Friday, May 21, 2010

Alaska Expedition 2010 - Day 9 (May 20, 2010)

Yukon Motel – Got up at about 7am, made coffee in the kitchen, took our showers, packed up our gear, a little Good morning Canada and walked over for breakfast. It is 38F and sunny. There were a pair of Ravens courting, and I tried to video tape their calls. They were so enamored with one another, and kissed one another between their love calls.

• Teslin has a population of approximately 450. The name Teslin is taken from the Tlingit word Teslin too, meaning, “long narrow waters”. Teslin Lake is 92 miles long. The Yukon Motel sits at the end of the Nisutlin Bay Bridge which is the longest water span on the Alaska Highway (1,916”). In the 1800’s gold seekers traveled up the Stikine River from Wrangell, Alaska, then trekked 150 miles overland from Telegraph Creek to the headwaters of Teslin Lake where they constructed crude boats. Then they sailed over the lake and down the Teslin and Yukon Rivers to Dawson City and the gold fields. The first known permanent settlement of Teslin was in 1904 when a trading post was established to serve the Tlingit Indians. Teslin’s economy is still based on traditional hunting, trapping and fishing, although tourism is playing an increasingly important role.

• Breakfast was delicious. We had eggs, potatoes sausages, and Dave had caribou sausage with his breakfast. Rafael says the waitress reminds him of his grandmother. We stopped back in the gift shop so I could pick up a fleece vest, took a few more pictures and got on the road.

• It is a beautiful day. About 10 miles up the road is the campgrounds where the Canadian Wildlife Service runs a banding station in the Fall. Last night at dinner, we overheard a woman talking about birds, and Dave went over to see if they were birders. They were surveyors for the Canadian Wildlife Service doing point counts and she is the bander from the campground. We spent time visiting with them and showed them the elegant cabin, and promised to come back and hang out with them during banding season. Looks like we’ll definitely be coming back here! Yeah!!!! I feel at home up north and near water and mountains. It must be from living on the lake in Michigan as a child…but there is something about the smell of the northern forest that is utterly comforting for me.

• As we drove west, we drove through the low hanging clouds and saw that the lake was still mostly covered with ice. The further we drove, the higher we went, until we drove above the clouds and out into the open sunlight. The sky is a magnificent blue with wispy clouds scattered here and there. All around us are snow capped mountains, spruce, aspen forests and water.

Marsh Lake Campground – Pulled into one of the vacant spots and walked out to the lake.

Saw Bonapartes Gull, Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plover, Baird’s Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, and then the ducks:

• Red-breasted Merganser
• Surf Scoter
• Gadwall
• Northern Shoveler
• Pintails
• Mallards
• Green-winged Teal
• Lesser Scaup
• American Wigeon
• Greater Scaup
• Long-tail duck (IIT) only Dave saw it
• Common Loon
• Red heads

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.  Whitehorse is laid out on a level river shelf of land bordering a wide bend in the Yukon River.  Over two-thirds of the Yukon's residents live in Whitehorse - population about 24,890.  In the late 1800's the wilderness on the east side of the Yukon River gave way to two settlements of cabins, Closeleigh near the present site of Whitehorse and Canyon City five miles upriver.  In 1900 the White Pass & Yukon Railway from Skagway was completed on the west side of the river and Closeleigh was moved to the present site of Whitehorse.  Whitehorse got its name from the nearby rapids of the Yukon River where the frothing water looked like the manes of white horses.  Following the agreement to build the Alaska Highway, Whitehorse experienced another population surge.  After the war, Whitehorse maintained its importance as a transportation and communications center.  In 1953, the capital of the Yukon was transferred to Whitehorse.

We pulled into town and stopped at an "adult" shop that was advertising the arrival of a shipment of cannibus seeds.  My curiousity was peaked, and the gal behind the counter showed me their catalog, and I fascinated to see they were selling "bubblegum" seeds.  $20 each for females.  Too bad, I kill every plant I grow, otherwise I would have purchased the seeds and tried to grow them!  Of course, Dave would NEVER allow that to happen!  LOL!!! 

We ate lunch at THE spot - the Klondike Rib & Salmon BBQ, on 2nd street.  By today, Dave was in withdrawals from now talking on his cell phone, so he gave his folks a ring.  I enjoyed another "red" canadian beer.  So good!

Just outside of Whithorse, we decided to visit Fish Lake.  The gal from the Wildlife Service had told Dave that you don't want to skip Fish Lake for birds.  So, we turned off on what we thought was the road to Fish Lake, but, as we drove further and further up the mountain, we soon realized that we must have taken a wrong turn. 

Because the road had changed from paved, to gravel, to 4x4 only, to completely snow covered.  We plodded along, until the truck started to slide off the road and eventually got stuck. 

By this time, I'm shaking all over, because 2 more feet to the right, and we'll roll down the mountainside.  Dave and Rafael jump out and walk up the road (through the snow) and find a turn-around about 50 yards up.  We coax the truck through the slipping mud and snow and finally free it from its muddy pit.  No Fish Lake, but some of the most fantastic views of the trip!  We think we were on McIntyre Mountain, but again, we're not sure where we were!

Once we had safely returned to the Alaska Highway we decided that we would Google Earth the area and find out where Fish Lake really is, so that the next time, we'll find it!  In the valley leading up to the mountaintop, we saw at least 11 Bald Eagles of various ages.  I also saw my first Barrow's Goldeneye.

Haines Junction: In 1942 the Army Corps of Engineers began to construct a road to the Port of Haines, Alaska on the Lynn Canal.  These hard working troups faced incredible challenges.  The branch raod that was completed in 1943 is now the Haines Highway leading to the Alaska Marine Highway System and the rest of southeast Alaska.  Hanes Junction is also the headquarters for Kluane National Park.  The 7,000 and 9,000 ft summits of the Kluane Mountain Range parallel the high wy and the St. Elias Mountain Range just to the west contains many of Canada's highest peaks.

There is an ice cream shop here! I mention to Dave that ice cream would be great for dinner, but he ignores me and keeps on driving. I’m sure he’s thinking about my health. We drive along the Ruby Range on our right and the Elias Mountains on our left until we reach Kluane Lake. What a breathtakingly beautiful spot. The area is rich in history and the tour book from AAA and the History of the Alaskan Highway book I picked up in Teslin at the museum tell of the trackers and highway workers that lived and died here.  Destruciton Bay is a small community located on teh shores of Kluane Lake.  It was one of several camps built to supply the army during hte construction of the Alaska Highway.  It got its name when a violent storm destroyed the buildings nad much of the highway construciton material that was stored here.

We rolled into Burwash Landing at 8:45pm.  The kitchen closes at 9pm.  We happily eat a salad and head up to room 10.  A very spacious room with 2 double beds and private bath.  Burwash Landing is the traditional home of the Southern Tutchone people of the Kluane First Nation.  The present location of Burwash Landing was first used as a summer camp by the Tutchone until a trading post was built in th early 1900s by the Jacquot brothers.  We hit the rack exhausted and happy!

1 comment:

KK said...

At first I wondered how Dave got that close to a moose - then I realized it's a statue. But weird things do happen in Alaska...
The picture of you and Dave in front of the mountains should be framed. I liked Whitehorse when I was there -they had paved roads, a Walmart and restaurants.