Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Monday, July 9: Partly sunny and cool: Great sleep last night—warm and cozy. Downloaded the photos from yesterday, made sandwiches and packed up. The first stop today will be the Yukon Wildlife Refuge—a nice 5km walk with promises to see elk, moose, caribou, wood bison, muskox, mountain goat, thin-horned sheep (stone and Dall) muledeer, Arctic fox, (missing) lynx, bazillions of ground squirrels and a bluebird. It’s 3pm before we gas up in Whitehorse—gonna be a long day today—at least five more hours to Watson Lake. This is a stretch of road we’ve been on before; good day for a book on tape. We finished “The Man from Beijing”—super! We are struck again by the size of Marsh Lake, the headwaters of the Yukon, and the chalky, gray walls of the White Mountains. We stop for rhubarb pie at the place that had no food the last time we were there because of feeding 33 folks for five days during the wash-outs--yummy pie! Temperatures go up into the 70s for the first time in our trip, though it cools by the time we reach Watson Lake. We get the last room at Andrea’s Hotel and grab a quick sandwich before we turn in. Another long day tomorrow. I hate these one-night stands!
Sunday, July 8: Sunny and cool. Up early today to finish blogging before breakfast—blueberry pancakes! We say goodbye to beautiful Lake Kluane, and to Cecelia and Angela with grateful thanks—what a spot! Pack up, make sandwiches, and on the road by 10am. Our turn to Takhini Hot Springs will be just a few miles short of Whitehorse. We take a picture of the serene spirit houses on the hill over Silver City; a First Nation couple chose to be interred there and their wishes were honored. The mountains travel with us for a while, then in the distance beyond the trees we see dust. We’d heard there was road construction ahead, but on Sunday? Turns out there’s no equipment, just miles of gravel. We’ll travel at what Ron calls “good animal viewing speed!” Only around four hours traveling today, then a soak in the hot springs—great day ahead. The road between the mountains is permafrost spruce forest; we’re close to the tops of the snowy peaks of the Kluane Range when we pass the highest spot between Fairbanks and Whitehorse—beautiful vistas! Ron sees a piece of litter and comments on how there has been so little on the Alcan; I agree. People who care come here! We take an 8-mile cutoff on a piece of the old Alcan that takes us through Champagne, a First Nation camp and supply post on the Dalton Trail to Dawson City. We are interested in the spirit houses here; we see a lot of bear scat on the highway back in there too. Back on the Alcan Ron spots a coyote who has just grabbed a ground squirrel for lunch. We get hungry too and stop at a wayside, site of a huge forest fire in 1958. The area has been slow to regenerate back to the spruce/permafrost forest, but the poplars that came back are just perfect for herds of elk and mule deer. At Haines Junction we head due east following the valleys of Alsek and then Takhini River; there are sandy roadcuts through here left from a huge Ice Age glacial lake, Champagne. Just north of Whitehorse we turn off onto Takhini Springs Road and soon we’re checking into our little white canvas cabin—beautiful with pine shiplap floor and ceiling. We have a bit of supper then go spend a couple hours in the hot springs—warm and relaxing. Down-loading photos to the blog is slow and I’m ready for sleep when I finish.

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