Saturday, June 16, 2012

Friday, June 15: Sunny and 40s as we leave Whitehorse and turn off the Alcan onto the Klondike Highway. Not long before we pass the turnoff to Tahkini Hot Springs. We will stop for a dip on the way back, no time today. Long trip ahead. We are following the Yukon River with the Yukon Plateau on the west and mountains to the east. We have been advised not to miss Braeburn Lodge, where they serve great cinnamon rolls—they are big enough to serve a family of four! We make a stop at Lake LeBarge, a long and wide portion of the Yukon, made famous by Robert Service in his poem, “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” a Yukon classic. There’s a loon on the lake! Later we pull off for a closer look at Conglomerate Mountain, an uplift of fine-grained lava mixed with the round stones of glacial moraines and waterways—sometimes called puddingstone. When we reach the Five Fingers Rapids on the Yukon we find out the five pillars that create the rapids are made from the same puddingstone; the crossing was very hazardous to goldminers coming by water to Dawson City. We also see a layer of white ash in the roadcuts, another sign of volcanics in the area. The vegetation on this plateau we’re traveling on is very stunted; it is underlain by permafrost which only allows poplars and small lodgepole pine to thrive; and some of the pines are tipped (drunken forest) because small pockets of the permafrost melt dropping parts of the shallow roots of the pines into depressions. The bright colors of the Spring flowers give some relief to this desolate landscape—purple arctic lupines, scarlet vetch, yellow hawksbeard and white fleabane daisy. We stop for gas at Carmacks and learn that the man who had the first post here, and named the town after himself, was the one whose gold find started the Klondike Goldrush of 1898-99. Though there are frost heaves and potholes to watch out for, the road is fairly good, and we are relieved as we pass through Pelly Crossing, one of the areas they are working on after the washouts; the bridge is onelane, but passable at slow speed. As we near Dawson City we start to see the dredge “worms,” long rolls of gravel that are left when huge dredges work the floodplain of the rivers looking for placer deposits of gold. The Yukon and the Klondike merge at Dawson City and we take a ferry across to find our hostel. It looks like someone dropped it from Dogpatch in the Osarks! No electricity though, so the man gives us our money back and a girl at the Information Center helps us find a room for the night. Nothing for tomorrow though; it’s Highland Games Weekend, and the city is teeming with tourists. We’ll have to camp tomorrow, but anything is better than where Daisy Mae, Li’l Abner, and Mammy and Pappy Okum live! We have a little supper (still full from the cinnamon roll!) then take a long walk all around town and on top of the dike they built to keep DC from flooding. It’s like a wild west town with many historic building preserved. We end up at the Sourdough Saloon and partake of a “sourtoe cocktail,” a shot of Yukon Jack with a real, mummified miner’s toe in it—“you can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips have got to touch the toe!” Ask me for the story when we get home (or google it!) Turned off the light at 11:30pm and it’s bright as mid-day! Yikes!

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