I offer you a brief photo essay of the Yukon adventure. Names have been changed to protect the (mostly) innocent but you should know that the more incriminating photos are still on the other digital camera in Whitehorse so they will not be shown here.
First off, we hit the Dawson City Music Festival. Dawson is about a 5 hour drive from Whitehorse and we drove up on the Thursday even though the show started on Friday, to secure a campsite in the limited campground. We did the site up right and spent an hour and a half building our 'tent city'. We used two tarps, a lot of rope, much muscle and planning, some tuck tape, and a tree-pole affectionately named Dirk. Nice, eh?
The reason for the tent city is that we got caught in the rain heading back to the campsite after the first gig of the festival. Dawson City is a short ferry ride across the Yukon River from the main campsite. It's a free ferry that takes vehicles and foot passengers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until the river freezes. We got caught in the rain on the open-air ferry on Day 1 of the festival. Hence the need for a tent city back at the campsite. By the way, that's Miranda on the left, The Duchess in the middle, and me on the right.
Dawson City is a cool little place. It celebrates the Klondike Gold Rush, maintaining a lot of the infrastructure that was built around the 1890s. There are still dancing girls and gambling halls. We went to Diamond Tooth Gertie's to see the dancing girls but since we were at the early show, we apparently missed the more risque act that comes on at midnight. I understand there's near nudity - a note for future visitors. We ate at Klondike Kate's a couple times where the food is damn tasty and the daquiris are salty (?) but cheap and cold.
After the music festival (which, by the way, was totally fun and had otherwise good weather), we decided to get some backcountry camping in. The Dempster highway is the road from the Yukon up to Inuvik in the North West Territories. It is unpaved the entire way, and you shouldn't brave it without a couple spare tires, food and water supplies, and a decent vehicle. We drove up the Dempster about 60km to get to the trailhead. The hike in to Grizzly Lake takes about 6 hours, and it is mostly crazy scree, large boulders, vast vistas, and really steep climbs in both directions. Fairly brutal after four days of sittin' around drinkin' cider and watchin' other people entertain you. Ok, to be fair there was a lot of dancing done at the festival but I'm not sure that prepared our bodies for the toil of this hike. We did manage to keep our spirits up for most of the way. Here's Miranda looking high on life, probably because of the GORP; behind her you can see our destination lake.
The hike is crazy beautiful and worth the work. We saw hoary marmots about 3/4 of the way in. I figure they have no natural predators up there because they have no fear and will scuttle right up to your feet to inspect you. Isn't he cute? He is about the size of a large cat or small dog.
We started the hike at 4pm because of rotten hangovers and a very slow start to the day. Remember though, this is the land of the midnight sun so we had daylight the whole way, even though we got to camp at about 9:30pm. This is the campsite at Grizzly Lake in the shadow of the forbidding Tombstones, picture taken around 11pm:
After a very late dinner of amazing instant potatoes and a bean concoction, we slept like logs. We weren't even bothered by the guy across from us who had intense sleep apnea (read: loud gasping every couple of minutes) or the early-risers who broke camp at 6-bloody-AM. Along the trail on the way back we made time to take a group picture with the timer on the camera. We're very good at this, don't you think?
When we returned to Whitehorse we were treated to an amazing meal by The Duchess' mom, including cariboo for Miranda's first taste of game meat. We relaxed in The Duchess' hottub (every single household should include one of these, I'm now convinced), undoing the knots from hiking and sleeping for days on thermarests. Don't worry, we showered before soaking so the water wasn't quite putrid by the time we got out.
Miranda left us on Thursday, unfortunately, so we were down one good-natured companion. We couldn't decide what to do until The Duchess hit on the brilliant idea of going out to her cabin. I've been there before on previous visits and it's grrrreat. We met friends of hers out there and had some vino while a storm raged around us. The cabin has electricity but no running water. Heading out to the outhouse that night was the first time I might have really needed a headlamp since the storm and the trees colluded to darken the skies around midnight. Friday we slept in, watched a dumb movie on the ancient tv, paddled the canoe for a bit, and chopped wood. I like chopping wood. Yes, I really do. It's a great stress relief and gives you a weird sense of achievement. You keep thinking (or yelling, in my case), "Take that! and THAT! HAHAHAHAHHAHA!" I'll have to find somewhere to chop wood in or around Vancouver to keep my skillz up!
Back to Whitehorse where The Duchess attended a memorial service for a friend and I hung out with her family. I finally flew out on Saturday back to Vancouver to get to work on my long list of reading material. It was honestly one of the best vacations I have had in ages so thanks so much to The Duchess and Miranda for the good times and great adventures! I recommend the Yukon to no one since it feels like a protected part of the Earth, and to everyone for its beauty and awesome people. Yeehaw!