Dawson City. As I sit here a day later trying to express what we felt about Dawson, I am at a loss for words. Disneyesque? Tourist Town? Another destination for cruise ships? Dawson Berry Farm? (aka Knotts Berry Farm)? For all those lovers of Dawson, I apologize. It wasn’t quite what we thought it might be. Of course, it may have been because we arrived during the annual July Dawson Music Festival that the town was so crowded, or because of the several huge Holland America busses there as well.
I think Mo was a bit more surprised than I was, because she saw Dawson more than 30 years ago, when it was truly an old historic town full of crazy old buildings and history. This time, for her the whole place was just too slick and shiny, too much a destination “thing”. Today, however, we were blessed with gorgeous weather to walk the town, and watch the myriad types of people doing the same.
There were many young people, some we spoke to from Yellowknife and Fairbanks, alternative type kids with dreds and beards, backpacking and hitch hiking out of town after the music, friendly and polite and fun to talk to. While sitting on a bench with Abby, waiting for me to check out a gallery, Mo visited with a woman from the Holland America cruise ship bus, touring Alaska by boat, bus, and train, and having a great time. She was from Henderson, Kentucky, and wanted the chance to see Dawson in the snow, for just two days or so. We had fun talking about the beautiful hardwood forests of Henderson and the Audubon Park that we visited last fall.
Today, after a beautiful quiet night ten miles east of town at our campground,Klondike River CG Yukon Parks, we decided that in order to avoid the caravan of 20 motorhomes crossing the Yukon tomorrow morning, we would forfeit our prepaid camp fees for tonight and leave for the Top of the World this afternoon. With that decision made, we both felt better about our visit to Dawson. There really wasn’t enough here for us to see to warrant a two day visit as originally planned.
Yes, there is a lot to see. There is the ride on the Yukon on the sternwheeler, a great thing to do if you have a spare 120 Canadian for two people. There are the dancing girls at Gertie’s, and the gambling, neither of which particularly interested us this time around. We skipped the Follies in Whitehorse, thinking that we would enjoy the funkier version in Dawson. Seems as though they no longer have a Follies show in Dawson, and Gertie’s Dancing Girls are the replacement. Three shows a night, ten bucks a show, lasts half an hour, great costumes according to the visitor center people. Last night we had no desire to drive back to town for contrived night life at 8:30 to jostle for a first come first serve show.
We filled the MoHo at the only gas station open for 5.49 per US gallon and backtracked to the road leading to Dredge No.4, a Canada Historic Site down the road to the gold discovery site that started the whole thing. We saw the first wildlife since Arctic ground squirrels when a small fox crossed the road in front of us with breakfast dangling from his mouth.
Placer mining is familiar to me. I did soil survey in Murray, Idaho, another historic placer mining district, with valleys filled in with placer tailings. In Columbia, California, heart of the gold country, I mapped soils developed on 150 year old piles of the chemical mix left over from hydraulic mining. I wear gold, I use metal as we all do, mining is a necessary thing, but what is left from the mining industry is daunting to me. The landscape here at Dawson looked incredibly familiar to me, even though I had never been here. We saw some signs in town saying, “Placer Mining Supports This Store and This Store Supports Placer Mining”. Of course, mining is the heart and soul of Dawson and of the Yukon. Important stuff. Necessary. The sign made me think that there are probably some folks out there taking issue with the mining. As always, it is challenging to find some kind of balance.
Walking around town for a couple of hours taking photos was perfect for us. There was a beautiful city garden full of huge delphiniums along the river, and flowers everywhere throughout town. Some of the buildings were painted in Technicolor and others were crafted of old tin and weathered boards. The visitor center was beautiful, a replica of the old HBC building that stood there at one time. We certainly didn’t see everything or do everything. There are many blogs out there filled with great stories of fun in Dawson City where I can go read all about what I didn’t do some winter evening when I am back reviewing my own take on visiting Dawson.
I loved the Yukon River. I loved the magical line between muddy Yukon water and clear green water from the Klondike as the rivers merged along the waterfront. I loved the power of the Yukon River, and looking at it, I loved imagining it’s winding course to the Bering Sea in the north. I loved reading about how it once flowed south until the continental glaciers turned it northward. I loved the flowers and the brilliant sunshine that again came out for us in Dawson. I loved the crazy mix of people.
Would I ever need to see Dawson again? Probably not. I bought a small copy of Jack London’s Call of the Wild. His house is here is Dawson, among other authors of north country lore. Hadn’t read that book since high school, and read it while I watched the moon come up in the midnight twilight of the Yukon when I couldn’t sleep. The book was written in 1903 and the names of places throughout the book rang true to me, places we had driven yesterday on the Klondike, Perry Crossing, the Stewart River, others that meant nothing to me as I read the book so many years ago, now ringing with a different sort of familiarity.
Dawson City. Mythical town of the Klondike Gold Rush, all dressed up for the 21st century.
Many photos from this day are linked here.
Miles traveled this morning 0
Coming Next: Everything changes at the Top of the World