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Monday’s treasure hunt

On Sunday Jeff went on his solo caribou mission, but when he came home he was quick to tell me not to read anything into what he was going to tell me.

He lost his wedding ring!

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Somehow it was gone. He was riding the new ATV, and thinks he likely lost it one of the times he pulled his hand out of his glove. He knew he had it in the morning, but not when he got back to the truck.

He showed me this picture, and said it is out there somewhere:

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So Monday of the long weekend, we were off on a treasure hunt! Good thing we have a metal detector!20160905-dsc_0001

The fall leaves were really beautiful here too!

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This is where my adventure ended. From here on in, it is steep and accessible via all-terrain vehicle only (unless you really want to beat up your truck).

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So I stayed with the truck and had lunch by this little river, surrounded by old gold mine tailings.

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Jeff headed up the trail with the metal detector.

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He came back in 90 minutes and said “Nope”, didn’t find it.

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We were so sure he’d find it! Why wasn’t it there? Did someone else find it? Or did a raven spot it? Did he not lose it at one of the places where he stopped the day before? Ahhh!

Feeling sadder than we thought we would have, we both thought about the suckiness of losing his ring, and headed home.

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Jeff is feeling like he has another treasure hunt in him though, and is planning on going back this weekend to search again! I wish we had two all-terrain vehicles so I could help hunt for it!

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Another drive up the Dempster to see the fall colours

It looked like we had our wings clipped for the long Labour Day weekend. On Friday afternoon, Jeff drove the truck to the mechanics to book an upcoming appointment to get some massive, subarctic-winter, driving lights mounted on the front of the truck, and when he was there, the starter died on the truck!

Miraculously though, the mechanics found a starter on Saturday morning and were able to restore our wings.. err… driving ability.20160903-DSC_0005

We usually head up the Dempster early in the morning, but instead we headed up well after lunch time.20160903-DSC_0010

As a result, all the shades were different, the sun was brighter, oh, and the autumn colours were even BOLDER than last weekend (more reds).

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Lovely dirty Ford with more than a dozen rock chips in the windshield, and a few thousand bugs immortalized on the front grill.20160903-DSC_0035

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And then the weirdest thing started happening. I’ve seen maybe TWO jets fly far overhead in the last year. While we were driving on the Dempster, we saw at least TEN!

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And I was getting really annoyed at having jets in my photos.

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I mean we’re in the middle of nowhere, heading across the tundra, heading north towards the Arctic Ocean, and there are JETS! 20160903-DSC_0044

Where were they all going?

We decided to stop and fish for a moment. See this fishy? Little does he know, that he is soon about to get a big hug from Jeff’s manly hands.
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First he had to hook him.20160903-DSC_0056

But Jeff is a pro. So it took only a few minutes.20160903-DSC_0057

And then he set him free to catch him again another day.20160903-DSC_0061

No moose to be seen at Two Moose Lake this weekend. We didn’t see any large mammals on this trip, other than fall tourists and hunters, so perhaps it was a good thing all the furry large mammals were hiding. 20160903-DSC_0062

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I spotted a bunch of swans and ducks though.20160903-DSC_0075

And a bunch of jet chemtrail-y jet clouds that lingered for hours.

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On the way back we saw this (crazy) guy with a parachute thingy. He had a propeller on his back with a rough lawnmowery sounding motor.

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He seemed really skiddish about getting the perfect breeze. For awhile he even sampled the wind in the middle of the road (on a blind curve).

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Finally he took off!

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And soared right above our heads. Seeing no other imminent excitement, we headed back to town.

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Today is Sunday. Jeff’s out on a solo caribou hunt. And I’ve been watching a bunch of girly flicks on the Woman’s Network, recovering from my late night northern lights viewing in the back yard. But now I’m flicked out and going to wander town.

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Tombstone Territorial Park in Fall

It is our second Autumn in the Yukon. We travelled home to Ontario last week for my cousin Leahanne’s wedding, but luckily we didn’t miss all of the fall colours up here!

Here are some pictures from our drive up to Tombstone Territorial Park on the Dempster. Click on any for a larger view.

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Neat eh? That mist is a low cloud!

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I think we missed all the deep reds, or maybe there weren’t any this year. I haven’t seen a frost in town yet. Although it was only +5C in these photos this afternoon.

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There is no denying that it is fall up here. There are drastically fewer tourists in town this week. People are scrambling for winter accommodations. Wood stoves are on at night. Night is dark! My sleepy time has moved from midnight-1am up to 10pm. The northern lights are visible again (although I haven’t stayed up to see them yet). Clouds sit on town until almost noon, and we close the windows at night. I think it is time for the flannel sheets! 😀

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Our Fairbanks, Alaska long weekend adventure

It was a long weekend here in the Yukon (Discovery Day), so Jeff and I decided to take a quick trip to Alaska for one last cross border adventure before the border closes up here, mid September.

Chicken, Alaska

We left after work on Friday and went to Chicken, Alaska for the night. Chicken is a little town that exists for gold mining, with a recorded year round population of just 7 people. There is no phone service, no electricity, no cell towers, and no grocery store. But the people of Chicken have made the place into a real booming tourist stop. We arrived just as everything was closing up, but we had reserved a little cabin in the trees from The Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost.

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The cabin had free firewood, a picnic table, and a fire pit, but it was a damp and rainy night so we stayed indoors. Our cabin had a king sized bed, a single bed, a chair, and a couple shelving units. There was no electricity or water but the outhouse wasn’t too far away, and I brought a couple movies on my laptop.

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Fairbanks, Alaska

I had been in Chicken, Alaska when we originally came up here on vacation in 2014, but I hadn’t been all the way to Fairbanks.

My Fairbanks impressions:

  • So many people. There are more people living in Fairbanks than living in all of the Yukon. Fairbanks has a population of around 32,000 with the outer boroughs bringing the population to 100,000. The Yukon only has 33,000 people in the whole territory.
  • Doesn’t feel remote. For a city that is actually slightly north of Dawson City’s latitude, there is pavement, highways, every chain, movie theatres – really all modern conveniences, and transportation options. Compared to our quaint town, Fairbanks is living 100 years in the future.
  • You don’t feel like you are in a northern city, until you look at prices. They were similar to here, and you notice the significant cost of freight in everything.
  • Big military presence. The US army has Fort Wainwright there, and just outside of town is the Eielson Air Force Base. There must have been 50+ fighter jets and bombers on the tarmac.

Riverboat Discovery

In addition to shopping, I booked us a reservation on a couple touristy things. One was on the Riverboat Discovery. This tour was so well organized A+++

The Riverboat is modelled after the old style of sternwheeler riverboats that navigated the Chena River in Fairbanks, just like they did here in the Yukon River.

The same family has operated these boats since they were original modes of transportation. Now, just for tours, they are onto the Discovery III although the Discovery and Discovery II are also still on the river.IMG_8633

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They have this tour business WELL designed. First, you congregate inside where there are all sorts of souvenirs, and food, and ice cream. Then you wait to board.DSC_0081

There were 2 sailings on Saturday. With 4 floors on the boat, they could fill it right up with cruise passengers who come to Fairbanks (and also Dawson City) by bus.

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The tour starts off down the Chena River, and they have a bush pilot friend take off RIGHT beside off the boat, right off the river, and then he comes back and lands again. He calls in on the radio and you can hear him.20160813-DSC_0087

The entire three hour tour is narrated, but not by a recording! A man did a live commentary. There were also live video cameras, and TV, so if something was happening on one of the other 4 decks of the boat, or to one side or the other, they’d show it on the tv screens so you never missed a thing!
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They told us about some of the history up and down the river, showed us some nice houses, told us the history of others.20160813-DSC_0097

Then we stopped the boat beside Susan Butcher and her family’s dog kennel. Susan won the Iditarod 4 times! Unfortunately she died much too young from cancer. Her husband kept the kennel and now her daughter talks to the river boat tour. They wore mics on shore, and told us about having a team of dogs. They showed us some puppies, and then harnessed up a team to the powerless ATV and took them for a run!
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The dogs took off in a cloud of dust pulling the ATV around the pond. While they were running, I took a picture of the sternwheel of the boat, which was actually functioning, not just for decoration! The sternwheel propels the boat, but there are also assistance thrusters for tight turn arounds in the river. (We turned twice, it was awesome!). The sternwheel isn’t driven by a wood powered steam system like the old river boats, but diesel instead.

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Then Jeff took a fuzzy selfie of us.20160813-DSC_0106

And then the dogs were back! They were unharnessed, and all of them ran straight into the river to cool off and get a drink. It was an AMAZINGLY warm day, probably the nicest day of the entire summer, with the temperature in the mid-80’s (Fahrenheit while I’m in the USA!)

 

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We cruised on, seeing some more nice houses and trees, while small bush planes were flying over. The Chena River is right by the airport, and Fairbanks is a supply hub for most remote communities and families living in northern Alaska.

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Near where the Chena River flowed into the Tanana River, and where the boat turned around, we stopped at a recreated native Alaskan village. Summer students from native communities were employed on the boat, and got off the boat to teach us about their culture.

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We saw reindeer (shown above), and they taught us about clothing they wore and made from their fur harvesting and hides from their hunts.20160813-DSC_0129

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It was cute hearing a visitor telling her children that ‘no, no, they didn’t KILL the animals. They lived good long lives and when they died in the forest, then they were found.’  🙂

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Here are some freshly processed chum salmon drying from the salmon wheel (seen in the background). After they dry in the sun for a couple hours, they went in the smokehouse shown below. Chum salmon is a lesser grade of salmon, and is still used to this day to feed dog teams. They said they let chum salmon smoke for about 2 weeks.

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We had 20 minutes or so of demonstrations and then we were able to walk around and explore before getting back on the boat.
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Once back on the boat, Jeff got us a couple old Alaskan beers, and the staff prepared smoked salmon and cream cheese on crackers for everyone.

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I’d highly recommend this tour. The same family has been running the tours since 1950 and have it well perfected!

Lance Mackey

When I was browsing touristy sites for ideas of things to do in Fairbanks, I saw mention of a kennel tour of Lance Mackey‘s Comeback Kennel, and it had stellar reviews, so I booked us in for a visit on Sunday.

There are some big dog sled kennels that are on the cruise ship passenger tour route, and have buses full of tourists stop by daily. We didn’t really want that experience. Instead, we went to the exact opposite.

Lance himself greeted us at his kennel. No one else around, just Lance, Jeff and I. Lance’s kennel is about 30 minutes from town, totally off the grid with a generator running, with a breathtaking view of Alaska.

Lance was “into” dogs his entire life. Lance’s dad co-created the Iditarod. Lance has won the Iditarod FOUR times, and he’s won the Yukon Quest FOUR times! Amazing feat for him and his dog teams! He’s also beat throat cancer, battled with infection and circulation issues in his fingers, lost a finger tip or two, and fought his own life battles. He is a down to earth guy, a bit shy, but proud of his dogs and of his work with his dogs.

We got to meet his champion veterans. Here’s Maple, a Gold Harness winner in the 2010 Iditarod for being an outstanding lead dog.20160814-DSC_0160

And here is Lance and one of his beloved dogs.20160814-DSC_0165

Lance is pretty much what you see is what you get. He lives here in the woods. Doesn’t wear a watch. Doesn’t know what day it is. Just living life to the fullest with his dogs, girlfriend, and newborn child.

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Lance showed us his puppies and talked about his breeding philosophies and puppy raising.

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Here is another one of his retired dogs, with 3 more sleeping in the rear:

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His 3 year old team that he’ll be running the 2017 Iditarod with, are in the front of the picture below. In the far rear he has an entire dog yard that he took in for the summer. He runs a boarding kennel, and for the most part the visitor dogs become just one of the pack. There were two enormous great danes staying with him, and they ran along side Lance’s dogs and other visiting dogs of all sizes.

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The dog yards are clean, and Lance’s dogs are all nice and friendly. Here is his latest litter of pups:20160814-DSC_0183

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Here are a few of the team he’s been training for their first 3 years for this winter’s Iditarod. 20160814-DSC_0187

He told us he likes his black big dogs the most and often uses them in his breeding plans.

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Sometimes these dog yards can be so noisy, but his dogs really only barked when we drove into the yard and then if any of them got excited, they quieted down when Lance told them to. Most of them were just sleeping in the sunshine.

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Lance really wants another win, but it feels like he wants it for his dogs, his sponsors, and his fans even more than himself. I can tell you one thing – he has two new fans in Dawson City that will be pulling for him!

If you want to read more about Lance, I really enjoyed this in-depth article:

http://www.outsideonline.com/1870186/lance-mackey-worlds-toughest-athlete

Back to Dawson

Our drive home from Fairbanks was pretty uneventful, since it was mostly rainy and miserable. However we did see one really big Alaskan resident:

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen a thicker moose!

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Another visit to the Bear Creek compound – what a treasure!

Earlier this summer, we visited the Bear Creek historical compound of the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation, just south of town on the Doors Open Dawson day.

Refresh your memory here: https://lisaschuyler.com/2016/05/21/doors-open-dawson-2016/

Today The Friends of the Klondike Corridor, and Parks Canada,  had another gathering at Bear Creek, inviting everyone to visit. Regular tours of Bear Creek stopped a few years ago, but having the compound so intact is such a gem. They are making a push to see if it would be feasibly possible to reopen the compound to visitors.

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Gaby, our tour guide

Bear Creek received funding this year to stabilize Joe Boyle, “The King of the Klondike”‘s house, and to stabilize the machine shop.

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Joe Boyle’s house

Rear view where the stabilization work has begun

Rear view where the stabilization work has begun

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Parks Canada interpreters, playing Laura Berton and Martha Black.

We had already seen the gold room, where the gold was refined, on our last visit. But this time the Machine Shop was open!

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What an amazing experience! When the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation closed up shop in 1966, any valuable machinery and equipment was sold off. But there is still so much to see in the machine shop, that serviced the company’s fleet of gold mining dredges.

There seems to be no power to the building, or at least the lights were off, so it was really dark. Between my camera’s flash and Lightroom, I’ve tried to brighten some of these so you could share in the experience.20160807-DSC_0011

This equipment above is called “The Hammer”. It is a hydraulic press. It was too big and heavy so it wasn’t sold or removed from the site. Its air compressor was removed, but the rest is still there. An interpreter told us the men operating this had to have such precision that they would train with eggs in their shell. They had to lower the press to just crack the egg without crushing it. Wow!

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There are tools and supplies everywhere. It feels just like people walked out of work in 1966 and didn’t come back the next day.

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The old blacksmithing forge

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Part of what made the visit to the machine shop so amazing was the trust given to us to wander around and not touch anything. There were no barriers, or velvet ropes. No sneeze guards. No security. We were just left to wander around in the dark with the guidance of “don’t touch anything”.  Nothing looks staged or recreated. It looks just like a machine shop that was closed in 1966 should look.

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Diefenbaker picture stuck on the wall here, and a reminder from The Yukon Progressive Conservative Association to vote for Erik Nielsen on Federal Election Day – June 18, 1962.

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Looking out the back door

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Powered ice cream mix?

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Jeff just shakes his head when I take weird photos that no one else would take, but of course I visited the old bathroom!

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Oh my!

 

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Even an empty toilet paper roll is still on the wall.

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After the machine shop, we got to go into another building. Another environmentally controlled dry storage building for Dawson City and area artifacts!

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Old typewriter

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This is an old hydraulic barber chair.

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Adding machine

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There was cake, a fun scavenger hunt (with a gold nugget as the prize!), and Barnacle Bob, one of our towns most talented musicians, played the keyboard piano.

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These gigantic beams are used for repairs around the site, and on the restored gold dredge #4.

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Old machinery – steam shovel?

In the survey we were given, they asked what prices we thought would be fair to charge for different scenarios, so it looks like they are compared self-guided visits to full historical actors, or even just ghost story or poetry reading. I hope we get more opportunities to come back here. I’d love to see inside more of the buildings. Even if it is just a peak in the window!