Monday, August 27, 2012
A wildflower commonly seen along the roads in Alaska is Fireweed.
The Fireweed plant produces many bright magenta flowers which progressively bloom further up a central stalk.
As summer progresses, the blooms at the bottom die and the cluster of flowers is found higher up the stalk.
Late in the summer the blooming reaches the top of the stalk.
Local customs say "Once the Fireweed blooms to the top and goes to seed we have six weeks 'til winter." So when we started seeing the fireweed in this condition, we were glad we were about to start south.
The Dempster Highway is a mostly gravel highway that runs 457 miles from the Klondike Highway, near Dawson, up to Inuvik in Canada's Northwest Territory. We had often read how scenic this highway is. We were not ready to take the motor homes up this highway, so we left them near the start of the highway and drove the first 72 miles in the Jeeps, as a day trip.
We came upon these Spruce Grouse on the side of the road.
Next we came upon another red fox that seemed very used to being around people and vehicles.
Autumn was obviously very near.
We spotted this Dall Sheep up on a ridge.
It cooperated by coming closer.
Move views along the highway.
Chapman Lake, our turn-around spot.
A few more scenes from the road.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
After driving across the Top-of-the-World highway, we spent a few days in Dawson, in the Yukon Territory. Dawson primarily exists because of gold mining. The famous Klondike gold rush of 1896 was set off by gold discoveries in nearby creeks. Being at the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers, Dawson was a natural hub for the gold mining activity.
Like much of the northern interior, Dawson sits on an area of permafrost (a layer of permanently frozen soil). When a heated building is placed directly on such ground, over time the heat from the building causes the permafrost layer to start melting, creating an unwanted quagmire under the building.
For a number of years Dawson was also the home of American poet Robert Service. Service used the Yukon and the Klondike gold rush as subjects for many of his poems.
The cabin Robert Service lived in is now owned and managed by Parks Canada.
This fellow gave a great talk about the life of Robert Service at the cabin.
Right behind the city rises a hill called Midnight Dome, with a paved road leading to the top. We watched the sun setting from there one evening.
Gold dredges worked most of the streams near Dawson. The largest such dredge in North America was the Yukon Consolidated Gold Company's dredge No. 4. This one dredge mined nearly 9 million dollars of gold between 1913 and 1959. Dredge No. 4 was acquired by Parks Canada for public tours and display.
We came across this black furred variant of a red fox that seemed extremely comfortable with people and vehicles.
Saturday, August 25, 2012
After the Denali Highway we headed up the Richardson Highway to Delta Junction (where the Alaska Highway ends) and then down the Alaska Highway back to Tok. We had a couple of packages that had been sent to Tok and luckily both were there waiting for us. After filling up on fuel, propane and washing the rigs (free use of their wash area with a fill-up at the Tesoro station), we headed to the Taylor Highway. The Taylor Highway starts at the Alaska Highway near Tok and runs 160 miles north to the small town of Eagle on the Yukon River. Only the first 60 miles are paved, the rest of the road is gravel. At mile 96 the Taylor connects to the "Top-of-the-World" highway which runs 79 miles east to the city of Dawson in Canada's Yukon Territory. For most of its length this highway is also gravel.
After starting up the Taylor Highway, we pulled off on a roadside pull-off with a nice view to spend the night. We had a rather nice sunset that evening.
The next day we stopped at the tiny "town" of Chicken. Chicken exists because of gold mining in the area. They still mine a little gold and lots of tourist pockets here. The story is that the miners wanted to name the town Ptarmigan. But because they could not agree how to spell ptarmigan and since the ptarmigan was also called the "Alaska chicken" it ended up being named Chicken.
One of two conspicuous sights in Chicken. This large metal sculpture was supposedly made at a Homer high school from recycled metal school lockers.
Another notable landmark is the Pedro Dredge. This is one of the most complete remaining bucket line gold dredges left in Alaska. In the middle of the 1900s there were many such dredges mining placer gold in Alaska and the Yukon.
We stayed at the Walker Fork BLM Campground north of Chicken. Near the entrance they had this neat antique road grader.
Along the road to Eagle
The town of Eagle was named after Eagle Bluff along the Yukon River. Eagle Bluff was named for the Bald Eagles that nested there.
The Top-of -the-World Highway