Days 19 and 20. To describe traveling in these parts, the guidebook repeats the phrase often used to describe desolate areas: "Miles and miles of miles and miles." That's so apt a description of the road between Whitehorse and Dawson City that I can't improve on it. Though the road surface has been generally good, the right-of-way has narrowed to the point that roadside weeds are growing right on the edge of the road, just like country roads instead of major routes. We traveled through places with names like Carmacks and Pelly Crossing, and past roads leading off into the wilderness to places named Mayo, Ross River, or Faro. We saw one moose and one bear the whole day.
At Carmacks we took a stroll on the boardwalk along the river and looked at the remains of some early settler's cabins and a partly restored roadhouse, then ate our lunch in the town's gazebo before heading a mile or two north of town to the local First Nations interpretive center, Tage Cho Hudan Interpretive Centre. Unlike the obviously well-funded center we visited in Whitehorse, this one was obviously homemade. Nothing was slick or explained on video, and the displays were built by the people who started the center. It's an earnest attempt by a First Nations group who don't have a lot of money to tell something of their culture to the rest of the world. A nature garden is out back where plants the early peoples used for food are grown. We couldn't go into it that day because a mother bear and her cub were in the area and had shown a clear interest in that particular spot.
The overcast day never got above the upper 50s F. The nights have been cool too. Bring rain gear and warm sleeping togs when you pass this way.
At Pelly Crossing, the Selkirk First Nation Cultural Centre was hosting a display of craftspeople from the tribe. Courty, who used to weave and who still has a rug loom in our basement, was entranced by the work and explanations of Charlene Baker, a weaver from Whitehorse who was displaying there. After an hour of discussion and an exchange of FaceBook info, we went on, blithely leaving Court's raincoat there, with our spare set of keys in it.
That night we stayed at a Yukon Government campground about 100 miles from our goal of Dawson City. It was a nice place, though they warn you about bears and about boiling the water for at least 10 minutes before using it. We were almost the only ones there when we pulled in but by morning there were some dozen camping units set up, from bicyclists in tents to 5th wheels. The $12 per night fee seemed reasonable compared to commercial camping places.
Today we drove the last leg to Dawson City, a place that has had its share of ups and downs. At one time, and for only about one year, it had a population of 30,000. When the gold rush petered out, things went downhill from there and today there are a lot of restored buildings and about 1,800 permanent residents. We stopped at the visitors center, where they kindly phoned back to the Selkirk Centre and arranged to have them entrust Court's raincoat and keys to someone heading for Dawson, who will leave it at the visitors center for us when we return from Inuvik.
To cross the Yukon River you take the free ferry, which we had to do to get to the Yukon River YTG campground. As it happened, our timing was perfect; we got the last empty site. We're here for two days, maybe three. It's dry camping but so far the batteries seem to be holding out. The solar panels have been dead weight the whole trip. If we've camped with electricity we didn't need them and if there was no electric the campsites were too heavily wooded to be able to use them.
The Yukon is one h___ of a river. Wide and strong, it starts in the mountains not far from Skagway and courses its way through the Yukon Territory and all the way through Alaska to the Bering Sea. When you come this way, you'll enjoy seeing the Yukon River and the beautiful scenery it passes through.
Another day of exploring the sights in Dawson City tomorrow, then we're off to make the run up the Dempster. The only wi-fi spot in town is the library, so if you're reading this we scored some free time online there. Meanwhile, here are a couple of websites we recorded from two campers we've seen that are not from the US of A or Canada. Maybe they'll have something interesting to say:
Photos: settler's cabin, Carnacks; Five Finger Rapids on the Yukon River; Charlene Baker, weaver; on the George Black ferry, Dawson City; the Yukon River from the ferry