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Sunday 29 August 2010

Timing is Everything

Time, or maybe the weather, hasn’t exactly been on our side for much of this trip. Most mornings in the Yukon we set the alarm for 4:30am. When it went off we would look out and try to decide if the clouds would part enough for us to get at least a few moments of sweet morning light on some mountain vista. By 5:30 am our last morning up the Dempster Highway we had a glimmer of hope. So we left the nearly out of gas van sitting at our campsite in Tombstone Territorial Park, grabbed the gear and hiked the 2.5 kms up the mountain road to the Tombstone Viewpoint. Our speed up that hill seemed in direct proportion to the rate that the sun peeked over the mountains to the east and lit up the opposite mountains. We arrived puffing but in time to even see light on Tombstone Mountain off in the distance in the valley between the Tombstone Range and Cloudy Range.Tombstone Range
Tombstone Range - Click for larger

Cloudy Range
Cloudy Range - Click for larger

The light didn’t last long. It was cloudy once again as we walked back down the mountain road to our campsite. The other still-sleeping campers were unaware that there had even been a moment of nice light. Timing is everything.Tombstone Mountain
Tombstone Mountain - Click for larger

On our way back south from the Yukon we stopped again for a night in Muncho Provincial Park - this time in the MacDonald campground. It had been quite cool, cloudy and windy when we passed through on our way north - just as it usually was when we visited in 2006. However on that day it was hot and rather muggy. We both even went in for a swim in the cold 12-kilometre long almost always rippled mountain lake. During dinner the clouds suddenly parted, the water flattened and Ron spent about 45 minutes getting some stunning mountain reflections. Then the light was gone and the wind came back up again. Timing is everything.Muncho Lake Dock
Muncho Lake Dock - Click for larger

Muncho Lake
Muncho Lake - Click for larger

In July when we traveled through Jasper National Park the weather didn’t allow for pictures at all (see Ron’s posting "Stormy Weather" for more info). So we tried again on our way home. It mostly rained or the skies were grey while we were there. On the morning we left dawn brought clear skies and mist hanging over the lakes. Timing is everything indeed!Patricia Lake
Patricia Lake - Click for larger

The Palisades in Jasper
The Palisades in Jasper - Click for larger

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Monday 9 August 2010

How Many Roads?

How many roads must a van drive down before it is ready for the Dempster Highway?

Well for our van and for us maybe we went down too many on the way there. After all since my last post re the Northwest Territories and our waterfalls tour we’ve been on a lot of roads.Lori at Alexandra Falls
Lori at Alexandra Falls, NWT - Click for larger
We’ve driven every day - sometimes very long distances and we’ve rarely stayed more than one night in the same spot. With trying to catch the good morning and/or evening light up here in the Land of the Midnight Sun that makes for very long days.

We’ve been through BC’s northern rockies camping at Stone Mountain, Summit Lake Campground
Summit Lake Campground - Click for larger

Muncho LakeStone Sheep
Stone Sheep - Click for larger

and Liard Hotsprings Provincial Parks.

Entering the Yukon we found the sign we posted in the Signpost Forest in Watson Lake back in 2006. It has faded considerably since then (as have we).

This time we didn’t stay in Teslin but did stop to take some pics of the Nisutlin Bay Bridge.Nisutlin Bay Bridge
Nisutlin Bay Bridge - Click for larger

Kluane National Park and Reserve in the Yukon was as beautiful as before Quill Creek, Kluane
Quill Creek, Kluane - Click for larger

although what was the interesting Slim's River Bridge has been replaced with something nondescript.

In Haines, Alaska we found a couple of grizzlies and some bald eagles at Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site without our having to become one of the paparazzi that will descend in October to photograph those subjects when the salmon are really running. Even out of season there was still a mob looking for the grizzlies. Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear - Click for larger
Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle - Click for larger

After Haines we went back north to Kluane and spent our 28th wedding anniversary camped at Kluane Lake in the rain, passing the time by playing cards in our dining tent, having a French Picnic (replacing the French bread with crackers and nacho chips) and napping in our van hoping to get caught up on some sleep so we could get up the next morning to shoot the Lake and Sheep Mountain if there was light.Kluane Lake
Kluane Lake - Click for larger

From Kluane we intended to go north on the Alaska highway to Anchorage, take the Top of the World Highway to Dawson City, Yukon and then go up the Dempster Highway to the Arctic circle in the Northwest Territories. But we were told at Kluane that there were washouts and road closures in Alaska as well in the Yukon/NWT on the Dempster Highway north of Eagle Plains. Imagine washouts & floods while there are so many wildfires in BC! So we regrouped and went back to Whitehorse and stayed at the same hotel as we did before Kluane and even did our laundry for just the 2nd time this trip (sorry to anyone within smelling range of us prior).

From Whitehorse we took the Klondike Highway north – heading to Dawson city and stopped to tour the Yukon Wildlife PreserveMuskox
Muskox - Click for larger

Arctic Fox
Arctic Fox - Click for larger

and camp for a couple of nights at Lake Laberge. It was hard to get a good landscape shot there – we kept hoping but the hills were always hazy – probably from those BC wildfires and some in the Yukon too (and not still from the cremation of Sam McGee).Lake Laberge, Yukon
Lake Laberge, Yukon - Click for larger

In Dawson City we visited both the Yukon and the Northwest Territories Info Centres and were told the Dempster Highway was open and that there were even a couple of hundred barren land caribou (the Porcupine herd) crossing the highway at the territories’ border/Arctic Circle. We wanted to see those caribou.

The Dempster Highway is gravel and dirt and somewhat rough but not too bad to Tombstone Territorial Park. It’s well worth the trip that far as the scenery is spectacular. You seem to always be surrounded by mountains. But what is not to love about all the scenery in the Yukon? It is a fabulous place. And north of Tombstone is no exception.Tombstone Park Wetlands
Tombstone Park Wetlands - Click for larger

Indeed we had driven a long way just to “do the Dempster Highway”. 13,185 kms to be exact, when we filled up in Dawson City. So could we be blamed then for turning around after a truck driver told us we should somewhere around Kilometre 300? We had already white-knuckled it up the Seven Mile Hill past the Ogilvie-Peel viewpoint. Of course it had started to rain again just as we got near the hill. These dirt roads can turn into something like lard it seems. But that wasn’t the only reason the hill was scary – going up sometimes you feel like you could drop straight off the side. The greasy mud seems to want to drag the car there. It didn’t help that the road was in the process of being graded and the grader had left a wall of greasy, gravelly mud in the middle - meaning we had to stick to our side. Just before the lookout and at the very top of the hill, we met the grader coming back down in the middle of the road. So Ron veered the car through the wall and took our chances on the left side hoping for no oncoming traffic and luckily – there was none.Tombstone Territorial Park
Tombstone Territorial Park - Click for larger

Turning around at that point wasn’t an easy decision either. We wanted to see those caribou. And we were about 100kms short of the Eagle Plains Hotel and its gas station. We were counting on the roads to there being passable - counting on refueling. But we shouldn’t have. We turned around and hoped that the van’s computer was correct with its forecast that we could travel 100kms further than what we needed to get back to the Klondike Highway junction. At about 7pm we pulled back into the Tombstone campground (km 71.5) with the low-fuel alarm sounding and a warning to check the front left tire. The computer was wrong on all counts. The back right tire was slack (which Ron changed) and this morning proved we could have gone another 30 kms past the junction (but not 100).

How many roads? Well that is enough for now. We are now back in Dawson City and tomorrow we will point the car towards home. But next time (and there will be a next time) that we try to do the Dempster we’ll have to somehow figure out how to store 20 litres of extra gas along with the two spare tires we are already toting under the bed.Do the Dempster
Do the Dempster - Click for larger

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Sunday 1 August 2010

An Apology

Spruce Trees
Spruce Trees - Click for larger

I need to apologize. I have judged Winnipeg harshly. We were driving through Manitoba listening to CBC radio and heard the warning for people to stay indoors in certain neighbourhoods while they sprayed for mosquitoes. I said, “Good grief are they really still doing that spray program knowing what we know about pesticides today?”

But that was before. I have been enlightened since then. I have been to the Northwest Territories!
Fireweed and Boreal Forest
Fireweed and Boreal Forest - Click for larger

The hordes of bugs attacked the moment we stepped out of the car at the border. We looked almost calm in this photo.Ron and Lori and the NWT border
Ron and Lori and the NWT border - Click for larger
Strangely enough the hundreds of attacking horse flies at first seemed more interested in the dead bugs squished onto our car. But they found us soon enough. And those horse flies weren’t alone. They were accompanied by hundreds of black flies and mosquitoes. So as I slathered myself in bug dope I realized I owed Winnipeg this apology. I’m sorry. If I lived with this many bugs, I would want to spray too!

We soldiered on doped-up and with new respect for those that live in the real North. I did wonder if the swarming horde was what drove the bison to role in their dirt wallows – their tails seem to be too short to be an effective fly swatter. Bison Herd
Bison Herd - Click for larger

This Waterfalls photo is for you Mom.Lady Evelyn Falls, NWT
Lady Evelyn Falls, NWT - Click for larger

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