Team Amirault's Taj II touring America & Canada Blog

Twenty days to the Alaska border- Whitehorse & Dawson City

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“The Alaska Highway begins at Mile 0 in Dawson Creek, BC. The first 613 miles/987 km of the Alaska Highway are in British Columbia, where it is designated BC Highway 97 North. The highway travels in a northwesterly direction to the Yukon  border near Watson Lake, YT (Historical Mile 635). From there it continues as Yukon Highway 1, crossing 577 miles/929 km of Yukon to Port Alcan on the Alaska border. The Alaska Highway crosses into Alaska at Historical Mile 1221.8, where it becomes Alaska Route 2. From this international border, it is 200 miles/322 km to Delta Junction, AK (Historical Mile 1422), the official end of the Alaska Highway, and 298 miles to Fairbanks, the unofficial end of the highway, at Historical Mile 1520.”

* From the Milepost Book – our guidebook through Alberta, British Columbia Yukon Territory and Alaska. A very useful although somewhat hard to follow from time to time. I would not attempt this trip without it and James Michener’s book – Alaska

Our tour group departed Dawson Creek on July 19th and stopped at the five small towns significant in Yukon history and Klondike Gold Rush, before reaching the Top of the World Highway and the Alaska border crossing on July 29th. A ten day journey of more than 1500 miles.

Fort Nelson, British Columbia

Big Beaver spotted along highway! Actually beavers played a huge role in the early exploration and enrichment of the northwest. Beaver hats as well as coats were very popular in Europe in the 1800s.

Liard Hot Springs, British Columbia

We took a dip in the hot springs – very relaxing after a long day of driving. The waters minerals and the mud are supposed to be healing and enriching. The temperature was similar to a spa or hot tub – but its naturally heated by volcanic activity under the ground. We loved it – it certainly made us feel good!

Watson Lake, Yukon Territory

The Signpost Forest

Started in 1942 by one of the workers on the ALCAN – this place is a must stop for anyone traveling this route to Alaska. Our group added a sign to the collection – 80,000 signs from every corner of the world demonstrate how widespread the interest is in traveling this route.

Rick took a stroll through part of the forest of signs and posted remembrances. The forest of memories grows by the thousands during each tourist season.

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory

The Beringia Museum – where we learned about the great land connection between Alaska and Asia is a must stop while you are in Whitehorse. A guided personal tour and a terrific movie presentation offered evidence of the mammals who crossed this bridge in both directions. Camels and horses originated in North America but migrated to Asia and Africa. Monmouth should and mastodons trace their origins to the Northwest. Fascinating and this museum gave us a useful foundation for the rest of the tour. A young red fox known to museum staff, wandered into the museum during our visit – no picture 😩 but it was a cool experience.

Below is a carved statue at the museum that represents and honors the ancestral people of the Alaskan & Yukon territories – those who trace their origins to the brave souls who crossed the Beringia land bridge on foot and by canoe to make the Northwest lands & territories their new home centuries ago. These are the true First Nations people.

SSS Klondike – the restored steamer – now landlocked along the same Yukon River where it delivered goods and products to settlers and miners in its heyday.

Muk Tuk Sled Dog Kennel

Our first visit to a dog kennel dedicated to raising competitive sled dogs for the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod operated by a former Quest participant. We learned how the sled dogs are different from huskies and are surprisingly similar to race horses – bred for speed, intelligence and the desire to pull a sled first and foremost. In a world where snow closes off others means of transportation for over six months of the year , having well trained and well fed sled dogs is essential.

We also stopped at a Fish Ladder along the Yukon River – not many fish seen in the river or in the ladder that time of year – but I loved this art work created by local students along the river walk. O

A view of the Yukon River looking northwest – it was an essential mode of transportation during early settlements and exploration as well as during the Gold Rush. Much deeper and wider than it is today it shaped the steep cliffs and canyons along the way. Whitehorse is named for one of the river’s wild rapids that reminded an artist of rushing white horses stampeding. It is one of the longest rivers in North America at 1980 miles and flows north into the Bering Sea after originating in Lake Atlin, British Columbia. In the distance is one of only two bridges that cross the mighty river – in Whitehorse.

we drove several hundred miles everyday – over roads that were primitive at best. These two photos show an example of the road conditions from northern BC into Yukon Territory and through Alaska. Bumpy gravel filled roads with high ridges, frost heaves and wild bumps – compounded by rocks flying up to hit our windshield regularly. Boom and crack were familiar not so musical accompaniments to the drive.

Dawson City BC – capitol of Klondike Gold Rush

We were welcomed to Dawson City by this amusing structure.

An old declining church that caught my eye as we were doing a city tour. Churches and brothels were vital elements of every gold rush town along with bars, general stores, and dance halls.

Dating back to the “Rush days” this general store still sells an enormous variety of items – guns, mosquito netting, shovels and souvenirs for us tourists.

Another fixer upper……

A refurbished authentic saloon that during the wild gold days was a bustling dance hall with attractions for all manner of guests.

Above is a restoration of a famous hotel for the high rollers who came into town to spend their gold earnings.

The log cabin above served as a prostitute’s “crib” – where she provided services and lived subject to her landlord’ discretion.

Ruby ran one of the most famous brothels – she became quite wealthy for a while but with the end of the Gold Rush came the end of her success.

British Bank of North America handled accounts – deposits and withdrawals for the gold miners. No free toasters to open accounts – just gold – carefully assayed, weighed and accounted for by the staff.

Below a view of the changing routes of the Yukon River and Dawson City from the Midnight Dome – reached via winding dusty roads passing abandoned and still operating gold mines high above the city – its a glorious view anytime of day but watching the midnight sun finally sink into the horizon is recommended. The first recorded midnight sun viewing complete with catering was in 1899, but its likely First Nation people knew about the spot as it is within their lands.

The Domes is a rock dome about 2911 feet above sea level and offers 360 degree views of the Klondike River and Valley, Ogilvie Mountains, Top of the World Highway as well as the city below.

We took this photo at about 11:30 pm in late July – sun just going down after almost 19 hours of daylight. It took some time to get used to so much daylight but we rather enjoyed it because there was so much to see and do. We were so busy we never had trouble sleeping after a day of travel and touring.

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