Log #55k Inuvik to Dawson City

December 17, 2012 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 55, The Logs

French Cay Harbour, Roatan, Honduras

Dec. 17, 2012

Hi Folks,

We are back in French Cay Harbour on Roatan after a few nights at Cayos Cochinos, a small group of islands 24 nautical miles south of Roatan. To get an idea of where we are I have attached a map of Central America which shows the Islas de la Bahia off the coast of Honduras. Roatan is the major island of this group of Bay Islands, and is frequented by three and four cruise ships several days each week. We have had some fabulous snorkelling and diving on the living reefs in the clear warm waters of the Caribbean on these offshore islands.

Log_55k-1_Honduras_Map

This log gets us down to Dawson City, finally off the challenging Dempster Highway. It was an experience, but I would not recommend taking a trailer up and down it. It is quite driveable, but I would recommend leaving the trailer in Dawson City and bed and breakfasting the trip up to Inuvik and back. Did you see the picture in my last log of the damage and mess we had in the trailer at the end of each day’s marathon?

Log_55k_trailer_entrance_after_a_day_on_the_Dempster                  Log_55i_Mess_inside_the_trailer

Incidentally, please give me some feedback on the logs or the website. I do not like writing in a vacuum. I may, come the New Year, stop sending my logs by E-mail and just put them on my website www.veledaiv.ca , notifying my address list by E-mail each time I have a new one entered. I can more easily put more pictures on the website than I can in the E-mailed versions. It also has a Contact Us menu for any reactions to my entrees.

I hope to get a Christmas message out next week with a summary of our travels over 2012. We appreciate this time of our life when we are able to do such travelling, and I enjoy sharing it with you.

All the best,

Aubrey

 

Log #55k Inuvik to Dawson City

Cayos Cochinos, Honduras

Dec. 14, 2012

Back in Inuvik,

Log_55k_Welcome_to_Inuvik

we saw the igloo-like Roman Catholic Church, and the recently constructed mosque with minarete, testifying to the diversity of the inhabitants of this northern outpost.

Log_55k_Roman_Catholic_Church_in_Inuvik                      Log_55k_Little_Mosque_in_the_Arctic

Most of the buildings are on lumber grids to accommodate the freezing and thawing of the ground above the permafrost only a couple of feet below the surface. There are often skirts around the buildings to hide the grids and the piped in water and sewer lines.

Log_55k_Houses_on_floating_grids_above_the_permafrost            Log_55k_Insulated_above_ground_water_and_sewage_in_Inuvik

We had musk ox burgers in the very pleasant local hotel and walked around a pleasant park path circling a small lake. We replaced the tire that was blown, but were unsure of the electrical connections to the trailer brakes which were damaged by the shattered tire. The Saturday before we left we found a local mechanic who scrambled underneath the trailer and reconnected the damaged wires. We were glad we got him on a Saturday afternoon, allowing us to leave on the Sunday.

On our way back down the Dempster Highway we were far more careful of our speeds and especially getting on and off the ferries. We found that the areas where the road was washboard on our way up were smooth, and areas which had been smooth now were potholed. There are continuous maintenance activities on different stretches of the road, mainly using graders to smooth out the washboard areas. After a rain the highway is quite muddy and messy.

Log_55k_NWT_mud_road_(Wikipedia)                 Log_55k_One_hour_on_the_Dempster

As mentioned in a previous log, we stopped to watch a grizzly bear amble across a stretch of tundra to cross the road. I got a few pictures, but made sure I was near the open door of the Yukon just in case (see attached pictures).

Log_55k_Grizzly_foraging_on_the_tundra                Log_55k_Grizzly_foraging_through_low_bushes

Log_55k-3_Grizzly_coming_onto_roadway                 Log_55k_Grizzly_looking_at_me!

We stopped at an isolated stretch off the road alongside a rocky stream for the first night. I enjoy isolated areas and wish we had found more, even though we found these bear tracks next morning.

Log_55k_Bear_tracks_near_campsite

The stark treeless tundra has its own beauty. In the fall the low bushes take on a golden yellow or a haunting mauve hue, and the fireweed with its vivid red filigree washing the landscape in flowing colours. Even in late August some of the bushes are turning. I took a few dramatic sunset pictures of the changing colours of this tundra clad panorama.

Log_55k_Fireweed_on_the_Dempster             Log_55k_On_the_Dempster

Log_55k_Full_moon_over_NWT_tundra                     Log_55k_Dempster_highway_(Wikipedia)

(The lower right picture is from Wikipedia. All the others are my own. I do not “Photo Shop” my pictures, but just reduce their size.)

Log_55k-5__Tundra_in_the_NWT_at_sunset

The dusty road was still a problem, especially with the tractor trailer trucks barreling along at far faster speeds than I was willing to take the trailer. The dust plume created each time a truck passed caused us to slow down dramatically as the sides of the road were masked by the brown swirling torrents created (see attached pictures).

Log_55k-2_Truck_approaching_on_the_Dempster_Highway               Log_55k_Dust_Plume_from_truck_on_the_Dempster_Highway

I stopped every hour or two to check all the tires. We topped up with fuel at Eagles Crest at the half way mark, an expensive fill up as the gas cost about $1.74 a litre (close to $7.00 a gallon) and, when filling a tank with 95 litres, is over $160.00 a fill up. We picked up a hitchhiker from Austria half way down and were able to give him a ride to our second camping stop at Tombstone Territorial Park. We have corresponded with him since by E-mail, sending him a picture of a moose we stopped to watch (see attached pictures).

Log_55k_Moose_foraging_on_seagrass    Log_55k_Moose_coming_ashore

Log_55k_Moose_coming_onto_Dempster_Highway           Log_55k-4_Moose_crossing_Dempster_Highway
(The lower left picture makes me think the moose is walking with high heels.)

Next day we were at the base of the Dempster at the Alaska Highway, and when I checked the tires, one was almost flat (our third flat tire). At least at the junction of the Dempster and the Klondike Highways there is a tire shop that was able to repair it before we went the next 45 kilometres into Dawson City.

The Yukon River was extensively used by the gold miners who came over the mountains from Skagway, Alaska through the tortuous Chilcoot and Whitehorse Passes at the headwaters of the Yukon River to then raft downstream to Dawson City at the junction of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers, the Klondike being one of the main gold strikes.  In the picture below, the Klondike River enters the Yukon River just above Dawson City at the upper left.

Log_55k_Dawson_City_on_the_Yukon_River

We liked Dawson City. It has maintained a “gold rush” late 1800’s ambience in its false-fronted stores and clapboard buildings, as well as the wooden sidewalks and dirt roads.

Log_55k_Dawson_City_1     Log_55k_Dawson_City_2    Log_55k_Dawson_City_3

There are historical plaques explaining the gold rush era and the development of this community at the junction of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers. It was up the Klondike River that the main gold strikes were made. The horrendous situations in which the gold seeking miners found themselves were indeed heart-wrenching. A few made it rich, but most were sorely disappointed or cheated out of their claims. The saloons, merchants and prostitutes were the main ones who made money on the gold rush.

The town started with the gold rush in 1896. By 1898 it had a population of over 40,000. But the gold rush died in 1899, and when the town was incorporated in 1902 it had a population under 5,000. The Trondek Hwech’in had for millennia a fishing camp at the junction of the two rivers, but as Dawson City evolved they moved downstream a few miles as the conditions and lack of sanitation of Dawson were destructive to the tribe.

Log_55k_Indian_village_downstream_of_Dawson
When the Alaska Highway bypassed Dawson City, its population further declined; its present population is only 1319.

There was considerable claim jumping. As the gold rush waned, the claims were sold to bigger consortiums which used larger mechanized means of scooping, crushing and filtering the ore to get the miniscule amounts of gold per ton of excavated rock.  The small independent miner could not process the ore efficiently enough to make it worthwhile, but the big companies came in with monstrous floating dredges to excavate their way up the different rivers and streams. Dozens of these behemoth dredges were constructed on the waters of the rivers to excavate and process the ore, working their way slowly upstream, their large buckets gouging the rocky streambed and shorelines to scoop the gravel and large rocks into the dredge, crush them, and filter out the gold, disgorging the tailings into giant worm-like droppings, totally destroying the environment for hundreds of yards either side of these rivers and streams.

Log_55k-9_Front_end_of_restored_dredge            Log_55k_Tailings_go_off_the_conveor_at_the_back_of_the_dredge

(Front end would have large buckets                     (The tailings would be deposited on the banks)
to scoop up rocks and ore)

Log_55k_Dredging_bucket_technique_(Wikipedia)                            Log_55k_Massive_buckets
(Conveyor belt buckets scoop up the rock)                         (Massive sized buckets)

Log_55k_Dredge_inside_as_big_as_a_factory                          Log_55k_Massive_machinery_inside_dredge
(Inside is like a gigantic factory)                                         (Massive gears move the buckets
and conveyor belts)

The tailing ponds and mounds created a Martian-like landscape (worse than the Sudbury basin) of barren rocky hillocks as we entered Dawson City. In the picture below the worm-like tailings line the Klondike River bank, with the main Klondike Highway heading into Dawson City (to the right).

Log_55k_Tailings_along_the_Klondike_River

The city itself is enjoyable, but one has to look beyond the immense tailing wastelands to the forests and mountains beyond, still clad in their northern beauty.

Log_55k_Yukon_River_Looking_upstream_from_Dawson_City             Log_55k_Yukon_River_looking_downstream_from_Dawson_City
Yukon River upstream from Dawson City                                          Yukon River downstream from Dawson City


One evening Judy and I took our canoe up the Klondike (on top of our GMC Yukon) and paddled 20 km downstream into the Yukon to land back at Dawson City. The Klondike is a relatively shallow river and there were several stretches where it wound around midstream islands, creating the quandary as to which branch do we take? We had to decide well above each split (of course we did not have any maps or charts of the river), as when we were closer to the separation the current would be too strong for us to change our minds, and we would be swept into whatever channel we were closest to. A few times we scraped over a gravel bottom in the shallows, but were able to pole ourselves off without capsizing or having to get out of the canoe to haul it into deeper water.

We enjoyed the tourist attractions of a “honkytonk” saloon show at Diamond Tooth Gerties,

Log_55k_Diamond_Tooth_Gertys           Log_55k_Saloon_singer_in_Dawson_City       Log_55k-6_Dancers_in_Dawson_City_Saloon

the boardwalks,

                                         Log_55k-5.5_Dawson_City_downtown_(Wikipedia)
(A wikipedia image)
and the Pierre Burton, Jack London, and Robert Service cabins. An enjoyable raconteur gave us a good portrayal of the life of Robert Service, including the spirited recitation of a few of his poems such as “The Cremation of Sam McGee”, “The Shooting of Dan McGrew”, and “The Ballad of Blasphemous Bill”. I have always loved the cadence of Service’s poems, and they are always best read out loud. These poems are on the Blog menu of my website, www.veledaiv.ca. But just to remind you of the macabre but humorous technique of Service, here are the first few lines of   “The Cremation of Sam McGee”;

“There are strange things done in the midnight sun

     By the men who moil for gold;

The Arctic trails have their secret tales

      That would make your blood run cold;

The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,

      But the queerest they ever did see

Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge

      I cremated Sam McGee.”

 

And the other, “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” which should be accommodated by background honkytonk or ragtime piano music;

“A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o’-love, the lady that’s known as Lou.”

The waterfront of Dawson City has an enjoyable walkway with signs of its history, and a restored paddlewheel river boat, the Keno (named after the mining town mentioned in my last log) used to transport people, merchandise, supplies and ore until a road to Dawson City was completed. At one time there were dozens of shallow draft paddle wheelers plying the Yuko River, and hauled onshore on the river banks for the winter period and maintenance.

Log_55k-7_Paddle_wheeler_Keno                 Log_55k_Paddle_wheeler_tourist_boat_on_the_Yukon_River

However as the trade diminished, many were left to deteriorate on the shorelines as their trade collapsed.

Log_55k_Remains_of_paddle_wheeler_downstream_of_Dawson_City

The town depends upon tourism and is comfortably set up for such. Many of the period buildings from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s were still standing and in use. The boardwalks and dusty dirt road streets were wide and accommodating. The people have a small town friendliness. I would definitely recommend it to anyone travelling in the north.

On leaving Dawson City, we took the ferry across the Yukon River. The ferry staff were far more vigilant than the staff at the Mackenzie River crossings in that when they flagged us to proceed off the ramp, one attendant was carefully watching the back of each vehicle to ensure no scraping on the ramp or dirt road, and indicated to the driver when the clearance was OK. On the far side we stayed at a territorial park alongside the Yukon River before proceeding next day onto our last challenging paved/gravel highway, the spectacular “Top of the World Highway” going to Alaska.