Thursday, July 8, 2010

Entering the Yukon Territory

On July 1st we slowly made our way on a difficult six mile stretch of gravel road that would complete all 450 miles of the Cassiar Highway. Traffic slowed to ten miles an hour as we approached the famed Alaska Highway (ALCAN). It made me many more miles of gravel and rough roads will there be on our way to and through Alaska? If we had a breakdown, would our insurance and emergency road services such as Coach-Net or Good Sam be able to help us?  I knew we had it easy today as stories about the early road travelers to Alaska and the Yukon are legendary, with tires, front ends, radiators, fenders and entire cars or trucks littering the sides of the highway. We had it very easy so far: a great road, great campgrounds, great weather, great fishing...and few mosquitoes.  I decided to erase any negative thoughts from my mind and focus on the moment.

We finally turned west onto Highway 1 by noon.  In contrast to the Cassiar, the ALCAN was a relative freeway. Wide lanes with shoulders large enough for safe bicycling. It was time to celebrate! Within a few miles we made it to a smallish town of maybe five shops with an independent bakery among them.  I was really looking forward to some treat after being in the wilds of northern British Columbia for so a shower, haircut, and a bakery. So I entered this shop made like an elegant log cabin. Homemade treats were in abundance.  Apple turnovers especially caught my eye. But...there was no one there to sell them.  We went out front, in the back, on the one to be seen.  Back to the motorhome to make a snack.  About 20 minutes later, I tried again and voila...the baker was there! I asked the price for a coffee and turnover. And he rudely made a comment that I shouldn't have to be concerned about prices in his shop. Maybe $10. Maybe $20. I looked and saw the turnovers were marked at $6 each.  Yikes!  Basic coffee for $4 or was it $14.  Maybe this was Northern humor.  But he wasn't smiling. It took the wind out of my sails and I indeed had to think this whole matter over. I knew some items were expensive along the ALCAN. But this expensive? First the the pastry. This was not my favorite day on the road. Was he having a bad hair day (he was bald), was he trying to make a joke, or was he just being a PITA?  Or, were prices going to be a real concern the rest of the way? He lost a sale and I realized that I would have to adjust my expectations. Again, I would focus on the moment...well, in this case, the next moment because we were about to enter the Yukon Territory. Later I would laugh at being upset over such a small incident.  If only the early travelers had it so good!

In fact, life did get better as we crossed this imaginary border.  The sun came out and all of the stories I had read by Jack London and poems of Robert W. Service came to mind, especially those about the Klondike. Just the sound of "The Yukon Territory" yielded a dozen thoughts and one-time dreams of working and living in the Yukon.  It was hard to believe in a way...but we were now in the legendary Yukon. What was fact, what was real, what was fiction, what was imagination?

In real life today, the fact is we still had approximately 140 miles (241 KM) to go before we entered the town of Teslin, our first major stop in the Yukon, and then onto Whitehorse, another 110 miles (183 KM beyond that) for the next day. As the key driver, my job is to figure out the daily and weekly itinerary and costs along the way with a goal of staying within a modest budget. The amazing thing is that it has taken us a leisurely ten days to get here, something that might have taken early travelers months depending on their route, and a year or more to actually reach the Klondike.  But more of history once we reach Whitehorse and Skagway.

By early evening we reached the Teslin Bridge and traveled to the Teslin Lake Yukon Government Campground where camping fees were $12 CDN for dry camping, providing comfortable campsites on gravel roads and clean restrooms.  Not as upscale as the BC Provincial Parks, but more than adequate and very welcome for the price.


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