And just like that we’re done with Alaska. Ah, but back to the Yukon, and we like that, too. We’re headed South and working our way through the territories and provinces of Canada. Originally we were going to drop down into the lower 48 for Glacier National Park, but decided that is for another trip. We’ll just stay in Canada all the way across to North Dakota, and enjoy a little more of their fabulous scenery and poutine. I love me some poutine!
Back To Canada
We were planning to go to Chicken and then drive the Top of the World Highway into the Yukon, The pros and cons of this drive were weighed many times while in Alaska. I was reading the details out loud to Pat the night before the big departure.
This highway supposedly has 1,000 foot drop-offs, no guardrails, no shoulders, is narrow, rough gravel, and over 100 miles. Spectacular scenery though, and a rite of passage for any Alaska bound RVer. We would have done it on the way in like most people if not for the ferry adventure to Haines. Reading this description again, it sounded like no fun and we weren’t convinced this scenery would be any more spectacular that what we had already seen. Let’s face it. We’d had a lot of beautiful up to now. The stressful drive, more potential breakage, and 20-30 mph for hours on end just didn’t appeal. So we ditched that plan. This change resulted in time back in the schedule to go to Atlin, BC and the Northwest Territories, both of which I whined about missing. Everybody wins!
Of course no route is without gravel it seems. We got to the spot in the top picture above and found this red light and “wait for pilot car” sign in the middle of nothingness. No one in sight. We sit and wait and eat snacks. And we wait some more – 15 minutes at least and then someone comes up behind us. They wait maybe 30 seconds and then go around us and on down the road. By this time we can see the dust cloud and we know the pilot car followed by the other traffic is coming. Busted! We laughed while they got stopped in the road. This was a long pilot stretch complete with water truck wetting the road and gravel trucks.
The wet gravel road resulted in our blue car becoming completely brown. Bitsy was totally coated by the time we got to our campground. You couldn’t get near the car without getting shellacked yourself. We think this is also when the first fog light bit the dust, literally.
Rest stop Yukon style. To be fair, this is pretty much the way they look in Alaska, too.
On one of our Yukon driving days, we stopped 4 times. Pretty spots, but I thought we’d never get to our campground. One at Pick Handle Lake to check the angry tire sensor on Bitsy, one to fix the broken silverware drawer latch (that jangling was enough to send us over the edge), one for lunch at Horseshoe Bay on Kluane Lake, and finally for gas. We try to combine stops, but this day just didn’t work out like that.
We marvel at people like this….
We see them in the absolute middle of nowhere, and going to where we don’t know. On the way to Whitehorse we saw groups of riders followed by a trailer labeled “Texas 4000”. Turns out these young people were on a 70 day, 4,862 mile ride from Austin, TX to Anchorage, AK to produce student leaders and raise money for cancer. Just wow!
Not sure what I expected from this place. Some rough-around-the-edges frontier town perhaps? Well not so. This is the capitol city of the Yukon and has all the amenities you might want, complete with retail, dining and amazing sights. Not too big, but not too small. It also has a lovely river walk on the Yukon River. We’re thinking that river walk thing is a requirement for our eventual retirement landing spot, post full-time RVing.
We’re pretty sure we’re going to miss the lack of crowds and traffic when we get back to more populated areas. To give you a feel for the Yukon, this territory has a total population of 38,000ish, 28,000 of which live in Whitehorse. Lots of elbow room in this part of the country.
The SS Klondike is right on the banks of the Yukon River and is a National Historic Site of Canada. We took a self-guided tour and learned about how these sternwheelers were the lifeline on the rivers carrying freight and passengers. This particular ship was in service up until 1950. This is when having a former Navy man with you is useful. He could explain how the telegraph, pumps and other parts worked. Interesting how some technology endures.
Another view of the Klondike from the riverside, a wooden carving we found interesting and tucked away, Pat reading the info on the huge paddle wheel, and finally the view of that riverwalk we liked so much.
We had to stop and take a look at the World’s Largest Weathervane since it was right by the road on the way to town. It’s a DC-3 that was decommissioned and set on a special pedestal in 2009.
Here it is forever turned into the wind and a picture I took of the sign with the details of how it was built. I didn’t really believe it moved until I was standing right underneath it when the wind picked up. The whole plane slowly shifted and creaked a little bit, and I think I creaked a little bit, too. There was a couple behind me reading the sign about it and wild-eyed me looked at them and asked if they saw that. Oh yeah, they said. Turns out they are from Florida, too, and were just heading out of Alaska like us.
Final fun stop in town was Yukon Brewing Company.
Believe it or not, Pat requested this stop. He saw someone wearing a shirt with their slogan and loved it. “Beer worth freezin’ for.” We did a little tasting and I made a purchase to sample some of the brews. Not bad. I liked the Yukon Red and Midnight Sun.
Just a few miles from our campground was Miles Canyon. We read about this one and had to head on over.
Here’s the shot from the scenic overlook on the highway. At this point the Yukon River has the most stunning green water due to what they call glacier flour. The particles themselves are too small to see with the naked eye, but result in that color being reflected.
We took a guided hike in the area and thorough enjoyed the trek. Those river rafters in the picture were having a blast. And a bit about those canyon walls. They call them the Miles Canyon Basalts. This area has exposed basalt lava flows from volcanic activity way back before the glaciers were present. We even walked on fine white sandy stuff that is some of the remaining volcanic ash. The resulting chunky rock pile effect is so interesting.
The hike started on the other side of this suspension bridge, led by two college students. They showed us the bright red soap berries. Very bitter, and eating one of these broke the cardinal rule. Don’t eat anything bright red in the wild! Of course they said it was safe.
One gal also told us that the quaking aspen trees make sun protection for their bark that is about 15 spf. You can rub your hand long the bark and come away with a fine power to then rub on your skin. Pat and I both put a little on since it was in the 80s and the sun was pretty intense.
I’ve heard of them, seen the name in the pharmacy, but never knew what they looked like. I kept seeing these fruit looking things that were bright red to orange in color. Finally asked one of our smart guides what they were and she says “Rose Hips”. Head slapping moment here.
These are the roses….
And these are the hips. Make so much sense since the rose blooms were gone and just these things remained
Yukon Wildlife Preserve
Last pick of the sights was the Yukon Wildlife Preserve not far out of town. We’re never sure how we’ll feel about the animals in captivity, but this place was really well done. You can walk the entire grounds instead of taking a bus tour, and that’s exactly what we did to get our 3 mile hiking fix for the day.
In addition to the bighorn sheep, mountain goats, trumpeter swans and mule deer in the pictures, we saw more muskox, caribou, and a gorgeous Lynx. Just like a cat – no photos, please!
The handler came around to feed the animals and explained that many of them get ground up oranges mixed with food pellets. Very popular as you can see. A local grocery store makes fresh squeezed orange juice and donates the orange remains to the preserve.
Here I am with the “friendly” moose. You aren’t allowed to touch the animals and it is so hard to resist. Turns out I’m not that interesting, but the lady bringing the orange mash is!
These little ground squirrels are so stinkin’ cute. But they are noisy. They raise a high pitched fuss until you get far enough away for their liking.
My final learning moment came when reading about the caribou. Apparently caribou and reindeer are one and the same. Now we’ve seen both labels at different places in our travels and I really thought they were two different animals. In North America it’s caribou. In Europe and Asia it’s reindeer. Consider me enlightened.
Real Canadian Superstore
This store looks suspiciously like a Wal-Mart, except it has a giant red maple leaf on the front. And of course has the name Real Canadian Superstore. “Real” is part of the name. I wonder if that is a little dig at Wal-Mart. We originally went to the American mecca since that’s what we know, only to find that it had no fresh anything. Like a Wal-Mart of old before they became “super” and started carrying groceries.
We needed some groceries, so decided to see what was in that “Real” Superstore. Everything imaginable, including the groceries we sought. The only good thing about the weird Wal-Mart was the lack of most brands we’ve heard of. We ended up taking a chance on some coconut cookies. Oh my were they good, and we’re in search of more!
I have a tiny bit more of the Yukon for you on our way to Atlin, BC, but you’ll have to wait for the next post. See you on the way!