About Me

"Setting the world to rights"...one blog at a time! Plus anything else that comes to mind

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Monday 19th May 2003, Carmacks to Dawson City

The cafe attached to the hotel was not the best so I decided to get breakfast on the road, not such a good idea as it turned out.  Places were few and far between and I didn't like the look of any of them so I was pretty hungry when I got to Dawson City.

There was more road damage between Carmacks and Dawson City, which was not always flagged here so I had to be pretty vigilant.  Nevertheless, even I couldn't miss what looked to me like a wolf as it loped out of the trees and turned down the road, heading straight for me.  It was a whimsical, meandering sort of lope, unhurried and seemingly without a care in the world.  As I braked he veered off to the other side of the road where he stopped and turned to look at me.  It was as though he was sizing me up, decided I was nothing to worry about and loped away into the trees.  I could have sworn he was laughing at me, it was so funny.  THEN I remembered my camera!!!

The guy in the car behind me saw me in a café further up the road and we discussed it.  He told me it was a coyote, not a wolf;  I bow to his superior knowledge but as I hadn't seen either in the wild before I was thrilled either way.

About an hour or so later I came across a car with it's bonnet up and a woman was flagging me down.

Ok, let's get this over with.  Yes, I KNOW, everyone (apart from George) told me not to stop for anyone, and I HAVE ignored the hitch-hikers; but there was this man working hard at the wheel, two women looking worried and a little boy about 4 years old looking confused, right in the middle of nowhere.  What would YOU have done?  I stopped.

I wasn't much help as I didn't understand which tool they needed but we rooted around in my car anyway.  By the time we decided I didn't have one, two more cars had stopped and one had the necessary.  This was the Klondike in the rush hour - I'd only seen half a dozen cars in the last four hours up 'til then.  No-one passed by - as one lady said, this is the Yukon way!

I didn't stop to make sure they got safely underway, I'm a little ashamed of that but I wasn't comfortable, I suppose ingrained suspicion of strangers is hard to overcome.  However, I did stop, against all advice and there were others there when I left.  I like to think if I'd been the only one around I would have stayed and made sure they were underway or plucked up the courage to offer a lift but I guess I'll never know now.  I was so flustered I automatically drove off on the left hand side of the road and it was about half a mile before I realised and moved over.  Oh well, let's hope that gave them a laugh over the soppy Englishwoman.

The rest of the journey was uneventful until I got near Dawson City.  I saw what I thought was roadkill until it moved.  It was a porcupine - I hadn't realised they were so large!  He didn't care for the look of me, so off he lumbered with a sort of rolling gait and disappeared round a hummock.  I may have just managed to get him on film but I'm not sure.  I could hear him rustling around but couldn't see him so I started off again.  As I did I spotted his sweet little face poking out at me from the other side of the hummock but it quickly disappeared once more when I slowed down.

Sunday 18th May 2003, Whitehorse to Carmacks

The Klondike Highway is in pretty good condition so I made good time.  The landscape is subtly different; rounder contours, less craggy, less evergreens and more deciduous trees.  It changes more though, the deciduous gave way to more evergreens then - devastation!

Mile after mile of blackened tree trunks pointing at the sky, branches mostly burned away; or felled, criss-crossed on the ground like a child's jackstraws and large areas of scorched earth.  The occasional stand of green trees where the fire that had caused this desolation had miraculously spared them for some reason.  I've seen smaller areas like this over here but the sheer scale of the disaster here is overwhelming.  I know it's necessary to the ecology, following a cycle of burning and renewal, but it is desperately sad to see and must have been terrifying to witness.

Marilyn, in Burwash Landing, had told me about the fire they had at the end of the 1990's, long before she got there.  It had swept down on the township taking three houses and the logs Horace had prepared for building his cabin.  The owners of the Resort were determined to save it and had been dousing the building with water.  But the fire was beyond their efforts and before they realised it, was roaring down at them where they cowered, laid flat on the roof.  Suddenly the wind, which ALWAYS comes from the same direction, miraculously changed and took the fire elsewhere.  You can stand overlooking Burwash Landing and see the path the fire took and how narrow their escape was.

This fire in the Klondike must have been a hundred times worse and is the sort of threat Yukoners live with every year.  Nothing is permanent here it seems and you have to learn to roll with the punches to survive.  Small wonder they are a hardy breed.

I arrived early in Carmacks and as it was Sunday there was nothing to do - not that there is much to do in Carmacks anyway.  I walked 2.5 kilometers down the length of Carmacks (there is very little width as the hills come so close to the waters edge) and got caught first in hail and then rain.  I actually rather enjoyed it although I looked like a drowned rat by the time I got back to the hotel.

The only thing left was TV and there were only 2 channels, one with some rather strange costume dramas and the other with obscure Indian and Australian programmes.  Suddenly I felt very tired!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Saturday 17th May 2003, Beaver Creek to Whitehorse

Beaver Creek is about six miles from the Canadian border crossing (now we know Dad - it's too small to show on the map).  I got a shock at first because there were big signs outside the hotel saying it was closed.  I weaved past them and found I was expected although they were not due to open officially for the summer for another week.  Whew!  A very nice room and a very nice place, looking past the fact they are still getting it up together after winter.  No problem with noisy neighbours tonight, I'm the only one here - and that included staff - only the manager was on the property that night, in a cabin somewhere 'over there' if I needed him.

I was recommended to Buckshot Betty's for dinner, which was fine by me, I'd been there for lunch on the way up a few weeks earlier.  There were 2 sets of Americans there who chatted to each other but not much inclined to include me.  No problem, the waitress was very chatty and friendly.
Had an early night, and really needed it after those kids got me up at 5:30 for the past 2 mornings.  Slept like a log.
Back to Buckshot Betty's for coffee in the morning; one of the couples from last night were there but more friendly and actually smiled at me.
The roads were pretty awful again and I was eating dust for a long way.  I wanted to breakfast at Burwash Landing but my plans went awry as usual (I don't learn, do I?) and arrive lunchtime.  Marilyn recognised me, which was really nice, and the couple from Beaver Creek were there and in the mood to chat.  They had overtaken me while I was being so careful of my car at the roadworks.  We all had a jolly time chatting; the couple were doing a tour up from Michegan, 'spending their kids inheritance'.
The place is done up nicely now and I could sit in the part that had just been unboarded for the summer when I stayed here a few weeks earlier.  Marilyn and the cook chatted with me for a while after the American couple left.  They asked about our chocolate, it has a good reputation over here.
I was off again and not planning to stop until Haines Junction.  No dice; what with all the tea at Burwash landing and the very bumpy road I gave up six miles short!  At Haines Junction I 'hung a right' for Whitehorse.  I saw a dust devil in the road ahead, a small whirlwind that caught the road dust up in a spout and danced it round from one side of the road to the other.  It was about 4-5 feet tall so I could see it from quite a way away and chuckled at its antics.  I'd slowed right down to watch it but it collapsed just as I passed, I suppose the wind of my passing disrupted it.
I stopped at Kluane (clue-ah-knee with a slight stress on the ah) Lake this time and hopefully got some good pictures for you to paint Mum.  There's a lot less snow than a few weeks ago; now the country is a picture of muted reds, yellows, greens and blues weaving a glorious tapestry of colour that you see in paintings but can't quite believe could exist.
Being the driver and navigator rolled into one, means I don't have any attention left for active wildlife spotting.  However, at one point I saw some movement at the side of the road.  It was bison so I slammed on the brakes; too craven to get out I just wound down the window and took photos of them from the safety of the car.
I had no trouble with the Whitehorse traffic when I got there, straight to the hotel without any fuss.  I've got the hang of traffic now.  Ever since I realised it wasn't my driving abilities I had any doubt of, it was my navigating skills - getting lost - I stopped being silly and I've been just fine.
There was no time for doing anything much in Whitehorse as I arrived early evening so just caught up with the laundry and went to bed.  I met a nice lady in the laundry though, driving up from  South Carolina with her husband and two young children, she had the most delicious drawl.  He's in the US Armed Forces and being relocated to Anchorage for four years.  They've been on the road with their belongings for nine days!  Imagine that with two children under three years!!!  She's a saint.
PS Hope this all makes sense, I’m sitting in an Internet café cum pizza place with a load of teenagers making a racket over some bloomin’ awful music, can hardly think!!

Friday 16th May 2003, Glenallen to Beaver Creek

I had another long drive ahead of me so I was on the road by 9 o'clock.  It was flat country and I was surrounded by forest.  I was fascinated at first, then..."well, ok, yes, they're trees!", then bored and finally completely awed by the scale of it all.

I gradually worked my way up into the mountains, still surrounded by forest; the road occasionally rising above the tree line to view the valley I'd just left, trees carpeting the valley floor and creeping up the mountainside, gradually giving way to a little scrubland before the mountains rise steeply to the sky.  Maybe a river or mudflats worming through the valley from one end to the other.  Sometimes the road winding so much I'd lose sight of it among the trees and have the illusion that I am completely surrounded by mountains, there's no way out, and the world has shrunk to this one small valley. 

I had planned to lunch in Tok but numerous road works held me up.  I really must learn that this country doesn't care about my plans and schedules.  So I just sat back, enjoyed the ride and stopped at the first place that appealed.  It was about 40 miles short of Tok and in one of those valleys.  It was filled (not hard considering it only took about a dozen people anyway) with locals including four gents who were exactly my idea of old coots, and who took great delight in 'chatting up the young lady'.

I've been travelling steadily north and climbing into the mountains since leaving Seward.  At some stage spring had withdrawn and the trees had been again in an uneasy doze.  Moving down out of the mountains onto the plains surrounding Tok, spring came again and I feel privileged to have seen it twice this year.

After coffee in Tok I drove straight through to the US/Canada border.  I was travelling under the Visa exemption scheme for UK nationals and was supposed to hand in the form, that was clipped to my passport, when leaving.  I explained I was going back into Alaska at Skagway so they marked the form for multiple entries and I've just got to remember to hand it in the last time I exit the US.  It's valid to July and they impressed on me the importance of not taking it back to the UK with me.  Must stick a reminder note somewhere!

And so it was goodbye to Alaska, for now; it's been wonderful!

A 'brief' interlude

Well, it's been a while, too long in fact.  Life interrupted my travels down memory lane but I've some time now.  I'm with friends in Egypt with time on my hands between having fun, so I shall pick up my mental meanderings again.  Not much point in posting my emails in 'real time' since in reality, ten years ago, I had already returned to the UK.  So the posts will come as and when I get round to them from now on.  Now, where was I?...oh yes, ...