June 27, 2015

Whitehorse to Dawson City, YT

By: Rob Lowe

Featured Picture

We spent this week touring Whitehorse, Yukon and then travelled to Dawson City, Yukon.

="">We toured the SS Klondike paddlewheel ship that moved supplies up the Yukon River to the Klondike and returned with ore to be refined. It is a large boat that draws just 4 feet and as you can see is powered by a huge paddlewheel.  One of the first churches founded in Whitehorse was this old Log Church which opened in October 1907. Apparently in the first service the temperature was -34C (-29 degrees F) Hopefully the message was warm! The DC3 aircraft was a staple of air travel in the Yukon for many years. It eventually was taken out of regular passenger service and retired to become a bush plane, carrying miners and supplies in and out of remote locations. Ultimately is was stripped of usable parts and was to be sold for scrap, when the idea was floated of mounting it on a pedestal that would allow it to rotate with the wind, thus becoming a weathervane.  It is at the entrance to the Whitehorse airport and if was always pointed in a different direction during our stay.


The MacBride Museum had a number of interesting displays with many stuffed animals typical of those found in the Yukon. They also offered an opportunity to "pan for gold”. Of course we tried it! Guess who found the Gold? It wasn’t me.

We enjoyed the Frantic Follies stage show which was typical of the type of dance and music shows that would have played to audiences during the Klondike gold rush. It was fun to watch with some members of the audience brought up on stage to participate. Thankfully, Jane and I weren’t selected. When we exited the theatre at about 10:00 pm we saw the multi-coloured buildings across the parking lot. As you can see it was not even near dark and lots of people were on the streets taking in the Nuit Blanche festival (among other activities) that I referred to last week.

Power is generated by a power dam located across the Yukon River. While the drop is only 18m (60 feet), the dam presents an insurmountable obstruction to spawning salmon and trout. As part of the construction, the world’s longest fish ladder was built. It is over 335m (1100 feet) long. The salmon run will peak in August and we hope to see them jumping the cubicles on our return from Alaska. No wonder they lay their eggs and die, the distance from the ocean to where they were hatched and the uphill swim they endure makes the process miraculous. The water rushing out of the dam provides a powerful image of the energy in falling water.

During an afternoon we toured the Yukon Transportation Museum and saw one of the first Bombardier Skidoo’s now a staple of winter travel in the north together with other tracked vehicles and various military and mining vehicles that were used to open up the region. Some of these vehicles had tires over 3.7m (12 feet) in diameter. Beside this museum is the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre which had various displays inside and out. The woolly Mammoth shown in the next few pictures were similar to an elephant with the warmest coat of any animal While they look like elephants there are many variations from elephants (such as much smaller ear flaps to retain heat). Before the ice age, there was a land bridge between Asia and Alaska with lions and other African animals being native to this area. The ice and permafrost preserved many in amazingly good condition. The Museum presented some National Film Board produced videos that really bring this history to life.  

The RV Park where we stayed is a popular one and I took a photo through the trees from the upper section of the park. The RVs, when their slideouts were extended, often have less than a foot between them.   In many ways it is more like a giant parking lot. Their season is short (May to the end of September) so they offer a well-stocked store, propane, diesel and gas at a discount, laundromat, RV service, RV & car high pressure coin-op wash, oil changing, tours and storage in addition to campsites. Having these amenities all in one place is very convenient and provided the owners with their annual income, earned in a short summer season.

We (and many others on this trip) regularly stop at turnouts off the highway and the next photo shows our coach parked for the night on one of these (this photo was taken at around 10:30pm). You may notice some mud behind the wheels especially on the white painted areas. The next photo shows a set of flags that warn drivers of frost heaves or pavement damage. When road maintenance crews begin to repair them, they lift the gravel and tar surface and grade the underlying gravel and clay. Traffic continues to drive over these sections and to keep the dust down they spread water on the road. Traffic continues to drive on these surfaces providing the rolling that down south is done by power rollers. They will come back and grade it again and lay down gravel and repeat the watering with traffic use. Eventually they will grade again, spread tar and chipped stone, then traffic uses it. After a few days, they return and brush the loose gravel up and move some to the side. One of the pictures shows the "mud road” that creates such a mess on everything that drives on the road. Since everyone on this trip travels the same roads every vehicle is mud covered. The worst times to drive the road is after they have watered it, after a rain storm or just before they top the road since the oil base used to create the top surface which makes a really sticky mess. Now you know why they have high pressure RV & Car washes at all the campgrounds along the road. The amount of mud the campground maintenance workers have to remove from these wash pads is remarkable.

In Whitehorse, we saw a street called Lowe Avenue, named after Robert Lowe who founded an upscale hotel in town, back in the days of the gold rush. The road near that hotel was named after him.

In Dawson City which is a very rustic town with dirt roads, board sidewalks, and all wooden structures, (many that look like they did during the gold rush period) we saw the Lowe Mortuary. They have a tradition of opening one historic building each weeknight and tonight (Saturday) we will have the opportunity to tour it.

We plan to enter Alaska on Tuesday and go to Chicken, AK then over to Fairbanks, AK at the end of the week. It has rained a lot, Jane has come down with a cold and I know I am fighting one.

Today the sun will set at 12:49AM and it rose this morning at 3:51AM. That sure turns off the idea of day and night since it is twilight at best when the sun goes down. If it clears up, we’ll travel to the top of Midnight Dome (elevation 887m or 2911 ft.) which is the place you can go on June 21 and watch the sun come down to the horizon overnight then go up again. It never sets. As we travel to Fairbanks we have been told the "night” will be even shorter than here.        


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