Monday, June 27, 2016

Skagway to Fairbanks, via Whitehorse, AK. May 13-19, 2016

Skagway to Fairbanks, AK via Whitehorse, YT. May 13-19, 2016

The day we left Skagway we purposely took our time driving around the Skagway area before leaving. We drove over to the start of the Chilkoot Trail at Dyea and we visited the historic cemetery in Skagway. Both worth a visit if you have the time. 

A photo from the road to Dyea. 

I didn't want to leave town until around 1-2pm. This would allow us to arrive in the high country several miles east of the mountain pass at the Alaska/BC border in the mid afternoon.

We arrived at a pullout along about 3pm after a 23 mile drive and a short stop at Canadian 

A caution about boondocking along this highway.  The US and Canada customs check points are several miles apart and close at night.  If you park between the them and have a need to leave you are stuck until they open in the morning. 

Here is our overnight parking spot:

Here is our view of the lake and snow covered mountain the next morning:

Before we left the high country we got to see this beautiful mountain goat from a distance.

A little north of Carcross on the way to Whitehorse there is a pullout with a great view of Emerald Lake, an emerald blue-green lake.

The blue green color comes from calcium carbonate forming from the run off from the limestone hills and settling to the bottom forming a white marl. Also Diatroms, an alge, grow in these shallow lakes and form a calcium carbonate shell which falls to the bottom adding to the marl. Although the info plaque in the image below doesn't state it, I believe the blue green is because the water absorbs all the colors except the blue green spectrum which is reflected from the white bottom.

More info about the color of the lake:

Whitehorse, YT area.

The first two nights in the Whitehorse area we stayed at Wolf Creek Provincial CG. $12. No dump or electricity. There is a hand pump for water. We took campsite #43, a very long backin site. If you can figure out a way to turn around you can pull in and have a nice view of the tiny Wolf Creek out your window. A very private site.

The first afternoon we drove into Whitehorse, drove around to locate grocery stores, visitor centers, museums, etc.

One site I hoped to visit was the big stern wheeler paddle boat. However it is not going to open until the “Long weekend in May”. That would be Victoria Day, a three day weekend kind of like our Memorial Day. This year that is May 21-23rd. Victoria Day is always the Monday before the 25th of May.

The term “Long weekend in May” is a term we are seeing frequently in Canada. Many times it is in a statement something like “We are open from the long weekend in May until the long weekend in September.”. The long weekend in September coincides with our Labor Day weekend.

We did our shopping at the “The Real Canadian Superstore”. Similar to Walmart or Fred Myers. This store was recommended by a woman we talked with in Skagway. Seem like the people in Skagway drive the 140 or so miles to Whitehorse to go shopping.

I had an interesting surprise at the superstore. I went to grab a grocery cart and they were all chained together! I asked a store worker how to unhook the cart. He said you take a coin, stick it in this slot on the handle and it releases the cart. Come to find out you need a Loony coin. (a Canadian one dollar coin). The coin is captured by the lock mechanism. To get your coin back you need to take the cart back to a covered spot in the parking lot or back into the store and push it into another cart. Taking the chain from the cart in front of you and pushing it into the lock releases the coin. Or just leave the cart in the parking lot and you have paid $1 to use the cart.

While I was helping Sharon back into the truck an older gentleman (looked homeless or very poor) came by offered to take the cart back for us. I wonder just how many loonies he gets in a day?

The next morning I walked the 3km loop trail at Wolf Creek. A nice trail through the woods with a view of the mighty Yukon River.

I saw this Ptarmigan right at the start of the trail. Not a good picture, not enough light go get a better picture.

A little hard to see the ptarmigan, but look at the right center of the photo. It blends in really well with the background.

A view of the Yukon River. Not a very exciting river at this spot!

The Yukon River is the major drainage for much of the Yukon Territory (YT) and a very large part of Alaska.  It extends almost 2000 miles from its headwaters in YT to where it empties into the Bering Sea.

That is all the pictures I took in and around Whitehorse.

We stayed a 2nd night at Wolf Creek and then moved about 12 miles to the Walmart parking lot for the next two nights. Walmart is not as nice as Wolf Creek, but we do get sunlight for our solar panels and we don't have to make a 24 mile round trip to town to visit the museums and do laundry.

We visited, and highly recommend these two museums in Whitehorse:

Berlingia Interpretive Center. This museum covers the land bridge from Alaska across the Bering Strait to Siberia and the peoples who migrated here some 12,000 to 20,000 years ago.  The land bridge existed during ice ages when so much water was tied up in the glaciers that the ocean water level dropped about 200 feet.

They did an excellent job of explaining the land bridge, the animals which crossed over in to the North American continent, and the humans which followed. We spent about 3.5 hours touring the museum and viewing the two very good videos.

MacBride Museum of Yukon History. An excellent museum which covers the history of the Yukon and Whitehorse. Sharon wasn't feeling well, so I went by myself. I learned a lot about the Yukon.

It is interesting learning of the perspective of history from the other sides viewpoint.

We all know about the USA buying Alaska from Russia in 1865. Sometime after we bought Alaska the line of demarcation between Alaska and Canada was determined by treaty to be the 141st Meridian down to a point some number of miles from the Pacific Ocean. Well sometime after the treaty was signed, Canada sued the USA in international court to extend the border to the Pacific and transfer the long strip of land and islands along what we call the Northwest Passage to Canada. The USA prevailed so we now have this long strip of land bordering Canada. Probably didn't make Canada happy with us.

Next is the Klondike Gold Rush. This gold rush centers on a little tiny town of Dawson City and nearby area, on the Yukon river just a few miles from the Alaska border. During, and for a while after the gold rush was over, the town and area was about 98% American. Canada got very concerned about America's intentions and were afraid the USA was just going to annex the area to Alaska. That was most likely just what the Americans gold miners wanted anyways.

In 1898 and 1899 Canada sent a surveying party in to survey the border and cut a 3 meter (20 foot) wide path through the trees to give a physical and visual indication of the border. Canada also sent a group to build a telegraph line from Dawson City across this uncharted wilderness to the middle of British Columbia. This communication link would help bolster Canada's claim to the land in case the USA was to attempt to annex the area.

Not that the USA would ever do such a thing!! Smile.

Anyways interesting seeing history from the other side.

Moving on to Fairbanks

As I mentioned, Sharon is not feeling well. This issue has been going on for about 3-4 weeks. She went to a clinic in Skagway, but no help. So we are going to head directly to Fairbanks where we will stay until we get the issues resolved. I suppose we could see doctors in Whitehorse, but we really don't want to stay around for an undermined period and it is much easier dealing with medical insurance issues in the USA.

I had planned on us going up to Dawson City, YT, driving part way up the Dempster highway, visiting the history of the gold rush in the area and then drive across the Top Of The World Highway to Alaska. Probably a 10-12 day time span. That is much to long to wait to get things resolved.

This is another really good reason to be able to travel without having RV park reservations to cancel and change. Things come up and plans need to be changed.

We will just come back from Alaska via the Top Of The World Hwy and visit Dawson City and the Dempster in August.

It was an overnight hop to Fairbanks, about 504 miles.

Not exactly a speedy drive to Fairbanks. Especially from Haines Junction to the Alaska border. Lot of construction and about a total of 30 to 45 miles of gravel road because of the construction. Some of it muddy. Lots of frost heaves outside of the construction.

Pretty country though. Some pictures:

We spent a quiet night at a Yukon rest area about 20 miles south of Beaver Creek, YT and about 37 mile south of the USA customs station at the Alaska border.

Many of Yukon's rest areas have this no camping/parking sign,
but apparently it doesn't mean anything. From all the info I have seen, it is never enforced. People park overnight in the rest areas all the time.

Here we are at the Alaska Border

We made it to Fairbanks by about 1:30pm and went directly to a medical clinic to get Sharon's issues taken care of.

We are parking overnight at the asphalt parking lot for Pioneer Historic Park in Fairbanks. They charge $12 for o/n parking. Five consecutive days and you must move.

Photo of the RV parking area in Pioneer Park parking lot.
Take a look at our Winegard Satellite TV dish on the roof.  It is pointing almost level with the ground.  We had a good satellite signal with the Winegard dish.  Note: If you have the smaller domed satellite dishes, you won't get a usable signal.  The dish size seems to be too small to capture a signal.  At least that is what a couple other RV'ers said about their smaller satellite dishes. 

We spent a total of 11 days here in three separate stays during our 18 days in the Fairbanks area.

Next up: Fairbanks, Steese Hwy and the Dalton Hwy to the Arctic Circle and Coldfoot.

Link back to the Alaska blog index page.

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