Washed Up, But Not Washed Out

“Does everyone realize that in this car we’ll be telling jokes – all kinds of jokes?”

If there’s one of those in every crowd, this trip was bound to be a lot of fun.

In fact, the entire idea for the excursion was an inspiration and a perfect example of “when the world hands you lemons, make lemonade”.

Yukoners are beginning to benefit from the result.

Prior to the commencement of its summer season excursions, flooding caused a major washout on the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad. Trains would be unable to complete the journey from Carcross to Skagway as repairs would take at least a month, a long time during a short season. There’s the lemon.

The refreshing solution? WP&YR decided to offer a new day trip: Carcross into Bennett and back again. It dubbed this — makes sense when you think about it — the “Washout Special”.

This is a leisurely, easy day trip departing Carcross at the civilized hour of 11 a.m. Yukoners are given the opportunity to visit and explore one of the more inaccessible and incredibly beautiful spots we read about in our Gold Rush history.

Although Lake Bennett itself extends across the Yukon Territory border, the old Bennett townsite is technically in British Columbia – but so is Atlin, and that’s never stopped anyone.

There’s no road into Bennett and not many of us would want to traverse the 26 miles of sometimes very choppy water it takes to get there. The WP&YR is convenient and comfortable with just a one-and-a-half-hour ride from Carcross to Bennett where a hot lunch awaits you.

And now, thanks to the Washout Special, you don’t carry on to Skagway to end your journey. No customs. No documents. No border inspections. This is All-Canadian content. Perfect for locals who haven’t been to Bennett yet and perfect for the friends and families who come to visit and leave their passports in the drawer at home for safekeeping.

“Which way are we supposed to be looking?” A visitor was having their picture taken.

“You’re supposed to be good looking.”

Passengers were moving from seat to seat. It seemed everyone on board knew someone else on the train they hadn’t expected to run into. Locals introduced their travel companions to each other, said hello to strangers and peered out the window to catch a glimpse of a black bear or porcupine.

One small group was taking advantage of the option to camp overnight. Bring your gear with you – there are even flat decks to transport kayaks or canoes – and spend some time really exploring this gorgeous region. Just catch the train back to Carcross the next day … or the one after. Return dates are flexible.

If you do opt to return the same day, you’ll be back in Carcross around 4:30 p.m. There’s still plenty of time to walk around this historic town. Ask the friendly staff at the Visitor Information Centre for a copy of the self-guided walking tour. See if you can track down the buildings that were moved into Carcross when Bennett was literally abandoned.

For further information, call White Pass & Yukon Route in Whitehorse at 668-7245 or in Carcross at 821-3930. Bus connections from Whitehorse can be arranged.

Camping reservations are required and must be booked with Parks Canada in Whitehorse at 667-3910 or via its toll free line at 1-800-661-0486.

Trips operate Friday through Monday. Seats are limited to only 65 per excursion. And who knows how long it might last?

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