With only a week left in the YUKON, B and I set out on an adventure. We packed Bo Bo Ska Diddle up to the max, left plenty of food and water for our little chickens and drove off to Whitehorse after B finished his last day of work.
I paced and paced and paced all day waiting until 4:30 to pick B up. Once he hopped in, it felt so incredibly great to be on the road.
We spent our last night with Jaimoe at the Robert Service Campground with a fire and some bevies. We sure are going to miss him and wish him all the best as he continues his studies at Yukon College. Keep your head in the game and we’ll see you soon, Jaimoe! Lots of LOVE!
We had a long day ahead of us the following morning. We had a few things to pick up before we headed up the North Klondike highway to Dawson city. We actually didn’t end up getting out of Whitehorse until 1pm. B and I had been having a few arguments about driving up the Dempster Highway. I desperately needed to see Tombstone Territorial Park, and he desperately worried about the Subaru.
You see, many reviews and stories of driving the Dempster result in at least one flat tire. We himmed and hawed all morning about being prepared. Yeah, it’s pretty easy to grab a couple of spare tires, but not for Bo Bo Ska Diddle. She has a unique size of tire, and one that none of the tire shops keep in stock. They have to be ordered in. If we did blow a tire, we had a couple of our winter tires for back up, but it’s not good for the differential to be driving with not a complete set of tires. B knew how important it was for me to go up there, so he bit the bullet, and got a rim put on our winter tire, and just hoped we wouldn’t get a flat.
After all of that, we drove out of Whitehorse going Northbound and seeing new territory. The weather was incredible. 25 degrees and sun for the most part.
About 4 hours into our drive, we came across a little community called Stewart Crossing, and this is where B’s old pal Chase was working on a bridge. We got there just before quitting time, and surprised him at the construction stop light. We made plans to meet up with him the next night in Dawson.
After a quick visit, we drove the next 2 hours to Dawson. It was a long day.
Hazy skies full of wild fire smoke.
Driving into Dawson was quite interesting. You could feel the history just throwing itself at you. Dredge upon dredge you pass for miles and miles. The river had been turned upside down back in the rush days, by those looking for gold.
We camped just outside of town in what we’d later discover to be a little flood plain. We went out for incredible greek food at the Drunken Goat and got amped for our days in Dawson.
So it rained in the morning. A little thundershower, that ended up lasting for half the day. Pitter patter on the tent walls, and cracks of thunder kept us cozy in our bags until we felt the floor. It felt like we were sleeping on a water bed. At least 4 inches of the stuff. Shit. Up we got and took apart the innards of the tent like our thermarests and bags, with not a drop of water. Paying $600 for a tent is worth it! We set the tent up on a hill. We’d deal with it later. We drove into town to grab a coffee and get warmed up and dried off. There was a pavilion next to the river, so B cooked us some breakfast there. I waited patiently for my eggs, avocado and beans to finish.
Dawson, what a place. Neat old boardwalks and muddy streets. It reminded me so much of the Dawson in my favourite story ‘White Fang’ by Jack London. Being in this town was really important to me. As a story that I have loved for years, and piecing it all together in the Yukon really was a dream come true for me.
We visited the Jack London museum where his cabin and food cache rested, and inside were many photographs of Jack’s time in Dawson. There was a wonderful interpreter in there who told us stories.
We discovered that while Jack only spent one year in the Dawson and the YUKON, that year had an incredible impact on his life. It was there that many of his characters and stories were created. I guess Jack spent a lot of time in the saloon back then, not to drink but to get warm. It was during that time that he heard many stories from others and met a lot of people. Those stories and people are what inspired some of his best selling books like the Call of the Wild and White Fang. There was actually a photograph of one of his friends and a dog back in the gold rush days. The dog’s name was Jack funnily enough, but that dog and his personality is Buck in the Call of the Wild.
I just loved listening to this woman speak of him. She said that there’s a quote from Jack that said something along the lines of being up here to ‘get perspective.’ Things really hit home for both B and I at that point, because that’s EXACTLY what we came up here to do, and we have gotten a lot of it. I loved having this connection with Jack. My heart was so swollen to be there, and things got a little more intense when I told that woman that a couple of incredible friends from the UK sent me a first edition, copy of White Fang. I am so thankful for such a wonderful and thoughtful gift. They know me well. The woman was so inspired by B and my connection about perspective and this book that she wrote about it in a journal at the museum.
Needing to lighten up, and wanting to do one of the thing that was near the top of my list, was to get some old timey photos taken of B and I. It was a lot of fun dressing up in gold rush days costume, and having a photo shoot done.
We met up with Chase later at the Midnight Sun tavern for a great night, lots of laughs and experiencing the true midnight sun. 10 hours north of where we’ve been living in Watson Lake, there is no dusk for a couple of hours, it’s all sunshine. It just dances a circle around the sky.
He took us to Diamond Tooth Gertie’s for a risky show, and the Snake Pit where the floor is caving in. Back in the gold rush days, no mining was allowed in town, so the shop keep dug up the floor and secretly mined for gold under the building. To this day, these buildings are kept in their original form.
I told them several times that I wanted to do a Sour Toe shot, but didn’t end up there, and when we did, it was way past last call. I’m disappointed, but I didn’t NEED the shot to love being in Dawson.
I woke up a few hours later to a Dawson City hangover. It was extreme. B was in a really bad mood, because I don’t think he actually wanted to believe that we were going to drive the Dempster. We drove 20 minutes out of town to realize that we needed ice for the cooler, so he wasn’t impressed about having to turn around and drive back.
I can see why he was worried. We don’t really have a lot of money right now to spend $360 on a tire if we needed it, and didn’t have 5 days to wait for a tire to be delivered to Whitehorse. We are driving all of our belongings home over the next month and a bit, so getting a flat would be hard for us.
When we eventually turned onto the Dempster, the stress level heightened. But, it was so beautiful.
B looking NOT impressed.
The closer we got to Tombstone, the more my heart shattered into a billion pieces. I spent the hour plus drive into the park sobbing to myself in disbelief of its magnificent-ism and beauty. It was a big deal for me to get here. A big deal in terms of logistics and in my heart. I wanted, I needed to see tundra so bad.
I have written about a favourite book of mine called ‘Being Caribou’ by Karsten Heuer and to be on the tundra where these caribou roam was important.
I needed to see the very place where the trees eventually die out and disperse into tundra. It was incredible and a place that I will hold so very dear to my heart. This is the YUKON experience that I’ve been longing to have, the reason why I’ve wanted to come up here since learning about it in Geography classes and through my favourite story White Fang. A big deal for me. The feeling of being so far away from everything and everyone was overwhelming.
Once we reached the campground a massive sigh of relief came over B. No flats. Our campsite was the most beautiful I’d ever had, and I can tell you that I’ve had a lot! Prickly rose bushes everywhere and the Klondike River flowing right next to us.
We didn’t have a lot of time to spend here. We got to hiking. Just a little trail that took about 2 hours, and it started in forest, and then petered out into tundra. We kept conversation to notify any large wildlife that we were coming and eventually took out the bear bell and rang it every so often. It wasn’t so bad in the forest part, because you could see into the woods, and it wasn’t so bad when we were on higher elevation because you could see a ways out, but in the last part near the end where we turned around and hiked back was really thick bushes that were a little over our heads. There was a ‘poof’ and ‘huffing’ sound in the thickets that we heard. I was terrified. I was so scared, and my heart was pumping so hard that it almost pumped right out of my chest. “B, let’s turn around right now!”
Stupid us weren’t prepared at all. It is extremely advisable to have bear spray, and we didn’t have any. Suddenly I felt defeated and disappointed. I felt like a little speck of dust in mighty huge place. I had prepared physically for Tombstone, but not logistically. I’m an ass. I couldn’t sleep a wake that night. I woke up every hour on the hour not really knowing what time it was because the sun was beaming in our tent all night. I had to keep checking my iPod to see the time. It dragged. But, I was happy to be spending the rest of my short time in Tombstone awake and listening to the sounds of the tundra and river right outside my tent.
We decided to pack up the next morning and drive to Haines Junction, YUKON which is on the other side of Whitehorse. A long drive, but I needed to compromise with B. He wasn’t all into being up on the Dempster because of the tire stress, but he was into seeing the highest mountain peak in Canada. Sure, let’s go!
The Dempster Highway
B looking a little happier on the way out!
Another long day as we drove for hours. Once we reached Haines Junction, it was totally worth it to see these mountains. Such a beautiful place. We decided to go hiking here instead until I learned that it and the surrounding area hold the largest population of grizzly bears in the YUKON. We tried to go out for a little stroll in the evening, but the mosquitoes were fierce.
I was tired. I hadn’t slept very well the previous night, and because we were camping in town I had a better chance of falling asleep without any fear. We decided to hike the next day. I needed to hike. I’d been working so hard at it. We didn’t have any bear spray though, and we’d be straight stupid to go out into those woods without it. We stopped at a place in town to ask if we could borrow some, but they only had a can that had expired in 2007. “It might work.” Said the Conservation Officer in town. Well, I wasn’t taking any chances!
Speaking to the Officer, I had to ask about the bears. “What are the chances of seeing a bear?” I asked. “Pretty good.” He replied. He gave us all kinds of advisable information that I already knew of when it comes to being bear wise, but that didn’t matter. He told us the usual, “if you see scat, or tracks than turn around. If you see a fresh moose kill, then run for your lives.” I wasn’t taking any chances. He also told us that a runner not long ago was “clipped” on the ankle by a mama grizzly. The runner ran for his life up a tree until the bear subsided. Great. Don’t go running in the forest B!
We just drove to Kluane National Park where Canada’s highest mountain peak is, and decided to keep on driving to Haines, Alaska. It was about 3 hours away and I was told that it’s one of the most beautiful drives. Well it was. I have driven many, many roads, and have clocked many, many hours and I can tell you that it was the most beautiful drive I have ever done. We drove up over the mountains, kind of like how we did going to Skagway, Alaska but it was totally different. More costal like and way, way up in alpine in the clouds. You could see for miles.
There was bear shit all over the road between Haines Junction and Haines, Alaska. I wouldn’t be lying if we counted over 50. But, we never seen a bear. In all the miles we’ve driven in the past week, we never seen a bear.
Haines, Alaska is the home of the eagle valley. Every autumn 3500 bald eagles feast on salmon in the rivers there, and you can bet that the grizzlies aren’t far behind. You have seen many pictures of Alaska eagles and grizzlies together, and this is the place. It was incredible, but we were too early for balds. Only seen a couple.
Haines was a neat little town on the ocean. Not like Skagway at all that was so tourist driven. This was a unique little fishing community and I knew that wild caught halibut fish and chips wasn’t out of the question. It was the best I’ve ever had and worth the 3 hour drive.
Another long day, we drove back to Whitehorse. We had a few things to pick up here, and I need to tie up some loose ends personally and emotionally. My YUKON experience this past week has made me fall in love, and B is taking me away just in time. It’s called the ‘YUKON fever’. There are many things that I love out living here. I will write about them soon.
I definitely know that I have left a piece of myself in the YUKON, and it’s in the form of thousands if not millions of baby Cobi mosquitoes. My bloodline is here now for eternity. This is pretty far out in left field, but my baby mosquito eggs have hatched in the creeks, lakes and rivers here and I will also be flowing through ‘er forever.
Thank you YUKON for such an incredible life experience. You are beautiful and harsh. You have tried and tested me. But I love you, anyway.
– Northern Gal