We arrived at Watson Lake, the official switch-over to the Yukon Territory. The Watson Lake RV Park is in a parking lot and was good for an overnight; it was quite crowded as the large caravans of RVs we had been warned about were starting to hit the road. The showers were warm and clean and included in the price. You get an hour of Wi-Fi but at least there was Verizon! Verizon only allows 0.5 gb a day in Canada so it can get used up pretty fast before the data slows down considerably.
We stopped by the famous “Sign Post Park” and found a few gems from Oregon.
We headed North along the Alaska Highway 1 which wasn’t too much different than the Stewart Cassiar but with a bit more traffic and there was some gravel along the way. Otherwise the scenery was fantastic and we saw a bear and a caribou.
We played around trying to match the videos we were taking with the music we had playing on the stereo. We had some success – adding music to the landscape brought tears to my eyes – it puts you in a place of awe.
We reached the Yukon Motel and RV Park in Teslin which again was a bit of a parking lot, though it wasn’t crowded and had decent wi-fi just so long as you got close to the lodge itself. They also had showers and bathrooms.
We hiked around the marine park and hammed it up with the local wildlife.
When I opened the skylight to the rig, I saw large muddy paw marks and realized that it wasn’t a squirrel that was fooling around on the roof at midnight when we were boondocking at the Clements Lake Recreation area; the Fisher Cat had come back and apparently partied for a while on top of our rig, muddying up the roof and solar panels. He then slid down the back (thankfully not scratching anything) onto our cargo carrier. Bob cleaned up the mud and we can only guess this feline was marking its territory somehow.
As it was Saturday night we decided to eat at the local restaurant – I had Yukon Elk sausage with perogies – quite the diverse combo and it was really good.
We headed out to Whitehorse that we knew was more of a hub as it is also the capital. The Caribou RV park turned out to be great; they had private bathrooms and showers and you got a voucher for Wi-Fi for the day. Downtown Whitehorse was a bit of a ghost town as it was Sunday and also a holiday weekend for the Canadians so a lot of the shops were closed up.
As we were there for a few days we decided to hike the Miles Canyon trail along the Yukon River. We were told there were otter sightings but we didn’t see them – darn! They classify the hike as moderate but there were some seriously steep sections of the hill and one part that went straight up and you had to climb over large rocks to get up! Thankfully I survived without incident as loose gravel is not my friend.
We stumbled upon Canyon City, that is an abandoned village in the woods that harks back to the gold rush days – the history of people coming to this wilderness in hopes of striking it rich are fascinating. This part of the Yukon has been reclaimed by the wilderness – as unforgiving as the gold rush itself.
We stopped by downtown Whitehorse again on our way out and one of the galleries was open so I took a gander and found a few cards but not a lot of First Nations artwork. Mammoth fossils have apparently been found in this area and they had jewelry and figurines made from their bones which was interesting though I couldn’t find a piece that I had to have though.
Our next stop was Destruction Bay through the Kluane mountain range. We ran into inclement weather but we were heading into some more spectacular scenery. The clouds clung to the mountain tops but the ice and snow fields were apparent along our drive. The Kluane boasts several massive glaciers that are only accessible via plane – hence all the advertisements for air tours.
We saw moose and elk along the road and though it had more traffic than Stewart Cassiar it still wasn’t overly busy.
We reached Kluane Lake that was still frozen and stretched for miles – we saw our first caution sign for bighorn so kept an eye out but didn’t see any. When we reached Destruction Bay Lodge there was only one other RV there. The other RVs we saw along the way were boondocked in the day use pull outs. The proprietor wasn’t there but had a sign on the office door that the 30 amp was working, but no water due to frozen pipes (similar to the Red Goat Lodge) and no available dump station and just go ahead and park up and then leave cash in an envelope. Glad we decided to get cash in Vancouver! We were thankful we had carried enough water to hold us over to the next RV Park near Beaver Creek. The funny thing is we have great cell coverage – there is a gas station and a few homes but otherwise we haven’t seen much in the way of civilization.
Canada has turned out to be full of contradictions for sure.
“In Destruction Bay it’s raining hard. It’s a place where civilization shouldn’t be, had been blown from the face of the earth in decades past, but somehow remains, where nature keeps pushing its boundaries with unforgiving ice and wind that only abates for a few months in the summer. The sun breaks through, a passing wave at the sky and mountains though it does less to warm than it does to illuminate. The clouds clutch at the blue and then descend into gray, unable to completely smother the majesty of the Kluane snow fields and endless glaciers. The days grow long, the sun resting near midnight then awake again at dawn. Casting shadows but little warmth as if the tilt of the earth is an annoyance to be toyed with.”
After a leisurely morning watching the sun spray across the mist between the splendor of the endless peaks, we headed north. The road got pretty rough with some nasty swells and frost heaves then it dissipated as we approached the Lake Creek Campground where we stopped for tea. It was devoid of campers and the smell of boreal pine was intense. The creek flowed quietly along with the accompanying woodpeckers and ravens in chorus throughout the forest.
It’s a bit of a haul to get from anywhere to these campgrounds and we wondered who actually comes here. Unlike in the U.S. where there are substantial towns within a few hours of most campgrounds. We were in no rush to get to Koidern just south of Beaver Creek. I was glad for these shorter stops as spending all day on a potentially rough road didn’t seem too inviting.
The frost heaves continued along with spots of simply gravel; when people talk about this stretch of road it actually starts above Destruction Bay and you will occasionally get a respite but not for long. We traveled at a leisurely pace to keep the rig from being bunged up too much.
We arrived at Discovery Yukon Lodge outside of Koidern; they had just switched on the water so we were lucky there and had full hookups. The permafrost this time of year has made the water supplies a bit of a touch and go. They didn’t have Wi-Fi in the lodge as advertised claiming they had no phone service (there was no cell service) and I had to pay in cash even though there was clearly a credit card machine on the counter. I’m not sure how they function the rest of the year or if they wind up paying for a line via satellite during the high season.
We decided to stretch our legs and hiked along a game trail then to the river and got a good few miles in. We ran across abandoned moose skulls – not sure why they were just deposited there but kinda cool just the same. The lodge has a bunch on its roof and quite a collection of taxidermy in the office.
The upside to traveling this time of year is the drama of the landscape that wouldn’t be the same without the snow.
The Yukon evokes images of vast forests and tundras filled with caribou and wandering moose. A place romanticized more by the gold rush than by its beauty that threatens to swallow you whole. And on this trip we only scratched the surface.