With the Yukon Quest in Dawson City – Day 1

Wednesday was our first full in-depth day surrounded by Yukon Quest action at the Dawson City checkpoint.

Official sunrise wouldn’t be until 09:24, but I was out for a walk just before 07:00. This was the view to the southwest from the front deck of the Eldorado Hotel.

Red Feather Saloon, Dawson City, Yukon
And looking to the northwest, the oldest operating hotel in the Yukon, the Westminster.

Westminster Hotel, Dawson City, Yukon
The first local I met was this beautiful cross fox (a colour variation of red foxes). He was strolling around as if he owned the town, and this car stopped for a few seconds until he decided which way to go.

Cross fox in Dawson City, Yukon
We began our tour day with a look around Dawson City in the vans. On our way up the Bonanza Creek Road to see how far we could get, we met our first up-close musher, Ray Redington Jr. He and the dogs all looked happy after almost 500 miles on the trail. We turned around then and went back into town to see them arrive at the checkpoint.

Yukon Quest musher Ray Redington Jr nears Dawson City, Yukon
Back in town, I parked my van to give a good vantage point for some of my guests who didn’t want to stand outside with wind chills way down into the -30s. Others walked a block down to the checkpoint in front of the Visitor Reception Centre.

Dawson City, Yukon
At 10:20, here comes Ray and his team running along the trail on top of the dyke!

Ray Redington Jr arrives at Dawson City, Yukon
Dawson is my favourite town in the North for many reasons, not the least of which is that it’s a photographer’s paradise.

Dawson City, Yukon
Jeremy had arranged a tour of the Masonic Temple, which was built as a Carnegie Library in in 1904, with over 5000 books. This was the northernmost Carnegie library ever built, and was considered to be the most elaborate building in Dawson City at the time. After a major fire in 1920, it was empty until 1934 when it was sold to the Freemasons, who restored it.

Masonic Temple in Dawson City, Yukon
The building is stunning inside, but it isn’t heated and was possibly even colder than it was outside!

Masonic Temple in Dawson City, Yukon
Even the light bulbs are impressive, with the filament shaped as a Masonic emblem.

Light bulb in the Masonic Temple in Dawson City, Yukon
After lunch, some of us went over to the mushers’ camp at the West Dawson Campground. To get there, we drove on an “ice bridge”, a road carved from the jumbled ice on the Yukon River. In the summer, the ferry George Black runs back and forth across the river at the same location.

Ice road at Dawson City, Yukon
The Top of the World Highway runs past the campground to Alaska, but is closed in the winter.

Top of the World Highway at Dawson City, Yukon - in the winter
It’s interesting to see the mushers’ camps. Volunteer handlers take care of most duties here.

Yukon Quest musher's camp at Dawson City, Yukon

Yukon Quest musher's camp at Dawson City, Yukon

Yukon Quest musher's camp at Dawson City, Yukon
I led 3 of my guests down the river to the “Sternwheeler Graveyard“, where 7 derelict steamboats lie rotting along the bank and in the bush. The site is in much worse shape than when I first started going there almost 25 years ago, but the names of at least 2 ships, the Julia B. and the Seattle No. 3, can still be read.

Sternwheeler Graveyard at Dawson City, Yukon

Sternwheeler Graveyard at Dawson City, Yukon
Ed Hopkins’ dogs were cozy when we peeked in on the way back to the van.

Yukon Quest sled dogs resting at Dawson City, Yukon
The tour boat Klondike Spirit, a replica paddlewheeler, sits high on the bank on the Dawson side of the river.

Klondike Spirit paddlewheeler at Dawson City, Yukon
We were halfway across the river when we saw Normand Casavant making the short run from the checkpoint to the camp.

Dawson City, Yukon
This is the George Black, the ferry that runs when the river isn’t frozen.

Ferry George Black at Dawson City, Yukon, in the winter
The sun went down at 5:41 pm, but day or night doesn’t mean much to the the Yukon Quest teams, and there were people to meet the teams whenever they arrived.

Yukon Quest team arrives at Dawson City, Yukon
About half of the group showed up for some silliness, but only 4 were brave enough for the Sourtoe Cocktail. Yes, it is a real human toe that’s dropped into your drink! Several of the race vets got their certification just before our folks did 🙂

Dawson City, Yukon

Dawson City, Yukon
The last team that I saw arrive this night was Brian Wilmshurst, at 9:50.

Yukon Quest musher Brian Wilmshurst arrives at Dawson City, Yukon

Yukon Quest musher Brian Wilmshurst arrives at Dawson City, Yukon
Several of us ended this night at The Pit, which is the nickname for the bar at the Westminster Hotel. Just seeing the paintings on the walls, by local artist Halin de Repentigny, make a visit worthwhile. With Halin’s originals selling for thousands of dollars now, the bar is virtually priceless.

Paintings by Halin de Repentigny at The Pit in Dawson City, Yukon

The Pit in Dawson City, Yukon
Soaking up the best in local flavour – both the beers and the character 🙂 We had another busy Yukon Quest day in store for Thursday!

The Pit in Dawson City, Yukon


Comments

With the Yukon Quest in Dawson City – Day 1 — 1 Comment

  1. Noticed everyone wearing the large oversized parkas…would you know offhand the brand name?

    Looking forward to the other posts in this series!