Dateline July 13, 2011 Yukon – Dawson City and Whitehorse

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View from The Dome in Dawson City

Dawson City’s history and stories bring all of us to a level of excitement that was a part of our youth. Jack London’s stories like the

“Call of the Wild” and Robert W. Service’s poems Who Shot Dan McGrew about a gal named Lou and Dangerous Dan McGrew and The Cremation of Sam McGee. The many stories about the Klondike gold rush and James Michener’s “Alaska” have given us a colorful view of the people who went to Dawson City to strike it rich with their search for gold. Over 100,000 tried to travel there but only 20,000 actually completed the trip. London’s fictional dog Buck gives the best glimpse of the difficulties of the Yukon in -50 degrees. Few actually made any money from gold but the stories are legend. Today there are many individuals seeking their fortune mining for gold.  Corporations are now again in the Dawson City area mining for gold. One individual that we met was in the Discovery Channel show, Gold Rush Alaska, they had to leave last year because of the weather and the show director/producer took the gold, so now he is back with his son mining for gold. He says he has found a lot of gold and is doing very well, when Janice asked where he was mining, he wouldn’t tell!! He mentioned that he had found some woolly mammoth remains or tusks. Janice replied that those were normally found in dried river beds, he went silent and took off without another word. Gold-miners of the 21st century, they haven’t changed!

We toured the city and it was amazing.

Cason City Interpretive Presentation

The interpretive stories were told by the resident curators at the various sites and you had a great sense for the history. We went to Jack London’s museum that had his cabin from his time in the north country.

Jack London Dawson City Cabin

The cabin was simple, but after living in our RV, it seemed like a mansion, all of 16 by 16 feet. He didn’t of course have the convection oven or sat TV! The women that did the interpretive presentation on his time in the north country was fascinating, she brought his times to life and it was a thrill. It was particularly of interest to John because when we had our wine business, our dear family friend Betty Lou Bond, introduced John to Milo Shepard, who ran the Jack London Ranch and was his grand-nephew. Milo took the time to show John all of the ranch in Glen Ellen California along with all of the old buildings that London had built to have a self-sustaining farm. The grapes that are currently grown at the ranch are under a long-term contract with Kenwood Wineries and you will see the wine in your local wine store as the Jack London Cabernet. It bought the Jack London history full circle and it is fun to have a closeness to it by the old “six degrees of separation”.

Janice playing Roulette

We went to Diamond Tooth Gerties, the dance and gambling hall of Dawson City.

John at the dance hall

The performance was fun and of course Janice could not resist rolling the ball a few times at the Roulette table.

Traveling has many options and Robotours, from Germany takes the award for “different”.

RoTel Bus

Twenty three people ride and sleep on this bus. They share in the food service and preparation and at night sleep in one of the 7 foot, 30 inch by 30 inch cubical. What a life! Evidently they have these tour buses around the world.

We then traveled south to Whitehorse, which was the first destination during the gold rush to Dawson City. The capital of the Yukon with a population of 26,000. Driving down the highway from Dawson City, we were told to stop at “Mom’s Bakery,

Mom's a few miles off the main highway

about 20 miles north of Whitehorse. She is famous for her cinnamon buns, one can feed the would family. Her instructions for serving was to cut it in half, like a bagel, place it in a frying pan with “lots” of butter and heat both sides,

Janice carrying out the cinamom buns

putting them back together and serving. It was just perfect. Needless to say, it is not on Weight Watchers, unless you are watching the weight go on!

Whitehorse had some great places to visit. The Canadian National Parks had taken the riverboat Klondike and dragged it up on the side of the Yukon River where it has been restored into a museum. It was interesting to see how people use to travel on the Yukon. First Class was like an old steamship with all the amenities you could ask for in those times. The SS Klondike was one of 250 riverboats that were used on the river and lakes from 1929- 1952. The MacBride Museum was very interesting. The Yukon gold rush exhibits were very well done, giving you a real feel for the way that people lived. They have the original cabin that Sam McGee lived in during his early years in the Yukon. One of the curators did a reading of Robert Service’s “The cremation of Sam McGee” and told the story of his life. He left Whitehorse in his 30’s and didn’t return until he was 73. Upon returning, someone tried to sell him “Sam McGee’s” ashes, which he found very amusing and was reminded of Mark Twain’s comment that “the rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated”.

Salmon Ladder Whitehorse
Whitehorse Dam

The fish  ladders that were built around the dam were really interesting. Only about 1,000 Chinook salmon (also known as King) a year pass through the ladder. The fish hatchery releases over 150,000 fish per year. Each fish from the hatchery has a small piece on his back removed for quick identification and his marked for identification. The young lady giving us a tour was excited that one of their fish had been caught  and identified as one of theirs in Japan. The travel is interesting, of the natural spawning fish, they lay about 5,000 eggs and only 10% actually become fry (juvenile fish stage). The fish start the trip down the Yukon river, 3,000 kilometers to the Bearing sea, then out to the oceans. They spend 4 to 6 years before returning to the Yukon, now the trip down was easy, all downhill, but the trip back is uphill. They do not eat once they start the three-month trip back up the river to Whitehorse. The 366 meter long wooden fish ladder is believed to be the longest in the world. Who needs GPS, the spawning fish lay their eggs within one meter of where they were born. What a story!!!!

Back at the campsite we bit our farewell to Hal, Kim and Benny. It was goodbye to Joan and Chuck, since they live in Florida, we are sure we will see them soon. Back on the road again!

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