Carcross and Skagway
Dawson City overflows with gold rush history. It is a beautiful little town with a lot to do and a lot of history to take in. We only had a day, so we raced around a little bit to check out the buildings and the waterfront. It wasn’t packed with tourists, so it was pretty easy to find a parking space and wander. The restaurants we wanted to try – Klondike Kate’s and the Drunken Goat – were closed for the day (on Monday’s, much is closed), so we settled on The Jack London Grill for lunch. The salad was very good and fresh and the buffalo sliders were excellent. We sat outside in the warm day and watched people wander down the street. We took a pass on the Sourtoe Cocktail next door; I don’t put my own toes in my mouth, let alone someone else’s.
We decided to see some of the countryside during the afternoon and headed up the road to dredge number 4. It is incredibly large, gargantuan, and one can see the path it took following the road to get to it. The tailings/pilings line the road and are the road. There is still a lot of mining going on today and equipment is everywhere. I wish I had my camera with me to take some pictures; I had forgotten it at home. Further up the road is what appears to be a very popular ($$) gold panning attraction but if you proceed a little farther, there is a province run free spot to pan in the Bonanza River.
In the morning we got up and headed south. The road is beautiful and wandering and, since traffic is light, enjoyable. Some time between Dawson City and Whitehorse we got our Sirius Radio back constantly. We had enjoyed it here and there throughout much of the north, but it would come and go with the wind.
We skipped Whitehorse except for a quick gas stop and headed down to Carcross. On the way is Emerald Lake and the smallest desert in the world, both worthy stops. We stopped at Montana Grocery and RV Park (and restaurant and gas station), and called it a night.
Carcross is a picturesque little village on the edge of Bennett Lake. There is gold rush history here as well as first nation history. We are glad we decided to stay here rather than brave the drive into Skagway with the RV. It wasn’t the roads that were a problem though there are grades; it is the sheer number of human bodies that make Skagway so uncomfortable.
We took the drive down to Skagway, across the border and over White’s Pass. The drive is sublime. Between the mountains, the lakes, and the general landscape, it is easy to get lost for hours just looking. The stop at the border – we only had the Jeep – was quick and easy both ways. It has changed a lot since the last time we had been there, around 2007 or so. Large buildings and an actual checkpoint had been added.
Skagway was just what we expected. Four cruise ships had disgorged their passengers and the town streets where wall to wall tourists. Literally. It was almost impossible to get anywhere. They wandered blindly in the streets, a few of them nearly getting flattened by trucks trying to deliver goods. More than half of them had their cell phones in their hands, madly texting or posting to facebook or some such, not watching where they were going or what they were doing. Of course, because so many people were on their phones, Verizon service wasn’t much good for anything other than phone calls. Our goal in Skagway was to pay a bill online and to do some last minute shopping; we were foiled on both. We tried to find a place to eat figuring that the cruisers had free food on the ships but no such luck. The lines were 15-30 people deep. We gave up and headed back north.
A new place had opened up on the highway: Yukon Suspension Bridge. The restaurant was on the canyon that overlooked the supremely blue Tutshi River. While the food was nothing to write about (but it was good), the views of the canyon and the architecture of the building was amazing. We completely enjoyed our brief stop away from the overwhelming hoards.
On the way back to Carcross, we came across a boat ramp that had room for camping/overnighting. The view was spectacular, the area level and easy to get to. If one could endure the tour buses that regularly stopped there during the day, it would be a great place to spend the night. We also came across a new campground the Yukon government seems to be putting in right next to the river. It is supposed to open in 2016 and from the looks of it, will have paved roads and a great view. Unfortunately, it was not somewhere we could stay now.
The area right around Carcross is beautiful. There are lots of lakes and streams and mountain views. Had the weather not been calling for a week straight of rain, we would have stayed and then wandered to Atlin for a day or two. There are plenty of great places to overnight and boondock and it seems to be an out of the way area for some peace and quiet.