The journey thru the high North of Yukon Province. Cruise ship tourists infested Skagway, sleepy Haines, Yukon’s lost capital Whitehorse, the faded glory of Dawson City and back to Uncle Don’s Own Country: to Alaska.
Skagway, 6th June
By now we made nearly 1000km on the Alaska Highway. We’re in Watson Lake. We’ve seen the Sign Board Forest, the Alaska Highway passing thru Watson Lake and visited 1 of the few eateries for a plate of spaghetti with meat sauce: Kathy’s Kitchen. So we’ve done all what is feasible in this village. Remains the Northern Light Center. But it’s closed. Probably because the guys finally understood that there’s nothing to see at that time of the year when even at midnight it doesn’t get dark.
On 4th June we leave Watson Lake. To Skagway in the US. Well, it’s a bypass of the Alaska Highway. Some 500km to drive. A quick breakfast for Prado – and we’re on the way.
Not much wildlife. Just a Caribou.
We arrive at Teslin. Halfway. Cross the famous bridge over the eponymous Lake …
… and feel that we’re definitely approaching Russia. Where else than in this country do you find a police car made of plywood fading in the sun? Dear police, don’t you think your cardboard dummy needs a bit of reality to impress poor sinners driving thru Teslin? If you have no funds for real cars, maybe a retired real policeman as the driver would improve the situation.
Still slightly shocked by this fake police car we recover with a gourmet lunch. American biscuits (those the locals inundate with gravy for breakfast) and Canadian cheddar cheese.
Then we’re off the Alaska Highway. Head south-west towards Skagway.
Quite some construction sites, …
… but nice landscape near the White Pass.
Then we’re at the US border. Of course we know what we’ll experience: waiting for hours, a guy asking you why the hell you want to enter the US whilst you’re asking yourself for what reason you’re crazy enough to enter this country. Not the best prerequisite to give a reasonable answer. You convince the honourable immigration officer that you don’t want to settle in Uncle Don’s Own Country – why the hell should you. Convince him that you don’t import a weapon – even if it’s your basic right to have 1 in the US. Finally another 200 stupid questions and you’re in.
Ok, we’re ready for all this. The guy asks us when we entered the US for the 1st time, admires Prado’s stickers, discovers our visa in the passport and wishes us all the best for our stay in the US. 2’ and we’re in. No joke.
Shortly later we’re in Skagway. Definitely a pretty unusual place. Founded some 120 years ago as the gateway and service center for all these guys infected by the Klondike Gold Rush fever. Of course modern times changed gold mining pattern and the Klondike gold fields are no longer a hotspot. The town’s economy collapsed. Time for Skagway’s historic Broadway and the railway to Whitehorse to decay.
Many decennials later some clever guys developed the concept of cruise shipping. An optimized kind of mass tourism where 3000 people pay a fortune just to be perched into a ship, wait for hours for their turn for whatever they want to do and where they’re ready to be outsmarted wherever they buy these nice souvenirs which later they just use to fill another cupboard in their home.
Back to Skagway. Despite all deficiencies after the gold rush remains its strategic location at the seafront. Thus it was discovered by these cruise shippers. Quickly the historic buildings and the railway were restored. Dozens of shops selling gifts and souvenirs operate to satisfy cruise ship tourists’ absolute needs. An authentic bar cum brothel opens its doors (of course, the brothel as a museum only). Dozens of incredible sightseeing tours are created – and all is ready for the town’s economic revival.
Nowadays, the center is completely cruise shipper oriented’n’infested. Each and every day 4 ships arrive. Makes at least 10 000 people browsing the Broadway, booking a train, a chopper, a bus or are walking, cycling, swimming or …
… make wannabe brothel tours. Spending fortunes for gifts for their beloved ones – and all others. And disappear a few hours later. Back to their storage on the ships.
By 7pm the show is over. Skagway’s Broadway converts immediately into a ghost town – who else would be interested in its strange’n’overprized offers. Remain a few places for the exhausted locals and tourists staying overnight to sip some beers and munch greasy Fish’n’Chips.
Well, strolling thru the town’s residence area, we still find last pockets of good sense and resistance against the current political mainstream. So some reasons to remain optimistic.
Great place – isn’t it?
Ok. Other stuff. The next morning we drive back to the White Pass. Just to admire the landscape.
On to the next Alaskan outpost: Haines. Either you can drive there – 535 km from Skagway – or take the Alaska Marine Highway and ship 25 km. Most people finally decide to drive. Simply because the ferry is constantly booked out during this time of the year. Somehow we’re lucky and get a space.
Well, it’s just for an hour, …
… and we arrive in Haines. Pretty tiny. Very laid back. But wonderfully situated.
The historic Fort William H. Seward – modestly interesting, …
… a drive along Mud Bay …
… to admire some Bald Eagles and …
… in the evening a pretty rustic bar.
On to Haines Junction. Some 250 km. Crossing the Canadian border – easy as usual, …
… then the Chilkat Pass. Not really high with some 1100m. But enough at this latitude to be snow-covered for most of the year.
Further along the Kluane National Park to Kathleen Lake and …
… finally we’re in Haines Junction. A few houses, Kluane’s visitor center and an incredible monument.
We suppose the guy building this Monster still is suffering in jail.
Whatever. Time for Fish’n’Chips and an Amber Ale.
Dawson City, 11th June
The next morning nice weather has gone. The next cold front is approaching. What a mess.
We head on to Whitehorse – again on the Alaska Highway, but now driving southwards.
Whitehorse – the proud capital of the Yukon Province and the home of some 28 000 lost souls. Sorry dear Yukis, but surviving in Kinshasa, DRC seems to be more exciting than experiencing your beautiful 11 months long winters.
Whatever. We’re here in Whitehorse. It’s not frozen, no snowfall but rain. As a province capital it’s great to fill our pretty empty fridge. To cut hair – Monika cries for it. To wash the car – Prado cries for it, but we refuse once we’ve seen Whitehorse’s Mighty Carwash and the queue in front of it.
And it’s an opportunity to stroll thru downtown – half an hour should be enough, especially if it rains.
At least they have a pretty nice eatery/watering hole. Nevertheless, once in we discover that most of the place is occupied by American cruise ship tourists. It looks like they are on an extended tour from Skagway. Somehow we’re getting concerned about the extent of their tours. And somehow it seems we’re not flexible enough to get used to this tourism concept with all its consequences. Of course, we remain optimistic. Our next destination – Dawson – will be surely too far away for these crowds.
The next morning – before getting too excited about Whitehorse we head on. To Dawson City – the ultimate dream of all gold rushers some 120 years ago. Some 550 km to drive. All northwards. Weather: rainy as yesterday. But it should be better in the afternoon – at least according to the meteorologists.
Soon some wildlife at the roadside. A lynx. Unfortunately the guy only wants to have photographed its back.
Some 7h driving; hilly landscape and the usual forest, …
… some beautifully coloured lakes and, …
… for a change, a bear mom organising some traffic education for the puppies.
Somewhen later on a rest area we discover a huge bus. A bus of the Holland America Line. Thus, the cruise shippers are here – on their way to Dawson City.
We continue. Increasingly concerned about what to find in Dawson City. Another artificial place converted into Disneyland like Skagway? Maybe that’s the reason why the motels are so expensive and booked up? And we’re not equipped for camping in this rain. Well, we’ll see.
The last few km and we’re there.
And indeed, there are a few more of these big busses. There’s quite a crowd of people strolling thru the muddy roads in the pouring rain.
Luckily, Dawson City is not yet as disneyfied as Skagway. But still it’s not really a living town. It’s more a kind of museum. Many of the historic houses slightly over – renovated, some still with certain potential for improvement, …
… some parts of the town seem to be rather rundown, look slightly messy. Nevertheless, some gardens proof the inhabitants’ eternal love – at least to their cars.
Other parts reflect a glorious past. A heritage of the time before the British destroyed their empire by Brexit populism.
A lot of houses are for sale. Chinese investors take your chance. Who knows, gold nuggets in the nearby rivers or an increasing number of cruise shippies may lead to an explosion of property prices.
Of course, in Dawson City there’s world class accommodation, …
… fine dining temples – mainly serving gourmet Baby Back Ribs, delicious Fish’n’Chips and handcrafted sausages and …
… there’s the oldest bar – not sure whether in the world, the US, Alaska or Dawson City. Whatever, old.
And finally: some stiff competition for Prado – at least concerning the age. 2 Dutch cars seen on Dawson City’s roadside. Seems they made about the same journey from Europe we’ve done. Unfortunately we couldn’t find the owners.
Of course, there’s more to see than the remodelled historic houses: Bonanza Creek. This miserable small river is simply the reason for Dawson’s existence. Some 150 years ago a smart lady washing dirty plates at Bonanza Creek’s shores discovered a huge gold nugget. Que suerte. And the gold rush started. Nowadays this place is well marked by the tourist board. 2 chairs invite curious travellers to meditate about the world’s injustice because someone else found these nuggets.
And there’s a dredge to visit. 1 of these monsters they constructed some 100 years ago to mechanise gold mining. Somehow fascinating. Remembers to some scenes of good old Chaplin’s Modern Times.
Eagle, 12th June
Further northwards to Eagle. Now on the Top-of-the-World Highway. Sorry guys in Lesotho, it seems you get some more competition concerning being near to the sky. Of course the same applies to the Tadjikies along the Pamir Highway.
Well, to get there we 1st have to cross mighty Yukon River on a ferry. Pretty straightforward. For us a little unusual after all our ferry experience made in The Gambia.
Then we’re on the Top-of-the-World highway. An excellent gravel road. Thus quite dangerous for Prado’s windscreen as many cars cross at a pretty fast speed. For some guys we change to south-of-Swizzyland-gravel-road-driving: approaching oncoming cars on the left, tottering like drunk. Of course the oncoming guy immediately starts driving very carefully. Windscreen safed – for the moment. Whatever. Great road, great landscape.
We drive up to 1100m altitude, …
… near to the US border. Crossing easy as usual here in the north. And we’re back in Uncle Don’s Own Country.
The last 100km on a smaller road to Eagle.
Finally, we’re in the tiny village of Eagle. Some 150 lost souls – just a little more than nobody. And no more tours of these cruise shippers – what a relief. We find a beautiful B&B: Falcon Inn. A whole log house, just to share with another couple. So opportunities to share many tales.
A quick look at the village. They have a beautiful waterfront at the Yukon River. Unfortunately, there’s no market for a beach lounge.
Of course, there’s the main road and …
… the fort – at least some remnants of it. Now converted into a closed museum.
Thus, quite a likeable small village at the end of the world. Would there not be this discovery made when strolling thru Eagle’s lonely streets.
We find these incriminatory voting posters in the backyard of a gentleman described as the King of Eagle. It’s the guy owning among others the fuel station. Just imagine the influence this gentleman may have on his poor co-citizens in the village. Shame. But who knows, maybe the next Trump Tower will be built in Eagle, Alaska to impress the heroic supporters and to make the village even greater.
With this astonishing insight view in 1 of America’s remotest settlement we end our post. Hope you enjoyed reading and wait impatiently for the next release.