Thursday, June 27, 2013
Clear & sunny
This would be an easy day. Sandy spent a relaxing morning sleeping in while Bill headed to the campground office area to work the website. Later, as Bill continued to work, Sandy checked out some shops downtown as well as the farmers market, which turned out to be mostly crafts.
Later, we headed to the area of Schwetka Lake and walked Rim Trail at Miles Canyon. The canyon is an area of very swift water that was a serious impediment to water-travelers. Later, some underwater rocks were removed by blasting and the water level rose after installation of the hydro dam. It’s still a pretty and hazardous water feature. A suspension bridge conveyed hikers across the canyon. The water is a beautiful turquoise rushing between imposing basalt cliffs.
That evening we had pizza for dinner at Tony’s Pizza in town. It was the best gluten free Sandy’s ever had and the salad we shared was excellent. But this is the north country and the price was $30 just for the pizza! Fortunately, there was enough left for Sandy to take home for lunches.
Whitehorse to Dawson City, YT
Friday, June 28, 2013
Mostly sunny, breezy, 60
This would be a travel day but we needed to do wash. So we were up early to use the super, duper laundry with its shiny new commercial laundry equipment. The dryers were even fast! Meanwhile, Bill continued working on the website.
We did well and were on the road by 9:45. Today we would leave the Alaska Highway to take the North Klondike Highway to Dawson City, not to be confused with Dawson Creek. Dawson is home to the Klondike Gold Rush. While the entire Alaska Highway is paved, that is not true of the Klondike Highway. We encountered all manner of roadbeds including macadam, oiled dirt and just plain, dare I say gritty, dirt.
We made a short stop in Carmax on the Klondike River. There really isn’t much for the visitor except to note that it was named for George Carmax. George was the persistent “sourdough” (meaning Alaskan old-timer) gold prospector who prospected the area for years, finally making a big strike and setting off the Klondike Gold Rush.
Overall this part of the highway is not very interesting. Bill saw a coyote at mile 92. And at mile 233 we saw a fox who was bold enough to approach Bill, apparently looking for a handout.
Nearing our destination there was a interpretative panel that pointed out the presence of the so-called Yukon Ditch geologic formation. You could plainly see the formation, itself. Formation of the ditch and eventual ice-age reversal of the flow of the Yukon River combined to concentrate gold-bearing rock in the area. Approaching Dawson we began to encounter the huge, rock tailing piles that are the result of gold-dredging operations.
We set up at Bonanza Gold RV Park. Like we’ve come to expect, the place is dusty and open but facilities really are pretty decent and the people are very nice. We did a quick run-through of the downtown area. The town is an historic landmark and the Canadian government is supporting restoration of many of the buildings. True to form, the streets are all dirt, or mud when it rains.
The annual Yukon River Quest Canoe And Kayak Race, billed as the world’s longest. It began in Whitehorse, yesterday, and the first finishers crossed the line in Dawson today. That’s 444 miles with only two mandatory stops, one for seven hours and another for three. The winners covered the distance in under 20 hours paddling time! There are classes for kayaks and canoes as singles, doubles and more for men and women. We didn’t watch the start but were able to watch a few of the earlier finishers. What a time! Finishers needed to be helped from the boats and were pretty wobbly for the first few minutes of walking around.
There’s a small peak in the city called Midnight Dome. The tradition is to be at the top at midnight of the summer solstice. We missed the big event but drove up for the view. It was impressive! On the way back to town we saw another fox.
In a campground you never know who your neighbors are going to be. Arriving back at the campground we found a new arrival in the adjacent site. The camper was filthy, a pickup truck slide-in type. And the occupants were bearded, rough looking lot. Nasty first impression? Yes, but you’ve got to be careful about first impressions, especially up here. Turns out they were three life-long friends about our age. Overweight and dirty from all the dust, they weren’t exactly fastidious about camper cleanliness or personal hygiene. But they were interesting and funny. One turned out to be a lawyer and the other two were corporate administrative types. They were out for a month or so, roughing it, while their wives attended some kind of highbrow cultural event.
Dinner was a salad with smoked pork chops. And it sill seemed like mid-afternoon at 11:30 at night!
Saturday, June 29, 2013
Rain overnight and morning, 60 deg, afternoon overcast and warmer
Bill sat out the rain and finished the website update he’d been working on. Later in the morning, as the rain began to let up, we drove the road along Bonanza Creek to the site of the restored, gold-mining Dredge #4 on Bonanza Creek.
Now, when I hear the word dredge I think of a large body of water. Not so! We found a huge, wooden dredge landlocked next to a tiny creek. It turns out the dredges dug their way up the small creek beds, floating in the moving hole they created in the process of dredging the rock they processed to separate out the gold. The creek was too small to provide the water necessary for processing the rock so local miners constructed a 30 kilometer-long combination ditch, aqueduct and wooden pipeline to supply dredging operations in the area.
You could take tours of the dredge but the display was so well curated that there was no need to take the tour. We continued up stream to a short walking path along which were excellent displays detailing the evolution of mining methods used during the gold rush days.
Now, you may have the impression that Bonanza Creek gold fever is a thing of the past. Not so! People still heavily prospect and mine this area for gold, including this very same creek. The process has simply evolved. Now the one and two man operations use smaller, automated sluices and bulldozers and backhoes to do the work. The road is lined with signs identifying the claims with names like Pup, Sourdough, Homestake and Skookum.
Along the same road we also stopped at “Claim #3”, a gift shop, way-to-touristy pan-for-gold operation and a cool sort of collection of old, abandoned mining gear and paraphernalia. We were puzzled by presence of dozens of birdhouses along the road. We found out that one miner installs them to encourage nesting of mosquito-eating birds.
Back to Dawson, we got lunch at the Riverside Bistro. It was busy, good and they had gluten-free options for Sandy. Shopping the downtown area, we found a ring for Sandy. It was silver and set with a gold nugget from the Klondike. The jeweler who made the ring, an oldtimer from the Netherlands who resettled in Alaska years ago, was in the shop and we watched and talked as he resized the ring on spot.
Dinner was portabella mushrooms stuffed with spinach, onion, goat cheese and pepperoni. Afterwards we headed back to town to take in the Cancan Show at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s casino.