Monday, June 27, 2016

Klondike Highway ~ Yukon

We stopped at several historical sites and cultural centres on this day.

We followed the Klondike Highway from Whitehorse as we made our way to Dawson City.  There is so much history on these roads so we made several stops to see some of the stories left behind.

Montague Roadhouse Historic Site
The government required a route to connect Whitehorse with Dawson Creek so mail and supplies could be delivered.  In 1902 the Overland Trail was built, it was 330 kilometers (205 mi) long and would take a carriage five days to complete the route.

Roadhouse ruins
The Montague Roadhouse was one of many stage posts on the Overland Trail.  They varied in their services to the travellers but they usually all had stables, meals and accommodations.

Montague Roadhouse remains
This is actually the third roadhouse built at this site.  The original was built in 1900 but burnt down, the second one also burnt down in 1909. This one was built in 1915 and operated until the 1950’s, is still standing but only outside walls of it are left.

Carmacks artwork
One of the other roadhouses on the Overland Trail was at Carmacks. Stage drivers would change their horses every 30 – 45 km (approx. 20-30 miles) along the way and Carmacks was a major stop for them.

Yukon River
One of the regular stops made by the sternwheelers was at Carmacks in summer.  To meet the high demand for wood needed for their steam engines, this meant work for many.  Family wood camps were located every 35-65 km ( approx. 20-40 miles) along the Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson City, and they supported themselves by selling the wood until the 1950’s when sternwheelers were no longer used to transport the supplies.

Five Finger Rapids
There are four islands that divide the river into five channels.  Only one of these narrow channels is passable.  This created very difficult obstacles for the many travellers on the Yukon River when the gold rush was happening but to this day is a challenge.  There were steps and a path down to the river but we chose not to go,  I think it was about 3 km round trip and many more things to see.

Mammoth tusks at Tage Cho Hudan Cultural Center 
We stopped to have a look around this Cultural Center.  They had so many original things made from animal pelts like rabbit-skin blankets, moose-skin clothing and boats even a salmon-skin dog pack!  A walk out behind looked like a camp may have looked including a pole-house, drying racks and a moose-skin shelter.   This centre has the only mammoth snare in the world!

Pelly Crossing
Pelly Crossing is home to the Selkirk People.  In their old beliefs, it was the crow that made the world, and when he made people, he divided everyone into clans, Crow and Wolf.  To this day, the Selkirk Band government is elected on their clan system of the Wolf and Crow.

High Cache
This is a traditional high cache used to store food and supplies out of the reach of animals, restored and moved here for display.  They were built to about five feet high and the poles were usually wrapped with tin to keep the little creatures from climbing up to the cache.  Many fish camps of the Selkirk band use these to this day.

Gray Jay at Moose Creek Provincial Park
We stayed in the Moose Lake Provincial Park that night and enjoyed a walk down to the creek after dinner but our happy hour visitor was one of many gray jays we met along the way.   It takes nothing to get their attention so a few scattered treats was all it took. They’re known to even land on your hand, and although that photo didn’t happen, they did take several pieces from Keith’s hand.

The history of this land and its people is so very fascinating.  It is wonderful to be able to learn this in such an interesting way and great to know that some of their old beliefs, customs and traditions are still being carried on today. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Whitehorse, Yukon

We had a reasonably short drive to get to Whitehorse for our next stop. Whitehorse is the largest city in Yukon and has plenty of places for shopping so is a great place for us to refill our cupboards, catch up with laundry and necessary repairs.

Canada's Highway 1 ~ The Alaska Highway
To get to Whitehorse, we follow Hwy 1, the Alaska Highway from Haines Junction, where we spent last night.  We made a couple of sightseeing stops, one of which was to see an old bridge.  This old bridge does not meet today’s standards in spite of the restoration that has been done over the years, but the history lives on.

Canyon Creek Bridge
It was originally built in 1903 when the gold rush hit the Kluane County and a route across the creek was needed.  It was rebuilt during construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942 and was described as the most important bridge built by the US Army Corps so was left in place when a permanent bridge was built downriver.

Hi Country RV Park
We arrive early afternoon and set up camp at the Hi Country RV Park, a busy and well equipped park to stay in.  We’d stayed here before and would have one more visit again before leaving our Northern Adventure.

Downtown Whitehorse,Yukon
This is our second visit to the city of 28,000 people.  Being the capital, it is a busy center for government offices but also a very busy city for locals and visitors.  We enjoyed our walk downtown where most of the storefronts take us back to the historical early days of the city.

S.S. Klondike
A visit to Whitehorse would not be complete without a tour of the SS Klondike.  This sternwheeler was actually the second Klondike.  The first one was used 1921-1936 to take freight from Whitehorse to Dawson City and this one was used 1937 to 1955.

Inside the S.S. Klondike
This sternwheeler was the largest and could hold 50% more freight than any others and still navigate the shallow waters of the Yukon River.  Once the highway connected Whitehorse to Dawson City, the SS Klondike was converted to a cruise ship in 1950, the dining room can be seen past the kitchen.  It operated as such for five years, when lack of interest forced it to shut down.

Macbride Museum ~ Whitehorse, Yukon
The huge copper nugget in front of the museum was mined in 1905.  It weighs 1175 kg. (2590 lbs) making it Yukon’s largest nugget and likely the largest in Canadian records.  Through several challenging obstacles over five days, it was moved here in 1958.  It was dedicated to the many prospectors of White River county who staked claims between 1900-1958.

Healing Totem Pole
All totem poles are story tellers but this one has a very amazing story to tell.  The project included several carvers over a 20 week period.  It is 11 metres (36 ft) high and was created to help former residential school students heal.  Each wood chip during its construction was kept then signed by a former student or family member, each representing a life.  When completed, the chips were burned and the ashes saved in a box and put inside the totem pole, this represented sending each child back to their mom.

Granite and metal totem poles
We took a walk along the Yukon River from the SS Klondike into downtown area which wanders through the area once called Whiskey Flats.  It was known for the squatters and those who came in droves when the gold rush brought them and there were no homes for them to stay in.  For several years there were hundreds of cabins, huts and shacks.

Tribute to Firefighters in Whitehorse, Yukon
In 1953 when Whitehorse became the Yukon capital, new development began.  Due to the “unsuitable and unsightly” homes of Whiskey Flats, some were relocated but many were destroyed without owners consent.  A riverside walk and park now borders the river where these homes once sat.

"Raven Steals the Sun" by Philippe Lablond
Whitehorse is the city with the least air pollution in the WORLD according to the Guiness World of Records!  That is quite something to be proud of, as is the Indigenous artwork seen in several places in the city.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Paxson Lake, Alaska ~ Haines Junction, Yukon

We travelled from Paxson Lake with three overnight stops and driving over 750 km on our way back to Whitehorse, Yukon.

After our overnight stay at Paxson Lake Campground, we were ready to make our way south to Gakcona Junction then northeast to Tok.

Wrangell Mountains
We were north of the Wrangell Mountains so we could enjoy some of the mountain tops that were able to peek through the clouds.  There are several high peaks in that range but I am not sure which one I have this photo of but the windswept snowtop was impressive to see.

Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge

We had an overnight stay in Tok before we headed south to cross the border.  We made a stop at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge for tourist information.  There are 280,000 hectares (700,000 acres) dedicated to the Refuge for nesting and migrating birds.

Beaver Creek, Yukon
 We crossed the border into the Yukon and would follow Highway 1.  We stopped at Beaver Creek, a small community with a tourist center, had our lunch and continued on.

Graceful swan dance
As we continued our travels on this nice sunny day, we made some stops and I was able to get some photos of a beautiful swan as he spread his wings.  He was one of several we saw along this stretch of road.

Saint Elias Mountains
The Saint Elias Mountains are the youngest mountain range in Canada at five to ten million years. Those many years ago, there was a shift of the continental plate causing a wedge from the Gulf of Alaska to push up under North America.  This created mountains from rocks that had been buried up to ten kilometres (6 miles) underground!

Long forgotten boat
The founders of Burwash came during the gold rush of 1903 but stayed on to establish a trading post after the gold rush was over.   They had a very successful guiding business, as well but there is very little left now.  What had once been a very popular resort only a couple of years ago, has now become a deserted building with remains of some old boats sitting lakeside.

Dahl Sheep 
We went into a very modest looking building at Burwash Landing called the Kluane Museum of Natural History.  They had a very impressive interior that was full of wildlife, most of them displayed behind glass enclosures in realistic settings, others were not behind glass .

Kluane Lake
Kluane Lake is the largest one in Yukon.   It is a good place to fish for whitefish, trout and chum salmon.   This was a busy fish camp and many would come here to trade before the Burwash Landing was established in 1904.

Pine Lake Campground view
We found a nice campsite at Pine Lake Campground just past Haines Junction.  It was a government park with large sites and no water or power but very reasonable rates.  We had a walk around the park and there were some very rustic but interesting sights to see before ending our day sitting around the campfire telling stories.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Denali Highway ~ Alaska

Our day travelling the very bumpy Denali Highway in Alaska

The Denali Highway is 217 km (135 mi) of very rough road.  The beginning of the highway from Cantwell, AK, driving west to east, is paved, as are the last miles into Paxon, but the rest are gravel and dirt road with lots of dust on our drive.  We had clouds but no rain to make it muddy today.

Denali Highway, Alaska
The Denali Highway opened in 1957 and was the only access to the Denali National Park at that time but better highways have been built since. The Denali Highway is closed from October until May and the only access during those months would be by snowmobile or dogsled.  

Sunshine behind the clouds
They advise you to take it very slow when you drive and that is with good reason.  There were more potholes on this stretch of highway than we’d seen for awhile and we’d driven hundreds of miles on dirt roads on our Northern Adventure.  It is a road less travelled or maintained.

Moose having a drink
The benefit of driving these highways slowly is that we get to sightsee more if we are not the lead driver.  That one has to guide us through the real rough areas and warn us what to watch for.  We made some stops, on this stop we enjoyed watching the moose on the other side of the lake, views were great in spite of the weather.

Boreal forests, tundra and lakes
The overcast skies made the day fairly dark but we did see some very scenic areas of boreal forests, tundra and lakes.  We have to wonder where all the animals are hiding in these places, they are out there somewhere.  The Alaska Range could be seen in the distance with clouds hanging over their peaks.

Dusty roads
This is a heavily hunted area so we saw several roadside camps set up for those who were there to do some hunting.  As many as 16,000 animals have been seen at once after calving season and the herds are passing through the area on their annual migration but this was not that time.  We didn’t see any more wildlife, they learn fast and would be avoiding the hunters.

Maclaraen Glacier
We could see the Maclaren Glacier coming down from Mt. Hayes, elevation 4,216 metres (13,832’) as we drive through the Alaska Range foothills.  The Maclaren Summit on the Denali Highway at 1245 metres  (4,086’) is the second highest road pass in Alaska.  The highest is the Atigun Pass on the Dalton Highway.  Click here to see more of the Atigun Pass.

Tundra, lakes and mountains
Much of the Denali Highway is built on glacial eskers.  These are the mounds of sand and gravel that are left behind as a result of the moving water in or under the glacier.  That tells us that we drove on the path of the original glacial river of so very long ago.

Susitna River
We crossed the wide Susitna River on the 1000’ long bridge.  Our view across the river shows what is left of a fire from the past.  We made our way up the long hill to take us onto more scenic sights.  

Alaska Range on the Denali Highway
Our drive over the Denali Highway was a slow but very scenic drive.  We arrived at Paxson Lake Campground at the end of our day and enjoyed time around the campfire to talk about the sights of our day.


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