Travel, Exploration, Conversation and Discovery
The Yukon: A Panoramic Sense of Beauty Front Cover 2 3 4 9 10 11 13 15 17 18 22 24 25 26 29 33 35 Back Cover
Juvenile Bald Eagle, Whitehorse Talking Travel with Steve Gillick Lake Bennett The Klondike Spirit Miles Canyon Emerald Lake, Tormented Valley Aboard the White Pass & Yukon Route RR Carcross and the Carcross Desert Breakfast Club and Fort Selkirk Whitehorse mornings Dawson City and the Sour Toe Club Literary Tourism, Dawson City The Yukon River Highway The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in people Panning for Gold The Tombstone Mountains Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Driving from Dawson to Whitehorse Riding on the White Pass & Yukon Route
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And this sentiment was echoed by Dave Sharp, our Piper Navaho pilot from Tintina Air who flew us to Fort Selkirk, and Bob Skinner our helicopter pilot from Trans North who flew us out to the Tombstone Range. Bob referred to the mountains as “one of those special places that relefected a “Ragged, smooth, breathtaking” kind of beauty.
“Talking travel” is all about connecting with a destination. Not surprising for me and for others who embrace the provenance of a destination (history, culture, people, geography, geology, flora and fauna) with one or more of the seven travel senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, feeling, tasting and the allimportant sense of humour), engagement with a destination inevitably results in a number of transformative experiences, and without doubt, my trip to the Yukon in August 2017 was one of them.
Flying to Fort Selkirk from Whitehorse
Part of the Yukon’s beauty is in the sky. And apart from the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), daytime delights lie in those beautiful, billowy Yukon clouds.
It was that sense of awe and wonder that I witnessed just about everywhere, whether it was on foot, van, helicopter, small plane, canoe or riverboat. And these feelings were enhanced by the people I met who seemed to convey a reverence for nature as well as great satisfaction that they chose to explore the Yukon and ultimately decided to settle here.
Brad Whitelaw was one such person. He’s the owner of the Klondike Spirit Paddlewheeler as well as Dawson City’s Triple J Hotel. During our conversation on the boat, Brad spoke about the effect of panning the horizon and getting “a gut feeling…an enlightened sense that you are alive”.
The Yukon has been known to effect travellers of all generations. It’s a perfect fresh air-nature-relaxationfun experience, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, hikers, canoe and kayakers, photographers, families, foodies, history buffs, Cloud-watchers, Northern Lightseekers and travellers who just want to escape their routine in a place with lots of elbow room, and natural palettes of panoramic beauty. This magazine is a story-board memory of my experiences in the Yukon. It’s was based on my article, The Klondike Spirit, that appeared in Travel Industry Today on September 18, 2017.
The Klondike Spirit: A Panoramic Sense of Beauty The Klondike Spirit is not just the name of the Paddlewheeler in Dawson City. The popular attraction takes tourists up the Yukon River, past Moosehide settlement, over to the Sternwheeler graveyard, and then on to the channel where the Klondike River’s dark grey waters merge with the lighter grey of the Yukon River. But when you speak with Brad Whitelaw, the boat’s owner, you discover that there is something intangibly moving about ‘the spirit” of this place where Golden and Bald Eagles soar over mountains covered in Aspen, Spruce, Birch and Tamarac trees as they track the course of the river north to Alaska and the Bering Sea. As if to emphasize this symbiosis, a sign on the Dawson City riverfront carries a quote from Mary Anne Immamak, a Yupik Elder from Alaska, counselling that “If you are not close to the river, you are lost”. And like many Yukoners, Brad echoed this sense of discovery and awe when he related that even a short trip up the Yukon “shows how easy you can get into nature around every corner on the river”. He spoke about Spring Time when the Wildflowers bloom and “the floral fragrance hits you like a bouquet in the face” and he verged on the poetic when he talked about “the panoramic sense of beauty in the Yukon that imparts an enlightened sense that you are alive…” and after a pause, he added “It’s a very humbling experience”. You honestly wonder why in all your travels around the world you are only now discovering the Yukon!
In Whitehorse we stayed at the Edgewater Hotel, alongside the Millenium Trail which runs next to the Yukon River. After a long day of travel from Toronto to Vancouver and then on to Whitehorse, we had dinner at the Wheelhouse. Afterward it was only proper that taste a few Lead Dog Ales, brewed a few blocks away at Yukon Brewery.
Fireweed is the official floral emblem of the Yukon. For the record, the Raven is the official bird but we also saw a lot of Gray Jays.
Juvenile Bald Eagle on the shore of the Yukon River in Whitehorse
Kanoe People Ltd. Operates 3 hour to multi-day trips on the Yukon River. With Kate as our guide, we took the short canoe trip from Whitehorse to the Takhini River, on a beautiful, sunny, warm day. Along the way we saw Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles perched on overhanding branches, on the cliffs and in tall trees.
Miles Canyon is only 9 km outside Whitehorse. The water flows through a narrow vent of volcanic basalt. Before a dam was built in the area, the foamy rapids were considered to be a major obstacle for the Stampeders during the 1898 Gold Rush. Today itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a beautiful, scenic hiking area.
Emerald Lake on the South Klondike Highway. The intense green colour comes from limestone, eroded from the mountains
Tormented Valley, just north of Fraser BC: A bleak landscape of wind-carved trees and sparse vegetation
The historic White Pass and Yukon Route Railway stretches from Skagway, Alaska to Carcross, Yukon
The train passes through some amazing scenery before stopping at Bennett Lake where the Chilkoot Trail ends.
St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, a wooden structure - 1898
Scene of Lake Bennett from a rocky promontory, up a steep incline on the Chilkoot Trail
Bennett Lake at the end of the Chilkoot Trail, was filled with hundreds of small hand-made boats as the Stampeders rushed toward Dawson City in 1898 to stake their gold claim. Over 100,000 started the journey, less than 40,000 made it to Dawson
The village of Carcross, originally known as ‘Caribou Crossing’, sprung up during the Gold Rush in 1896, however it had been a hunting and fishing camp for the Tlingit and Tagish people for at least 5000 years. Now it’s a tourist destination at the terminus of the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway.
The Carcross Desert has been called the smallest Desert in the world, measuring about 1 Square mile. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s really a series of sand dunes that originated during the last glacial period, with much of the sand arriving by wind from Bennett Lake.
Breakfast Clubs are a Yukon phenomenon; drinking begins at 9:00 am at the “98” in Whitehorse.
After a really good burger at the Dirty Northern, we boarded a Piper Navaho to visit Fort Selkirk
Above: Flying from Whitehorse to Fort Selkirk Below: A rough and tumble shack dating to the early 1900’s
Fort Selkirk is located at the meeting point of the Yukon and Pelly river systems. First Nation peoples hunted and fished in the area for 10,000 years before Robert Campbell established a Hudsonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Bay Company Trading Post in 1848. In 1898 during the Gold Rush, the North-West Mounted Police built a military complex of log buildings to help keep order in the area. Fort Selkirk was a shared community between the
Selkirk First Nations and the Euro-American settlers. Today the site has many historic log buildings, a camping ground for canoeists making the trip from Whitehorse to Dawson City, and the opportunity to interact with the Selkirk people.
Mornings in Whitehorse, right by the Yukon River: the colourful sky, the mist on the River, the eagles and even a curious beaver. You donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to search out nature. It will find you.
After a one hour Air North flight to Dawson City, and check-in to the Downtown Hotel, we headed to the Sourtoe Cocktail bar in the hotel to partake of a Dawson City tradition: Having a drink with a preserved, human toe in the glass.
Photo by Sharon Matthews-Stevens Sue, the Toe Queen, arrived with the toe at 9:00 pm. She removed it from its box and held it up for all to see. I was the first in line. I paid my $5.00 fee. Sue popped the toe into my Yukon Vodka and I downed my drink -making sure the toe just touched my lips -- thereby becoming member # 75115 in the Sour Toe Cocktail Club.
The Discovery Days weekend began with an exciting, colourful Parade.
We started our Discovery Days Weekend (the anniversary of the discovery of gold at Bonanza (Rabbit) Creek on August 16, 1896) with a lively Parks Canada Tour starring not only Sue, who doubles as the Sour Toe Queen, but also Fred, who played the role of William Ogilvie, the Yukon Commissioner. We visited a bank, a bar, a brothel and the old post office for insight into life in Dawson during the frenzy of the Gold Rush in 1898.
The Discovery Days Parade featured Mounties, music, local personalities, the new antique fire engine and lots of smiles.
Literary Tourism in Dawson
“Night came on, and a full moon rose high over the trees into the sky...[Buck] walked to the centre of the open space and listened. It was the call, the many-noted call, sounding more luringly and compelling than ever before, and as never before he was ready to obey.”
There are strange things done in the midnight sun, by the men who moil for gold; The Arctic trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold; The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge I cremated Sam McGee. “Thus [Skookum Jim, Tagish Charley and George Carmack] came wearily to the fork of Rabbit Creek…before making camp for the night. It was August 16 , the eve of the memorable day that is still celebrated as a festive holiday in the Yukon Territory”.
A ride on the Yukon Spirit Paddle Wheeler. Owner Brad Whitelaw spoke of “the panoramic sense of beauty in the Yukon that imparts an enlightened sense that you are alive…” And what you see are clear white, pillowy clouds in the sky, the occasional eagle or raven flying overhead and the poignant trees covering the mountains. The “Spirit” makes a short stop at the ‘Paddlewheel Graveyard’ where the wrecks of seven Paddlewheelers are stacked against each other on the shore. Visitors can take the ferry to West Dawson and follow the trail to explore the site.
The Dänojà Zho (Long Ago House) Culture Centre has educational information and displays about the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, the First Nation people who have lived on the land for thousands of years. Their values include reverence for the land, the water and the animals as well as for sacred traditions (“history, perseverance, pride and hope”) that have been passed from generation to generation. It was a mispronunciation of the word “Tr’ondëk” from which the word “Klondike” originated
At the Robert Service cabin, you can turn left off the street and follow a steep path through woods (and through Bear Country) up to the cemeteries dating to the Gold Rush days. The cemeteries are fascination to visit and see where the Stampeders came from and the circumstances of their deaths. Further on is the â&#x20AC;&#x153;Midnight Dome Lookoutâ&#x20AC;?, where traditionally locals and visitors gather to watch the midnight sun and the Northern Lights as well as the great vistas of the area surrounding Dawson City.
Claim #6 is open to the public, along with signs warning about bears and the illegality of working any other claims in the area. Below: Dredge #4 – the largest wooden hull dredge in the world that mined gold from 1913 to 1959. Parks Canada offers tours of the area. Sign indicating where the Discovery Claim was made at Bonanza Creek in 1896. Photos of the three ‘discoverers’ and lastly, yours truly pretending to pan for gold at the exact spot where the Gold Rush began.
Tombstone Territorial Park is a wilderness of rugged peaks, permafrost landforms and wildlife. The park is a legacy of the Tr'ondĂŤk HwĂŤch'in land claim agreement and lies within their traditional territory. The one hour helicopter flight from Dawson showcased dramatic peaks, hidden lakes, and the epitome of panoramic beauty.
The evening shows at Diamond Tooth Gerties capture the spirit of vaudeville with costumes, dancing, songs and a lot of fun. While the building dates to 1901, the saloon and gambling hall opened in 1971 making it Canadaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s oldest casino. It was named after Gertie Lovejoy (her real name) who had a diamond fastened between her two front teeth during Dawson Cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s heyday in 1898. Below: The Gold Rush Girls at the Discovery Day Parade.
Dawson City by helicopter
The Drunken Goat…Greek Fusion
Bombay Peggy’s Inn and Pub (and Martini Bar). The former brothel is now a beautiful Inn with antique furnishings, clawfoot bathtubs and Sherry and Port (complimentary!)
Saturday Farmers’ Market
The Salmon Burger at Sourdough Joe’s
The drive from Dawson City to Whitehorse on the North Klondike Highway is roughly 6 hours. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a great lookout and hike at Five Finger Rapids, one of the major obstacles for the Stampeders who had already climbed the Chilkoot Trail, crossed Bennett Lake in their home-made boats, and were now on their way to Dawson City and the rush for gold. There are 229 steps leading down to the Yukon River, with lots of signage about the wildlife in the area.
Riding the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway from Fraser BC to Carcross Yukon.