Vast. The Yukon is vast, and we have only touched on a tiny part of this huge province. There are only 30,000 people living in all this space, and half of them live in Whitehorse. British Columbia felt big and yet somehow welcoming, but the Yukon feels vast and formidable. This is the true north, a land of hundred mile views and dark boreal forests of spruce and aspen.
We slept all night in intermittent downpours and woke to the clouds parting just enough to let the sunlight paint dancing lights throughout the interior of the MoHo. Mo and I sat in silence with our tea and the light on the lake. I expected to find beauty on this trip, but wasn’t expecting the awesome tranquility that enveloped me this morning. I walked again to the shore of the turquoise lake, trying to capture that amazing color one last time before we buttoned up the rig and drove north.
On the road by 7:30, it was again raining, and in a very short time we reached the dark ghostly spires of burned trees. The fire in 2010 burned for five weeks, and last month the second fire only burned for a week. It’s part of the cycle but still hard to think of the huge numbers of displaced animals and miles of blackened forest. The caretaker at Kinaskan Lake talked of problems with bears who have lost their habitat and are now roaming into new territory to find food.
The road conditions were the worst of the 37, with rough gravel surface, no shoulders, and steep climbs and curves. In the burn area we saw a lot of older cars parked along the road, and couldn’t figure out what it was about until we saw the big tent with a sign on it that said, “Mushroom Buyer”. The shrooms must be thick in all that recent burn.
It was less than 50 miles to the Yukon border and just a few short miles beyond was the Alaska Highway, the mythical ALCAN. We approached the junction with Highway 37 and marked our mileage to zero. Since mileage on the highway starts from Dawson Creek, we have to add 626 miles to our odometer to follow along in the Milepost. We stopped at the BeaverLodge resort for gas, again paying around 5.47 C$ per US gallon to fill the MoHo for the stretch to Whitehorse.
Once on the highway, we were amazed at the road itself. Wide lanes, freshly painted lines, broad shoulders, it was as smooth and good as any highway anywhere all the way to Whitehorse. We have Mo’s photos from her 1974 Alaska trip, and I opened up the files to track her route so many years ago. The entire road was all gravel, rutted and narrow and wild. I think traveling the Alaska Highway in 1974 was much more of an adventure than it is today. We covered in one day what it took Mo two and a half days to cross back then and drove the 300 plus miles from our campsite to Whitehorse in just a few hours.
A small delight in the early part of the day was a short walk to Rancheria Falls, along the Rancheria River. There is an interpretive trail and sign at the stop and its well worth doing. There is a boardwalk designed for access for everyone through the forest to the falls, a nice touch in a wild and lovely place.
The landscape of the Yukon is so broad, and filled with water, huge long lakes along the highway almost at every turn. Maybe because the skies were stormy, it seemed to be a dark and brooding place. I can’t imagine what living here must be like through the long dark winters. It is so beautiful, and so vast, and so empty.
I love that feeling of emptiness. I think being in a world crammed with people and cell phones and computers and televisions has an effect on us in ways we don’t imagine. After several days of an absence of all that, I felt something shifting in me. The north is quiet in a deep way that isn’t found in many places.
Later we stopped at the rest area and information kiosk overlooking Teslin. It was wild, and looking north into the river wilderness I imagined how exciting it would be to put the kayaks in that river and paddle upstream to the wildlife refuge.
When we reached Whitehorse, it was raining, and we decided to stay at Hi Country RV, just on the south edge of town. Again, we had no reservations, but here we were lucky to get a place, and at 3pm we snagged the last full hookup site which also turned out to be a pull through. Didn’t really matter much since we planned to go to town anyway with the car, but it was an easy setup. With our AAA discount, the park cost 34 C$ per night and we took two nights. The laundry room looks big and the WiFi is free and fast, two important factors for our first two night stay of the trip.
We drove down to the information center in downtown Whitehorse, which is quite lovely, and gathered bits of information that we thought we might need. Tomorrow we plan to see a few things around town after essentials are done, including a tour of the Yukon Brewery, and the Klondike paddlewheeler.
Back home, I cooked some supper while Mo checked out the news. Mo usually goes with the flow in almost every situation, but she shook her head and said, “I can’t believe how big and developed Whitehorse has become. I suppose they have even paved the roads at Dawson City!” I guess we will find out. Right now in this very large, very nice RV park it feels like we are just about anywhere USA, not in the wild north of the Yukon on the Alaska Highway. I guess a lot has changed in 35 years.
There is rain predicted for the next few days, but hopefully it will open up in between storms as we continue north to Dawson City and the Top of the World Highway. For now, I will enjoy the cushy comforts of RV life and crawl into my soft bed with real sheets and running water and a toilet nearby that doesn’t require braving hordes of mosquitoes.
Excellent road conditions, smooth pavement, minor bridge construction, no delays
The rest of the photos are linked here