key pieces of information for me was this photo of the wolf shot by a drone.

Wolf seen during Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City
I had decided that the wolf was actually the missing dog. This photo of him, whose name is Link, broke my heart, and I decided to see if I could find him.

Missing dog near Dawson City
Once the group no longer needed me, at 3:00 pm, I drove back up Bonanza Road, with a somewhat vague plan.

Bonanza Road at Dawson City in the winter
I made a brief stop at the Claim 33 gold panning operation, a place I’ve spent a lot of time at with summer tours over the years, for a couple of photos.

Claim 33 gold panning operation at Dawson City in the winter
I parked at Dredge No. 4 again, and headed up the road into the wilderness on foot. I had a 100-400mm lens on my camera, a bag of wonderful-smelling people food as an attractant, and about 2½ hours until sunset. I also had a nag that a can of bear spray would be welcome in case I was wrong about it being a dog 🙂

Dredge No. 4 at Dawson City in the winter
I very soon came to the tracks of the “wolf”, and was able to follow them for about 3 miles.

Bonanza Road at Dawson City in the winter
Seeing this area in the winter was pretty cool.

Bonanza Road at Dawson City in the winter
I made a short detour from tracking the wolf/dog to see the Discovery Claim.

Discovery Claim at Dawson City in the winter

When I returned, I posted this on the thread about the missing dog: I tracked whoever it is for about 3 miles from the dredge south, with very clear tracks from yesterday, and another set from 2-3 days ago. I’m assuming he went to the dredge area 2-3 days ago and back south yesterday. I initially thought it could be a small (female) wolf, but he does boy-pees. I was carrying a wonderful-smelling bag of people food with me – any animal would have been able to smell it from a substantial distance. A set of fox tracks pretty much parallel his almost the entire way to the Ridge Road junction – then the “wolf” went up the Ridge Road and the fox went toward Discovery Claim. I didn’t go very far up the Ridge Road following his tracks – there was just no hint as to when it might end. I saw no loping – it was a calm walk, occasionally sticking his head into the snowbank (mousing?). In my mind, a husky is smart enough to follow a fox to learn, scavenge and perhaps steal from him. All in all, the behaviour I saw just doesn’t look like a wolf. To follow this further, though, a snowmobile is needed, and I expect a live trap. Perhaps a CO will take this on (to be sure it’s not a menacing wolf 🙂 ).

And that, so far, is where that story ends 🙁

Then, back to our Yukon Questing! At 7:45 pm, several of us went back to the dog yard to see Rob Cooke re-start, in 18th place. His gorgeous team of Siberian huskies is best seen in good light! We went down to the river to see him go by, but I didn’t get any photos worth posting (or worth keeping, actually). His was the last team I saw leave Dawson this year.

Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City

Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City

Yukon Quest 2019 in Dawson City
On Friday morning, when I pulled the U-Haul trailer out of the snowbank that a plow had buried it in, I discovered it had a low tire. I was unable to get air into it at a gas station, then the shop I usually go to was buried in work and unable to help. The second shop they suggested I call, though, could repair it – or try, he said. An hour later, we were finally on the road – a couple of small but razor-sharp rocks had pierced the tire. A bunch of thumbs up to Sean Aitken, shop foreman at Chief Isaac Mechanical, for great service!

Flat tire on my U-Haul trailer in Dawson City

With our schedule destroyed by the 2 hours lost to the flat tire, we had to skip our usual stop at Moose Creek Lodge, and had a box lunch in the van at a rest area along the Stewart River. Another outhouse at -18°C – memorable parts of any good Yukon adventure 🙂

Just about the time we could almost feel the comfort of the Whitehorse hotel, traffic on the North Klondike came to a stop. Some vehicles turned around, but there was nowhere for us to go except straight ahead. An RCMP officer soon made it to us and let us know that a semi carrying hay had flipped, and he hoped they could have the highway open in half an hour or so. I thought that unlikely, but 35 minutes later, it did indeed open.

North Klondike Highway closed by a flipped semi
My tour manager, Roland McCaffrey, shot this photo of the overturned semi as we went by.

Truck crash on the North Klondike Highway

We were soon back at the Best Western Gold Rush Inn. The next day, our final day, the main event would be the mushing that most of the group missed when they were stranded in Vancouver by Air Canada.




Comments

The Yukon Quest in Dawson City: Day 2 — 4 Comments

  1. Your photos and story about the Yukon Quest in Dawson City is fantastic. I myself want to go to Dawson at that time. Your story described exactly what to expect. Like you I am a retired Yukon tour guide, hooked on the Yukon forever. I have followed your stories for a couple of years. I frequently travel and camp in the Yukon at my own leisure time now. Love it! Can I reach you directly by email, as I have some questions to ask?
    Gerda from Vancouver

    • Thanks very much, Iris – I’m really glad you enjoyed them. The odds of me ever finding time to put a calendar on the “to do” list, though, are pretty much zero 🙂

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