Top of the World


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North America » Canada
August 24th 2018
Published: September 2nd 2018
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DAY 23 (AUG. 16/2018) – DAY 25 – DAWSON CITY

We returned to the NWT Dempster Hwy tourist info today to turn in our “passports”. We had stamps from all of the sites along the highway that offered them so we were now entered into a draw to win an ounce of gold and a few other things. Shopping around Dawson afterwards, we visited a few shops that had locally made moccasin slippers. Chris bought a pair of beautifully beaded Moose hide slippers with rabbit fur.

The next morning was a beautiful dry, sunny day which got Gord and I in the fishing mood once again. We first stopped in at the Trading Post in Dawson to ask for advice on the best spots to go and which lures and flies to use. But despite our best efforts along the Klondike River and the Yukon River, neither of us even had a bite.

The next day was the start of Dawson Discovery Days. Arts & crafts displays, singers, a baseball tournament and other events were planned for the whole weekend. We headed into town and wandered through the displays and I walked around to get a few more photos.

Although we had no fresh fish for supper, we each made our own food then got together for our last dinner here in Dawson.

DAY 25 – 300 KM OVER THE “TOP OF THE WORLD HIGHWAY”, DAWSON, YUKON TO TOK, ALASKA

We were packed up and on the road by 9:00AM and driving through Dawson to board the small ferry on the other side. They barely fit the three of us on this tiny vessel for the 20-minute trip across the Yukon River. The muddy approaches on both sides had me wondering about the day ahead but the weather stayed dry and partly sunny for us.

Upon disembarking, you immediately start climbing up the Top of the World Highway connecting Dawson with the Alaska Hwy near Tok, Alaska . The entire trip was on gravel, varying in quality and roughness, but overall the road conditions were pretty good although dusty. After climbing to over 1,300 metres above sea level, the views across the tops of the mountains were spectacular. We reached the small USA border crossing up there in the middle of nowhere and after only a moment for questions, we entered Alaska.

We stopped for a rest and gas in Chicken, Alaska . Home to a large dredge and various other mining memorabilia, this tiny community has a permanent year-round population of 4, ballooning to about 35 in the summer. Apparently, the original name for this place was to be Ptarmigan, based on a sighting, but nobody knew how to spell that so they named it Chicken. The over-riding theme here is … you guessed it; chickens. The gift shop has every chicken related card, decoration, hat, etc imaginable, while even outdoors, various chicken sculptures adorn the landscape.

Soon after Chicken, the trip was mainly downhill and after about 6 or 7 hours on the road, it was a very welcome relief to finally hit pavement again on the Alaska Highway. A right turn and a few miles later (in the USA now so everything is in miles!) we came to our campsite for the night, the Sourdough RV Park and Campground . A very family-oriented park, they host a big bonfire each night leading up to the Pancake Tossing contest; top prize is a free breakfast in the park café!

Luckily, the park also has a qualified RV repairman there as Baja 1 has not had any trailer brakes since we left Dawson! We were all a little worried about the steep descent coming down off the Top of the World, but they handled it very well. We got checked in to adjoining sites and the RV repairman was arranged for the following day.

DAY 26 – 257 KM – TOK TO LAKE CREEK CAMPGROUND

We arranged a late checkout so we could wait for Wilsons brake repairs. The repairman started at 11:00AM and found one of the brake controller wires pinched off from the suspension. He drove somewhere for parts and had everything rewired and fixed by about 1:30 for $300 USD.

It was an easy drive today with few stops and we pulled in to the Yukon government Lake Creek Campground about 5:30PM. The Yukon sites are nice, forested campgrounds but rough, without services; not even water.

DAY 27 – 254 KM – LAKE CREEK TO KATHLEEN LAKE CAMPGROUND

Mostly cloudy today but beautiful drive, past snow-capped and glacier-topped mountains into Kluane National park. Mount Logan, Canada’s highest mountain at 5,959 metres is here as well as Canada’s largest ice field and a lot of Grizzly bears.

A couple of hours into our day, we stopped at the Thachal Dhal Visitor Centre to view some Dhal Sheep that live on the grassy slopes of Sheep Mountain. The wide, flat valley below the mountain has the appearance of a desert, or salt flats but is actually powdered rock left by a receding glacier, rich in minerals that are essential for the sheep’s growth.

A short drive further brought us to the village of Haines Junction with a population around 600. The community lies within the traditional territory of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, Southern Tutchone people who have lived around there for thousands of years. Haines Junctions is set on the edge of Kluane National Park and Reserve. Together with the Tatshenshini-Alsek Park in BC, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska, this is the largest internationally protected area on earth and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site .

After a stop at the local bakery/coffee shop for some great cappuccinos and baked treats, we continued another 26 kilometres down the road to Kathleen Lake campground where we set up camp to stay for two nights.

DAY 28 – KATHLEEN LAKE CAMPGROUND

This Yukon campground, similar to most others in design, has a park employee there daily who gives nightly talks (with free tea and hot chocolate!) about the flora and fauna of the area. The campground is also on the edge of Kathleen Lake and has a variety of medium to difficult hiking and climbing trails.

While a few in our group headed out to hike up the mountain, Ruth set out for some photography and I drove the 2km back down the road to Kathleen River to try some fly fishing.

Kathleen Lake, lying within Kluane National Park , requires a special parks fishing license which I did not have. But for some reason, a regular Yukon license provided all that was necessary to fish in Kathleen River. Next to the highway bridge crossing the river, there is a pull-out area specifically for fishing. Signs there display images of all the types of fish in the river as well as the local fishing regulations and limits in effect. I followed a few paths along the river and found a quiet bend with dozens of large fish jumping and feeding. I cast various flies across the pool of fish and was rewarded only with a few bites but nothing that I was able to land. None of the other fishermen in the area seemed to have any greater luck but it was still a beautiful, peaceful spot to spend a fun afternoon.

DAY 29 – 215 KM – KATHLEEN LAKE TO HAINES, ALASKA

Driving under cloudy skies again, we travelled south from Kathleen Lake, following highway 3, “Haines Road”. Along lakes, through towering mountains and crossing streams and rivers, the scenery was continually breathtaking even though not sunny. Mountain tops were often hidden in the clouds yet as we climbed higher, the various lichens and low growth across the alpine tundra and rocky slopes displayed beautiful colours.

From the Yukon, we crossed into BC for a while then reached the USA border as we were descending from the mountains into lush, coastal rainforest. The highway continues downhill through the Chilkat Valley and alongside the Chilkat River, and into the Bald Eagle Preserve . There are pullouts and viewpoints for several miles as you approach Haines , to help keep the eagle spotting tourists from stopping in the middle of the highway.

Situated near the head of Lynn Canal (the largest fjord in North America) all of the area around Haines is famous for their 350 resident Bald Eagles and Grizzly Bear viewing. From November to January, up to 3,500 Bald Eagles gather here to feed on spawning salmon. Our campsite for the night was at the Oceanside RV Park and our sites were truly ocean front. Bald eagles soared overhead and gathered in numbers along the shore which kept me entertained and snapping photos for quite a while. The park had water, electric and sewer hookups, bathrooms and a shower ($3 USD for 6 minutes) with incredibly strong pressure. They also had a marine shop attached to the office with a few RV supplies which was good, as my water hose sprung a leak and I was able to quickly replace it.

Haines is a cruise ship port and there was one, smallish ship in while we were there. The town has numerous gift and souvenir shops, a craft brewery and a few good restaurants. After enjoying some samples at the Haines Brewing Company (including home-made root beer) we ended up at the Bamboo Room Restaurant and Pioneer Bar for their famous Halibut and Chips. Their fresh, locally caught, lightly battered Halibut was some of the best we had ever had!

DAY 30 – FERRY FROM HAINES TO SKAGWAY

Four miles along Front Street from our RV Park is the ferry terminal to go to Skagway. We had reservations booked a few months ago for our three cars and travel trailers and as instructed, arrived about two hours before our scheduled 11:00AM sailing. As our sailing time grew near, a ferry terminal employee came along to remind us to shut off our propane tanks and to explain that we would be BACKING ONTO THE FERRY! Apparently due to some mix-up or screw-up when the docking facilities were built, rather than being set up for ferries that can board in one end and out the other, their docks are only able to accommodate ferries that load and unload out of one door … in the side! So for the next hour or so, we tried to decide if they were kidding me or if they seriously expected us to all back up our vehicles and 20-foot travel trailers down the ramp, across the gang-plank, and onto the ferry.

As the ferry arrived and docked starboard side alongside the ramp, it became very clear that they were not kidding; we were all a little nervous waiting for boarding to begin. After all the arriving vehicles disembarked, they approached our trio to begin with all of us. Luckily for me, Gord was at the front so I was able to watch and learn. They had him pull up to have car and trailer in a straight line facing away from the ferry, then walking along with the vehicle, an employee guided him backwards, down the ramp, up across the gang-plank, onto the ferry, then a 90 degree turn to back up inside of a long, narrow lane right to the back of the ferry. Chris followed Gord with the same routine then they came for me. As neither of the others had backed up over the ramp into the ocean, I now felt more confident of a successful outcome. And other than some initial confusion about what exactly she wanted me to move to the right (not the trailer apparently, but my steering wheel), everything went fine.

Once aboard, we discovered a fairly new looking, well equipped ship with a variety of seating options, an open deck at the stern, and a nice cafeteria. This fast catamaran vessel got us to Skagway in just one hour. Along the way we viewed blue glaciers atop huge rocky mountains, waterfalls, eagles, but unfortunately, no marine life.

Our RV Park in Skagway was quick to reach as we took an immediate right turn off the ferry, around another corner and entered Pullen Creek RV Park . There are two other RV campgrounds in Skagway, both full, and Pullen is their overflow. Although we were parked on asphalt, we were backed against the grassy sites behind the fence, we had water and electric and were ocean-side again, with awesome views across the marina, 3 cruise ships, and the beautiful glacier covered mountains.

We were soon all walking through this little cruise ship tourist town. The Klondike era look to all of the shops was well done but the town had dozens of diamond jewellery stores, catering to the cruise ship passengers. We all met up at the Starfire Thai restaurant. The food was great but the service was poor and unfortunately with an 18%!t(MISSING)ip automatically added to our bill, we could not comment on our waiter’s attitude through our payment amount.

DAY 31 – AUGUST 24, 2018 180 KM - SKAGWAY TO WHITEHORSE

Our drive on the South Klondike Highway began under heavy clouds and light rain as we left Skagway and immediately started a steep climb back up into the mountains. What should have been spectacular views was hidden in the low cloud and fog which soon enveloped our cars as well. Our progress was slowed by the poor visibility and winding road as we ascended the 1,000 metres to the summit of the coast mountain range. Descending on the other side we quickly drove out of the fog and the rain let up but the heavy clouds kept the day dark and dreary. As we travelled towards Whitehorse, the rocky terrain reminded us of Iceland, with vast lava fields, a lumpy, rocky landscape softened by a covering of green and yellow lichen with reddish brown and green hillsides rising above. I wondered how much more brilliant these colours would appear under sunny skies.

A stop for lunch about halfway to Whitehorse at Carcross was a fun diversion. The White Pass and Yukon Route passenger train from Skagway stops here in the middle of the town. There is one large parking lot and hundreds of tourists were pouring out of
Matthew Watson General Store, Carcross, YukonMatthew Watson General Store, Carcross, YukonMatthew Watson General Store, Carcross, Yukon

The oldest store in the Yukon, established during the gold rush in 1909.
cars, RV’s and buses to wander through this little gold rush tourist town. Originally named Cariboo Crossing, the current town’s name is a combination of these two words. For about an hour, we wandered through souvenir shops, checked out locally made Native moccasins, museums and a tourism information centre.

We made one more stop on the way to Whitehorse at the Carcross/Tagish First Nation Learning Centre . This is a beautiful large building with multi-use rooms and a large display of various native arts.

Just a few kilometres before reaching Whitehorse we stopped along the side of the highway to watch a Grizzly digging out roots to eat along the sandy banks. Several vehicles stopped including our convoy of three trailers. We were unfortunately blocking the highway a bit which resulted in some prolonged honking from passing motorists. You should NEVER do this! But, we did.

Our three Jayco Jay Flight Baja Edition 195RB travel trailers finally parted way as we reached Whitehorse. Baja 2 (the Wiebes) decided to stay there to visit family for a few days while Baja 1 (thee Wilsons) and Baja 3 (the Mirkas) moved back into Hi Country RV Park for two days of laundry and resting before starting our final leg towards home.


Additional photos below
Photos: 36, Displayed: 33


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15th September 2018
View on Top of the World Highway

Wow!
Great photos!
15th September 2018
View on Top of the World Highway

Thanks!
The weather presented both photography challenges and opportunities throughout the trip and I was happy to capture a few really nice shots.

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