2020 is the time to explore your own backyard
It’s been more than four years since I moved to Whitehorse, but I had not made it to Dawson City yet. Even though my former colleague at the City of New Westminster had worked several summers at Diamond Tooth Gerties and had insisted, you have to go to Dawson City, I had not gotten around to making the trip. The main reason was that I have arthritis and sitting in a car for that many hours is usually not a pleasant experience. But, much to my surprise, during my trip to New Mexico in February I found that I was able to drive long distances with tolerable discomfort.
Really though, it was COVID-19 and the timing of the lifting of the restrictions that brought my daughter Rebecca and I together to go to Dawson. She was laid off when COVID-19 hit the entertainment industry hard in Vancouver. Then, in July, the government lifted the requirement for B.C. residents to quarantine for 14 days upon entering the Yukon. As we thought about what we could do during her visit, Dawson City seemed like the logical destination for a couple of nights.
As it had been the whole summer of 2020, the weather forecast was mixed to poor. We headed out early with a truck full of snacks for the trip. Loading up with snacks turned out to be a good thing as we ended up not stopping along the way for lunch. I had been told it took six hours to drive to Dawson City. Even though we made limited stops to stretch our legs, the trip took seven-and-a-half hours. On the way up, we encountered:
Rain the entire distance, except a 15-minute respite.
Five delays for road construction, three of which included being guided by a pilot car, with one of those taking us through a foot of mud. I later thought there is no way a motorcycle, or even a smart car would have made it through.
More potholes than I had seen in my life. Even though it rained the whole way I enjoyed the trip up, partly due to listening to podcasts Rebecca had picked out, which both educated and entertained me.
We quite enjoyed Dawson City for the short time we were there. Quaint, historic buildings, a lovely walk on the dike along the river, friendly folk and, most important for me, all the meals were good. A charming and unique little city. Our first stop was the Visitor Information Centre to ask about hiking in Tombstone Territorial Park. The answer to my question about whether there are usually more tourists here was an emphatic “way, way, way more tourists.” This meant no crowds or waiting in line at stores and restaurants. Good for us, but not so good for the local businesses.
The only full day we had in Dawson City was spent out of Dawson, driving along the famed Dempster Highway and hiking in Tombstone. The road was rough, but at times I thought it was better than the Klondike Highway in terms of the size and number of potholes. This was maybe only because I knew where the highway went, and I was getting a feeling of ‘real remoteness.’ Getting out of the car at the visitor centre, it surprised me how much colder it was than an hour before. To add to the sense of adventure, the power went out during our short time in the centre.
We hiked up to Goldensides, which is one of the easier hikes. Even though it was clouded over right until we were leaving the park, it was a beautiful hike with panoramic views above ‘the saddle.’ The high point of this hike was also the high point of the trip for seeing wildlife; a hoary marmot who didn’t mind us getting fairly close for pictures. The lack of wildlife was a disappointment for Rebecca, who lives in the big city.
I wanted to head directly back to Whitehorse from our motel the next day. However, the motel was located a little way from town and the convenience store / gas station next to the motel was closed, even though it was after 8 a.m. on a weekday. Interesting.
The trip back was quite different from the one to Dawson City. The clouds from the days before (a nod to meteorologists as the varying forecast for those three days was dead on) and the haze we experienced from fires in Siberia completely disappeared and it turned into the hottest day of the year so far. We didn’t have as many construction delays and it seemed like the road crews had fixed most of the potholes in the last two days! The trip back was punctuated by a lovely trek down to Five Finger Rapids, lunch along the river at the Coal Mine Campground and a refreshing swim in Braeburn Lake. We rolled into Whitehorse in less time than it took to get to Dawson!
I am so glad I finally made it to Dawson City. Discovering more of Yukon during COVID in 2020.