When you tell your friends and family that you’ve finally found the place you want to settle, they get a little excited. I mean, after living in London, Moscow, Dublin, Edinburgh, they figure it must be a truly vibrant city with access to the world. Or after living in the Austrian, French and Georgian alps, it must be an extreme and gnarly place. It must be somewhere like Vancouver or Toronto or somewhere like Revelstoke or Whistler …
Whitehorse, Yukon, I told them. “Where!?”
My best friend Sam decided to come visit me, in what he described as “middle of nowhere”. This was the first time we’d seen each other in four years. Originally from Las Vegas, we met in Moldova. He then came to visit me when I lived in Turkey and Russia. But this was different. I was excited to live in a country where we both spoke the language and sexual preference was accepted, not criminalized. There were so many options to choose from and only three full days here. So here’s our tale of escapades and exploring the middle of nowhere.
Sam arrived on the Wednesday evening flight and I met him at Whitehorse International Airport with Yukon Brewing’s new Fireweed honey beer and a matching fluorescent pink sign.
“Welcome to the Yukon, Sam”.
After a quick catch-up we went to sleep because we were headed to Skagway, Alaska.
In my van, L’il Bitch, we headed down the South Klondike Highway. We stopped first at Emerald Lake for a photo shoot, a must for any visitor.
“Why would you ever live somewhere so remote?” Sam asked. “It’s beautiful, but I couldn’t live here.” Sam lives in China, so it is a tad different.
Our first tourist stop was Caribou Crossing Trading Post, just before the desert in Carcross. I had always driven past it, thinking it looked silly. But I was pleasantly surprised. We got to see husky puppies, huskies enjoying a run in the sun and lots of Klondike-esque buildings. We looked at the stuffed animal museum, full of impressive work that made for an incredible comparison when it came to the differences in size.
After the Skagway tour buses started arriving, we decided to leave. We stopped at the “world’s smallest desert” before driving into Carcross. It was lunchtime and we ordered Sam’s first poutine at the Bistro. We wandered around the Carcross Commons stores, admiring the artwork and small shops.
The White Pass train came into town and we picked up our lunch at the Bistro and headed to Bennett Lake to eat. The lake was crystal clear, and the hot sun beamed. It was the perfect picture as we ate.
A walk on the beach and too many photos later, we continued the drive down to Skagway.
“Are we going to stop and take pictures?” Sam asked as I drove passed a couple of pullouts.
“We will never get to Skagway, if we stop at every stop,” I said. “We aren’t even at the good parts yet.”
We stopped along the way, taking pictures of glass-like lakes and jagged mountains.
We continued on into B.C. and, at the summit, we decided to hike International Falls. I had never done it and was told it was pretty simple. So off we went, nothing in tow except our cameras. We hiked down in flip flops, an immediate regret when he saw the steep hill, loose dirt and rope assists. However, we got to the bottom and discovered a small lake. We could see the path on the other side and realised we would have to go through the water, which still had ice in it. We took off our pants and shoes and carried them as we crossed the frigid water. After only a couple minutes, the pain from the water was intense. But we made it. We continued on, in our underwear and barefeet to the waterfall. As we walked through bushes higher than our heads, I realised neither of us had bear spray and all I could imagine was the headline “Aussie girl leads American to grizzly death in Yukon.”
But we were ok, as we sang and made lots of noise. We took lots of photos and then headed back across the lake and up the steep bank to the car.
Our drive continued briefly as we arrived to the “Welcome to Alaska” sign. Sam had never been to Alaska and was excited to tick it off his bucket list. The huge number of tourists deterred us from trying to take a photo with the sign, but luckily, as one set of buses was leaving and another was pulling in, we found a tourist to take a photo of us.
We continued our drive down the highway to Alaska and into Skagway. Our first stop was Skagway Distillery to have a tasty gin cocktail on their new deck. It was perfect, with beautiful sun and warm weather. We decided that if we continue drinking, we should park the car where we planned to sleep, because drinking and driving is not a good idea. So we went and parked the car and discovered Skagway. First stop was an attempt to do the Skagway Quickie tour of the brothel at Red Onion, however, we arrived too late. Instead, we went to Klondike Brewing and enjoyed a flight of beer on their deck.
By this time, we were thoroughly starving and intoxicated, so we stumbled through the town to obtain some tasty food. King crab legs were on Sam’s list, so we went to Skagway Fish Company, right on the water and got crab with halibut, chips and more Alaska beer. After the delicious food, our bellies were full, the cruise ships had pulled out of the harbour and Skagway was a small port town again. We waddled back to the car and passed out.