Dawson City, YK (Sep 24/20) – Something magical about entering the Yukon Territory, at first the terrain looks similar to BC, the mountains, the streams & rivers… but interspersed with the green evergreens are the golden spruce & birch trees…. catching the eye so profoundly they are alive and produce a guttural feeling, a yearning, and their call entice you northward.
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Upon crossing the border from BC you are welcomed by a Yukon health official asking the usual ‘Covid’ questions. As BC residents are permitted without quarantine, the process was quick. C&O went through first and were waiting ahead… N always the prankster, radios ahead with the walkie-talkie to C&O, “sorry guys we have been turned back because of Jesse, don’t have his papers and he could carry covid”; including the Yukon rep in on the joke who thought this was great fun. Without even a wrinkle in their brow or hesitation in their voice they said no worries and were already preparing for alternative routes by the time Hobbes rolled up beside them. What great sports!! All a good laugh and relief that the journey would carry onward…
Interestingly the drive north (and west) actually sways back into BC for a few km as the highway skirts the border, with signs welcoming us to BC then back to the Yukon, then back again, it all got a bit confusing. The first night in the territory was a beautiful stop along Little Atlin Lake, a free campsite, fire pit, and fishing… nice! Jesse out for his walk, N’s tell-tale screams indicated Jesse caught a mouse, luckily for the mouse Jesse has a catch & release policy. Hot water showers provided by Hobbes was the icing on the cake to a brilliant day. An unusual sight the next morning brought 2 giant beautiful white swans swimming just off the beach at our camp spot.
Traveling south from the camp brought them back into BC, following Little Atlin then Big Atlin Lakes until your reach the end of the road. Another ‘turn of the century’ (1890’s) gold town appeared, Atlin has not changed much since then. Nice general store, unusual homes and interesting characters greet the visitors. Once a thriving tourist destination starting in 1913, the White Pass and Yukon transported tourists from Skagway Alaska up the Big Atlin Lake on the paddlewheelers built by WP&Y Railway.
Returning north to the Yukon. Camping at Conrad Territorial Park (just like BC’s Provincial Parks) south of Carcross alongside a jewel of a lake.
A ‘Smudging Ceremony’ marked the first day of Fall…. The braided strands of sweetgrass (given to N&J by an Elder in South Dakota) were lit, the smoke circulating the participants, cleansing thoughts, actions, words, and deeds. The prayers and blessings within each strand lifting eternally upwards…
The town of Carcross (formerly Caribou Crossing because of the large number of migrating Woodland Caribou), a major station on the White Pass & Yukon Railway with a population of 301, home of the Inland Tlingit and Tagish people. Artifacts from these peoples date back 4500 years!
‘Skookum Jim’ Mason came from these parts, the first son of the Tagish Chief, and became the first person to discover gold in the region which led to the Klondike Gold Rush. Known for his strength, courage and generosity… his story has a lasting impact on the region.
As you leave Carcross, you come across one of the few ‘deserts’ to be found in Canada… hoping to unload the kayaks and ride them down the desert mountain would have been great fun, but wax on the bottom of the boats was required.
Fox Lake Territorial Park situated along the lake of the same name. Local legend recounts the UFO sightings of the past, nothing ‘out of this world’ like that found… this time!!! One strange sight, a red fox visited the campsite, approaching very close (too close)… his piercing eyes and swiftness around the campsite was quite the spectacle of him disappearing and reappearing moments later at opposite ends of the camp almost like a hide and seek game. He was Sly. The Fox didn’t seem interested in human food, it would seem he was attracted by the scent of Jesse, finally had to chase the little interloper out and keep Jesse safe within arms reach.
If you look close enough you can see the images of the UFO’s on the lake… Whoooo!!!
Freestyle ‘river side’ camping north of McQuesten on the Stewart River. Driving a fair distance in to this remote wilderness site having to cross a grassy overgrown air field looked like a peaceful spot to set up. Unusually enough, a plane could soon be heard overhead, circling around and then landing in the field of this deserted runway! Out from the wilderness a truck emerges, people unload and unload their transfer of goods, as the sun sets a boat soon arrives along the banks of the river also unloading their duffel bags, transferred to the plane…
This traveling Westfalia crew excited about the scene unfolding had a grand time pulling the pieces of this story together and coming up with many versions of what was playing out before them…. Sleep was fleeting, with visions of underworld cargo transfer & catastrophic ‘witness termination’ images bouncing through their heads!!!!
J being the voice of reason proclaims that the primitive airstrip provides access to the hinterland, bringing supplies (fuel, food & other essentials). The story however bringing much comedy to a fun night.
Entering Dawson City is everything you had dreamed of in a northern gold town. It was perfect. A good portion of the buildings, all original have been restored by Parks Canada. The Welcome Centre has a great display of local history, including a 1 hour video in the theatre explaining the gold rush.
The steamship paddle wheeler ‘Keno’ plied the Yukon River between Whitehorse to the south & Dawson City in the north, bringing forth the thousands of miners & their tools of the trade to extract the gold from the hills.
Was it mentioned there is shopping??? Only a couple of stores open with ‘Covid shopping’ in full force, masks dutifully worn, sanitizer at every turn, it is apparent that the Yukon has taken the Pandemic very seriously. The Health Official at the border proudly proclaiming that the Yukon has only one case!
The visible escarpment framing the street below, indicator of the ever-present mining process still much alive in Dawson.
South of Dawson City still has evidence of past & present mining operations. The giant #4 dredge is still intact, displaying the ingenuity of the pioneers of the placer mining industry. It was designed to float in a flooded pond, digging up a trench as it moved forward, sluicing the finds, depositing out back the spoils… the dredge & pond moving as one. Most miners experienced deafness quickly from the grinding of the steel buckets peeling back the boulders & earth encased in time…
Remnants of Claim #33…
Active mining still happening in the region… in search of the allusive gold.
I wanted the gold, and I sought it, I scrabbled and mucked like a slave. Was it famine or scurvy — I fought it; I hurled my youth into a grave. I wanted the gold, and I got it — Came out with a fortune last fall, — Yet somehow life's not what I thought it, And somehow the gold isn't all. Robert Service
In all of this industrial waste-land, a bit of nature’s beauty shines through…