Saturday, December 18, 2010
To start at the beginning and proceed chronologically, scroll well down (2/3 to 3/4 of the way to the end and look for July 26 and read down. To continue from the end, go back to July 26 and read upwards! I know that's silly!! David, our techie son, will be visiting in a couple of days and will help me sort it out. (In the meantime, I'm nervous to touch it in case it all disappears!)
Thanks for your patience!
And a Happy Holiday
Thursday, October 14, 2010
We’ve decided to stay two more nights so that we can see sunset at Kathleen Lake the only road (16km long) into the park. We found the bakery today and treated ourselves to lunch so that we could use their internet. Tasty food and bread! The internet at the library is not Wifi; so, we will be parking outside laundries and bakeries in order to transmit!
Today we drove up to Burwash Landing along Kulane Lake. It is so many colours and so long and beautiful! I overheard a fellow saying it was very cold, though! I think it is glacial water. We visited t complete with casts of tracks plus sounds. Kluane is a Unesco Heritage Site because of its variety of animals. Combined with the other Canadian parks that touch it, plus the American ones, Kluane is part of the largest area of protected wilderness on the planet—pretty special. The aspens have turned colour—a beautiful golden—it is early fall in Yukon, but the sun is hot in the afternoon. Ironically the agent at the Burwash museum is from the Saanich Peninsula!
At Burwash we found the old log church and fell into conversation with the fellow from Quebec who is caretaker—he knew the previous priests and bishops, and also Duplessis govt in Quebec. The casual conversations are among the most rewarding.
Today we left Whitehorse after spending the day doing business—banking on line, some festival emails, and some blogging. Also had a lovely shower at the Canada Games pool where I swam a couple of weeks ago. We left for Haines Junction at 6:00 for a beautiful 2 hour drive. The St.Elias mountains were coming up in the distance. Sun chased clouds, making shadows over the foothills.
The Kluane RV Park is very accommodating. It is the usual parking lot for RV’s but we lucked into a stall at the back and we look out over the forest to the St. Elias Mts. Fabulous!
Today we left Dawson. And we had over 500 km before Whitehorse to assimilate the experience and to try work out why we felt changed—it is after all a tourist town with all that that implies—but it is also so much more. Perhaps it’s the drive to and from (1100 km all told just to get there—through the quietest land we have ever been in, except for the Top of the World highway. It is not “dead quiet”; there is a living quality to the shaking of the aspens and the movement of the wind. One does not feel an intruder, though, and there does not seem to be a watcher as there used to be in the mountains beyond Port Alberni, but there is a sense of living breathing space. We need to work more on what this is—or maybe not.
The hillsides have changed. Some are yellow and the trees are losing leaves. Autumn has arrived. Temperatures in Dawson this week have been 2 or 3 C at night. It is all part of the strangeness of the North.
On our way south today we stopped to check out two of the old Roadhouses (Carmacks and Montague), which dotted the sleigh route north just after the Gold Rush days of 1997-98. The horses pulled sleighs of about 12 passengers all enveloped in buffalo skin robes and their own toasty clothing, feet perched on warm bricks. (I remember my Mom talking about covering the 7 miles from Brandon to the farm in the same way!) Every 20 miles the sleigh passengers would stop at one of the many roadhouses and have a hot meal or sleep overnight. The trip went unless the temperature had dipped below -40F. The sleigh route was run by the White Pass and Yukon Railway people—just an extension of the railway over the pass.
No pictures to post! The watchmacallit on the uploader has broken.
Aug 19 – 22/10: Dawson
The nectarine has shown itself! Now to eat it—seems odd having fresh fruit this far north. Picked up a lettuce today which was clearly marked ‘ Grown in Yukon”—strange because there seems only to be boreal forest, but apparently on the islands in the river it is possible to have a nice garden.
We took a tour of the town today with a guide—the whole town is a Parks Canada historical site. It is really a strange place: everything possible is done to maintain the turn-of-the-century gold rush ambiance. That means that some buildings have been beautifully restored, while other modern houses are hidden behind fronts that are turn-of-the –century. Some buildings say what they are, like Grocery, but others are hidden: the Saddlery building really contains the modern liquor store. And NOTHING is paved—all roads are gravel and sand with wooden sidewalks off the ground—not scooter friendly! Other buildings further off the main center are just what you would expect: there is a beautiful new school building and community library. All the roofs are tin because between 1896 and 1898 there were three huge fires, all made worse by over-crowding. A city ordinance required tin roofs and now modern buildings comply as well.
We have done all there is to do, except move north: We have visited Diamond Gertie’s saloon and seen the gambling and the show--very colourful and well produced. We have a picture of Jim (perfectly sober!) hugging Gertie! They have good food as well.
We have also visited Dredge #4, which is a huge mechanized version of how the gold rush miners got the gold out of the creeks. It was fun to drive out Bonanza Creek where the first claim was staked—now it is full of mine tailings as modern folk go back and try to find the leftovers, now worth today $1200/ troy ounce.
We stopped in at the Jack London visitor center. They have reconstructed his original cabin and have all sorts of memorabilia and stories about incidents that contributed to his book—including a description of the dog who inspired White Fang.
We have also visited the Klondike Peoples First Nations Center—a good explanation of their way of life and of the effect of the arrival of 30,000 miners. Chief Isaac saw what was coming and moved his people 3 km away and kept them within their traditional lifestyle. As a result, the Nation is very organized and forward-looking.
There are all sorts of stories about the women who came North—some with husbands, some to make their own fortunes.
Today we drove the Top of the World highway for a little ways. It connects Dawson with Chicken, Alaska, but the road is washed out on the other side of the border; so there is very little vehicle traffic. The views are stunning, as one drives along the top of a mountain range. We just went about 40 km and then turned around.
Last night we went to the Westmark Hotel and tried Arctic Char in their dining room—very tasty—much like a cross between Salmon and Halibut. I wonder if it can be got in Victoria.
The evenings are really really long. As I write this, it is 10:30 and I could read outside. It does darken around 11:30 and the light comes back around 3:00. Temperatures are dropping. Last night it was down to 3 C. People are wearing Jackets, although the afternoon sun is actually hot!
The only thing left to do in town is to make the final decision re the Sour Toe Cocktail!—maybe yes, maybe no.
leave on Tuesday. Maybe we will go to Gertie’s once more!
Before leaving Carmacks we stop in at the Interpretive Center. We are able to see a dugout canoe from one cottonwood tree and also a canoe of moose hide. There are adult-sized examples of caribou skins and beading for clothing and they are just like the dolls from the moose hide we saw them yesterday in the art gallery in Whitehorse.
We start off in the rain this time and drive as far as Pelly Crossing. We have lunch there and visit another interpretive center—the northern Tutchone people. And this time we see the women actually making the clothing and doing the bead work.
It is still drizzling as we set off, and traffic is getting even thinner. We are constantly topping up gas again as there are long long long isolated patches. I am grateful for the CD player and snacks! The road is good, but has frost boils occasionally. One just has to watch for a change in the colour of the pavement and slow down. There were a couple of surprise bumps, but everything in the trailer was fine—probably even the nectarine, which I presently cannot find.
We arrive in Dawson just before supper and settle in at the Bonanaza GoldRV park on the edge of town. Seems fine so far and has nice big sites! After supper we drove into Dawson to get a sense of the place—it’s like a ghost town combined with tourist mecca. We are looking forward to tomorrow’s visiting and maybe even a swim in the town pool!
We leave Whitehorse for Carmacks, ultimately to Dawson City tomorrow.
Before leaving Whitehorse we head up to the Yukon Arts Center. There is a display of First Nations dolls created by women who are reviving a traditional craft. There is a sense of action around all the figures, which include baby dolls, plus figures of hunters, women cleaning furs, festival regalia, and groups with families or the Grandmother figures who possess power. I expect to dream about the figures.
The administration offices had art as well, one of a Ted Harrison village scene on a totally hot pink wall! He is very warmly though of in Whitehorse where he taught art at the high school—just imagine!
We headed north and stopped at Lake Laberge Campground for lunch—yes, THE famous Lake Labarge! It looked pretty modern—the usual sites with pit toilets and a boat ramp! Part of me was looking for the Cremation of Sam McGee still underway!
And onward to Carmacks—the weather is no longer hot! Clouds of wind enliven the dust. We saw an empty four-cube cardboard box lifted 20 ft in the air by a dust devil. Washrooms don’t seem to be working today, but there is always the reliable pit toilet scenario. The highway is pretty good, though—just an occasional frost boil. And the Braemore Lodge’s cinnamon buns truly are big enough for 4 people. The server showed me how to pick the pre-wrapped ones—turn them all over and see how much of the cinnamon syrup has dripped through to the bottom! Pick the stickiest looking one! So far we have eaten the “best cinnamon buns at the center of the galactic cluster” (Teska Lake)”, the “best cinnamon buns in the world” (Johnson’s Crossing) and now one big enough for 4 people!
We are at Carmacks Hotel and RV Park tonight—It is across the road from the Yukon river and is a lovely setting—makes up for the dreadful bathroom situation—one potty for the entire park as the other one is out of service. Unisex facilities.
Aug 12 -17/10
Whitehorse in a nutshell:
The first night we were here we went to the Klondike Café—had muskox stroganoff combined with Caesar salad and foccaccia bred—life is practical and eclectic. We chatting with some people at the same table and at the end of the meal, they returned to their hotel and brought us back all sorts of tourist info to make our stay enjoyable! The muskox was interesting—not at all gamey!—and a great excuse for a stroganoff!
The oldest artifacts are in the Berengia Museum, which presents the time when this part of the world was a vast grassy plain connected to Russia by a very wide land bridge. I always knew about the land bridge which flooded over at the end of the last ice age, but failed to realize that the area was a Savannah like Africa complete with antelope and lions, not mention the mammoths!
The Transportation Museum is clearly more current—just the last three hundred years. We stuck to the airplanes as there was too much—although the dogs were fun. They wore packs before they pulled sleds—we were considering that for Milton—I know he would like to help. Out at the front of the museum is a DC-3 which is used as a weather vane—seems unlikely but it really does move with the wind!
The visit to the SS Klondike was a real highlight. On the cargo deck alone, the interpretive guide brought to life the quixotic nature of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers, as well as the importance of the 250 paddlewheelers to the life—food and wives! The menus looked tasty and food was fresh—caught off the boat or bought from hunters on shore when the boat stopped for wood or to deliver a cargo. They burned 1 cord of wood every hour—there are few large cottonwood trees left for the traditional canoes.
Jim took a ride on the Waterfront Trolley, a 1925 car that runs on the one track now left from a very busy waterfront where there used to be 6 tracks and trains waiting to load on them.
We went to the Log Church on Sat and enjoyed seeing another Christ Church Cathedral in such a different form. It is a museum with a thorough history of the Anglican church in the North--Bishops Bompass and Stringer seem to have been strong in body and spirit, bringing the best of Christianity to the North. Sunday we went to the 10:30 service and found a warm welcome. The guest preacher was a former bishop of Yukon who is currently serving in Nicosia, Cypress.—small world.
I also enjoyed a wonderful swim in the Canada Games Pool built in 2007. One wall of the pool is entirely glass and looks out on the mountains.
Started the day with two interpretive centers—the George Johnson Museum at Teslin as well as the Tlingit Interpretive Center. Johnson is a fascinating figure as photographer, artists and recorder of his people in the 30’s. He was the first person in the North to buy a car that he used to paint white in the winter so that he could hunt effectively. The museum does a wonderful job of explaining the joy of the Tlingit culture and the effect of the Alaska Highway on the people. In the fall of 1941 the people went out on their trap lines and in the spring when they returned to Teslin, there was a 35,000 American army building the highway. Girlfriends of the soldiers amused themselves by visiting gravesites and robbing them of artifacts. It was simply the end of the way of life as they knew it. Sometimes it is surprising that European folk like Jim and I can receive a warm welcome at the cultural center.
Before arriving at Whitehorse we stopped to walk into the bush on the boardwalk at Rancheria Falls—very beautiful, still, and no bears in the area (unusual!), but I took the bear mace anyway!
Onward to Teslin—a short hop. Dawson Peaks is a beautiful treed campground—with only one washroom, but operated by a fellow who was determined to tell us how to park.
Watson Lake—We stay here today.
This town has associations. My girlfriend, Gail’s, family lived here before moving to Trenton where I met her in 1961. The airbase was originally part of the Northeast Staging Route, which saw about 8 airbases across the north before the Alaska highway. Whitehorse is the next one east and that is where my father was stationed in Operation Muskox in the early part of the war. The Watson airport is a current place where one can fly in, but it is full of pictures of airmen, airplanes and social life from WWII. I have many like them at home. I am reminded that my parents met at a Red Cross dance in Brandon. Today there are the constant sounds of helicopters with water buckets as they return to base after a day of forest fire fighting.
We also saw the signpost forest—over 70,000 signs from all over the world, including Sooke! Wish I had brought one from Victoria. We met a woman who was looking for a sign placed there thirty years ago by her parents who are now gone!
Then we went into the Northern Lights Center. They have a very lucid explanation of the phenomenon, plus a gorgeous film of a display of the lights—boy, would I like to see the real thing one day!
Aug 9/10: Watson Lake
STARTED AT Visitor’s center—saw a video of the Yukon and especially the Alaska Highway! Then we wandered through the exhibit and the Signpost Forest—over 70,000 signs! --even Sooke. Then we went to the Northern Lights display—how beautiful—apparently the real thing is seeable in late August—maybe we’ll have some luck!
Then we went to the historical airport—many pictures of wartime—young men being cheerful and dancing with girls. Wonder where they came from!! Dorothy Grey met Jim Brown, her future husband, at a Redcross dance on the prairies. Watson Lake owes its existence to the Northwest Staging Route (Jim Brown was part of that in Whitehorse with Operation Muskox) and then the Alaska Highway.
Finished the day at the supermarket—owner gave me flowers! HOW VERY WELCOMING!
We have nice neighbours at the rv camp tonight. Had supper outside as there is a little breeze, which is discouraging the bugs!
Heading for Teslin tomorrow—Dad will wash the rv and car first—maybe!!
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Change of plans: the fires have closed Hwy 37 between Dease Lake and the Yukon border. Our only route into the Yukon is Hwy 97, the famed Alaska Highway! Maybe we can do our Yukon visit and then come out south via Hwy 37 and take 16 across BC to the prairies.
And so, today we head for Chetwynd through pine forests, hay fields, giving way to deciduous tress—cottonwoods—then lakes and forest (mostly pine). Snacked at Crooked River—warm and lots of cicadas celebrating summer! Drove on to McCloud—oldest continuous settlement in BC (1805). It now consists of a general stores and liquor outlet, plus post office.
At 4:30 the sun comes out—finally—there has been a gray smoke over everything.
We are driving along the Rocky Mountain Trench—and they are recognizable Rockies, even to those of used to the Roger’s Pass version of Rockies! Not much other traffic today. Arrived at Chetwynd to an RV park West. . . . .—great washrooms and laundry. The sites are industrial and full of garbage—our firepit has a worn out serpentine belt in it and the next door picnic table is covered in empties, a towel and someone added socks during the night!
Before leaving Chetwynd, we drive around and look at the chain saw sculptures from the competition the town hosts. Look at the pictures—mythic and First Nations subjects executed in perfect detail!
Today we headed into the Peace River country and stopped for along time at the Bennett Dam. The creation of Williston Lake is a work of destruction and of beauty. (He retired to Victoria, and lived just down Cedar Hill Cross Road from us. He knew Elizabeth.) We took the tour of the powerhouse: “ginormous” does not begin to describe the forces present in the mountain. When we exited into the manifold room with its 6 stories of water swooshing out into the valley, I felt a strong need for some poetry—and some cello!
The Peace River and its valley are beautiful beyond description. Mountain ranges with dark tree lines and stern rocky tops slop down to foothills then wheat and hay fields on steppes and finally to the river valley. This extraordinary piece of the earth must not be flooded to make the Site C under discussion. It is unique and irreplaceable.
The car is to be commended for managing the many 10% grades with switchbacks. Thank goodness for the driving practice in the Okanagan! Tonight we are camping at just north of Fort St John at Charlie Laken and plan to take the morning to do a bit of banking, wash the car etc before heading further north. I like it here; it’s peaceful and basic.
The RV Park at Charlie Lake Recreation and Leisure Park is beautifully treed and carefully tended. A retired couple touring on a motorcycle tell us how dreadful the road is south of Dawson and also south of Fort Nelson. Noted!
We tour the museum in Fort St John. It has settings of life in a hospital, in trappers cabins, during WWII, in kitchens as well as an excellent explanation of the role of the Hudson Bay Co and the forts in the area. This is a very young area of the country and I recognize from my childhood many of the tins of spices and washing machines!
Then we have lunch at Mama Panda’s and head for Fort Nelson. I’m curious to see the town because two of my favourite colleagues have taught there. The drive is gray again—this time because of rain.
When we arrive we stay at the Bluebelle Motel and RV Park. This is another RV parking lot, though with full services. Poor Jim sets up in the rain and we stay in all evening—so does everyone else. It continues to rain all night and in the morning the trailer is sitting in a puddle and Jim is sliding around, nervous to unhook the electricity in the midst of the wet!
The washrooms are in a building which has a lake in front of it. This place is off the list for the return trip!
This is a landmark day in that we enter the Yukon. Now we’re really north, although we are nowhere near Dawson yet!
We stop at Tetsa Lake Service for gas and to try the ubiquitous cinnamon buns. Gas is $1.40/litre, but the cinnamon buns are fabulous! We talk with a German couple who are touring. We have wonderful information about RVing in Norway if we ever get there!
Still raining—wonder if any of this moisture is far enough east to help with the forest fires. Apparently the highway is now open sometimes with a pilot car convoying a few vehicles through.
Then we stop at Toad River—the usual gas station, restaurant and motel. We see the same couple from Germany. We are all afraid to pass a gas station. There are numerous settlements like Toad River but they have been closed and we get nervous about what might be ahead. We were warned to drive on the top half of the tank—top quarter is even better—the German couple had very nearly run out of gas!
Had lunch at the Muncho Park pullout—water is supposed to be many different colours, but it is such a grey day that one can only imagine!
Then we stopped at Coal River—more gas. Burning premium right now to give the engine every chance on the grades. Not much traffic it seems.
Arrived at Watson Lake at 6:35. Trees in the campground RV Services—very ordinary name for a charming site—and such a nice treat after the wet start to the day in Fort Nelson! Now starts the Yukon adventure!
Cache Creek to Prince George—countryside we have never before seen. And it’s covered with a gray pall except for the eerie red light from yesterday afternoon. The air smells acrid and grabs at the throat. As we get a little north of Quesnel ground smoke is visible just over the hills—close enough to the fire!!
We stay just outside the city in a pretty RV park called Southpark. The proprietor has gone to a lot of trouble with flowers—every site has a huge tub of red and white petunias—a pleasant sight after the barren hills of the drive. The beauty here is that of ranch country.
Monday, August 16, 2010
And the great adventure begins! We’re on the 9:00 ferry on an enviable west coast day We’re looking forward to a few days with Eliz and Chris before they head for Ontario—new stuff is afoot! I’m really happy we will see them for awhile in late September, but headed north by going south from here to Seattle to the opera! First of all to pick up the Guppy from Tammy and Reace and then to install ourselves at Burnaby Cariboo RV Park—easier said than done as the spaces are more than a little narrow! With the help of the “helper” I backed into a cedar hedge and scratched the car—poor car, but we’ll worry about paint later—like November.
For readers who haven’t heard—Eliz has finished her MFA in poetry and Chris has a very generous scholarship to start his Masters at York U in Toronto.
We spend the morning squirming into the Guppy with enough stuff for 3 months. Thanks to Tammy and Reace’s planning, we get nearly everything in and still have room in the van (our tow vehicle 2009 Dodge caravan) to seat 4 people!
Supper with Eliz and Chris was amazingly collected and a great visit! They are really well organized--Eliz followed David’s good work in helping me set up this blog. Clearly, by the length of time it has taken me to get posting, there were some aspects I didn’t get. Here’s hoping!
The big anniversary –a nice round 10 years for Eliz and Chris. Lots of memories of events 10 years ago—how can it be so long! Especially since the top layer of the wedding cake is still in my freezer!
Before supper we meet at Queen Elizabeth park and join up with Patrick and Julie, Barrie and Margaret, Trevor and Gitai, and Jeremy. David will join us later at the restaurant, Crave, and Matthew is unable to trade off his work shift.
What a fabulous dinner—great food and even better company! It is heartwarming to see that Elizabeth and Chris are part of such a gifted and promising group! We have lots of great pics—just a couple here!
Jim and I return to the RV Park to prepare to leave in the morning. David will stick around and do last-minute helping for the big move! Lots of hugs—it will be awhile!
Wagner calls—off to Seattle to see Tristan and Isolde. The Ring cycle last summer (09) seems to have made Wagner fans of us—at least Seattle Wagner fans!
We stay, as per usual on Opera jaunts, at the KOA in Kent, just south of Seattle. The breakfasts are as good as ever and the couple of work it have their son back from Afghanistan. One always wonders. . .
Had an extra good sleep this am and got ready to go to the Pre-opera lecture for 5:00. It was a good thing we went—The director took a very interesting turn from the point in the story where Tristan and Isolde take the death potion which seems to turn into a love potion for most of the rest of the opera. The director interpreted the events after the taking of the potion as a stretching of time such as happens in “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”—a story in which a northern spy is being hung off a bridge by a party of Confederates who find him. They kick the board out from under his feet and he falls, but the rope breaks and he slips into the water and swims away to safety, eventually making his way to his wife who is waiting on the front porch of their home. Just as he reaches to embrace her joyously, the rope around his neck reaches the end of its travel and his neck snaps. So all the intervening events were all an extension of thoughts in time. So. . . the opera director interpreted events between the taking of the potion and the deaths of the lovers as being part of their mind-processes in the interval. As a result the set changes very little. Only the costumes which where bright red in the beginning change as the life drains out of them. At the end the costumes are white with only a red sash.
There is a great deal of standing still and singing—it is interpreted as a very introspective opera—quite a change from ‘wagner’s Ring Cycle last summer. The voices, as usual for Seatle, were stunning and engaging.
And at the end of the opera the Question and Answer period was taken by the director and by Speight Jenkins. The latter is a real blessing to the opera, for both his musical expertise and for his courage in supporting new opera and new interpretations.
Into the familiar pack-up routine and off to Belingham, via a wonderful visit with Liliane and Herb, as well as Ron and Caroline plus Bonnie and Jim. We had a great lunch and visit—reminded me of feeds on the prairies! Lots of good advice about travel in the North. Ron and Caroline have a son and family in Alaska and know the roads well! Herb has done a lot of hunting.
Bellingham RV park is ok. It is devoid of trees, but well run and the wash and laundry rooms are spotless.
We stay in Bellingham to have lunch at Birch Bay with Caroline and Ron, Bonnie and Jim, and cousin Max. Great restaurant with tasty food and more conversation—hadn’t run out yet! Bonnie had excellent pictures of the previous day’s gathering all set to examine. Max drove his restored Packard—what a neat car. Maybe I’ll get a ride next time! Back to Vekved’s for a famous Caroline pie and coffee! What a solid send-off to the north.
We head for Cache Creek—an uneventful border crossing. Actually the Duty Free adventure was more exciting! The entrance to the parking lot (at Sumas) is unclear (I do say!) and I went “in” the “out” while towing the trailer—made for a rather messy turnaround, but two cars obligingly moved to help out! Then a rainstorm complete with thunder and lightning broke! Man!
We drove up the Fraser Canyon as a change from the Coquihalla. It is a beautiful route, especially in an air-conditioned van. Jim and I were exchanging stories about how hot it used to get going through there: Terpsichory (Pomeranian) lost all her hair from the heat on one trip. I used to get a Coke ice cream float in Kamloops!
We start to “feel” Canada. There are two trains (CN and CP) on two different tracks. The weight of the rumble of the trains is just a hint of the extent of the nation.
But the sky is gray and there is the smell of smoke in the air. The sun, when it breaks though in the afternoon, is an eerie red—forest fires as far away as Stewart.
At Cache Creek we stay at Brookside Campside—still here from 1995 when we tented here with the kids-ages 13, 10 and 7. Seems an eternity ago. The Campsite is very comfortable with amenities and lots of trees! The couple next door warn of highway closures in the east (Hwy 37) and dense smoke!