In 2002, I embarked, with the love of my life, on a Yukon adventure I never experienced in the 29 years I lived here.
Here, I confess, we were sort of living together without a “shack-up permit.” Wonder what happened to that great old tradition … progress?
We decided to go to Dawson City. Right; I had been here for almost 30 years and had not been to the sanctum of the gold rush! Unbelievable as it may be, I missed out on Dawson.
Working and raising two kids on my own, for 16 years, I never got around to it. We decided to do this little trip on her days off; I was on holidays, so it worked well.
Off we trekked in our “new” old camper van with visions of the fabulous Yukon countryside we would see and anticipating exploring the old town of Dawson City. The trip to Dawson was interesting and the scenery spectacular at Five Finger Rapids.
On arriving in Dawson, we were awestruck as any tourist at the amazing heaps of rock. We were wide-eyed at the fact that there were no paved roads and the buildings certainly looked like Gold-Rush time. We had a great time looking around, managed to take in Gerties (losing a suitable amount of cash) and get out to the dredge for a tour. Good times!
While we were “touristing” our way around town, an idea crept through my thoughts: I have a lady to impress in my life! Why not see if she had a sense of adventure and ask her if she wanted to see the Arctic Circle.
A first for me and hopefully a coup, with her, all at the same time. She jumped at the prospect. We set our sights for the next day, planning the trip out and trying to figure the timing so we would be back in town for work.
Next day, up the Dempster. I have to say I was not so impressed with the first miles of the highway, road-wise or scenery-wise. The first impression leapt away as we approached the Tombstone Mountains.
What else can you say but “Wow!” I suppose there are many things one can exclaim, but that will do. If you have been there, you know what I mean; if not, go there.
We spent some time in the park and then into the Blackstone Valley and were greeted with a montage of fall colours enough to take away your breath. And looking back to the Tombstone was like looking into distant, medieval-like scenery in a fantasy movie.
Cracked and craggy from millenniums of weathering, there are no real words to describe the feelings that flood over you in a land so vast and empty-looking, but filled with a raw beauty rarely encountered anymore. The weather was a little on the dismal side as fall was here, but the frosts had murdered the majority of the blood-sucking (I think carnivorous) insects.
We drove the meandering road toward the only stop at Eagle Plains. Before much longer we were subjected to the Dempster weather patterns and it started to rain. Ah well, not so bad.
But then the road deteriorated. Ice is easier to drive on. We were relieved to reach the lodge, gas up, wash up and fill our stomachs. Imagine my surprise when they accepted a bank card in the middle of wherever we were in the middle of.
We made our dash for the Circle as soon as we cleaned up. The Arctic Circle … a misty, rainy picture. Rats! After a toast out in the rain, we turned around.
More of the same conditions, but it stopped raining. We stopped at a pullout and I went to the van for something. As I closed the rear door, I ended up with it sitting on the road while I was holding it. Dar returned, looked and asked the only question available, “What happened?”
I replied with the only answer available, “It fell off.” Fifty feet of rope and we were off.
No repair in Dawson, so we opted for the Top of the World Highway. I did not know that Dar had a fear of high places. Whoops! She white-knuckled it into Chicken, Alaska, then to the border. After a stop in Beaver Creek, we tackled the unfinished Shakwak portion of the road and headed for Kluane Park, in the dark. I had never driven there yet.
Worse luck … I was first out of the construction stop and in the black of the night I had all the traffic in my mirrors. (I saw where I had driven by the lake a year later. No wonder Dar kept saying, “Stay close to the right; the mountain is there; the other side not so good.”)
At around three in the morning, we were home. I asked Dar to never let me drive that in one session again.