It rained a lot while we were at Muncho Lake. The lake rose about 8 inches, and I figured another foot or so would be getting pretty close to the Motorhome. It stopped the day we were to drive on, but we noticed the road was blocked and a pilot car required you to follow it through the next section. That’s no problem; we’ve done that many times so far! We talked to the guy as we waited for our turn… as he put it, “The rain tried to wash out the road but it failed.” It did dump a lot of rocks and sand on the road, however, and they were busy cleaning it up. Our turn came, and we drove right through, past the area they were cleaning. Just a few days later, a beaver dam broke and sent a flood of water, tree limbs and debris down on the road, and it completely undermined and washed it out! Who knew the Alaska Highway was dependent on beavers?! We feel very blessed that we made it through a few days earlier!
I was prepared to see a fantastic lake at Watson Lake. After all, we’d stopped at Muncho Lake without really planning on it, and it was spectacular. It turns out we didn’t see much of the Lake at Watson Lake. The town is called Watson Lake, and the actual lake is a ways out of town, and surrounded by trees and private property.
What Watson Lake is famous for is its sign forest. In the early ’40’s, a lonesome soldier working on building the Alaska Highway put up a sign indicating the mileage to his home town. Some of his buddies did the same, and it sort of caught on… To the point where there are over 90,000 signs up now! The city keeps putting up new posts, and crazy folks keep adding signs! I’m crazy, so I had to add a sign too! I brought a couple of small boards and my woodcarving stuff, so I carved and painted a little sign. We met some nice folks, and gave them my extra board, and they put one up too!
We came across these interesting twins… Rancharia Falls. A nice boardwalk takes you a short walk to where the river separates into two separate falls, side by side with a couple hundred yards between them.
60th Parallel – Yukon Territory
You enter Yukon when you cross the 60th parallel. They had a few facts posted to let you know you were now in hard-core territory!
Stopped by the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Center, where interesting displays inside were forbidden to photograph… but they couldn’t stop me shooting the colorful carvings out front!
We had originally planned on spending a night in Teslin, but even before the flooding occurred south of us, the campground, on the far side of the river by the bridge, was badly flooded. So we drove a bit farther than usual to our next stop. Still a beautiful area!
The world’s largest weathervane hangs out in Whitehorse. This classic DC3 served in the Canadian Military, then was converted to civilian livery, and flew in Canada and Alaska forever. Some good folks took pity on the abandoned aircraft, and restored her, placing her on a pedestal… that rotates! The slightest breeze will rotate the beautiful old gal… quite fun to watch!
Another fun thing happened in Whitehorse… a couple of weeks ago, the power seat in the Suburban got cranky… it wouldn’t move up, and was stuck in the lowest position, where I drive. Cherryl couldn’t see well and was very uncomfortable… so we called the GM dealer in Whitehorse, ordered a new switch, and were able to pick it up a week or so later. Took part of the seat apart, replaced the switch, and now we can both drive! (not at the same time.)
Yukon Wildlife Preserve
Outside Whitehorse is this animal preserve, where you can hike about 3 miles and see Moose, Caribou, Thin Horned Sheep, Musk Oxen, Bison and more. I have a little problem shooting pictures of animals not really free to roam, so I’m not including any here. But I’m not above shooting birds! And very interesting patterns on some leaves… like a little bug has GPS enabled tractor to plow such precise patterns.
The riverfront park in Whitehorse features this tall totem pole… and a nice view of the river.
The SS Klondike is an old riverboat converted to a museum… which was closed while we were there. So we saw it from outside only. Still a classy looking boat.
Takhini Hot Springs
Just north of Whitehorse is an area called Tahkini Hot Springs. I guess that is the area’s name, because the go-to place is a spa called Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs. Anything with the name hot springs catches my attention, and we stayed there a couple of nights. The hot springs are very different than Liard Hot Springs were… This is a spa-type establishment, and while it isn’t cheap, it was well worth it and very beautiful! It seems very chic, very upscale, and, I guess – Nordic! Once you’ve paid and checked in, you are given a bin and shown to a private shower. Put your clothes in your bin, shower and wash hair (with supplied fancy soaps), then move out other side of the shower to a little dressing area and put your swimsuit on. Then out to a common area where your bin fits in a supplied locker. Then it’s down the hall to the outdoor pools. They are beautifully landscaped, with stunning views and of course the wonderful hot water! After you’ve soaked all your cares away, there are nice shower/changing rooms available. Cameras and phones are not allowed, but one of the nice employees took our picture and emailed it to us. And she said I could steal some pictures from their website.
You can tell the stolen pictures because there was no snow when we were there!
Five Finger Rapids
When the hunters and trappers traversed this land on the only highway, the river, it was often a treacherous trip. The Five Finger Rapids were especially challenging – the name comes from the five possible routes between the islands.
I really liked this little town! We took a walking tour, and heard lots of interesting stories about how the Klondike Gold Rush of 1869 changed this area forever. There are now something like 1,600 people living here, but at the peak of the gold rush there were over 16,000! The Tr’ondek Hwech’in native people had been fishing here forever, and were completely overwhelmed by the influx of crazy miners. The TH, (as they are referred to, since most of us can’t pronounce their interesting name) had noticed gold along the rivers, but had no need for it. It is heavy, not suitable for making tools or anything practical, so it was of no use. The white folks from down south looked at it differently! They literally stampeded the area once gold was discovered. I had always assumed that the miners were basically broke guys looking to change their fortunes. We were told that to reach this part of the Yukon Territory in those days, with the required supplies to get started, would be the equivalent of $30,000 today! These were middle class folks who were up here for the adventure! Few had any thought of saving their earnings (if they were lucky enough to find anything) but rather wanted to have a good time. If they picked up some gold, they would usually spend it in the saloons buying drinks for everyone else there.
There are plenty of interesting buildings to enjoy!
The Commissioner’s Residence
A nice tour gives not only the history of this fascinating home, but of the times and relations with the First Nation people who were at Dawson long before the gold rush brought such crowds in. A very well done discussion. A recording of actual letters between the Commissioner and the Bishop, represented below, was very revealing of attitudes of those in power. A TH lady created the red dress displayed upstairs as a memorial to the past and hopefully the future attitudes towards First Nation folks. Negative emotions and responses are on the rear of the dress, more positive ones going forward on the front. Also symbolic: the dress is made of Red Tape… red duct tape!
The oldest bank in Dawson, in order to look more substantial, had fake stonework fashioned out of tin and then painted with sand in the paint for more stone-like texture.
Lewis took us on an excellent tour of the town, with fun stories and time inside some great buildings.
Lewis, a teacher here, told us the school paint color scheme was to be voted on by the students. The high schoolers were ‘too cool to vote,’ so the elementary kids won and chose the current colors!
After the gold panning dried up, large companies bought out huge claims and built floating dredges to dig deeper gold. They would drill core samples all over, to know where the gold deposits were, then build a huge dredge to work the area. These huge floating machines were not in the river; they could be built in a depression near the river, and water was pumped in for them to float. Then they would dig from one end with a huge bucket line, somewhat like a enormous chain saw. Then they would clean and sift the dirt and rocks, sort out the gold, and dump the clean rocks behind them. They could move for miles, essentially moving their pond with them as they went. We were able to tour one of these huge machines… if you call it a machine. It is about four stories tall, and looks to be a whole factory. There were 72 buckets on the digging ladder, and each one weighed over 3,300 pounds! They would dig 22 buckets of gravel every minute, and run 24 hours per day. In the 46 years it operated, it mined 9 tons of gold. A huge, amazing machine, built in 1913 and remaining unchanged until its retirement in 1956.
July 1 is Canada’s Independence Day, or Canada Day! We watched the parade – lots of kids on their decorated bikes, and all the fire vehicles, old and new. The whole parade was around three minutes… so we rode our bikes up ahead and watched it again. Then rode further and saw it a third time down the main street. What fun!
Bikes on the Ferry
We chose to try birding across the Yukon river, so took our bikes on the ferry. Nothing spectacular with the birding, but the ferry ride was fun and the scenery great. It was also fun to watch the ferry load big RVs… and get our heads around putting our home on that little boat!
The day before we were to leave Dawson City for the intimidating challenge of the “Top of the World” highway, I discovered that the Suburban had a tire going flat! This was on a Saturday, and the only store that said they do tires wouldn’t have anyone to help until Monday. But the guy there was very helpful, and gave me some soapy water to find the leak with. Worked like a charm! Found the leak, and following his advice, I went to the Napa Auto Parts store across the street to get a tire repair kit. I found exactly what I needed, and got the last one. While I was in line to pay for it, the lights dimmed, and they said they were closing! I was fine, being inside and done, but they closed at 3pm. Wow!
I have to say one funny thing about the tire repair kit. We have followed a young couple online who lived in a motorhome for several years, touring the states, and then moved to a sailboat and are touring the world. Cool Stuff! They are still blogging about their adventures on Gonewiththewynns.com. But I digress… they did the Top of the World road in a motorhome some years ago, and had a flat somewhere on that road, and they filmed how difficult it was to fix, but that it worked. Ironic that we had the flat just before heading down that road, and used the same technique on our tire. The kit was great, but as Jason had said in the video, it was very hard to push the repair stuff in the tire. A neighboring camper took pity on me – and he used to own a tire shop! He helped me and admitted that this job was much harder than expected, but he got it finished and said it was just what a tire shop would do and should be fine. We didn’t get any pictures of that guardian angel… but thank you again, Clint! The last time I fixed a tire I was a kid patching tubes in my bicycle tires!
On our next episode…
From Dawson City the plan is to put our home on a tiny ferry and cross the Yukon River, then traverse the Top of the World! A little apprehension about this part…