In the footsteps of the ice ages: crossing the Yukon
|The Mighty Yukon River at Dawson City|
|...and I'll have a drop of the red with that thanks.|
|Part of the Stikine Canyon near Telegraph Creek|
|Salmon fishing shack on the Stikine|
So instead of kayaking the Yukon, we poked around some back roads, one of which took us through remote country to Telegraph Creek where the rivers had cut huge gorges for many kilometers through the landscape. The rivers here had taken many lives so we decided these weren’t really suited to us either, so we simply camped on their banks and appreciated them from the sidelines. Got chatting to a fellow who had just bought a property here. He runs an internet-based furniture business so intends to run it from the middle of nowhere with his solar and micro-hydro power sources in a climate that apparently is fine for growing vegies, although I’m not sure how you’d cope through winter. It seems that this was an area that lots of US draft dodgers settled in during the ‘70s and now their kids are moving back to the area.
|Camp guest at Telegraph Creek|
Another side trip took us to the quaint little hamlet of Atlin, lots of old rickety houses and a few newer cabins on the stunning Atlin Lake with views across to more snow-capped peaks and glaciers. Chatted with a local First Nations girl who had just moved into town (actually to a tent on the edge of town, living in fear of bears) to be with her boyfriend who works on the fishing fleets several months of the year. There was a funeral and potlatch happening for an elder who had passed away and she would be serving food at the ceremony. She explained that, by being a Crow, she would not be able to eat at the ceremony as the person who had died was a Wolf. This, however, was good for business at the local takeaway as all of the Crows were going across the road to buy food for themselves, as did we, sampling the local fish and chips.
|Dusk over Atlin Lake|
|The MV Tarahne - retired from service in 1936 - now an occasional restaurant|
|What happens when you warm up the permafrost!|
The summer solstice found us in Dawson City, a bizarre yet quaint town where all of the buildings are preserved and restored relics of the gold rush days or, if new, built to match the style of that era. They seem to have pulled it of pretty well, as it gives the feeling of a living and lived-in town rather than a tourist artifice. What was more weird was the population - a mix of First Nations people, old timer whites, a younger white set of new wave hippies who have built funky cabins in the hills around town, the RVers blowing in an out, a bunch of german punks who looked like they were living on the meagre tips they were getting from busking on the main street and, finally, hundreds of bikers who turn up here each year from all over the americas at the completion of the Dust to Dawson rally.
|Tr'ondek Hwech'in celebrating National Aboriginal Day|
The solstice also coincided with National Aboriginal Day so we were privileged to be able to listen to the songs and stories of the local Tr'ondek Hwech'in, performed by three generations of singers and dancers dressed in traditional clothing.
Apparently the location of Dawson City was an important seasonal fishing camp for the Tr'ondek Hwech'in but, with the discovery of gold, thousands of prospectors settled the area. The then chief, Chief Isaac, foresaw the risks this posed and through negotiations with the Government of the day, created a new settlement a few miles away. He also anticipated the impact of the newcomers on traditional culture and so entrusted their songs, dances and stories with First Nations Peoples in Alaska. With the signing of a Land Rights agreement in July 1988 and the repatriation of their songs and dances it seems that the really do have something to celebrate at this time of year
Our journey then took us across the Yukon river on a little ferry that carried a handful of cars, or a single truck, across the river at a time. From the river we climbed steadily to the Top of the World “highway”, a potholed and corrugated dirt road that ultimately took us to the border with Alaska where we waited to be cleared to re-enter the US as they attempted to recover their crashed computer system.
|Taking the ferry over the Yukon River|