Watson Lake to Dawson City

Monday, June 22
From Watson Lake to Whitehorse; Wolf Creek CG

Had some fog this morning, but it mostly burned off by 8am and we were back on the road a short time later. Stopped at Johnson Crossing Lodge for lunch… grilled ham and cheese, and a cinnamon roll of course. I've mentioned this before but cinnamon rolls are ubiquitous up here.

A big driving day for us. Racked up 291 miles. The terrain wasn't as dramatic or as impressive as the drive a few days ago on our way to Liard Hot Springs. But then, we're going to have to face facts that it's not going to be possible to reach new “highs” every day. I just love being this far north and savor the adventure of it too.

Decided to secure a campsite at Wolf Creek CG, a few miles before Whitehorse, before running into town for a quick perusal. Even though it's a Monday, the CG was not far from full. Selected a site, paid the iron ranger, attached tag to site post, and set a couple chairs out to establish our claim.

Whitehorse is, in addition to being the capital city of Yukon Territory, a hub of transportation and commerce. With a population of 10,000 or so, it qualifies as a big city in these parts. There's a few decent sized grocery stores, a Walmart, banks, and most of what you'd expect in a town twice this size further south. So it's a good spot to resupply if necessary.

Yukon government campgrounds provide free firewood for campers. Not one to ignore a deal like this I exercised my pyromaniacle tendencies early and got a pretty good fire going for the evening. A delightful neighbor in the next site, who added an artistic touch to the surroundings by practicing her fiddle (violin to some) during my fire building process. We invited Monique over to the fire and the next thing we knew it was after midnight. She's an interesting person… lives and travels alone in her truck camper and works on computer projects along the way… she's currently doing some work for a government office of some kind. We thoroughly enjoyed a far-ranging conversation with her.

Tuesday, June 23
Sat around the campfire a long time last night. Didn't seem like a long time, but when the campfire died out (or did I just tire of splitting big chunks into smaller burnable ones?) I was amazed that it was after midnight. Darkness has a different meaning in the Yukon... it's more an annual concept than a daily one. And darkness certainly can't be used as an indicator of time. When I finally crawled in the sack, 1:00am was only a few minutes away and I could still see clouds and blue in a muted bright sky. It just as easliy could have been 9:30 pm on a summer evening in Wisconsin.

I have yet to master the art of finding good WIFI and then focusing enough to get my internet chores done once I've found it. The last decent usable WIFI we had was back at the RV park in Dawson Creek. Since then we've stayed at many provincial parks which we prefer as quality camping venues, but they certainly don't offer WIFI of any kind. The RV park in Watson Lake was nearly full with a bunch of rigs from an organized big-rig Caravan as well as a passel of other rigs, some of which included teenagers who we all know are pretty much helpless without Internet access. Anyway, this RV park had WIFI that limited usage to 30 minutes every 90 minutes. Regardless of what you're doing or uploading, it just cut you off at 30:00 minutes. And even with that it was so slow as to be totally unusable.

That little silver thing is my 16 oz. coffee mug. These are
largest Cinnamon rolls I saw all trip. Just huge. Family sized.
This morning we drove into Whitehorse on our way out of town to run a couple last minute errands and find WIFI so we could upload a few posts and/or photos. Thought a coffee shop would be the place. Unfortunately, the coffee shop/bakery is a popular hangout for young Whitehorseians who, like most other young adults we all know, own at least one hand-held WIFI connected device that's been surgically attached to their palm. And they were pretty much all there, busy, and heads-down on their little machines, glancing up only long enough to see if the friend they were sitting next to had gotten the Facebook post they just put up. We did get on-line and were able to check email, and I did post a very short update to the blog so folks can say they're heard from us. Of course, I no sooner did that when my battery died... and the coffee shop had no 120v plugs available. Oh well.

Felt good again to get back on the road and into the wild country. Big towns like Whitehorse are getting to be nerve-racking to me. Today we turned right at the junction of the Alcan and the Klondike Highway (Yukon 2), left the Alcan, and headed north on the Klondike Highway toward Dawson City, a little over 300 miles up the road. We'll cover the rest of the big road to Alaska as we leave Alaska on our way back home in a few weeks.

Typical Highway construction zone in the far north. Note the mud.
The Klondike Highway is a paved road except where it's not... usually in construction zones. Today we had to deal with one 8 km (about 5 miles) and a couple smaller sections of "no pavement". In these areas the pavement is replaced with a gravel mixture which is doused with water, tons of water, then graded, rolled, packed, and stirred until it's the consistency of oil well fracking fluid. It's not clear to me yet how hard pavement eventually gets on top of this soup... but we did a good job of applying much of the sand/gravel/water slurry onto the sides and back of the truck. It now looks like it did before we washed it in Watson Lake just a couple days ago. The upside to all this is that we do truly look like adventurous overland explorers, as do most the cars and trucks up here. It's just a way of life.

The result.
Even though the Klondike Highway is paved (mostly) it's a notch or two below the quality of the Alaska Highway. It's narrower, the pavement is less even and consistent, there are more frost-heaves, potholes, and there's more brush and growth right up to the highway's edge. I actually like some primitiveness to a road in the far north... especially when I'm on one of the last great wilderness road trips. All the straightening and widening of the Alaska Highway concerns me a little. How long before it's a four lane parkway with complete cell phone and internet coverage end to end… and it’s no longer an adventure but just a long trip?

After about a hundred miles we found a campsite that overlooks Twin Lakes just a little north of Conglomerate Mountain. It's too nice to pass up and our early arrival means a little time to write this afternoon. If the weather holds out, we'll have another campfire tonight.

Wednesday, June 24
Up and at 'em by 8am; great nights sleep. The wake-up call was provided by a family of loons on the lake. Good weather with some smoke and haze in the air.

The Five Fingers pinnacles and rapids. 
During the drive today we saw increasing evidence of past volcanic activity in the deep ash layers exposed in cuts along the road. We followed the Yukon River for a while, passing the noted five fingers pinnacles… hard rock protuberances or spires that gave early navigators of the river a headache over the years. Apparently, only one of the four channels between the pinnacles was deep enough for navigation and it wasn't real obvious which one it was. We stopped at Moose Creek Lodge, an aged log building, for one of their famed cinnamon rolls and a cup of coffee to break up the pace.

After 267 miles we pulled into the Klondike River CG, just outside Dawson City, for the night. Mosquitoes kept us inside mostly, as we prepare for hitting the Dempster tomorrow. We did a short drive into town for fuel and a quick perusal of Dawson City.

Some say they keep grading, rolling, and watering the roads
until it freezes. 

The famous Moose Creek Lodge. Yep, they got cinnamon buns too.

I didn't ask any questions.

Dawson City


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