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Our weekend camping in Tombstone – great wildlife viewing!

We went up the Dempster Highway to go camping this weekend. This is a remote gravel road that goes from 40km east of Dawson City, up north, ending in Inuvik, 736km later. (And by next year will go all the way to Tuktoyaktuk on the the Arctic Ocean!)

It is wild, remote country. Very few people, lots of animals and bears. I’m so ridiculously bearanoid, I made it clear I was never camping in a tent in the Yukon. Jeff found a compromise and decided we should camp in the Tombstone Territorial park campground. It is just right on the edge of the treeline, just south of wide open tundra. There are 36 sites, no services, but outhouses, and free firewood! $12 a night, self service (so bring cash if you go so you can deposit it in the money pot!)

I soon convinced myself if I could increase the number of people to bear ratio, within a square kilometre, I would be safe in the tent. Campground camping seemed like a good compromise to me.

And I did it! Two nights in the tent! There were only a dozen other people camping, and half of them were in truck campers or just sleeping in their cars, vans, and pick up trucks.

We had clear skies, sunshine, and also rain, snow, and clouds on this camping adventure. We saw a high of 11 or 12° C and a low of likely below zero. It was COLD on Friday night. Cold enough the water along the road in the drainage ditches froze and the truck roof was covered in frost.

We picked a spot right on the North Klondike River. They have gravel pads for tents. We brought our big tent, but Jeff didn’t want to bring our big deep super-sized bed of an air mattress, and got us two little Wood’s self-inflating air pads to sleep on. Which were hideous. Maybe I would have liked them when I was 20, but at 40 years old, my bones need more.

We spent Friday evening, and all of Saturday driving up the Dempster, slowly, wildlife searching. Jeff fished a few times but the fish just weren’t around. The streams have cleared up, so you could see that there just weren’t any fish in them. Just cold, clear water. So we took a lot of pictures, and used the binoculars and spotting scope and watched animals instead. We only went up to kilometre 180 or so.

Wildlife count:

  • 6 moose including a baby!
  • 30-40 Dall sheep
  • 7 caribou
  • 10 foxes plus fox babies!
  • 2 lynx
  • dozens and dozens and dozens of bunnies – snowshoe hare
  • lots of ptarmigan back in their brown feathers
  • many ducks
  • immature bald eagle eating a bunny
  • ground squirrel
  • and no bears! But saw so much bear poop on the roads!

Friday

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Camping with midnight sun is … interesting. The weekend feels like one long day because it never got dark. On Friday night, the sky was clear, and I waited up for the pink sunset reflection to leave the mountains. Which was almost 12:30am. The sunrise was before 4am and it wasn’t dark in between. It is nice not needing a flashlight. But when I’m drinking beers by a campfire, it is nice to take a quick pee in the woods under the cover of darkness 😉

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Food tastes so much better when you are camping! (And when Jeff is cooking!) We had steak and potatoes on Friday night. My new survival knife cuts steak really well 🙂

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All Yukon campgrounds provide free firewood. It is spruce and was a little too fresh, but we did well mixing in a few dry pieces we had in the truck. Jeff chopped a bunch up but wished he brought a bigger axe. Next time!

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Camping in May is great! No bugs at all! It was just way too cold for them. Here’s the view out the driveway of our site (#15).

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Here are a couple pictures from our drive on Friday night after supper:20160527-DSC_0293

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We were looking closely where we saw a pregnant moose a few weeks ago, and I think we spotted her! Or a relative 😉 I thought she was sitting in the bushes, but now while I’m looking at the photo and can zoom, I think she’s standing. She didn’t move a muscle as we sat on the road and watched her with binoculars and the camera. In case she was the pregnant moose, we moved along and didn’t stick around to stress her.

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Saturday

Saturday morning started off so cold, but it was a beautiful morning!

Here is the look off where I like to stop to get a photo, just north of the campground a kilometre or two.20160528-DSC_0304

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Our campsite was down the valley here. You might see a white spot where the roof of the park’s interpretive centre is.

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Jeff fishing:

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We saw a fox sitting in front of a den on Friday night, and while Jeff was fishing, I got our binoculars and looked around and spotted the fox again nearby the same spot. We went back to see her.

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She seemed like she couldn’t care less that we were there.20160528-DSC_0330

She even stopped for a scratch:20160528-DSC_0337

And a shake:20160528-DSC_0338

Then she came right up to the road beside us, and crossed the road right in front of the truck:20160528-DSC_0342

And walked up the slope on the far side of the road and disappeared over the hill.20160528-DSC_0344

Then Jeff spotted something in her den! Can you see it?

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A fox kit!

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Look at the fluffy guard hairs on its coat! It is so fluffy!

Wait! There are more!

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Look at how cute! Ahhh! I can’t take it! So cuuuuuute!20160528-DSC_0363

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It is hard to stop myself from sharing 20 photos of these adorable fox babies! Okay, just one more!

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We revisited another one of Jeff’s fishing holes and saw some ducks sleeping in a big puddle (but no fish):

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And a sparrow (I’ve gotta learn my Yukon birds):20160528-DSC_0397

We have tree swallows everywhere. I just love watching them. The next couple of pictures are from Two Moose Lake:

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So many different kinds of ducks here! No swans this weekend though.

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A bit further north of Two Moose Lake, we spotted two moose!

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One was definitely bigger than the other, and the younger looking one has antler stubs, so maybe this is a momma moose with her last year’s calf.

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I have no idea how Jeff spotted the next fellow, and while he was driving! This fox was stretched out snoozing, on my side of the road. I thought he must have been hurt or wounded, but nah! He was just sleeping. He’d open his eyes for awhile and look at us, then close them up and sleep on.

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The wildflowers are really coming to life. Just from Friday to Sunday there was a remarkable difference in the number of flowers around. Tons of these wild lupins:

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They are much shorter than the east coast variety, and I think I’ve only ever seen this blue/purple shade. Leaves look the same as the ones growing in our Nova Scotia yard though.

We watched the Dall sheep on the mountain where we spotted them about three weeks ago. We saw one with a baby sheep too! They were far up on the mountain though, and Jeff’s spotting scope on the window mount was really the only good viewing, so I don’t have a photo of the baby lamb. We saw sheep again another 70 km up the road though.

Sheep can be remarkably camouflaged. Can you see the sheep in this photo?20160528-DSC_0439

Let me zoom in on the same photo and adjust the contrast a bit so you can see them! There are two near the middle of this photo:

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Jeff found the gyrfalcon next on the cliffs near the road too! The bird is in there, but it is a bit of a stretch for our zoom lens!

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We went just a bit further to where road crews were fixing a pretty significant spring wash out. It looks like one of the mountain streams took out one side of the road. It is weird to see just a car or two for hours and hours and then suddenly see half a dozen dump trucks and an excavator!

On the way back south, there were sheep right on the road!

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Sheep are cute too!

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Sheep tongue!

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None of these sheep had babies yet. Maybe we’ll have to go back in a couple weeks!

Further back south, we saw another baby! A moose baby! Awwww!

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They were a long way away, but the momma moose still turned to take her baby back into the safety of the shrubs. It didn’t look like a brand new baby, but maybe less than a week old!

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We headed back to the campground for another delicious dinner. Pork chops this time! We have so many cans of potatoes on our shelves. They cook up deliciously on the camp stove in a cast iron pan!

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I had my new bush knife ready for the pork chops too!20160528-DSC_0503

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After dinner it started to sprinkle. We stoked the fire and sat for hours beside the river, keeping toasty by the fire. So toasty a big ember burned through my coat and sweatshirt before Jeff found it. I was smelling burning but we couldn’t find it until I almost felt it!

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It was really loud by the river, which was nice so I didn’t jump at every noise, thinking it was a bear, but there was a few bunnies bouncing around the campground!

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After 10pm, the sprinkles turned to rain, so we turned in early. Luckily, despite the rain and wind, it was a warmer night. It snowed all night in the mountain peaks around us. Each had a fresh cap of snow by Sunday morning!

Sunday

By 6:30am we had enough of sleeping on the little air pads and needed to get up and stretch (and pee). It starting sleeting a bit, so we had a quick breakfast, and then packed up our gear and wet tent and was out of there by 8:30am.

The sun came out as we headed south. We saw two lumps on the side of the road, both the same size, and they darted into the woods. Jeff pulled the truck up to where they went in, to see if we could spot them. We were thinking fox, but we didn’t see their tails. That is because they were lynx! Jeff got a few great pictures of one because they sauntered further into the woods.

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See the ear tufts?

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They didn’t look fully grown. Not babies this year, but maybe last?

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Still didn’t see any bears at all! Just a lot of bear poop. But we did see another fox closer to town!

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Overall, A+ weekend! We still fantasize about a truck camper (the kind that go in the box of your truck) and a beefier truck to go with it. Then we could camp anywhere and have a more comfortable bed (and less to pack/unpack/dry/). Maybe next year!

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Doors Open Dawson 2016

I’ve been waiting for this day for almost a year! Before we moved here, I heard there was a day in May where you can go into some of Dawson City’s rarely opened historical buildings. I waited all year for May. And then I had to wait until YESTERDAY at the Gold Show, to hear what buildings were going to be open this year. (The International Gold Show was yesterday and today – like a big trade show for all equipment and services for the mining sector and Parks Canada had a booth where the details for Doors Open Dawson were announced.)

Parks Canada owns close to 30 buildings in town. If you know Dawson City’s history, you know it was just swamp land where the Klondike and Yukon rivers converge, until the great Klondike Gold Rush brought thousands of people here in 1897 onwards. Many old buildings that were built in the 1899-1906 era have been closed up for preservation, or have already been restored.

Here’s what I saw today!

  1. Klondike Thawing Machine Company
  2. Ruby’s Place
  3. West Boiler Shop
  4. Fort Herchmer, NWMP Jail
  5. Bear Creek Gold Room

Fort Herchmer, NWMP Jail

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This is the old jail for the North West Mounted Police (NWMP). It was built in 1898. It was located here, on the first lot established in Dawson City. It is a 40 acre site known as “Fort Herchmer”. There were once about 40 buildings on the site, but only 4 remain.
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This jail was moved by Parks Canada to its current site (not too far), and has been stabilized with a wooden beam frame system that you’ll see inside.20160521-DSC_0005

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The floor is long gone, so the gravel we walked on inside was probably a foot or two lower than where the floor would have been.

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It was pretty dark inside, but I turned on my camera’s flash and just snapped away to see if anything would turn out.

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Sue, the interpretive guide, told us the jail was split into areas. There was a men’s area of the jail ( a short term area, and a long term area), a women’s section, and a section for the insane.

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Remember all the wooden beams you see here are not original, they are just holding the old log building together. Parks Canada is planning on doing a bit more work to this jail this season to further preserve it.

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It isn’t open to the public and not many people have seen the inside, so it was a real treat!

Here I could see some old wall covering around the window.

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If you are familiar with gold rush history, the four Nantuck brothers were jailed here. Two of them passed away in jail of sickness, and the other two were hanged here. Eleven people are known to have been hanged by the North West Mounted Police in Dawson’s earlier days.

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West Boiler Shop

The West Boiler Shop on 3rd Ave, is right beside the famous “kissing buildings” that are leaning into each other after over a hundred years of permafrost heaving. It is a narrow, long wooden structure that doesn’t attract much attention. But today, the windows were open!

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We weren’t allowed to go in this one, and unfortunately my photos didn’t capture the spirit of this place. I felt like I could have looked around for a day!

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This was Jesse West’s boiler shop, where he built and repaired boilers which were essential for mining at the time. Gold miners used steam from the boilers to melt permafrost, before they discovered that cold water under pressure worked just as well. You can see old boilers all over the place, in town, in the woods, left and forgotten in the gold fields where the forest has grown up around them.
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Parks Canada has used their wooden beam structure in here too, in an attempt to hold the old place together. I was really intrigued by the big old wide planks on the floor.20160521-DSC_0025

There is apparently still a forge in the back, and I could see a big drill press of some kind. I cranked up the exposure in the next picture so you can take a peek inside.20160521-DSC_0026

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West worked on boilers here until he died in 1953.

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The outside of the building is pretty rough. From what I understand, Parks Canada doesn’t intend to intervene any further in the preservation of this building. Instead, they’ve done what they can to keep it part of the relict landscape of the town.

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There is a fence surrounding it now. Outside it looks like a forgotten graveyard of boilers and boiler parts.

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Read more about Jesse West:

http://www.yukon-news.com/letters-opinions/when-the-boiler-man-came-to-dawson

Ruby’s Place

I was really excited to visit Ruby’s Place. I’m not sure why, but I have a real fascination with the women who came all the way up here to be dancing hall girls and prostitutes.

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Ruby Scott operated Canada’s last legal brothel here, from 1935 – 1961. And I got to go inside!

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I was really quite surprised to find the place gutted. Just completely empty with walls stripped down to burlap and a mixture of all sorts of wallpapers. The floor seemed to have been replaced with just plain plywood.20160521-DSC_0045

The stairs weren’t considered safe, so we weren’t allowed upstairs. 20160521-DSC_0046

Although there was a giant hole in the ceiling so I could see upstairs anyway.20160521-DSC_0047

There were stove pipe holes all over. The ceiling was really high on the main floor so I bet it was chilly. And I would imagine the prostitutes would like to stay warm 🙂20160521-DSC_0048

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There were pictures, however, of what the building looked like inside when Parks Canada acquired it.20160521-DSC_0054

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I just couldn’t understand why they had gutted it so drastically and hadn’t preserved it as it was. It wasn’t until later in the day that I learned this building was significantly damaged by the flood in 1979. Before there was a dyke along the river, Dawson City had several severe damaging floods during the spring river break up due to ice dams.

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I’ve heard this place is one of the city’s haunted buildings, and I noticed someone has left a rosary here.
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Ruby is shown above on the sign outside the building.

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Klondike Thawing Machine Company

This building was built in 1899. The Klondike Thawing Machine Company took it over in 1913 and it was used as a warehouse.

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We were invited into the rear of the building. I had no idea what we were even going to see here.

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Turns out it is one of Parks Canada’s archive storage facilities! They let us in, gave us latex gloves if we wanted to touch anything, and turned us loose! I couldn’t believe it!

It really feels like Parks Canada has had some sort of culture shift into allowing these things to be seen and enjoyed, rather than just catalogued and warehoused. I don’t think they’ve ever let the public in here before!

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Above is some of Martha and George Black’s personal effects. George was the Commissioner of the Yukon from 1912-1926 and later was a Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons. Both are really fascinating people who you should read about some day!

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There were so many neat and odd things stored in this warehouse. I think I could have easily spent a week in here!

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We saw a stone spearhead, coffins, tools, old newspapers, paintings, pillows, and chairs.20160521-DSC_0084

I wanted to look in every drawer, which they encouraged, but at the same time I felt like there was no way I was actually allowed to look in any drawer! I couldn’t believe it! Thank you Parks Canada!

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Above is a box that says it holds a black ostrich feather headpiece and below are a bunch of coffins, from baby sized and wooden, to large man sized and wicker.

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I got a kick out of the hammer that said it was from the Commissioner’s Residence and was removed because people kept using it on the gong!

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Bear Creek Gold Room

This was the site that everyone was most excited about! 10km south of town, just off the highway, is Bear Creek. This was the headquarters and compound of the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation.

Bear Creek was really its own town, with a separate identity entirely from Dawson City.
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It was built in 1905 and closed in 1968. This company ran the big dredges, and the compound was where everything was serviced and built. 20160521-DSC_0093

By the late 1930’s, they were running 10 dredges and had 700 employees. Outside of the core compound, there was an entire subdivision for the employees, based on their rank in the company.
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The Doors Open Dawson event brought us to the infamous “Gold Room” (the white building above) where millions of dollars of gold bars were refined. From the outside it looks like any other house or service building, but when you get closer you can see all of the bars on the windows and doors.20160521-DSC_0098

When the highway was complete in the 1950’s, joining Dawson City to the rest of the world, they were understandably concerned that someone would just drive up with a big truck and steal the entire building, so it was reinforced and placed on a concrete base (there isn’t much concrete up here!).20160521-DSC_0099

The Gold Room was fascinating! It looks like it could have operated yesterday. Like one day they just walked away.

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The refining of the gold wasn’t the clean process you see placer miners do now on tv. It actually used mercury, and as a result, the entire compound is monitored for heavy metals and toxins.
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Someone told us that back in the day you could find mercury all over the place, even in half the toilet tanks in town!20160521-DSC_0102

The gold room even had another filtration system in the floor, so there was just no chance of losing any gold.
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In the image below, you can see all these doors at the bottom of the floor. There is a number above each. The number corresponded to each of the dredges. When their sluice boxes were cleaned, the material came here and remained separated from the other dredges.

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And as in any gold room, there was a vault! The vault had two metal outside doors, and inside there was this safe:
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And a work table.20160521-DSC_0110

Here is the lock on the outside of the door into the vault room:20160521-DSC_0112

In the Gold Room’s office, everything was from 1968. Newspapers.
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Calendars from November 1968.20160521-DSC_0115

There was even a Simpson-Sears catalogue from 1968.

There was a lock for every metal box that carried gold in and out of this place. Each one had only one key.20160521-DSC_0117

After our visit to the gold room, we were permitted to wander around the compound. Again, this seemed like a big shift. As far as I knew, the Bear Creek compound was fenced, gated, and locked. They encouraged us to go and explore, unsupervised, keeping out of the locked buildings of course.
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Above is a cold root cellar like building were vegetables were stored. Below is the big mess hall and bunk house where the workers lived who didn’t have a house in the subdivision, and who didn’t live north in Dawson.20160521-DSC_0120

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Being so remote, the company stored a significant stock of material and spare parts here in the compound.

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There was so much machinery around. After Yukon Consolidated Gold closed the business, they sold off valuable, usable equipment from the site before Parks Canada took over the compound, but there is still plenty to see. Below was some kind of equipment with big blast doors on the front.

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It was so warm today. Like the hot, middle of summer, crispy dry plants, and sun baking your skin kind of day. Amazing.20160521-DSC_0133

A Northern Flicker was flying around making a ruckus, like he wasn’t used to all the visitors.

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So many people who live in Dawson City now, grew up here in Bear Creek, so you can often hear people reminiscing. A lady who was visiting today said she grew up there, but had never been in the gold room, because they never let the children in.

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Once in awhile I peeked in a window or stuck my camera through an open door 🙂

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There were a couple old company trucks still here too.
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This white house belonged to Joe Boyle, who was named “The King of the Klondike”. It was built in 1905 and will be stabilized later this year. It was also known as the “VIP House”.  He took control of the Canadian Klondyke Mining Company, and this compound, in 1909. The company went bankrupt in 1921 and after a period of refinancing and restructuring, it became the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation.20160521-DSC_0169

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If you look closely, or click on the sign below, you can see all sorts of math figurings written on the sign, like people were maybe calculating their fuel price.

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Below you see one of the many sampling holes that are found throughout the compound, to monitor the ground levels of harmful metals and chemicals (like mercury).

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There are some HUGE timbers on site. These were used on the dredges and can be used to maintain the Dredge #4 that has been preserved nearby and is available for tours in the summer months.

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This is behind the mess hall/bunk house (shown above). There was a separate little building and it seems to have housed the laundry and showers.

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Here is more of the compound’s lumber yard.

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Just beyond the core industrial compound, was the subdivision for the employees. Below is the community hall.

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Some buildings were moved to Dawson City. A few remain, now in the woods. It was described to us as a clean, well maintained subdivision at one point, with manicured lawns. Now it is a decade away from disappearing into the woods forever.

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There was apparently once a tennis court, a ball diamond, and a curling rink.

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Below is a little child’s bike or toy. Looks like it had a plastic horse head.

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It was such a treasure to be able to visit all these sites today. I just love the history of the place and I’m so grateful for Parks Canada for all their work in preservation, restoration, and especially for their welcome mat today!

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Forest fire, snow, and a new shed

Forest Fire

The weekend was so hot, dry, and windy. On Sunday night, we heard a lightning strike had started a forest fire south of town. With Fort McMurray fresh in our minds, we decided to go fill the truck tank with gas. I guess you just never know when you’ll need to make a run for it, and I want a full tank of gas if that day every comes!

Then, since it was 9:30 pm and sunny, we weren’t going to sleep anytime soon. We decided to go for a drive. We headed south towards the airport and could see the big plume of smoke to the west.

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We decided to drive a bit closer in that direction. Because.. well why not? We headed off the highway on Hunker Creek Road.IMG_7997

One minute it felt so far away it must be miles and miles, and then I’d think it must just be over the next hill! It is tricky to tell how far away a smoke plume is!IMG_7998

We met no one until we were 20km or so down the road, and then ran into a fire crew coming out. They stopped us and let us know we’d want to turn around soon because the flames on the side of the road were about 300 ft high.

We drove a bit further and then took their advice and turned around!
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By Monday morning the fire was 75 hectares and today it is over 300 hectares! So far none of the gold mining operations have been affected, but it is burning just 4km from one of them.

“The fire burning near Hunker Creek, 24 kilometres southeast of Dawson City, is now an estimated 302 hectares in size. “This fire is the only active fire in the territory right now and that has allowed us to increase the number of resources assigned to the fire,” said Duty Officer Lorne Harris. “Firefighters, helicopters and heavy equipment worked the fire Monday and returned early today.” Today, 21 firefighters have been assigned to the fire, along with three helicopters and several pieces of heavy equipment including bulldozers, cats and water tenders. The temperatures in the Hunker Creek area are expected to drop to the mid-teens today which should aid firefighting efforts.”

~ http://www.community.gov.yk.ca/pdf/Wildfire_bulletin7(1).pdf

Although it is still windy, the weather took a big turn yesterday and this morning it snowed for a bit before turning to rain! Our fire danger index is back down to Low, so that is good news!

The Shed

We’re in a rental house that Jeff’s employer provides, and although there is a yard, there isn’t a shed. We got rid of SO much of our stuff when we moved across the country, but it is still tough having all of your remaining tools, camping equipment, hunting, and fishing gear in rubbermaid totes stacked up.

Jeff was able to get permission from the management of our rental house to build a shed in our back yard, providing it is temporary and leaves when we do. Dawson City has some pretty strict building regulations, due to its historical status, so the shed needs to be under 130 square feet, and less than 8 feet tall. It also has to have a metal roof, and historically accurate siding, and it has to be at least 10 feet away from the neighbours beside us.

So here is the progression so far:

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Jeff made the two sides like sled runners so it can be dragged, lifted, or pulled elsewhere. Or it could be dismantled. Who knows how long we’ll be here. The rent is great, but the rules include just one pet, and regardless, we’ll be evicted the day Jeff retires so it can’t be a forever home.

We’ve got a back lane here, so it’s be easy for Jeff to get supplies unloaded. (Getting supplies is a trickier task because our lumber yard’s stock really depends on what their delivery truck is able to bring up from the south.)
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It was so ridiculously hot (like 30C!) that Jeff rigged up an umbrella to save his skin.IMG_7986

He’s done almost everything himself and it is going pretty fast! IMG_7990

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Today he is working on the roof.IMG_8005

And on the vapour barrier for the sides. He didn’t use this on his last shed and regretted it, so this one will have it!
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He’s got so many plans of all the things that will be leaving our house and going in here. Maybe even a freezer if he has a successful hunting season because it won’t even need to be plugged in for at least half the year (winter).

For kicks, I’ll sign off and let you know that today the sun rose at 4:46am and it won’t set until 11:32pm. Crazy eh?

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Spring in Dawson City

Was there a spring in Dawson City? It is May 12 and 28°C today. This seems to be summer.

I suppose spring was probably that week or so where the entire town gathered along the dyke to watch the river melt.

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April 20

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April 20

Everyone here buys tickets and places their bet on when the ice will go. The goal is to choose the exact minute the ice will bust and shift, which will carry the tripod with the sensor down the river, triggering a clock to stop moving.

However, this year was different. First, the thaw happened earlier than it ever has since the river breakup time was first recorded in 1896 (see previous breakup dates).

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April 21

Second, the river just seemed to be melting. We watched for days as the overflow water got closer and closer to the tripod (as shown above).

Every day or so a bunch of ice would move and pile up, but the tripod was unaffected.

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April 22

Then, on the evening of April 22, just before 7pm, the overflow water hit the wooden tripod, and it collapsed into the water!

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April 22 – the moment the tripod collapsed

Was that it? Did someone just win the pool of money?

No! Because the ice didn’t shift, the sensor didn’t trigger the stop clock!

However, the next morning, the town’s fire hall rang its air siren, to tell the town the river was officially breaking up! At 11:15am on April 23, the river broke up! There is always a real flood risk, should the ice chunks jam up, so the siren tells the town to be on alert. Floods used to be devastating here before the dyke was built in the 1980’s.

So after days of watching and waiting by the river, talking to friends and strangers and visitors, listening to everyone share their theory of when the river would break, and who was going to win the pool of money, we missed it!

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April 23

But we were there shortly after to watch the chunks of ice go by!

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April 23

And just like that, Dawson City shifted into summer mode.

The streets are alive. The leaves are busting out of their buds. The robins are pecking at lawns. The restaurants are reopening. The first Holland America buses have been seen in town, doing their first run with their staff, and tour guides. The gold miners are back on their claims, which brings so many service jobs to town – welders, mechanics, camp cooks, radio communication servicemen, labourers. The summer staff, which keep all the bars and restaurants and stores staffed, have been trickling into town for weeks, hoping to grab a rarely available accommodation, knowing full well they’ll likely be spending their summer living in tents, trailers, vans, and surfing couches.

It seems like just a few months ago the nights were long, and the days were so short. Suddenly it is now May and the sun isn’t setting now until quarter past 11.

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May 1

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May 1

Jeff and I have been taking a walk each night for about 70 minutes, doing a lap around the furthest edge of town, 8th Ave, and along the dyke beside the river. Over the course of just a few weeks, we’ve shifted from toques and jackets, to shorts and t-shirts.

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May 1

Town is peaceful in the evenings. There is almost no vehicle traffic. Dawson City feels a bit like living in a campground. There is usually the smell of a softwood fire in the air. People have gathered on patios and decks, or at a picnic table down by the river with a 6 pack and a joint. Dogs lie leash-free on the street and on the boardwalks. Music drifts out of the bars, and sometimes you’ll hear someone playing a guitar in the gazebo.

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May 2

Children are friendly and at peace, biking with their friends and siblings and pet dog, doing circles in the middle of the road. They talk to you here, having no fear of strangers or dangers. They say hello when you pass on the street. Actually everyone says hello or stops to chat when you pass, it doesn’t matter if you know them, or even recognize them. When you pass someone and they are looking down and don’t say hello, it is pretty likely they don’t live here.

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May 7 – Firehall & City Office

It used to infuriate me when I walked Monty that people rarely leash their dogs. But dogs are different here. They don’t crave people like you’d expect, and most are really peaceful. They are perfectly content sitting on a boardwalk, waiting for their master to come out of the store, or restaurant, or bar. Sometimes they’ll let you pet them, but usually they don’t even approach. I hear stories of dogs who chase and nip people, but I haven’t experienced it myself. It is kinda neat to know and recognize dogs in town, even better when you know their name.

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May 7

It is hard to make routines here. In some ways, nothing ever changes here. And yet, every day is different. The rapidly lengthening days make it impossible to go to bed at a reasonable hour. In the winter, when the sun set before 4pm, a 9:30pm bedtime seemed perfectly reasonable so I could get up with plenty of time for a shower and breakfast before I’d shuffle to my desk and work by 7:30am.

But now that doesn’t work. Right now it is 1:30am. The sky is still light. We had dinner at 9:30pm. I’ve heard tales of people who lived the summers so hard here, trying not to miss a thing, that they eventually collapse and sleep for two days out of exhaustion. I guess in a way it suits me. I’ve never liked things to be too orderly.

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May 10

After the ice road across the river thinned, and the river broke up, our town residents that live in West Dawson (across the river) were cut off from town. Once the ice chunks washed out of the river, the hardy folk across the river jumped back in their boats to come and go, waiting for the ferry (shown above) to resume summer service.

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May 10

This morning (May 12), the ferry was slid back into the Yukon River before I even woke up, and is now back in service, 24 hours a day, shuttling cars, trucks, and passengers across the river.

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May 10 – 10:04pm

Tomorrow we have a high of 27°C forecast. It is dry here in the Yukon, and getting dryer with no rain forecast in the next week. The river is low, the roads are dusty, and the forest is already getting crispy. However fire is natural here in the boreal forest, and the territory’s wildfire fighters are trained and ready to go.

And I better go to bed.

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Another Saturday full of wildlife sightings!

Today we saw 3 moose, at least 20 caribou, over 20 sheep, dozens of ptarmigan, a porcupine, and a few bunnies!

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Here is a small moose south of Dawson City. If you look close you can see he has little antler stubs.20160507-DSC_0002

Here’s a waddley old porcupine.20160507-DSC_0014

Jeff went fishing for a bit while I darted my eyes around on bear patrol.

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By the time we got up to the Tombstone Territorial Park’s Interpretive Centre, about 70 kilometres up the Dempster Highway, there was quite a bit of snow still on the ground and tons of it on all the Tombstone peaks.

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Actually so much snow that while standing here at this look off, it started to snow.20160507-DSC_0025

We weren’t intending to drive this far, but we kept going, and when we stopped to photograph a ptarmigan, we noticed a lot of sheep up on the slope! These are likely Dall sheep. Just another couple of weeks until they should have baby sheep with them!

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This was the first time we saw so many ptarmigan! Likely because they are mostly still white and really stand out. I can see why hunting season has closed for them! They make the funniest noise!

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They think they are still camouflaged, so they’ll stand near a clump of vegetation, but they stand out and are really easy to spot. We saw dozens of them, flying around, walking on the road, and just hanging out in the woods.

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I didn’t get a picture of one, but the bunnies, which are snowshoe hare, are much more brown than they were even last week. Soon enough, like the ptarmigan, they’ll be hard to spot again!

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We saw caribou in a few places too!20160507-DSC_0081

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And two more moose! Jeff thinks this female might be carrying a baby moose. She was pretty big!20160507-DSC_0093

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We tried to get to Jeff’s fishing spot where he caught the grayling last year, but the river make a lake of the trail to get there, and it was full of ducks!20160507-DSC_0112

We turned around when we got about 110 kilometres up the Dempster and saw two moose. This is either the one we had just photographed, or her buddy, because they were close together. This one looks smaller though.
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