Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dawson City, Yukon Territory

099(Chuck) From the cockpit of an RV, this is a town of two distinct sides. There is the obvious history of the gold mining that is evident all over the land. Gold was discovered in 1896 and the Klondike became known to all. Pick and axe were soon displaced by the large dredges which scooped up huge amounts of rock and riverbed into their cavernous interior. Gold was separated and tailings were disgorged out the back to form huge trails of rocks where there was once river and meadow. Driving into town along the Klondike River to Dawson City reveals these tailings which the gold dredges have left in their wake. The last dredge to run in this area was the now famous Dredge No. 4. It’s final season was in 1959. In it’s 46 year history it recovered 8 metric tons of gold.

The second side of the area is the tourist attraction of Dawson City. The famous Diamond Tooth Gertie’s shows which are scheduled for 8:30, 10:30 and midnight. Show girls and turn of the century entertainment are standard fare. Jack London museum and cabin, and the Robert Service cabin are all well marked on the tourist papers. Numerous gift shops and storefronts line Front Street by the river.034028

We were fortunate to see another dimension to this area. It all started four days earlier and 340 miles south in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Ron Poutney, who is one of our traveling companions, was in a grocery store in Whitehorse. While he was looking at the ground beef on display, he noticed a couple looking in the meat section and in true Ron fashion he said, ‘This is a much better buy on the ground beef.’ He soon had struck up a conversation with the couple and discovered that they were in the process of supplying their gold camp with provisions for the upcoming season. Ron has been a loyal and dedicated viewer of a TV show called Gold Rush. He soon discovered this couple was056 Greg and Cathy McNeil who owned the claims on Quartz Creek where the show was filmed. Greg and Cathy not only provided a base for the show to be filmed, they operate a successful mine of their own which is called North Star. Soon an invitation was offered to visit and that is all it took for us to eventually drive the 29 miles of gravel up Hunker Road to their camp. We were warmly welcomed to their house and Greg answered each question that we had. He gave us a tour of his claim and we all posed for a photo in front of the famous “Big Red” which separated gold from rock on the TV show. Walt Dillard who is Greg’s right hand man helped us to learn the fine points of gold panning and we were successful in finding our share of color. Walt is a dozer operator and was a regular member of the TV show. Greg made many appearances as a consultant. It was a remarkable experience for all of us and it gave us a look at this town which very few people can find.065 - Copy

Our plan to stay in Dawson was to be at a local RV park. We are all serious boondockers and Dean and Judy discovered that the charge to boondock was $19. That is just out of our budget to park our solar powered rigs so we set on a quest to find a place for us to stay. 102Soon we pulled into a way station/heavy equipment camp on the highway. As is our custom, when we spot a place to park our rigs, we knock on a door and with a smile we ask permission to stay for a night. We were greeted by a warm smiling face and soon we were all standing around talking like we were long lost friends. Our host was Bev Fischer and her husband Wayne. We discovered they own and operate the Sparkling Creek mine which is 110 miles upriver on the Yukon River. They access their mine by jet boat and use a large barge to transport heavy equipment.  Wayne & Bev joined us for Happy Hour on Wednesday and once again we learned a great deal about the Klondike area and that there are many successful mines operation in the area today. We had a wonderful experience in Dawson and will carry the memories of each of these miners with us. We have exchanged e-mail addresses and will no doubt have more contact with them in the future.

(Jan) We did some touring when we were in Whitehorse including a drive to Robert Service’s cabin (Author of The Cremation of Sam McGee), a drive up Midnight Dome road to get a panoramic view of the Yukon & Klondike rivers & Dawson City, a stop at the Dawson City Museum and a trip up the Bonanza Creek to see Dredge #4.

008One of Dawson City’s gravels street above. The Yukon River and Dawson City from Dome Road, center. 013At right, our friend Bernita on trail at the Dawson City Museum. We, her fellow miners, found her innocent! 092

Today was our day to cross the Yukon river on the George Black Ferry. I was a little apprehensive as the Yukon was at flood stage and as high as it has been since 1967 but the crossing went like clockwork. Ferry approaches are constructed and re-packed daily or hourly to accommodate the rising water. The ferry is considered part of the Yukon highway system and so there was no cost to cross the river! Bernita & I crossed with the cars and Ron & Chuck came over with the motorhomes. (The Sheeleys and Forresters had gone over ahead of us.)

012The Jeep boarding 042Crossing the Yukon 085The Motor Home disembarking

Tonight (Thursday) we are just off of the Top of the World highway which is mostly gravel and runs along a high ridge. We will cross the Canadian/U.S. border tomorrow morning and make a stop in Chicken but for tonight we are tucked away in a beautiful boondocking spot along the Clinton Creek road enjoying a campfire.037

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