Yukon 2016

Day 10-12: Dawson City

Day 10: Wed August 3

Today was a driving day. We were hoping the drive to Dawson wouldn't be too long, but in the end it was not exactly short. With stops it took us about 7 hours to get here and Alex's shoulders were rock hard knots by the time we arrived. Good thing our hotel room had a big soaker tub!

The drive was nice enough, but both of us agree that overall, if we did it again we'd fly. The scenery is pretty enough, with rolling mountains and some lakes, but it doesn't compare to the beauty of Kluane. It's more like something you could imagine seeing at home.

We stopped at Carmacks at their cultural centre which has the only mammoth snare diorama in the world, showing how the First Nations killed mammoths according to their legends (not to eat but because the mammoths were eating them/ were a danger to them, we didn't fully understand that part). They also had a moosehide toboggan that was neat. The moose hair on the outside would help the toboggan slide smoothly in one direction and stop it from sliding backwards in the other. Before the cultural centre we also stopped at a little spot to eat also in Carmacks, which was pretty good. The tartar sauce with Alex's fish and chips was delicious.

Our next stop was the cultural centre in Pelley crossing, which did not capture our interest. Or maybe it was just that after the staff at the last place had been so good we found the woman at this one really just not engaging at all.

We finally rolled in to Dawson in the late afternoon, not that it matters so much since really it doesn't get dark. So we had time to check in to our hotel, Bombay Peggy's, and then head over to the visitor centre to figure out our plan for the next few days. Alex then had time to soak in the tub (we are staying in "the attic" which is a lovely room except for all of the slanting walls), and then we headed off to dinner at Klondike Kate's. It's funny to come all this way to eat somewhere where a significant portion of the menus is poutine and burgers. Needless to say though, the food was delicious. Chad had a currywurst poutine and Alex had a burger with Brie, bacon & grilled apple. Yum!

Then we headed back to our hotel and took advantage of the free port & sherry offered to all guests. The port is better, so that's what we'll be having for the rest of our stay!

Day 11: Thurs August 4

Our first morning at Bombay Peggy's was a very lazy one. I don't think we got moving until almost noon, and then were pleasantly surprised when we opened the room door to discover a basket of two croissants and cheese hanging from the handle. So what should have been breakfast became lunch, which we enjoyed sitting out watching the Yukon river. We're on a goal to get 20 stamps in our Explore Yukon "passport books" to enter to win gold so we still have 7 places we need to visit in Dawson. It seemed like a tall order considering we lost half the day to sleeping in, but by the end of the day we're back on track.

We went to Robert Service's cabin and listened to a talk about his life and his poems. It was a well done talk by a local Dawsonian gentleman, who must have been sweating in his three piece wool suit. He wove the story of Service's life very well together with his poetry. It's funny to think that he wrote about so much of the marginalized groups and the rank and file of society, while that was not really who he was. The guide told the story of Service coming to Dawson to work at the bank and the city threw a big party to welcome him. He didn't even go to the party, he was tired from his trip, and just said thank you and went to bed. Listening to the talk was definitely a highlight.

Then we headed to the Commissioner's house. The house is lovely and the grounds are very nice. It was a very quick tour, and initially Alex was questioning why we paid entry to see this, but then once we went through the house we sat down for tea with the ladies who were the tour guides, and ended up chatting with them and some other tourists for quite a while. It was a great way to spend part of the afternoon, and hear about other people's thoughts on Dawson and the surrounding area.

We had a few minutes left before it closed so we headed over to the cultural centre and went through their exhibit on the history and stories of the local First Nations. They were displaced in Dawson by the white miners arriving during the gold rush. One of their Chiefs entrusted a lot of their history to neighbouring First Nations in Alaska fearing their culture would be lost, and the locals are now relearning this from some of the Alaskan First Nations. We also learned the answers to some of the questions we'd been asking ourselves. Eating spruce tips during the winter was how the native Americans got enough vitamin C. And spruce pitch (sap) is waterproof and was used as a sealant for moosehide canoes among other things. Alex still hasn't found out how long beading has been a part of their history though, she still has to ask that question.

We then headed over to Peabody's and had our old fashioned photos taken. It was pretty fun! Sadly we had to choose only one costume, but I'd say we both chose well. There were too many options and Alex ended up asking for some help... Really the pictures speak for themselves.

We then headed to the one place we'd been told by the whole Darling family we needed to eat at - the Goat, actually called the Drunken Goat. A Greek restaurant in the middle of Dawson. They told us it was good, and they were right. We were told to split an appetizer and a main since the portions are large. So we shared a huge slice of fried cheese, and some ribs, bacon wrapped scallops, Caesar salad, potatoes and rice. Delicious!

The last stop of the evening was Diamond Tooth Gertie's. It's a not-for-profit gambling hall and casino that has three different singing and can-can shows each night. We saw the earliest show, we weren't quite willing to stay up for the 10 pm or 12am shows. The singing was good, the dancers were quite good, and the whole thing was entertaining and well done. A fun way to spend a night.

Then it was back to our hotel for a little nightcap (glass of port) and off to bed.

Day 12: Friday, August 5

The weather report said it was going to rain and they we're finally right. It's the first day of actual rain on our trip, so really we can't complain much. We still managed to do just about everything on our list though.

After a bit of shopping (found everything on our list in one store can you believe it?!) we went to grab lunch only to discover that the taco stand we'd been planning to eat at was closed. So instead for lunch we had carrot cake, waffles with maple syrup and smoothies from the other stall beside it. Life is tough.

Then we speed walked to the Jack London cabin so that we wouldn't be late for the talk. We shouldn't have worried, we were the only ones at it, so it started when we were ready. We got to hear more about Jack London's life, and how he actually only spent nine months of his life in the Yukon and yet spent his life writing about it. He also owned a ranch in the western USA, and died at age 40. He didn't find any gold in the Yukon, but it still made him rich through his stories. It's interesting how much of his younger life paralleled Robert Service. They both had issues with doing things the proper way, set out on their own, worked as war correspondents, were essentially drifters for a time, but always were writing without thinking it would get them anywhere, then through a bit of a fluke they end up becoming famous.

We next headed to the Dawson City museum. It was packed full of interesting information, although unfortunately we didn't get to see them demonstrate how gold was mined and then melted into bars which we'd been told was neat. Something about molten gold and cold water not mixing well.. I suppose it makes sense. We did learn that the reason miners could dig down into the ground without worrying about cave-ins was thanks to permafrost. So while in some ways it might have made their lives more difficult it also stopped them from being buried. Alex also learned the answer to her bead question, or at least partially: beading on First Nations clothing did predate the presence of Europeans at least it predates interactions near Dawson with them. Original beads were porcupine quills and things like that. Then the First Nations who were trading with Europeans closer to the coast started bringing in and trading other types of glass beads. We also saw a video of Dawson in its hayday of 30,000 people. What a crazy place it must have been at the time!

We went for an early dinner, again at Klondike Kate's since it was so yummy last time. Alex got the Arctic char tacos which were pretty good and Chad got the birch smoked chicken leg and generously shared his fries with Alex (she had been debating the pulled pork poutine & then opted for the smaller meal... It let them get desert so it worked out). Just as we were finishing up we started chatting with the couple at the table beside us who had driven down from Alaska. Our question of why we hadn't seen much wildlife was also answered - apparently we need to get up much earlier than we had been. The gentleman told us he saw lots of moose and bears early in the morning, around 6-7am. I don't think we're going to see any on this trip with those sorts of requirements.

The purpose of our early dinner was to go on the walking tour about the odd stories of Dawson put on daily by Parks Canada. It was a good tour and took us inside several of the different buildings. We learned about Caveman Bill, who currently lives in a cave across the Yukon river from Dawson because 20 years ago a friend bet him he couldn't do it for one winter. He must like it. Actually, apparently a few people live across the river. In the summer they take the ferry to get into town, and in the winter they drive or walk over the ice road the river becomes. But for 2-4 months each fall and spring they cannot get across except by helicopter because the ice either hasn't frozen yet or is in the process of melting. We also learned that the toe in the sourtoe cocktail really is a toe and they are on toe number seven or something like that. Eww. We also learned about the woman who sold her housekeeping services for a winter (and not her body) for her weight in gold - 136 pounds. Impressive!

It stopped raining before our walking tour, so we decided to give driving up to the midnight dome a try. I'm not sure why it's called the dome, other than that you're supposed to be able to see in several directions and it's a good spot to watch the sun set and rise (if you want to be up at those hours). It was a bit foggy to see much, but interestingly the fog had cleared over Dawson itself so we got some interesting photos.

Now back to our hotel for our last evening of nightcaps. We're getting spoiled!

Next: Day 13-14: Wrap Up

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