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Packing again

Two more sleeps!

dawson yukon

Oct 5 – Whitehorse to Dawson City

With out gift certificate in hand for our night at a brothel (okay- Dar will change this to former brothel), we head out for Dawson City. It’s 535km from Whitehorse. So, 5 hours drive – right? If you come from southern Ontario and think of the 401. But we are not in Kansas anymore.

We have a leisurely start to the day that get confused when we decide to rearrange transportation. We rent a car for Joanne and her dad and we take Joanne’s RAV4. Boy are we glad we did that. The drive starts cloudy, clears up and then becomes winter!  En route, we see 3 vehicles flipped in the ditch.  We drove through blizzards and clouds!   I guess that’s what happens when you drive another 500km north.  


For amusement, I turned the GPS on to see how far along we were.  The program estimated that we would arrive at 9:23pm.  We left Whitehorse at 1:20.  This changes our approach to the trip.  No more stopping at every scenic lookout.  We will do that on the way home.  Essential rest stops only.  Luckily rest stops don’t have Tim Horton’s.  They are a pull off from the highway and a couple of outhouses.  At the fancy stops there is an interpretative display.  We arrived 7:45pm.
They were happy to see us at Bombay Peggy’s, mostly that we survived the drive.  We checked into our room.  As we check in we are told to help ourselves to the port and sherry in the parlour, it’s complimentary.  We got takeout from the local greek restaurant as they were closing shortly.  Our stay included 2 complimentary drinks at the hotel so we got two of their world famous martinis to go with our gyros!
whitehorse yukon

Oct 4 – Shopping Day

No wildlife today.  Museums are closed.

That means only one thing.  Darlene gets to go shopping.  We spend more of our time at the North End Gallery.   We have some new are for the living room!  We are not spoiling the surprise by posting the pictures online.  You have to visit us in Ottawa to see it!


Oct 3 – Haines to Whitehorse

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alaska haines skagway

Day 5 (Oct 2) – Skagway & Haines

Rainbow and Eagles and Bears Oh My…
A very early start today, we need to be on the road by 7am to reach Skagway by 9:15am Alaska Time.   Luckily a time zone changes affords us some extra sleep.   We start in darkness heading south (after a Tim Horton’s stop) retracing the route to Carcross.  Rather than the sun being in our eyes as we drive, the sun starts to light the mountains in front as we go.   The route takes us from Yukon through British Columbia and over White Pass where we enter Alaska. The landscape in British Columbia is different.  It has an eerie lunar appearance.  Rocks covered in dark green moss and light green lichen.  The trees as are sparse and stunted.   It feels very “Group of Seven-ish”. 

We arrive at the Border and get the usual questions: Where are you from? Where are you going? Any food with you?  Anything else alive in the car other than the three of you?   Hope not.
Check-in for the ferry to Haines is 2 hours prior to departure.  The ferry is part of the Alaska Maritime Highway and will head to Juneau after we get off in Haines.  After check-in, we head for Historic Skagway.  It is largely deserted.  There are cars clustered in one area of the street around the Sweet Tooth Café; the only business open.  Everything else is closed and the owners have headed south.  The last cruise ship docked at Skagway on Sept 29th.  Skagway will be closed until the cruise ships return next year.  The street is filled with Jewelry stores – high end gold and precious gems type of jewelry stores.  The port can apparently handle around 6 cruise ships at one time bringing six to seven thousand tourists at once!  We did see one non-Jewelry store that was having a BOGO sale for 2011 Sarah Palin Calendars and $5.95 Sarah Palin collector coins – limit 1 per customer!
The clouds were low as we took the ferry to Haines, the day has been both rainy and clear at times.  Rainbows are abundant.   
After checking in at the B&B that is located where Fort Seward once stood, we decided to go bear hunting – cameras only.  Fort Seward was established during the periods when Canada and the US were having a minor dispute regarding the border in this area.  The dispute was resolved through a treaty in 1903 – Hay-Herbert Treaty.  The Canadian negotiators messed up on this one.  Canada lost claim to some spectacular scenery and fishing resources.    
The Chilkoot River is fed by the Chilkoot Lake.  Sockeye and Coho spawn in Chilkoot Lake making the salmon run in the river popular for fly fishers, eagles and bears.  Our first trip to the river saw a few Bald and Golden Eagles and a grizzly sow and 2 cubs, fishing near the mouth of the river.  The cubs will fish a bit and wrestle with each other.    As we proceed up the river we see many more eagles, this area being called Valley of the Eagles.  We watch wildlife for about an hour and then decide we are hungry.
The owner of the B&B, Norm, had told us only a few restaurants are open and that the Chilkat Bakery has really good Thai food.  We head there for some spice to warm up.  Our plan is to head back to the river after some food and see if more bears come for dinner.  The food is amazing and heats through and through.  The food is washed down with apple pie and ice cream. 
The river has a “bear side” and a “human side”.   Most bears and human respect this – but not all.  Mostly humans are the transgressors.  On our return trip the area is inundated by Eagles, sometimes 6 Bald Eagles sitting in a tree.   At the end of our second visit to the river will have seen 15 bears (1 Black Bear, 1 older grizzly, 7 grizzly cubs and 6 grizzly adults).   The bears are respecting the sides of the river.  As long as they are one their side we can get out of the car and watch.  A make shift telephoto lens (camera looking through binoculars) is used to get many photos.  The protective nature of a mother grizzly is apparent.  We watch the old grizzly as he gets ‘pushed’ around the river bank whenever a mother approaches with her cubs (within 100ft).   As the mother and cubs got closer, the older grizzly would stand to observe.  One of the cubs mimicked the behavior looking back at the old grizzly.  The mother stood; the old grizzly darted off further downstream.   

As we turn the car to head back downstream, we spot bears on ‘our-side’ of the river.  This means we are now confined to the car.  We watch the bear fishing and running in the water.   As they move behind a rock we move the car forward.  There are now 4 cars jockeying for position to view bears.  We know there is a mama bear with her 2 cubs close to us on our side of the river.   My window is down.  I am trying to spot them through the trees thinking they are close to the water’s edge.  Joanne pulls the car up about 4 feet creating more of a space between us and the car behind.  Suddenly the mother is about 10 feet way from the side of the car, underneath the tree that is just beside the car.  She is headed this way quickly.  (I like power windows, that window came up so quickly).  The mother darted between the two cars followed by her two cubs and they disappeared up the side of the hill to our left.    

A day of wildlife watching ends with a bit of culture.  South Pacific is being staged by the local community theatre.  While at the bakery everyone was talking about ‘the show tonight’.  We had stopped at the IGA in town and looked at the poster.  We were subsequently told we had to go by a local – it was sold out the previous night.   It was quite good; unfortunately, we were all exhausted from the early start and the day’s adventures that we decided we shouldn’t stay past the first intermission.  We need to rent the movie to see how it ends!
Final Note:  Joanne feels very guilty to have seen all this wildlife today since she saw nothing when her daughter Jessica visited.

Day 4- (Oct 1) Carcross / Tagish

An early morning start to head to a great pancake breakfast.  The Whitehorse United Way Pancake Breakfast.  Joanne is a celebrity server and is supposed to be flipping pancakes, having been promoted from serving yogurt the year before.  It is a packed event at the Whitehorse Convention Center.  We arrive to find Joanne serving potatoes.  The job of flipping pancakes was left for the RCMP – they did a great job. 
We bid on and won a one night stay at a hotel (formerly a Brothel) in Dawson City – Bombay Peggys!  We will be doing that later in the trip.

Today we head south to Carcross; a beautiful little tourist town.  At the United Way Breakfast we are advised to makes some stops en route:  Emerald Lake and the World’s Smallest Desert.
The scenery on the drive is spectacular, which will be the case for the next several days.  The sun is lower here.  As we drive due south at 11am, we have to lower our visors to prevent from being blinded.  The sun is similar in height to the low sun in late afternoon in Ottawa. It won’t get much higher that day. 
 The first official stop for pictures – Emerald Lake we meet up with Devra, the tourist from Toronto we met the day before, and we play leap frog with her for the next few stops. Emerald lake is picturesque with beautiful green waters.  Though I must say, I am partial to the Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. 
The World’s Smallest Desert is 2km north of Carcross.  While a big sign at the highway proclaims the area Carcross Desert, the interpretive display tells us that the area is an old seabed and not a desert at all.  Still we cross the desert and climb the dune on the opposite.  As we climb higher up the dune and look back, a lake is revealed in front of the distant mountains.

In need of food and a washroom we head to Carcross.  We arrive in Carcross, only to discover that it is a town that is not open in the off season.  Train station – closed.  Restaurants – closed.  Oldest continually operating store in the Yukon – closed.  Post Office – closed. Community Centre – closed.  Library –‘ Back at 2pm’.  Out houses – chained and locked.  Main road – seriously dug up.  The town will look beautiful next year when the tourist season opens again and the sushi restaurant will be open again.  The beach is beautiful and it is open; the water is too cold for us!
We decide to drive another 33km to Tagish.  The trees that line the highway are filled with yellow leaves.  Tagish is spread out along the highway and having driven through the whole ‘town’ we realize there is but one choice for food.  We turn around and go back to the beginning of the town.  We both decide to order a cheeseburger.  It is the largest burger we have ever eaten.  It must be a full pound of beef.  The owner apologized that she had to serve it on bread as she forgot to buy buns.  The couple that runs the restaurant/post office/hotel/general store is from Germany.  They were looking to come to Canada and found this business for sale – so they bought it.  (note:  Reading the paper today – the business is up for sale.  $429K and you can live in the Yukon)

She told us that if we have a 4 wheel drive vehicle that we should be able to see a visit a great look out.  Continue along the road 4km until the power line crosses the road and then turn right.  There is no street sign.  We find the hydro line and turn right onto a dirt road.  The road is about 8km long.  It winds and is steep and snow covered in places.  Occasionally a downed tree lies partly across the road.  At the top, is an antenna and fire tower, and the view is stunning.  The wind is incredible.  At the top of the mountain the iPhone has a signal again (outside of Whitehorse there really isn’t much cell service).  We take a picture of the Rav4 on the mountain and send it to Joanne- just so she knows her Rav4 is a good little climber.   The wind is so cold that on the way down the mountain we put the seat warmers on to warm us.

When we return to Whitehorse we join Joanne for a Pub Night at a local hotel.  It is a loose group that gets together that had the pleasure of having Ron James join them a few weeks back.  While that we got to hear the numbers being called for Radio Bingo – a Friday night occurrence.

Day 3 (Sept 30) – Whitehorse and environs

Apparently we are good house guests.  When Joanne got in the shower to get ready for work, I got up and made coffee.  Joanne has told her co-workers that coffee was made for her – now we have even more places to stay in Whitehorse!
As I look back on today and on vacations past (places like Korea and Indonesia), I realize that going up is pretty consistent pattern.   So today we start with the Black Street Stairs.  A brief run around the neighborhood to warm up, then 3 repeats of the stairs (4 repeats if you are tough like Darlene).  These stairs are pretty cruel and as I ran through the formula for MAX heart rate, at my age, I think I probably set a new personal record.  What is more cruel than the stairs, is the hill leading to these stairs.  Though they connect Downtown to the airport and provide a walking back to Suburia (yes — suburbia) the stairs don’t start at the same level as downtown.

After a run, a shower it was off to The Chocolate Chain for lunch followed by some unsuccessful jacket shopping for Bruce.
We drove just south of the city to Miles Canyon and hiked to Canyon City.  Miles Canyon is on the Yukon River and a very treacherous portion of the river.  In the gold rush many miners lost their boats, provisions and lives trying to navigate the river.  The miners disregarded the advice of the First Nations people to portage the route.  Eventually, it was decreed that only experience drivers could ferry goods through the canyon and a tram way was developed. 


Day 2: Whitehorse, Yukon

The minute you walk outside you can feel that the pace and lifestyle is more relaxed.  We started the day with a brief hunt for an iPhone charging cable which Bruce forgot.  The first store we tried didn’t have one but got directed to The Source beside the Wal-Mart, close to the Canadian Tire.  As those stores were the wrong direction we carried on to Downtown Whitehorse.  We strolled down by the Yukon River and soon realized we were getting hungry.

We stopped at Baked, a local bakery/coffee shop and really busy place.  The menu board advertises a winter special:  30 cents off any hot drink whenever the temperature dips below -30C.  

Refreshed with coffee and food we carried on to the Whitehorse Visitors Center to find out what is still open – we are travelling off season.  Some plans have changed but we won’t spoil the surprise.  The information center runs on its own schedule.  Behind the counter a digital sign told us that the next showing of a movie was in 14 minutes.  We asked what the movie was: As the crow flies was the response, but we won’t make you wait 14 minutes, we can start it now if you want…  The film offered some fabulous views of the Yukon from a Crow’s perspective.

After the film we carried our walk along the Yukon River going upstream.  We passed the SS Klondike, a National Historic Site.   It is now lunch time in Whitehorse and the path has a steady stream of walkers and runners on it.  We carry on upstream the wind is in our face and it chills, though not clean through to the bone.  The highway to our right is the Robert Service Way.  A series of interpretative signs tell us we are on the Millennium Trail.  A 5km loop along both sides of the river.  We decide to walk the whole trail enjoying the smell of fall leaves and the chatter of wildlife (squirrels).

After the walk we were both parched.  Based on the precipitation we are told that Whitehorse is a desert climate. We were warned we would be thirsty. After quenching our thirst we carried on shopping.  This time we go to the original Coast Mountain Sports.  Turns out Bruce also forgot his gortex shell.
We eventually found the charging cable at Staples; we found it before The Source.  Close to Staples was a Coffee and Tea shop.  We decided to pop in.  As soon as we went in we found a product we have been looking for: eCloth.  Can’t find it in Ottawa; found it in Whitehorse.  Friends swear by it for cleaning windows and our windows at home desperately need it.

Now we had heard about a set of stairs, the Black Street Stairs.  They connect the downtown with the trails that lead around the airport. Frequently used by runners for training.   Joanne has complained about it on Facebook and we read about (scroll down on link) the stairs before heading to the Yukon.  It was something we had to experience.  Today we walked the stairs.  Soon we will run them.  They will be tough.

Once Joanne got home and had a chance to relax – we all headed out to dinner at a local restaurant and called it an early night as none of us really had a full night’s sleep last night.

Todays Pics


Day 1: Heading North of 60

We are off to an exciting start: a pat down at airport security (not as invasive as you might think) and an unconfirmed sighting of Jean Chretien in the Ottawa airport!   So far so good but should be a long day with 3 flights to go!
It was a long day – but awesome to see our friend Joanne waiting for us in the Whitehorse airport at 12:21 am (Whitehorse Time = 3:21 am Ottawa time).   We were quite sleepy but managed a quick driving tour of Whitehorse and a beer then off to bed.