As we approach mid January, I’ve already made progress on one of my New Year’s resolutions which was to get my photo work on display in a gallery or show at least four times this year. Last Tuesday, Anne and I took a framed print down to the Wickenburg Art Center (WAC) for display and sale in their gallery. I posted an article last month about having my work juried so that I could take part in local events. A side benefit of the jury process is that I can hang some work in their gallery.
The framed print that we have on display is the 4:5 version of Kluane Lake and Ruby Range that I shot this summer while in the Yukon Territories. It was one of the prints that I submitted for jurying, and since it was ready to go, it was an easy choice.
The Wickenburg Art Center gallery is at 188 S. Tegner Street. That’s two blocks south of US60. Tegner is the Wickenburg old main street and the light immediately west of the railroad underpass. If you’re in the area, stop in and enjoy the work local artisans have on display.
My next project is to get two prints ready for the Gold Rush Days Fine Arts Show in February. Those will be on display in the Wickenburg Library from February 10th through the 12th. I haven’t decided what to submit yet and perhaps you can help. I need to have the photos printed and framed by the beginning of the month and I think they should have a common theme. Should I submit two images from our trip? Maybe a couple of the local landscapes would be better; or how about a pair of old buildings as a submission? Which two of my images would you like to see hung on the wall? Let’s hear your comments.
We had lunch in Skagway today. It was an international meal. We had to leave the Yukon Territories for British Columbia, and then go through customs at the Alaska border. The trip took about an hour from our Carcross camp. With this little jaunt, we have covered every mile of the Klondike Highway, from mile zero in Skagway to the Dawson City ferry.
The Klondike Highway between Carcross and Skagway is pure eye-candy. It climbs beside a series of lakes up to the three thousand foot White Pass, and the border. There the road descends back to sea level in thirteen miles, with grades up to 15% (my guess, they’re not marked). I would compare it to Arthur’s Pass in New Zealand. If you lost your brakes on either hill, I’m sure you’d hit the ocean and skip across the water.
The vegetation along the road ranges from dense spruce to above tree line, then back to broad leaf forests. The top of the pass is glacially scraped bedrock with thousands of little alpine ponds. If you keep watch on the high slopes, you may see a mountain goat or two. After passing the summit, it’s easy to see how a glacier cut the fjord that Skagway is in.
As for Skagway . . . there were two cruise ships in port, so the town was packed. There were shuttle vans taking people up to the pass, there were trains taking people up to the pass, and there were airplanes taking people up to the pass. You can rent bicycles, mopeds or just walk thirteen miles up the hill.
If you don’t know the history of the pass, here’s the thirty-second version.
Part A: During the 1890’s Klondike gold rush, prospectors throughout the world converged in this area trying to get to the Yukon gold fields. The original preferred route was the Chilkoot Trail. Historic photos show men shoulder to shoulder, climbing this pass in the snow. To cross into Canada, you had to prove that you could sustain for a year, so you had to have a ton of provisions with you. You, or someone you paid had to carry all that junk up to the border and pile it on a scale. Only then could you enter the Yukon.
Part B: In 1900 an US/Canadian company completed a narrow gauge railroad that runs between Skagway and Whitehorse (it still does) through White Pass. After that prospectors abandoned the Chilkoot route. Twenty years later, all the easy gold was gone anyway.
Back to Skagway. A lot of today’s tourists didn’t care about the pass. They’d prefer to shop for jewelry, furs, tee shirts or fudge. While they’re at it, maybe they’d like a beer, a meal, or visit a brothel. That’s what Skagway does very well. The historic buildings are well-kept and neat to see. There are several museums to visit and learn about its history. But the things you need to live there are hard to find, like a gas station, grocery store or even a working bank. They are in a different part of the town.
I’m glad we visited, we had fun visiting the brothel (it’s on the haunted building registry), but we didn’t pay ten bucks for the twenty-minute tour (same price as in 1899). Continuing a tradition that started on my fiftieth birthday, Anne bellied up to the bar and bought me a beer, but not a the tee-shirt.
Tomorrow, we break camp and move south into British Columbia where we will be dry camping lakeside at a Provincial Park. We won’t have an internet connection, so my next post will have to wait till we return to civilization.
Queen Anne and I left the gang behind in Tok two days ago. Since we have different priorities for the trip home, the group figured it would be best for each of us to follow our own routes and time-table. Fred and Deb promised that they would send updates and photos via email so we can follow their adventures too. For example, they made it to Beaver Creek today and by chance, stopped at the same store we had visited yesterday . . . Only they ran into Dudley Do Right.
Yesterday’s road was enough to tear the rest of my hair out. After leaving Tok the Alaska Highway gets a bit rough, and I began to hear clunking coming from the trailer hitch. We pulled into a wayside to make sure nothing was wrong. I have a device that clamps the hitch to the receiver and I wanted to make sure it was tight. Since the parking area was on a slant, the first thing I did was to chock the trailer tires. After fiddling with the receiver and hitch, we tightened everything up and connected the Ritz to Fritz. A few miles down the road confirmed that we had fixed the clunk. It wasn’t until we left this morning that I realized that I had driven away from the chocks. Now we have to get a new set.
We were trying to make a campground in Destruction Bay (ominous name, isn’t it). Remember when I bragged about my clean and shiny truck and trailer. Well, between Beaver Creek and Destruction Bay, the Canadians have three construction zones. They never really fix the roads, they just scrape off the surface, pile more dirt in the wallows, then put more gravel and oil on it. That takes all summer. Just to summarize it, there was fifteen miles of wet mud, in the rain where they were fixing the road. By the time we made camp, I didn’t want to touch the car or trailer.
We did camp last night in a Provincial Park campgrounds at Kluane Lake. Our campsite was on the water so we enjoyed the marvelous view and the pair of loons that came by for a visit. Before a breeze picked up, the water was glass smooth. We sat around a campfire for dinner before turning in. As we were leaving a pair of white swans called us down to the shore to show off their signet.
We made Whitehorse by lunch. That’s an important milestone as we now have traveled every mile of the Alaskan Highway. If you remember, we left the highway because we wanted to go through Dawson City, and only God knows why, the town of Chicken. (See previous dirty car rant.)
After lunch in Whitehorse, we headed south on the Klondike Trail and we’re camped in an RV park in Carcross. I know, the first thing that went through my mind was it was some car ferry or something, but this is the site where great herds of caribou forged the Yukon River. It sort of changes the way you pronounce the town’s name. It’s a small native village on Bennett Lake, which is one of a series of lakes at the headwaters of the Yukon.
We chose to stay here, because tomorrow we’re going to run into Skagway for a visit. It’s only sixty miles and we can make it down for lunch and back for dinner. I should have a report for you tomorrow.
We left Dawson City via the Yukon Ferry. It runs 24 hours and is free, so how could we go wrong? If there are caravans on the road, it could take hours for all of them to cross, but we were fortunate that none were in town. The ride takes less than a half hour, but driving on and off the boat is tricky. There isn’t a permanent dock, so the ramps just let down on the dirt road and there’s a gap that can cause damage to the vehicles. Fred had to re-position his cargo box, Sally got some trim damage and our front trailer foot was slightly bent when we drove off the ferry.
We took some time to fix things and then started up the Top of the World Highway. That’s the name for the road from Dawson to Chicken, Alaska. It got its moniker from the how the trail follows along the three thousand foot mountain ridges.
The road climbs steeply from the Yukon bank, past the golf course, and in our case, into the clouds. The views from the road I’m sure are both spectacular and scary at the same time. For us, it was raining, so we drove in and out of the clouds. Every once in a while, the clouds would lift revealing how steeply the mountains dropped into the valleys below us.
Other people warned us that the road was not the best, but we decided to press on regardless. The rain made the gravel base even worse, filling the pot holes and washboard ruts with mud. We drove like it was a slalom course, trying to find a smoother section.
It was slow going, taking almost four hours to make the eighty mile journey to the border. After clearing customs, we started down the US side on brand new, shiny black pavement. It had bright yellow center lines with white lines down the edges. Our walkie-talkies were full of chatter about how much we loved this road, when about five miles later, it turned into . . . mud. Not gravel, just a plain old sloppy muddy road . . . with worse washboards and more pot holes.
When we pulled into Chicken after another twenty miles, we got out of our vehicles and assessed the mess. The Ritz had two caked on mud stripes down the front that looked like skid marks. I had no idea how I was going to scrape that mess off, but by then, we just wanted to get in out of the rain and get something to eat.
It figures! Of all the towns that we’ve visited in Canada so far, the one that I liked the best is our last. Well, Dawson is the kind of town tailor-made for tourist . . . sort of like Tombstone or Jerome in Arizona, but with more than one street. There’s a good mix of new and old. Shops, restaurants, and exhibits are distributed throughout the town. The streets aren’t paved and board walks keep pedestrians boots out of the mud.
Because it’s situated on the Yukon River, it served as a supply and shipping depot for gold rush minors. Stern-wheelers would bring supplies and people up from Whitehorse and the mines would send gold and silver ore in return. It’s one of the last places you can catch a paddle-wheeler for a river cruise.
You get the sense that the merchants play all of their cards. One of the department stores we visited looked like a normal tourist trap, with trinkets and tee shirts up front, but towards the back were household goods and appliances. When the tourists disappear, the locals get you through the winter.
Probably the iconic Kissing Houses is the post card shot with which you are most familiar. I can testify the buildings still stand in 2016, well over a century later. There are several structures like them in town. They lean because the builders placed the heated building’s foundations directly on the permafrost. The buildings warmth melted the ice and then the footings sank. Today’s building codes prevent damage like this.
Tucked way back in the town are the cabins of Robert Service and Jack London. They weren’t neighbors because London’s era was in the 19th century while Service didn’t live here for another 20 years. Actually Jack London’s cabin is a replica discovered 80 miles away. Historians reconstructed it using some of the original logs while a duplicate cabin in California has the rest of the logs.
We had a good day here and we’ll be leaving via the river ferry to the ‘Top of the World Highway’. It got its name because it follows the ridge-lines. We’ll spend tomorrow night in Chicken, Alaska; a three building town that has more chicken puns than the world needs. I wonder if we’ll eat at KFC.
PS: As I publish this post, the time is 10:44pm, and the sun has not gone down.
A couple of days ago, my friend Jeff wrote in a post comment that he had noticed strange snake-like formations along each side of the road near Dawson City, and he wondered if I could find out what they were. As you drive into Dawson, it’s obvious what he was talking about, because they’re everywhere. When he asked, I thought I would just reply with an answer, but since these ‘strange’ formation are an interesting part of the Yukon history, I’ll turn it into a full post.
The formations that he noticed are huge piles of river rock and they make ten foot mounds. The tops of the piles have and undulating pattern and they sweep back and forth. Some of them are newer with no vegetation growing, while others are already covered with trees.
The piles are simply river bottom dredged from the creek bottom and piled along the bank. It was one of these contraptions that made these piles:
This is the No. 4 Dredge on Bonanza Creek and is under going full restoration. During the short placer mining season a crew of four would run one of these babies twenty-four hours a day. The would dredge up the bottom and sides of rivers, process the load on board, then dump the tailing out the other side. When they ran, they could fill up a normal dump truck every three seconds. At the height of the gold rush, there were twenty-seven of these eight story monsters running at the same time.
Crews positioned them at the mouth of a water-way and they would work their way upstream. Before they could start work, all the vegetation was stripped from the land. If you lived in the way, you were out of luck, because mineral rights trumped property rights. Then the permafrost had to me melted, by pumping steam into the ground. Finally the dredge would crawl its way up the creek at a rate of a foot a day.
Strip mining at it’s best, Ah? The units were 95% efficient, so the area is still crawling with miners working active claims. Fred and I visited the original claim today, which is a park called the Discover Claim, and wondered if any gold was left. We both doubted it, but picked up a shiny rock in the creek anyway.
Our drive to Carmacks today was an easy one. It wasn’t too far, the roads were all in good shape and there weren’t any steep passes. As it happens, we were in our camp and setting up in time for lunch.
There isn’t much of a town, a couple of stores and a gas station along with the RV Park we’re in. There is a bit of history about the town and the person it was named after. George Washington Carmack was a miner who explored the Yukon and found a vein of coal near here. His great fame came later when he discovered the gold nugget that set off the Klondike Gold Rush and the Klondike Gold Field between here and Dawson.
The country is beautiful and the Yukon River flows north until it makes a couple of sweeping bends around the town before heading north again. We had time to stop and read the roadside information signs and they explained that the mountains are formed from conglomerate rock. Like concrete it’s made up of smaller rock glued together with mud (instead of cement). Part of the mountains sloughed off creating a formation called the Whitehorse Trough and the highway runs its length.
Downstream from here is a rapids called Five Finger Rapids. There are four large formations of these conglomerate rock in the river and since they’re more resistant to erosion, they’ve created a fall in the river. To get the steamboats through the rapids, engineers had to build a cable and wench system to haul the boats up and down.
Since our back door is on the Yukon, Fred and I got in some fishing before dinner. We finally landed something. I caught an Arctic Grayling and a White Fish, while Fred landed two more Grayling. I feel a lot better about all the new fishing equipment now that we’ve actually caught something.