Haines Junction to Dawson City took two days. I could probably have managed it in one long drive, but I made a detour to Keno Hill.
Between Haines Junction and Whitehorse I saw the only grizzly of my trip. He was feeding by the road. An RV stopped in front of me, and the grizzly walked up onto the road, and became very interested in the rear of the vehicle.He sniffed at the licence plate. Then at the corner.Sniff, sniff, sniff – for several minutes.What was it that was so interesting? Had the dead remains of some animal splattered there? Where was their waste disposal tank situated? Eventually the RV drove away. The grizzly looked at me, then calmly crossed the road to the other side.The dead animal remains theory might have some validity. The roadsides north of Whitehorse were thickly populated with both snowshoe hares,and arctic ground squirrels.They tore across the road every few metres. By dint of much braking and swerving I managed to avoid all but one, but fresh carcasses littered the asphalt. The sanitation crew kept things tidy, though.North of Whitehorse the flowers displays increased.A new species of pea was becoming very common. Oxytropis splendens. Despite its frequency, it is not mentioned in field guides and I had to wait until I reached home before I could identify it.But the road deteriorated to a slew of subsidences and potholes, many quite severe. This was, I was told later, due to the weakening of the permafrost.The gas stations this far north were often unmanned and could be activated only with a card. I fueled up at Stewart Crossing and drove north east to the mining area of Keno.Keno town had been turned into a very good museum but there was still a lot of active mining in the area. Needless to say, I wanted to go up the Keno Hill to see the flowers.
Half way up are some old mining shafts, each patrolled by a hoary marmot.The hills behind him are very smokey – I was told that the fires were up on the Dempster Highway north of Tombstone. At the top of the hill, which is well above the treeline, is a signpost for the tourists.
Few people were interested in hiking, needless to say.
At once I found dozens of alp lilies,various louseworts,Including the arctic lousewort, woolley lousewort, or bumblebee plant.Ross’s avens were common,As were the narcissus-flowered anemones.I found a single plant of another flower I had never seen but only heard of, a miniature rhododendron called the Lapland Rosebay, so that was exciting. Then, on the shady side of some rocks, a wonderful display of purple saxifrage.
(It should be noted that here, and in all the places I visited, I am showing only the most photogenic of the flowers. I found many other fascinating species but I don’t want to bore you too much!)
I spent a couple of hours up there but thunder was grumbling. My way down took me past a shack whose original purpose I forget, but whose silvery weathered wood made an interesting contrast with the storm-gloomy clouds.Driving back towards Stewart Crossing I could see the sky getting blacker and blacker. Soon it was riddled with lightning and next thing I was driving in torrential rain and hail with bangs and cracks overhead. I flung a coat over my head to gas up again at the un-manned pump and drove north as fast as I could. I was very tired but I needed to get out of the storm before I could camp. And soon I reached an area where the road was still dry while the storm raged and boomed behind me.
Since the road had been following the Klondike River, there were dozens of stops of interested giving the history of the place. I stopped and read most of them but simply kept going. Dawson City was the main centre for the fabled gold rush and the main street has been done up in a honkeytonk manner to cater for tourists. It is the back streets, however, that I found more photogenicHowever, I might not have gone to Dawson City at all if it weren’t for the necessity of finding some veggies – and to visit the famous orchids.
Just out of town on the way to Alaska is a small area dedicated to the pink lady slipper or spotted lady slipper, depending on your info. To get there, you must cross the Klondike River on a ferry.While waiting for it, a paddle steamer trundled by. No smoke coming from the smokestacks so I assume it was powered by diesel rather than wood, but it was a pretty sight.And across the river was the little park with it’s spectacular array of flowers.No one knows why the orchids grow so thickly in this spot.On the walk, you get a wonderful view of the Klondike River.I’d been on the road for nearly two weeks at this stage. After Dawson city, there was nothing left for me to do except get onto the famous Dempster Highway and head for the Tombstone Territorial Park.
This is the fifth of 8 Yukon Journey posts. I screwed up when loading them. To access #6, press the left-had arrow saying “previous.”