Monthly Archives: August 2009

Aug. 27 Today – A temporary change in focus

    View of the river from the Millenium Trail foot bridge over the shoulder of an exceptionally cute Whitehorse resident

View of the river from the Millenium Trail foot bridge over the shoulder of an exceptionally cute Whitehorse resident

Good morning. I am sitting in Canadian Tire while they do an oil change and look for Dempster damage on Vincent, and guess what? They have a full range wireless service here so I can use the sitting time to connect with you.

No fall colours this far south yet

No fall colours this far south yet

As I drove here I was impressed by Whitehorse in the summer. I love it here in the winter. People embrace the cold and dark in such a big way with festivals, art and outside activities but in the summer the whole place goes crazy with tourists. I quick scan of the license plates int the parking lot here shows vehicles from all over western Canada and the USA. (The woman in the Dawson City visitor centre said that not many people come from east of Alberta in Canada. I wonder why that is?) If you listen, the predominant tourist accent is German and Erik tells me, “not German Mom, Austrian.”  I am sure there are lots of Germans too. The streets are busy with RV’s and trailers of all makes and model. Hundreds of them and I am not exaggerating.  It makes crossing the street difficult and line ups at the grocery stores long. As a tourist, I love the accommodations made here for us, free tourist parking, lots of information, friendly people etc. As a person who loves visiting here, I find it congested and frustrating. Funny to sit on both sides of the fence

Whitehorse below the stairs

Whitehorse below the stairs

I am ready to move on. As much as I love visiting the kids and grand baby,  I am restless to continue my travels as long as I can. I have however changed my focus for a time. My uncle in Vancouver is having some sudden and critical surgery. Because I am in the area, I can help and I am flying to Vancouver Monday to be with the family and offer my hands where ever possible. Karma is coming with me. I know Vancouver challenges her but I am sure she will be better for it. Vincent is going to stay here and help Desiree and Dave for a few weeks. I am so grateful to be in a place where I can take advantage of Desiree’s position at the airline for standby tickets (thank you Air North and Joe Sparling for their policies about parents of employee’s flying) and of course to be in a geographical position to do something that I could never have dreamed of from home.

Cliff stairs

Cliff stairs

My blog will probably change as I settle in one place for a while but I will keep you posted. I think that stopping for a length of time will give me time to sit down with my adventure so far and do some processing of the experiences and materials that I have collected. I hope to use the time well and maybe write some articles that I have been sitting on.

Keep posted for that.

Aug. 23 A three rainbow day

Eagle Plains Lodge

Eagle Plains Lodge

Written the evening of Aug 23 from Moose Creek Campground

Today was a beautiful day. The sun shone for most of it and when it did decide to pour, I was on the last 6km of the Dempster so I didn’t even get too muddy. I got gas at the Klondike Creek Lodge and then because it was pouring ate dinner there while I decided whether to head west to Dawson City where I would get a $10 campground with a van wash and internet, or if I would head South and East towards Whitehorse which was 500km away and I knew that I would have stop somewhere for the night. I had already driven almost 400km and was not going to push it much further. At the last second I decided to head south and wound up in this pretty campground near a stream. I will manage a good hike before bed.

Fireweed showing its fall colours

Fireweed showing its fall colours

I was surprised at the difference I found on the Highway. It had stopped raining two days before and the road was much easier to drive than when I came up…not perfect but I think I went almost 80 most of the way. The leaves on the alders were changing to a warm gold which brightened the plains and the mountains. The colours were so vivid. I took pictures but I can tell here that my camera is not doing justice to the golds, purples, pinks and blues. I thought that on the way south things would be familiar and I wouldn’t stop to take pictures but I was wrong. It was like a different road. Luckily I saw very little traffic. I could just stop the van, jump out and get the shot. No one was upset.

Alders along the river valley

Alders along the river valley

The colours

The colours

I saw a sign that said horses crossing and then, there was a herd of about 15 of them grazing in a river valley. I stopped the car. Later I asked at the interpretive centre if they were domesticated horses turned loose to graze or if they had escaped and were wild. Apparently they belong to outfitters and are used for hunting. They looked beautiful out there. Very wild west.

Horses in the distance

Horses in the distance

I love driving like this.

After dinner I went out of the restaurant and the air smelled so good. It had stopped raining but the sky was heavy with clouds. Sun was peeking around them. I had another hour to drive and suddenly I started seeing rainbows. Two partial ones and then a total bow that bent right down on to the road in front of me. The end was so clear that I almost stopped to see if I could find the pot of gold. Here in gold rush country I am sure that it would have turned up something but all seemed too peaceful to disrupt with that kind of a find.

Pot of gold right over there

Pot of gold right over there

My campsite is beautiful. The campground is almost empty and to my right my neighours have two adjoining sites with two big rental campers. They are German so all I can hear is German being spoken. To my left the crackle of a fire that my other neighbour has started. No talking at all from that site. He must be alone.

In the distance, I can hear a rooster crowing. That must mean there is a farmstead nearby. I didn’t see anything but the Moose Creek Lodge is up the road and come to think of it when I took the pictures of the huge mosquito and weird moose there the other day, there was some poultry running around. It is hard to believe that I am in the middle of nowhere. I guess if I asked the rooster to define nowhere he would say that this was home.

Vincent is a nice home for me too. Last night I was cold enough to pull my hat onto my head in the middle of the night. I was cozy under the covers but my ears were cold. I need a hair cut so much but maybe I should keep the fuzz to keep me warm as the nights get colder.

Well…off for a walk and then to bed. I will send this from Whitehorse tomorrow.

How could I forget

How could I forget to say…I finally saw some wild life besides bunnies and marmots who seem to cross the road in front of you often but at the speed everyone is traveling…you don’t see many flattened on the road.

Yesterday I saw three somethings….in the field far off the road. Caribou??? I was so excited that I pulled over and dragged out the binoculars. Darn they are not very good but enough to see that the dots on the horizon were not caribou but bears…and I think that they were grizzley bears because of the colouring.

Here is the picture I took. Gosh I wish I had a “real” telephoto lens. My bears would be the specks you see there. They were slightly bigger with the binoculars. 🙂

Can you see the specks. That is them. They were going for a walk. Probably Mom and two kids.

Can you see the specks. That is them. They were going for a walk. Probably Mom and two kids.

Oh and by the way, in my last post I mentioned profound saddness. Just to clarify. That is a global thing. Something that seems to be part of my DNA as I see the world changing not necessarily for the better….on the other hand, who am I to say. Change is the only constant.  In general I am rediculously happy.

No internet tonight. Keep your thoughts focused on Vincent’s overall good health. I will be back in Whitehorse tomorrow…submerged in a hot bath up to here.

Aug 22 Heading South

Aug 22 Written from a campsite in Eagle Plains heading south on the Dempster Highway

Inuvik a solution to dark winter days

Inuvik a solution to dark winter days

I am sitting at a picnic table at a campsite at the Eagle Plains Service area. The sun is hot and the fireweed fluff is blowing past me. It is a beautiful afternoon. I am headed south again and each kilometer brings me further away from the Arctic Circle. I am sad to leave. Not having a couch surfing host I didn’t spend enough time there although I wonder what amount of time would be enough. Certainly I would have to try a winter of total darkness to really appreciate it and even then, I met more people who love the long dark than who hated it. I guess those who don.t like it pack up and go home.

Yesterday I met Naudia at the info centre. She is the woman that Evelyn in Dawson recommended that I look up. We spent lots of time discussing life and the state of the world. We spent some time talking about the changing weather and what it means not only to the north but to the world. “The mother is tired of our constant meddling.” she told me…and with the things that are happening right now it would be hard to disagree with that.

Mackenzie Delta

Mackenzie Delta

My Mackenzie Delta boat tour didn’t happen for various reasons but I did get in a Cessna 207 at the surprisingly large Inuvik airport and flew over the delta to Tuktayuktuk where I met Boogie and had a two hour tour of the hamlet.

The plane. Not a float plane but pretty darn good.

The plane. Not a float plane but pretty darn good.

Boogie lives off of the land and to supplement his income, if he is in town he gives tours. His family was one of the first 3 families to make a permanent home in the area when the government was encouraging the people to make permanent settlements in the early 1960’s. Boogie was educated on the land but also sent to a school to learn English and other things that have helped him have a good grasp on what is going on in not only his community but in the larger picture. I found him to be really knowledgeable.

Another view of the delta - it is huge

Another view of the delta - it is huge

His first lesson for us was to quit thinking of all first peoples as being the same. It didn’t seem to be a hard concept but he insisted that we always get it wrong. His people he said were Inuvialuit not Inuit or Qwit’chan. My sense as he spoke was that we can no more consider all first nations peoples as a unit than we could look at Europe and consider all of the people there to be the same. The French would balk if you mixed them up with Turks, the Germans claim not to be the same as the Italians etc.  Why do we do that? I guess it is the same as being rolled into a lump with women’s issues, the rights of the handicapped or Canadians. None of those groups would stand up and say that each one of them have the same interests and yet we love to generalize.

Tuk from the air

Tuk from the air

I did get my toe into the Arctic Ocean…kind of. At the Mouth of the Mackenzie, Boogie told us that we were dipping mainly into the warmed river water. I was surprised that even though the brisk wind was cold, the water although not balmy was not too bad. I would have dunked my whole self in except our flight was leaving I didn’t really have time to take my shoes and socks off let alone find a place to change and jump in. (I did have my bathing suit) For those of you who know that I won’t go into water less than 85 degrees, I had decided that I would suffer just to say that I swam a stroke or two in the Arctic and so the only reason I didn’t was circumstances. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Lightly dipped into the ocean

Lightly dipped into the ocean

The story of Tuk and the way it has become a community was facinating. I won’t go into it all here because….who has time but I do want to tell you about the ice house.That was amazing. In the 60’s when many people moved to the area to make permanent homes, Boogie’s dad and some of the other men of the community dug a hole into the perma frost for the community to have a freezer. They dug a hole 30 feet into the ground and then made 3 halls off of that hole. Each 60 foot long hall has a number of rooms lining it and the rooms have doors. Each family has a room down there and it is their walk in freezer. The temperature stays a consstant -7 degrees. There are no lights. Boogie brought us down with a flashlight. I have some pictures but I am not sure that they will give you the idea. We went into one room tha thad a caribou and a number of geese in it. Baring something happening to the permafrost, it is a forever freezer. I wondered about the box of baking soda that would need to be down there to keep it smelling fresh…which it did. It just smelled cold and I really wasn’t dressed for the weather. It was amazing how warm and bright the top seemed when I climbed out.

Ice Hut

Ice Hut

Looking down the hole

Looking down the hole

One of the 60 foot long halls - it needs a bit of a defrost after all these years

One of the 60 foot long halls - it needs a bit of a defrost after all these years

Tour buddy John emerging from the depths

Tour buddy John emerging from the depths

We got home late from our adventure. By the time I settled in my campsite it was almost nine. I read in the van until midnight without the light on. I left all of my curtains open hopeing to see the northern lights when and if it got dark but when I woke up at 4ish, it was already pretty bright so I didn’t see any. If this keeps up I may have to wait til the winter when I come back to Whitehorse for Desiree’s baby to try and catch the illusive aurora borellis.  Trouble is, I am always asleep before they sneak past my window.

Pingo - Still growing

Pingo - Still growing

There is so much more I would like to say but I am on emotional over load right now. My heart is a tangle of “what if’s” and “holy smokes.” I am alternately profoundly sad and cranked to giddy. Lucky you aren’t here. I think I would be hard to live with.  A couple of days of driving should help but the scenery is so over whelming I am not sure when I will be grounded again.

Did that sound negative? Sorry if it did. It was not meant to. It all feels really good. I am remembering to breathe and it feels like a good house cleaning.

Talk soon.

Aug 20 The Arctic Circle

Me at the Arctic Circle

Me at the Arctic Circle

I’m here.  I can’t tell you what a thrill it is for me to actually cross the Arctic Circle. How Canadian. Isn’t if funny, our Canadian identity is so tied up with being northerners and most of us have never really been north. I love this place. It feels like me. Once, a long time ago a guy asked me where my dream place to live would be. I said, “someplace past the arctic circle.” He laughed at me. “Grow up'” he told me, “Adults have fun in the sun.” I am a real snow bird I think.

A few pictures and then to bed. A busy day tomorrow. I am heading for the Tuktoyuktuk, the Mackenzie Delta and the Arctic Ocean. Whooo Hoooo! I am leaving on Saturday and will pack as much as I can into tomorrow.  Talk the next time I have internet.

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Aug 19 From Eagle Plains 38k south of the Arctic Circle

Mile 0 Dempster Highway

Kilometre 0 Dempster Highway

I am sitting in a restaurant overlooking the Eagle Plains at the Eagle Plains lodge which is at Km 369. With my trip from Dawson today I did just over 400 k. All of it stunningly beautiful with the play of sun, clouds and rain over the face of the land. The pictures don’t do it justice because most of the day was gray but the interplay of light was awesome. I will add a few anyway.

Continue reading

Aug 18 Mayo to Dawson and illiteracy?

mayo-the-heart-of-the-yukon-signWritten Aug 18 from my campsite in Dawson

I am camping at a good sized RV campground just outside of Dawson City. As I ate my meal the wind was cold and rain was falling but now the sky is clearing and the wind has dropped. It is a nice night. I am leaving my curtains open hoping to see some northern lights but I saw a rainbow tonight as I was coming back from my shower so maybe one sky performance a day. I will keep watch though.

Mayo Landing  Not a bustling waterfront now

Mayo Landing Not a bustling waterfront now

I enjoy climbing into the back of Vincent at night. He is so warm and cozy. It doesn’t seem to matter that I have spent all day in the front end. The back end is differnt. It is becoming home.

I started out today in Mayo. Last night I came to the campsite before I reached the town. I was tired and pulled in without looking around. In the morning I went into Mayo…or rather found out that I had camped in town. The campground backed onto the school yard. I did here dogs barking during the night but had no idea that I was so close. Reading the history and seeing a film here in Dawson City I realize that Mayo is just a shadow of it’s former mining self when silver was transported from there on the steam boats but it has character and was fun to visit. Before lunch though I was on the road again heading for Dawson. I stopped at Moose Lodge because the owners obviously have a sense of humour. I got a good look at a Yukon mosquito and a moose that vaguely resembled an Ontario moose I saw when Sue and I drove out. At that stop I saw a van that said “On top of your dreams, you’ll find the North.” As I write it now…I am not sure why, but this morning It caught my imagination as I took deep breaths of the northern air. I have been asking myself why I live in SOUTHERN Ontario. Oh yes….family…right.

Yukon Mosquito

Yukon Mosquito

moose

I stopped at a rest area on Gravel Lake for lunch. There was a Yukon Roads truck there and a worker was tidying the area afer the long weekend rush. He came over and asked me about my sign on Vincent. He stuck his hand out and I met Gorden Hardie of Dawson City. He is on an adventure of his own. 3 years ago in his 50’s when reading with his neices and nephews he realized that they were not going to put up with his imaginary tales any longer. They wanted to read the words to the stories. Gorden couldn’t read. He started going to the Yukon Literacy coalition and after three years he is making headway. He has had a series of tutors, not all of them good but he is struggling on. He now represents the Yukon Literacy Coalition in meetings all over Canada. What a guy. He is a man with great courage and I admire him. I could have stayed and talked to him all day. Luckily he had a job to do so off I went.

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Again I was startled by the space between settlements and wondered at the few driveways that do go off of the main road. Who chooses to live THAT far from the most basic of services. Once I almost pulled off at a little homestead but that seemed a little too out there.

The road into Dawson City is strewn with huge piles of gravel. Remnants I imagine from the great rush to dig into the ground and sift huge piles of gravel looking for gold. It is strange to see. Once my brother-in-law who drives a dump truck told me that gravel was a limited resource. Once is is gone from an area…it is gone and companies have to find new sources. I wish I could think of a way to get it from here to there. There is plenty of it in them thar hills. I remember the great ships taking gravel from Sechelt. Today it must be worth almost as much as the gold that hid in it in the old days.

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The town is quaint and reminded me very much of Barkerville. The streets are dirt and there are boardwalks lining the down town. The buildings are painted colours that would make winter seem much brighter. I was in a couple of museums and of course the Yukon info centre. There is also a North West Territories Info centre for those of us thinking of hitting the Dempster Highway. I watched a movie telling me what to expect and got info. The woman who helped me was named Evelyn. She told me to look up her best friend in Inuvik when I get there. She says that Naudia is an amazing woman. My kind of lady. I hope she is working when I get there.

why-walk-on-the-board-walk

Why we walk on the boardwalks

Gorden gave me some insight into why tires get punctured out there. He said the road is made of crushed shale and the shards of shale work their way up and through the tires. He gave me some tips on how to get them out before they cause harm. That will be useful to me.

I am starting out tomorrow unless it is really raining. They don’t recommend being on it in the rain although I am told that it drys very fast when the rain stops. Wish me luck, lots of interesting people adventures and no car adventures. Send good energy to Vincent and his tires for the next 4 to 6 days. I can’t imagine I will have internet (although I have said that before and been surprised) so don’t worry about me if I am not in touch. I have my rainbow and the people who will be traveling the highway with me are a great bunch. Talk soon.

Rainbow over my campsite

Rainbow over my campsitelk soon

Aug 17 On the road again

Written Aug. 17th

Leaving Whitehorse in the rain

Leaving Whitehorse in the rain

It was raining this morning when I dropped Christopher off at his job and continued up the Alaska highway alone. My satalite radio is not working…something about the way the arial is installed say the Sirus people and so it was just me, myself and I heading north. It was raining but the highway was good although Dave and Desiree told me to expect some interesting spots…loose gravel, low and sometimes non existant barricades. They also told me that the road to Dawson was 6 hours long going 120k and I didn’t do 120 all day. The limit was 90. There were a few times that I noticed my speedometer creeping up past 100 but most of the time I was comfortably just about on the mark. I didn’t make Dawson but there came a time in the day when I decided not to go that far. A good nights sleep was something I wanted more. I love staying with the kids but they sure keep different hours than I do and so an early night was something I was looking forward to. Continue reading

Aug 15th “What I love about life,” and fireweed

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Fireweed is the Yukon’s official flower. It is beautiful, so intricate that it makes me want to rush home and get my sketch pad to try and capture it.  Today I was taking a walk along the various trails in town and I noticed something. When fireweed is done, it fluffs like milk weed. What a cool thing to see. I have only ever seen it in full bloom.

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As I was walking a young couple (maybe grade 10 or 11) walked toward me down the narrow forested trail. They were were talking and as they passed me I heard the fella say to her, “What I love about life is…”

My ears perked up.  I was about to hear something big. “I love that I did all of my screwing up in grade 8. I really learned my lesson then and now  I know what I need to know and life is great.”

By then they were passed me and I turned to watch them go. Their heads were close together. I was so impressed that he had learned the lessons of life by the time he left grade 8. I wondered what secrets he would have to pass along to me if I grabbed his arm and asked.  Even now I can remember the way his face glowed with the fresh air, the exertion of walking and the knowledge of life. What a beautiful time for him.

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I love this sign. They don’t say you can’t jump…just that it presents risks.

Can you see the turbulence?

Can you see the turbulence?

Aug. 13 How bad can it be?

Still dreaming of float planes

Still dreaming of float planes

I am still in Whitehorse enjoying some family time and waiting out a long weekend.  Discovery Day is the Yukon August long weekend and lots of people from here are abandoning their jobs for a time and hitting the roads and campgrounds along with the tourists. I figure the campgrounds will be packed so I am waiting it out and just getting Vincent checked out. All the usual stuff, fluids, tire pressure, hoses etc. I was even going to give him a bath but before starting on 800k of a dirt highway doesn’t seem like the best time for that. Maybe when we get back.

Miles Canyon

Miles Canyon

While all of that happens I am getting lots of family time, exploring and listening to the horror stories of the locals…specifically about the Dempster Highway. So how bad is it. I know it is a gravel road but some people say that it is well travelled and well maintained and others say…it is a route from hell, a strip of road designed to eat tires. Of course Vincent and I have traveled with nothing but the silly donut spare that comes with a car these days. Obviously this is not adequate for the job. So, with these stories ringing in my ears, I give up. I am buying a spare tire and installing it on the roof rack for the trip. Oh, I hate to spend the money but enough people have told me stories of time spent on the side of the road where no tow trucks go that I have to believe there is something to the tales. I did have someone today say…don’t worry about the tires…its the windshields that you have to worry about…

So, how bad is it??? Who knows. I will take some pictures and report back first hand every time I see internet…or when I get back to Whitehorse.

Take care and I will probably check in one more time before leaving on Monday morning. Have a great weekend.

10:30 pm

10:30 pm