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The morning was mostly about addressing logistical issues. A thin layer of low clouds settled above Dawson, so we felt less pressure to get out and about. We did a load of laundry at the RV park, then drove into town to stock up on groceries at a couple of decent local stores, then picked up two wool blankets at an outfitters. Despite having two fleece blankets and a synthetic duvet, we’ve been cold at night in the van; it’s not very well insulated and the propane heater is very loud (we do turn it on first thing in the morning).

After our errands the sun began to burn through, so we strolled around the town. Like everywhere in the Yukon, there are excellent interpretive plaques everywhere. We took in the old and old-timey architecture, dirt roads and wooden sidewalks. A fair number of the buildings are wonky due to the permafrost, just like many of the telephone poles along the side of the highways. We looked at the old saloons, post office, stores and the cabins of Robert Service and Jack London. We chatted about the Dempster Highway to a very nice and helpful woman in the Northwest Territories info centre, and had a tasty lunch (grilled cheese, yam fries, soup and cappuccino) in a more local restaurant on Front Street.

Our final stop in Dawson were the claim sites up Bonanza Creek, about 15kms from town. The weather had turned warm and clear as we walked around this area rich with so much history (thanks again to Pierre Berton for his book on the Klondike which I read before leaving). We visited the site of Robert Carmack and Skookum Jim’s original claims which started the Klondike gold rush. Bonanza Creeks was ripped to pieces by dredges in the 50 years following the rush, but enough time has passed that it probably is starting to look a bit more like it did when they found the original nuggets. There was 1km walk along the creek with a series of very good plaques talking about the area before the rush, the find, and the mining techniques used to extract gold. Downstream these is also a restored dredge (which was closed to touring).

By the mid-afternoon we were on the road again. 40kms west brought us to the junction with the Dempster, and we made a turn north. The road is gravel all of the way to Inuvik, but by now we are getting used to it. We climbed gently until we were among quite jagged and open peaks. Fall colours are further along here. There are still trees – spruce and some cottonwood – and rusty orange bushes. After about 50kms (at 60-70km/h), we came to Tombstone Territorial Park, which was created as part of the land claims settlement with the Tr’ondek Hwech’in. It’s a gorgeous place of rugged peaks and vast open spaces. It’s cold and dry, with the summits free of snow at this time of year. Ochre vegetation lines the valleys – home to caribou, moose and bears – and up gulleys towards the rocky peaks.

We drove a short ways past where we are staying to take in a view towards Tombstone Mountain 24kms away. It was early evening with the warm sun in our eyes, cottonwood fluff floating by, and no sound but the rivers and creeks below.

The campground is beautifully situated in the North Klondike River valley, just shy of the Continental Divide. Peaks surround us on all sides, and the air has an incredible freshness. The skies are clear, and with luck there will be excellent stars and perhaps even northern lights tonight.


Written by sockeyed

September 13, 2010 at 18:08

Posted in Travel

Tagged with , , ,

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