Seeking True North, Day 6:  Whitehorse, YT, to Yellowknife, NT.

A Walk in the Woods
As we were leaving the cabin this morning, we finally took a right turn on unpaved Policeman's Point Road, rather than the left turn that takes us to the main highway.  The hard-packed, smooth surface soon gave way to randomly scattered gravel and thence to deep ruts.  Speculating that the road might eventually lead to the Yukon River, we decided to walk the remainder of the way after we saw a little turnaround where we could park the car.
As Scooby Doo put it so well, "Rut road!"
This is when we implemented the textbook version of "What Not to Do" when walking on an isolated road.  If there was a mistake to be made, we not only made it, we embraced it.

1.  Be prepared.  Upon leaving the car, we took our bear bell...and that's all.  We had bottles of water in the car.  Left them there.  We had insect repellent, a significant advantage since the roar of buzzing insects when we exited the car sounded like a motor humming.  Left the bug spray in the car.  Let's just say, we had most anything we might have needed...and left it in the car.

2.  Know where you're going.  We had a strong cell signal where we stopped and could have easily dropped a pin on Google Maps to help us keep up with where the car was parked.  Didn't.  We could have consulted a map app to find out if the road did lead to the river.  Nope, didn't do that either.

3.  Don't veer off track uninformed.  The road did indeed lead to the river with a splendid view of the Yukon.  When we were ready to return to the car, we decided that a pretty little trail through the woods looked more appealing than the deeply rutted road. After walking on this winding lane for longer than it took us to reach the river, we began to wonder whether it would actually intersect the road or not.  No thanks to our lack of foresight, we did eventually reach the road.  Turn left or right?  Again, through sheer luck, we chose the correct direction.
Let's go this way.  It's prettier!
A mile and a half and 45 minutes after we left the car, we returned to it, marveling that we could have been so foolish and hoping we had learned a lesson for future explorations.  Only time will tell.

Got Our Bags...Check!
After turning in our mud-splattered, dust-covered car at the airport, we learned that Air North, the Yukon airline we were flying to Yellowknife, limits carry-on luggage to two items, weighing a total of 22 pounds.  Oops!  No, Mr. Agent, sir, there's no need to weigh our bags to determine whether we can meet that criterion.  As much as we try to avoid it, we each had to check a bag.  Another opportunity for us to learn a lesson.  Or, more accurately, re-learn.

Before we traveled to Australia and New Zealand a couple of years ago, our good friend BJ, who had recently been down under herself, alerted us to the strict limits on what you could bring on board.  Each passenger was limited to 7 kg (15.4 lbs).  Thanks to her warning, we had no difficulties with our bags.  In fact, we marveled at how liberating it was to have such light loads.  Yet when we returned, we fell right back into the habit of packing more, even though we knew we could get by with less.  Now with another Air North flight as we leave Yellowknife, we know what to expect, and we have now sworn that for our trip to Alaska next month—where we'll have several flights on small aircraft—we're going to "pack Australian."

The Devil Wore Diapers
Few people enjoy the company of young children more than I do.  Usually at family gatherings, I'm off playing with the kids while Ken catches up with the adults and fills me in later.  But when an overbearing three-year-old tyrant is sitting behind me on an airplane, it's not so much fun.

"Olivia" was traveling with both her parents, yet she was clearly in charge, ignoring every plaintive suggestion that mommy and daddy timidly proffered.  Stop kicking the seat in front of you.  Be quiet.  Sit down.  Keep your seat belt buckled for take off.  Olivia either ignored them, demanded to know "Why?" or both.

Father:  "Do you think you could stop kicking Daddy for a few minutes?  Please?"
Olivia:  "Why?" (continuing to kick)
So glad we were sitting in front of, rather than behind this undisciplined child.
For most of the flight, she stood in her seat, tormenting the poor passengers behind her, trying to hit them, issuing orders to them.  Since they were getting a little reprieve from her berating them, mommy and daddy ignored this behavior.  To make a long and painful story shorter, when we arrived in Yellowknife, Olivia and her parents stayed on board to continue to Ottawa.  So we happily parted ways, feeling great pity for those sitting near her for the next four-hour flight.

And the Good
We had dinner at a local joint and a great talk with some Yellowknife residents.  More about that tomorrow.  We're looking forward to exploring the town and vicinity.

- Miles traveled:  725
- Walked:  4.2 mi.
- Weather:  39 to 73 degrees, foggy to clear
- Unruly children on flight to Yellowknife:  1
- Time "Olivia" was quiet during flight:  15 min. (girl gotta eat)
- Miserable passengers:  all in hearing range


Seeking True North, Day 5:  Whitehorse to Haines Junction and back

Both still tired from our long day to Skagway yesterday, we decided to sleep in.  With nothing definite on our agenda, we relaxed this morning and posted clues for the letterboxes we planted yesterday.  After a late lunch at the cabin, we finally decided to get out and explore a bit.  With the promise of a recently found letterbox at the Takhini River rest area on the Alaska Highway, we decided to drive the 40 or so miles to check it out.  

Unlike the flawlessly smooth South Klondike Highway, this section of the Alaska Highway was an unpredictable guessing game.  Potholes, ruffling patches, washboard bumps and roller coaster dips were commonplace.  In places, gravel from the shoulders had encroached onto the roadbed to be kicked up by the tires of passing vehicles and hurled at unsuspecting windshields.  It certainly wasn't as bad as some of the stories one hears, but it was quite a step down from the South Klondike.
A bit bumpy but we've seen worse 
As we drove through the Ibex Valley, signs of the advent of autumn sprang up in patches of yellow foliage.  The broad valley floor is home to thousands of slender evergreens, few taller than 30 feet and most much shorter.  Occasional stands of white birch add variety and later, color.  The valley belongs to the Takhini River, which flows east into the Yukon near our cabin.  Frozen over in winter, the river forms part of the course for the annual 1,000-mile Yukon Quest sled dog race from Fairbanks to Whitehorse.

After finding the letterbox at the rest area, we decided to continue on to Haines Junction, another sixty or so miles away.  About halfway there, we stopped at the behest of a camera icon on a scenic overlook road sign.  That led us to the Canyon Creek Bridge rest area.  Not only did we snap a couple of pictures, we left a letterbox in exchange.  
Canyon Creek Bridge
The first bridge spanning Canyon Creek was built at this spot in 1920 to haul supplies to Silver City, a mining camp.  During the construction of the Alaska Highway in1942, the log and board bridge was rebuilt as part of the new highway.  The construction is typical of original Alaska Highway bridge designs.

Established in 1942 to support the Alaska Highway construction, Haines Junction (pop. 589) earned its name from its position at the intersection of the Alaska and Highway 3, which leads to Haines, Alaska, 150 miles south.  Upon our arrival in town we started our search for a couple of letterboxes hidden there.  "Find the Muffin," one clue directed.  Muffin?  We found a local bakery but there was no muffin in sight.  Finally we stumbled back to the main highway and Ken spied a large sculptural mountain with native animals perched on it.  The wooden base which installers added to the artwork did inadvertently make it look like a muffin with a ridged paper liner.  Townspeople have taken the nickname in stride and even erected an "I Saw the Muffin in Haines Junction" life-size cutout for tourists to snap souvenir photos.
The Muffin 
Turning south on the Haines Highway, we drove a few miles toward Lake Kathleen in Kluane National Park.  Shortly after we turned south, a road sign reminded us to check our fuel level as the next available petrol would be in Haines,  Alaska, some 150 miles away.  Mountains of the Kluane Range loomed to our right--husky granite pyramids with sharp treeless peaks.  Finally we found a road leading to a small finger of the large Kathleen Lake.  A dozen other visitors were scattered about, enjoying the lake--picnicking, walking, lounging and, in the case of a two-year-old Danish toddler, wading in the icy water, with her mother hovering nearby for protection. Because the late afternoon sun was so bright, it was only later when reviewing photos we took at the lake that I noticed the child was pantless. Oops!
Kathleen Lake
 On our way back through Haines Junction, an unusual sight caught our eye.  Our Lady of the Way Catholic Church is not your typical church architecture.  With limited funds at his disposal, the first Catholic priest to preach the gospel in this area had to be resourceful.  The church needed a building.  Old Quonset huts had been left behind by U.S. military personnel when they completed the Alaska Highway construction.  Father Morriset put two and two together and created a chapel with distinctive architectural style.  That was in 1954.  Today, the church still attracts attention and visitors, as evidenced by their guest book in the diminutive sanctuary.
The cozy sanctuary
One more letterbox at the Haines Junction airport on our way out of town and we were headed back a little after 7:30.  By the time we arrived at our cabin, it was 9:15 and still fully daylight.  It's not our usual pattern any more to be on the road that late, but serendipity rewards us for stepping out of our normal routine.  As we approached Whitehorse, a vibrant rainbow spread across the sky for us to drive under its arc.  
Sublime 
Tomorrow we'll bid farewell to Whitehorse and the Yukon, flying 700 miles northeast to Yellowknife.
 
- Miles driven:  234
- Weather:  47 to 62 degrees with intermittent showers
- Letterboxes:  Found 2, Planted 1
- Rainbows:  1.5
- Elk spotted near roadside:  2

More Photos from Today
Staying on those boards must have been a challenge. 
Sort of makes us wish we were on a road trip instead of flying out of Whitehorse
Harsh weather takes its toll.
The father's masterpiece

 Seeking True North, Day 4:  Whitehorse, YT and Skagway, AK.

Though this trip is all about seeing the Canadian territories, we decided to make a side trip today and drive down the Klondike Highway to Skagway, Alaska.  Approximating the route that Klondike Gold Rush prospectors followed in their search for riches, the 442-mile highway links Skagway on the Alaska coast to Whitehorse and continues north to Dawson City, Yukon.  Before the road was completed in 1978, Skagway's only connection inland and to the lower 48 states was by rail to Whitehorse.  
South Klondike Highway
The 98-mile Whitehorse-Skagway portion of the two-lane asphalt road, usually referred to as the South Klondike Highway, was built to accommodate tourist traffic and was originally closed during winter.  Since 1986, the road has been open year-round, a reflection of its vital status as a route for commercial transportation.  Between Whitehorse and Skagway, the well-maintained road traverses a wild and natural corridor, passing through some of the most spectacular scenery we have traveled.  The picturesque village of Carcross, YT (pop. 289) offers the only sign of human habitation along the route.

Carcross and Skagway (pop. 920) both benefitted richly from the Klondike Gold Rush in the 1890s.  Would-be miners, mostly from the U.S., who quit their jobs and fled north in search of riches arrived in Skagway by boat.  There they bought the supplies and equipment they would need for the grueling  500-mile journey to the gold fields near Dawson, where enormous quantities of the precious mineral had been reported.  Skagway grew quickly with thousands of prospectors flooding to join the fray.  Within a few weeks after the first arrivals, dozens of stores, saloons and offices filled the muddy streets.  The population grew from a few dozen to more than 8,000 within a year.  Within three years, gold was discovered in the area of Nome, and the stampede of prospectors shifted northward.  
Broadway, Skagway's busy main thoroughfare
With the life squeezed out of its economy, Skagway's population collapsed.  It would likely have become a ghost town without the construction of the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad, which supplied freight, fuel and transportation to Whitehorse and other communities inland.  The railroad and related services provided enough employment to keep the town afloat until the next boom came along in the form of cruise ships.  Capitalizing on its brief history as a gold rush town, Skagway created a colorful historic downtown with storefronts typical of the late 19th century.  Saloons and gem stores, restaurants and gift shops line the wooden sidewalks and draw tourists in like flies to honey.

And they arrive in droves.  The tiny town's port has dockage to host numerous large cruise ships simultaneously, bringing in 800,000 of this new type of stampeder from May to September each year.  As we strolled the boardwalks today, we couldn't help noticing that the cruisers filling the town seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, and most were toting bags with purchases made in town.  Of course, local merchants were equally happy as their coffers were rapidly filling, facilitating their need to earn a year's income in five months.  
Carcross retail market reflects its native origins.
On our stop in Carcross, we learned that coastal towns aren't the only ones who benefit from cruise-goers' spending.  Once a thriving resupply and resting station for gold rush stampeders who survived the arduous journey through White Pass, Carcross also dwindled after the fortune seekers went elsewhere.  With a station on the railroad line, the town hung on until it also became a darling of the tourist industry.  After the Klondike Highway opened, the railroad shut down to commercial traffic but soon opened as a tourist attraction, offering day trips to cruise passengers.  Now flocks of visitors ride the train from Skagway to Carcross and return to the port by bus.  In response, Carcross has developed its own retail magnet to attract tourist dollars.  Most businesses are open only during the summer season.  Owners and their employees put in long hours to earn enough to last through the winter, which some spend in another location such as Vancouver.    
Emerald Lake
Though we found the histories of these resourceful towns quite interesting, the star of our day was the scenery from Carcross to Skagway.  Just before Carcross, we stopped at a scenic overlook on a hill above Emerald Lake, one of the Yukon's most photographed vistas.  In fact, this view adorns the front cover of this year's official Yukon highway map.  The sandy bottom of the shallow lake lends it a unique greenish hue.  Before leaving, we planted one of our "Love This Spot" letterboxes.  
Carcross Desert 
On the northern border of town, we stumbled upon what is humorously called the Carcross Desert.  An isolated group of sand dunes formed by windblow from nearby Bennett Lake, the 640 acres are a botanist's haven, nurturing plants found nowhere else.
Thanks, Carcross, for this beautiful picnic spot.
At Carcross, the road enters the Southern Lakes region, a series of massive glacier-fed mountain lakes that supply the headwaters of the mighty Yukon River.  Carcross sits at the confluence of Lake Bennett and Nares Lake.  Wandering through the town, we chanced upon a municipal picnic spot with a stunning view of Lake Bennett and Montana Mountain beyond.
Most of the enclosures in the Carcross Cemetery hold just one grave.
Another stop in Carcross was at the local cemetery.  Unlike Skagway's Gold Miners Cemetery, which is promoted as a tourist destination, the Carcross burial ground is hidden away on a gravel road running under the Klondike Highway bridge.  Our mission there was to find the final resting place of local residents whose discovery of shiny objects along the shore of Bonanza Creek in northern Yukon led to the Klondike Gold Rush.  The cemetery was nestled inside a white picket fence, and most graves had their own enclosure, also painted white.  The effect was  like a field of baby cribs scattered about.  We found the markers for Skookum Jim Mason, Kate Carmacks, and Dawson Charlie and paid our respects by leaving a letterbox to encourage others to visit the site where these Yukon history makers are entombed.
Bove Island in Tagish Lake
 From Carcross the beauty of the scenery intensified with one amazing view after another.  Just when you thought you had seen the best the Klondike had to offer, you would round a curve and find a scene of equal caliber.  We have driven numerous roads which have been lauded as being among the "most scenic drives" on the continent that don't even approach what we found on the South Klondike.  Yet we don't ever remember seeing it listed.  A customs agent at the U.S. border tried to persuade us to return to Whitehorse through Haines so we wouldn't be repeating the same route on the way back.  No doubt that route has much to offer, but we were more than happy to see the wonders of the South Klondike again.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Whitehorse.  We plan to relax a bit, maybe see a few sights we've missed closer to town, and get ready for our trip to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories on Sunday.

Look at the Size of that Skeeter!  The diamond shaped yellow road signs we obliviously depend on in the U.S. to warn us of upcoming road changes were absent on the Canadian section of the Klondike.  With no official notice of coming intersections, some creative soul near Mount Lorne installed an oversized metallic mosquito sculpture at the roadside to alert drivers they were passing Mosquito Road.

Polly, the Foul-Mouthed Parrot:  The most adorned grave we saw in the Carcross Cemetery was that of Polly the Parrot.  According to legend, this long-time resident of the town's Caribou Hotel loved to bite, drink, sing, spit and swear. Reportedly living to the age of 125, Polly learned her tricks from the rowdy miners who frequented the hotel.  When the old bird finally died in 1972, the entire town turned out for her funeral, along with others who traveled from Whitehorse.  At its conclusion, the entire funeral party gathered at the hotel to raise a drink to the town's most famous resident.
 
- Miles driven:  279
- Walked:  3.2 miles
- Weather:  partly cloudy, 48 to 57 degrees
- Letterboxes:  Found 11, Planted 2
- Tour buses on Klondike Highway:  27
- Cruise ships docked in Skagway:  2
- Tourists roaming Skagway streets:  4,289
- Money injected into local economies by cruise passengers:  Lot$$$$

More Photos from Today
At Bennett Lake in Carcross
Great visual clue
Amazing variety of terrain along the Klondike Highway
First time we've entered Alaska by road
Gold Miners Cemetery in Skagway with wooden headstones (and lots of letterboxes)
Matthew Watson General Store in Carcross, the oldest store in Yukon
Looks as if people were kind to Polly in the end, even if she wasn't to them.

 
Seeking True North, Day 3:  Whitehorse, YT

As expected, the day unfolded into a pattern of scattered showers.  Before the rain moved in, however, we were treated to a spectacular display of pinks and purples, yellows and oranges as the sun rose outside the bedroom window of our little cabin in the woods.  Certainly a fair trade-off for the drizzles to come.
It's hard to find fault with a day that starts like this.
In anticipation of the weather, we packed our agenda for the day with visits to indoor spaces.  First stop was the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center.  I must admit that I have never picked up much of a passion for paleontology, but I was pleased to participate because Ken wanted to visit the museum.  Almost an hour after our arrival, we left the Beringia center, both surprised that I was the one raving about how fascinating the exhibits were.

Beringia is the name given a lost sub-continent between Asia and North America.  Scientists believe that during the last great ice age more than 20,000 years ago, while much of earth's land masses lay inert under massive sheets of ice, the region from Siberia to Alaska and Yukon remained unaffected.  Because glacier formation had sent sea levels plummeting as much as 400 feet, a submerged land bridge between the continents was exposed and a grassy tundra appeared that spanned the area.  A variety of Ice Age mammals including the wooly mammoth, giant beaver, and steppe bison, thrived with this plentiful food source.  Humans who hunted these beasts followed them from Siberia, establishing the first human migration into what became known as North America.
One of the largest and most complete wooly mammoth skeletons ever found
Pretty interesting stuff, but what really got my attention was when I discovered how researchers learned so much about events and residents of long ago.  In a word... permafrost.  Make that two words...permafrost and gold.  Many of the fossils that have revealed Beringia's story have been preserved in permafrost, a subsoil that has been frozen since the ice age.  The effect was almost like freeze-drying processes used today.  Not only have entire skeletons of long-extinct animals been discovered, sometimes frozen carcasses complete with skin, muscle and hair have been uncovered.  
Steppe bison thrived in Beringia, accounting for 80% of the ice age fossils unearthed in the area.
Who uncovered them?  Miners.  The search for gold provided the motivation for all those miners to go digging around in the permafrost and making scientific discoveries.  We both found the story compelling and the exhibits of these ancient beasts fascinating.    
Preserved and administered by the national park service
Our next stop was the S.S. Klondike, the largest sternwheeler riverboat on the Yukon River in its day.  The 210-ft boat was built in Whitehorse in 1929 to haul supplies north and various mineral ores south.  Before the advent of roads, the paddlewheelers formed a lifeline for settlements and mining camps in the Yukon.  River transportation brought in the supplies, food and equipment needed for survival and production.  In later years when trucks began to replace cargo ships in the Yukon, the Klondike was refitted as a river cruise ship.  Though it now sits on dry land, the boat has taken on yet a new role as a museum commemorating an important period of Yukon history.

From the paddlewheeler, we made our way to the Schwatka Lake Day Use Area to search for our first letterbox in the Yukon. Though it had not been found since 2014, the hidden treasure was still in great condition, awaiting our visit under a fallen log.  Time and place coming together, we decided to eat our picnic lunch while there.  As we were about to drive back toward town, a majestic golden eagle, with a wingspan of six feet or more, swooped down near the boat launch to greet us.  Only a few minutes later, as we were cruising along Chadburn Lake Road, a burly black bear sauntered across the road a hundred yards ahead.  When he heard our car tires stirring up gravel, he picked up the pace and lumbered off into the woods. 
Old Log Church Museum (We took this blue sky pic yesterday.)
Back in Whitehorse, we made a visit to the Old Log Church Museum.  Built in 1900 as an outpost of the Anglican Church in Yukon, the quaint log construction is one of the oldest buildings in Whitehorse still on its original site.  Replaced with a new church in 1960, the venerable old structure now houses a plethora of exhibits relating the history of the Anglican Church in the Yukon.  Unlike our experience at the Beringia center, we actually remembered to have our Yukon Passport stamped at the church and the Klondike.
Canoe handmade from one log
In fact, the passport was helping to guide our rainy day exploration of Whitehorse.  That's what led us to the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Center.  Sitting on the banks of the Yukon River, the center strives to celebrate the heritage and preserve the cultural and language traditions of the Kwanlin Dün native people.  By the time we finished perusing the outstanding exhibits at the center, the rain had all but ceased.  On the way out the door, we picked up a Whitehorse Art Walk brochure, a scavenger hunt through the downtown area to visit some of the city's public art, from sculptures to murals, totems to graffiti.   

We were immediately hooked and straightaway began our search for the 19 works of art, knowing we wouldn't stop until we found and photographed them all.  Taking inspiration from the brochure's photographer, we accepted the daunting challenge of capturing an image of them in their often crowded setting while making the piece of art the clear subject of the photo.  It was a fun way to end the day, and indeed, we did see each and every one.
Some of the public art on the scavenger hunt
Before returning to our cabin in the woods, we made arrangements to extend our stay there for the remainder of our time in Whitehorse rather than transferring to an in-town hotel as we had planned.  Now we can take tonight's cloudy skies in stride, knowing we'll have two more opportunities to see some aurora activity before leaving Whitehorse.

Tomorrow we plan to drive the Klondike Highway to Skagway, Alaska, some 130 miles away.  That's 3.5 hours, according to Google Maps.
 
Never Say Never:  With a chilling rain and temperatures well below 50, yes, we did use the car's "bun warmers" this morning.

Ate His Boots? Yesterday we read an interpretive sign outside the Old Log Church about a longtime Yukon Anglican official who was called "the bishop who ate his boots." Persisting to the end of the lengthy text, we never learned how he gained such a nickname. Inside the museum today, the background was revealed. Admit it. Now you're wondering, too, aren't you? We won't keep you in the dark. In 1909, the bishop and a local pastor paid a call on a remote community. On their return to Whitehorse, they became lost in the mountains and were overtaken by a winter storm. Facing starvation, they were reduced to cooking and eating their sealskin boots. Fortunately, they stumbled upon help later that day, or none of us would have heard this story. But then he probably wouldn't have earned that moniker either.
 
- Miles driven:  63
- Walked:  2.2 miles 
- Sunrise, 6:20....Sunset, 9:45
- Weather:  45 to 55 degrees, scattered showers
- Wildlife spottings:  2
- Public art photographed:  25 (added a few extra)
- Letterboxes:  found 1

THURSDAY, 18 AUGUST, 2016

More Photos from Today
Imagine the giant dam a colony of beavers this size could build!
Boats with the paddle wheel in the back are called sternwheelers; with wheels on the side, sidewheelers. 
Miners and settlers depended on the riverboats for essential supplies.
Don't ask me.  It was listed in the Roadside Attractions app.

 
Seeking True North, Day 2:  Whitehorse, YT

After a solid night of much needed rest, we picked up a compact Chevy Cruze, masquerading as a midsize vehicle in Driving Force's fleet of rental cars.  With no other options, we were happy to find it quite serviceable, even including a back-up camera, heated seats (not real critical this week), and stellar fuel efficiency (40+ mpg).  And the local rental agent did offer pick-up service from the hotel this morning.  Though it has logged 38,317 miles, we were a little surprised to find the car so dinged up.  Even the windshield had numerous small cracks from rock strikes.  "It doesn't take long up here," agent Rebecca explained.  Many area roads are unpaved, and in the summer sections of the few major road revert to gravel as repairs try to keep up with the damage inflicted by winter's extreme freeze/thaw cycles.  To protect their vehicles from flying rocks thrown up from gravel roads, some drivers have installed plastic headlight covers, wire radiator grills, and even rubber matting under the gas tank.  

Since we were moving to a self-catering cottage twenty miles out of Whitehorse for the next two nights, our first order of business after we checked out of the hotel was grocery shopping.  The local Real Canadian Superstore provided an excellent variety, even including vegetarian and gluten-free sections, at prices that ensured a good value.  As we were loading the groceries into the car, we couldn't help noticing a mud-splattered BMW motorcycle parked next to us.  Standing beside it, lunching on a baguette and some cheese, were Thomas and Helena, a German couple in their thirties on a great adventure.  They arrived in Calgary four weeks ago thanks to Air Canada's "Fly Your Bike" program offering reduced rates for shipping motorbikes during the summer months.  The bike can even fly on the same flight as its owner.  Now that's attention to tourism detail.
These road warriors know how to pack light. 
But back to Thomas and Helena.  They left Calgary and rode 2,500 miles to Prudhoe Bay on Alaska's northern coast.  More than 1,100 miles later, they came through Whitehorse today on their way south.  And we do mean south.  By the end of this year, they plan to have ridden another 15,000 miles to wind up their epic road trip in Buenos Aires.  Both these adventurers were quite personable and their English was flawless with only a scant trace of an accent.  (Another reminder of the American education system's abject neglect in failing to teach our children a foreign language.) We wished them well and parted ways, with them headed to Watson Lake another 272 miles away, whereas our Fish Lake destination was a bit closer.    
Our lunch view
 On the way to Fish Lake, we stopped at a small pond for a picnic lunch.  As we enjoyed our sandwiches, fish in the pond entertained us with their own version of Olympic high jumps...with no bar to clear but a smorgasbord of insects to lunge for.  So actually, you could say we and the fish had lunch together, all under the shelter of a brilliant azure sky scattered with cotton puff clouds.  After this lovely scene, Fish Lake was a bit anti-climactic, particularly after the rave review we had heard from the car rental agent.
(photo from Yukon Tourism Ministry)
It was time for us to return to town and check out some of downtown Whitehorse.  Covering  just a few square blocks near the Yukon River, the compact city center is very walkable.  We started at the Yukon Visitor Information Center,  which offered convenient and free parking as well as providing guidance.  While there we picked up a Yukon Gold Explorer's Passport, brainchild of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.  As one might expect, the document is used to collect stamps from a plethora of museums, cultural centers, historic sites and similar attractions throughout the Yukon.  As added motivation, the ministry is running a contest this summer.  Those who obtain a twenty or more stamps will be entered in a drawing for a chunk of real Klondike gold.
Main Street features one recreation outfitter after another.
We continued our stroll along the tidy streets lined with restaurants and shops, hotels and galleries.  Thanks to the traffic brought to town by the Alaska Highway and very successful refocusing efforts by its people, Yukon has transformed itself from a mining economy into a thriving tourist destination.  With such a tiny population, however, the territory does not have the economic means to sustain itself without subsidies from the federal government.  Thus, provincial status is not likely to be in its future.
The bright and spacious entranceway to the "Ledge."
This last bit we learned from John, a Filipino transplant and territorial government employee who gave us a guided tour of the legislative assembly and government administration building, which opened in 1976.  Highlights were the legislative chamber, where the 19 members of the assembly gather to enact laws governing the territory, and the members lounge with its exhibit of the Women's Tapestries.  Designed in honor of International Women's Year in 1976, the five tapestries were created by more than 3,500 Yukon men, women and children volunteers, nearly one-fourth of the population at the time.     
Miles Canyon
Though it was after 5:00 when we left the "Ledge," as Canadians call their legislative buildings, the forecast called for almost five more hours of daylight, so we turned south out of Whitehorse to visit Miles Canyon.  When the Yukon River was forced through the narrow canyon in pre-hydroelectric days, it churned up into the powerful White Horse Rapids.  So ferocious were the rapids that hundreds of boatloads of precious cargo were pulled under by them during the Klondike Gold Rush.  Today the water moves through more serenely.  A pedestrian suspension bridge built in 1922 spans the canyon.  This beautiful scene was a stellar location for one of our "Love This Spot" letterboxes, but after crossing and recrossing the bridge and exploring the trails near both ends, we were unable to locate a suitable hiding place.   
Cozy and comfortable
A half-hour drive took us to Sundog Retreat and our cozy cabin for the next two nights, Fuzzy Crocus.  With a full kitchen and a well framed view of its scenic surroundings next to the dining table, we made good use of our grocery run and enjoyed a relaxing dinner.  Far away from the lights of the city, we were cautiously optimistic about seeing some aurora activity from the cabin tonight.  Solar conditions were favorable and visible activity was likely from Dawson City to Watson Lake.  But rain was also in the forecast, and the clouds that would bring the rain moved in around midnight and obscured any lights that might have been dancing.  We'll certainly have other opportunities with three more nights in Whitehorse and again in Yellowknife and Iqaluit.  And there's always Alaska.

Tomorrow is expected to bring rain, so we plan to explore some of Whitehorse's many museums.  
 

Clever Shop of the Day:  Due North, on Front Street, selling maternity and baby goods.

Like Returning Home:  Owners of the Sundog Retreat are definitely not the smothering type we've encountered at some B&Bs.  Our email confirmation notified us that we should just go directly to our cabin, which would be open and ready.  A sign at the main gate offered a map to help us locate Fuzzy Crocus.  Unless we decide to go to the main building for wifi or to hang out in the sunroom, we may never meet the innkeepers.  There's no requirement to check out either.  Just wash the dishes and leave the key on the table.  Thankfully we do have a strong cellular signal at the cabin, which came as quite a surprise since we've encountered many "No Service" spots in the area.  
 
- Miles driven:  71 
- Weather:  43 to 68 degrees, sunny
- Dings on rental car:  64
- Windshield chips:  8
- Fish jumping out of pond:  47
- Visitors at Miles Canyon:  89
- Floatplanes offering flightseeing tours:  35
- Swarming gnats:  672,094,778

WEDNESDAY, 17 AUGUST 2016

More Photos from Today
Yukon's legislative chamber
The Women's Tapestries
From the dock onto the plane and you're off!
Miles Canyon suspension bridge
After lightening the background to capture the interior, our view looks like a painting.