So the Outhouse Race is over and the last ball tournament of the season has played its final innings. Later today the Goldrush Campground, whose owners kindly allow me to drain the holding and fresh water tanks on my trailer, will close down for the season, and Pat and Diana Brooks will begin to button it up until next May.
The Yukon Queen II has already departed for its winter berth in Eagle, having given the community a couple of free dinner rides a week ago (as I write this). The cruise was a few days earlier this year, and the colours along the river bank were not as vibrant as they became just a few days later, but it was a lovely trip in spite of that.
The village of Eagle hasn’t seen much of the Queen this summer, as their part of the Taylor Highway has been closed almost continuously since July. This has meant that the Holland America buses haven’t been able to get there, and that the daily Dawson-to-Eagle and back-to-Dawson sailings of the Yukon Queen haven’t been happening.
That makes two summers in a row of hardship caused by water for this tiny village, and this year there wasn’t much of anything anyone here could do to help.
So it’s no surprise that the Holland America/Gray Line office on Front Street is already shuttered and the Westmark is in the midst of doing the same on Fifth Avenue.
Shutters have been an issue around town for a few years now.
It used to be that the summer businesses closed up and sealed their buildings with any old piece of plywood they could come up with, leaving the place looking like it had been abandoned and no one would ever care to return. Town council and the Klondike Improvement Action Group (now defunct) took on the task of encouraging people to make it look like they cared. Most places now sport window boards painted black or some colour that matches their buildings, and quite a few even make them look like windows, with panes indicated by cross-hatched lines.
Most seasonal businesses now have a look that tells a winter visitor they will be opening again in due time, and that’s much more cheerful for them as well as for those of us who live here year-round.
The Tombstone Interpretive Centre had a big day to end its season, as two dozen of us motored out through the autumn finery of the Dempster Highway on Sept. 12 to hear readings from Nino Ricci and Alistair MacLeod, who brought their “A Sense of Place” tour to the Klondike. It was a gorgeous sunny day on the Dempster and the views of the Tombstones were magnificent.
I’m told the views on the Top of the World Highway are equally glorious, but the spate of road closures since July has made that harder to see. At this writing, the road on the American side is open to convoys led by pilot cars, but the border will be closing on Sept. 24, the day after this paper hits the stands, bringing an end to a very disjointed summer travel experience.
Autumn doesn’t last long in the Yukon, but it provides a brief blaze of glory while it’s with us.