We spent a surprisingly quiet night at the rest area at Robinson Roadhouse and were once again on the road early in the morning with hot tea, deciding that breakfast wasn’t needed. The sun was still low in the sky, which most of the time is great, except as we passed the beautiful Emerald (also called Rainbow) Lake, the colors weren’t yet illuminated with the sun still behind the high mountains to the east. The road to Carcross is beautiful, winding through the mountains with vistas of White Pass. The history of this road is woven tightly into the story of the Klondike gold rush, as it was at Bennet lake west of Carcross that the minors boarded the lake steamers.
We walked around the burned hull of the Tutshi sternwheeler, reading the sad story of her attempted restoration, only to tragically burn in 1990 before the fire suppression systems were installed. Perusing Mo’s photos of her 1974 journey, we found a shot of the boat before the restoration began. I also found a photo of the Caribou Hotel which was still in operation back then. Today, it appeared empty although it looked as though it was in the process of restoration.
The White Pass-Yukon Railroad Depot provided an important route from Skagway to Whitehorse, where it no longer goes, now ending here at Carcross. It was just after 8 as we pulled into town and all was quiet.
Continuing east along the Tagish Road past the post where the miners were required to check in and have their full ton of provisions documented by the RCMP before they were allowed to continue north to the gold fields. The circle route adds an extra 27 miles back to the Alaska Highway, but it is beautiful and well worth the trip.
We were back in the Yukon, on the open road with wide vistas spreading out before us on a perfectly clear morning. There a so many museums at nearly every town, it is hard to see them all. Reading about George Johnston’s Museum at Teslin, however, was intriguing, and we chose to stop. I’m so glad we did. George Johnston was Tglingit Indian with a story as wild and romantic as the Yukon itself. As a young man, he was intrigued with automobiles and went to Whitehorse to buy the first automobile brought to Teslin. Or course, there were no roads in Teslin, so he used the 70 mile long Teslin Lake in the winter and built his own 3 mile road in the summer.
I had read all this in the Milepost, but I must say that the museum brought George to life in a way I would have never understood without our morning stop. In addition to his story of the car, he was a self taught photographer and for 40 years documented the life of his people in Teslin. As we left, a sign board told the story of the lost language, and how now at last it is being restored. I would say this is a “don’t miss it” museum, aka the Milepost. Of course, it says that about lots of places that aren’t necessarily so great.
Not far beyond Teslin Lake we were surprised to see a young black bear grazing for berries on the slope above the road. He wasn’t the least bit concerned that we stopped for photos, and again, I was glad for a telephoto lens to catch his sweet face up close. If you look at the rest of the photos, you might see his crooked little nose. I swear it is a bit crooked, or plastered on a bit sideways.
Mid afternoon found us at Watson Lake and the famous Signpost Forest. When Mo stopped here in 74 there were only a few posts along the highway and she took a couple of photos. The forest now is nothing if not overwhelming.
We walked among all the signs from all over the world, amazed at some folks creations and wondering just how many of those city signs were stolen from their local burgs. We tried to find some of the early signs but could make no sense of it. Back into the visitor center to find out the 150 of the original posts had rotted and were removed. All the signs on those posts had been nailed up hither and yon wherever there was a space. Mo was glad she didn’t have a sign to find. We added Mo’s sign that we brought from home to the melee and moved on down the road.
Watson Lake is the last major community in the Yukon and as we entered British Columbia the road conditions started going downhill. We got caught in a long line of cars in very dusty gravel for about ten miles. It was time to find a boondock site, and sure enough there was a wide place along a creek just beckoning us to spend the night. We slipped out of the long line of cars and big trucks to the long gravel road and realized that in order to get level we would have to unhook.
It was worth it, and eventually all the pilot cars stopped coming, the grader finally quit after 6pm, and we had a beautiful quiet evening reading and enjoying our free spot along Irons Creek. I did a little bit of reading and found out that at one time the bridge over Irons Creek was a 25 foot diameter culvert, one of the largest in Canada, and it had failed a few years ago requiring that a new bridge be constructed. The creek didn’t look at all threatening at this time of year, but we were far enough above it that it wasn’t a worry anyway.
Miles traveled today: about 317 from point 15 to point 18 on the map at left
Road conditions: good all the way through the Yukon, ten miles of dusty gravel into BC
The rest of the photos for this day are linked here.