Friday, August 5, 2016

Dawson City, AK - To Light a Fire

It rained all last night and all today until about 4:30 pm. Our raincoats have become our constant companions. Because we got in so late last night, we relaxed in the RV until 1:00 and then headed out. Well, relaxed is a relative term. Gary did laundry, I cleaned the windows on the RV - might as well use this natural water. I don’t want to look through mud dribbles. Boy, do I look focused on the task at hand.
OK, now let’s go. Our first stop was the Klondike cabin of a gold rusher, Jack London. Now we learned a lot about Jack London when we were in San Francisco and visited his ranch about an hour north of SF. But, here is Dawson City is a cabin that he lived in the year he was up here prospecting for gold. Here’s a picture of the cabin now. Note the bottom two logs - those are original logs. (A cache that most miners and hunters had is also here though it is not London’s.)
The rest of the logs were sent to Oakland, CA for another cabin to celebrate his life and works. If you really want to study Jack London, you’ve got to visit all three places.

Here is the cabin as it was found on his deeded site. Eventually, it was then brought to Dawson City for display and a museum was also opened.
We listened to a docent tell of his life here in Dawson City. London was out of work, his short stories had all come back ‘rejected’ and he heard about the Klondike gold rush in 1897. He borrowed money from his sister, boarded this boat and came up. He landed in Skagway and with all the other miners, bought the 2000 lbs. of supplies required by the Canadian Mounties before they would let anyone into Canada and began his trek to Dawson City. He joined 3 other men who all helped each other get their supplies over the Chilcoot Trail, build a boat to ferry them down the Yukon and into the Klondike territory. He found a cabin on Henderson Creek, took possession, filed a claim and began to work it. Here’s a picture showing London who is the 2nd from the left in the right hand group of men. He looks much younger than the rest and he probably was.
Since the gold miners ate mostly the 3 b’s: bacon, beans and bannock (an unleavened bread - you know, flour, water and baking soda - yum-m-m) many developed scurvy. London’s was so bad that he could hardly walk and had to leave the Yukon for home in California.

Here’s a recipe for Bannock for you. Maybe if you add some sugar? Fruit compote? Honey? Anything.
However, he left his cabin which was found much later, after he became famous. How do we know it was his cabin? Well, his name was scratched in one of the logs, it was on his claim and he mentioned it in a letter to a friend. Good presentation and we then looked at all the pictures there in the room. The originals are in museums elsewhere, protected, but we got to see these copies.

Here’s an applicationo for a placer mine on the Henderson Creek, where his cabin was found. His signature is in the lower right.
Although his stay in the Klondike was brief, it had a major influence on his writing. By the time he died at the age of 40, he was a successful, world famous author with such stories as: ‘The Call of the Wild’, ’To Build a Fire’ and ‘White Fang’ among his best known works.

Then we tried to visit the Dawson City Museum but the tickets were $7.00 for one day. It was 4:15 and the museum closed at 6:00. We’ll go tomorrow and thought we’d just wander through Dawson City this afternoon. By chance our walk took us by a corner building with an open door. Let’s go in. Inside were lots of pictures about the early days of Dawson City. What a find. Pictures along with quotes from people who lived there during the gold rush. Very nicely done . And, here are some of the pictures that I got. I’ll let you read the quotes yourself.

The Klondike Gold Rush started when these 3 men found some gold in the area.

When those in the lower 48 heard about this they all began to ‘rush’ up to Alaska. However, it took them about a year to get to the Dawson City area and, by this time, those who had already been prospecting in Alaska had already claimed most of the good territory. Very few found any gold and most returned to the lower 48 poorer and wiser
Here are some miners at dinner. Fine dining it wasn’t.

Here’s Dawson City at the turn of the century. Note all the tents along the waterside. Dirt streets, little sanitation, impure water. And prices were pretty steep as they were in all gold rush towns.
These streets are definitely not paved with gold.
The order was kept by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Dawson City was quite tame compared to other towns.
However, as Dawson City grew and business men with families came up, the town attained a more civilized look.
Churches, ladies’ clubs, libraries all bespoke of a growing city.
The streets look a lot better than those several pictures above.
This little museum that we just happened upon had lots more about the history of Dawson City in pictures and quotes and was really interesting and well done.

But it’s getting late, the rain has stopped for a bit and we can get home, maybe, without getting wet.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Dawson City, AK - Top of the World Highway

Chicken was one of our goals for the day but we needed to get to Dawson City where we were going to spend the next few days and we were only 1/2 way there. The connecting road is called the Top of the World Highway, known for its expansive views in every direction. a 360° view. All I could think of was the Carpenter’s old song:

        ‘I’m at the top of the world looking down on creation’

And, sure enough, the views were great:

The road didn’t improve, in fact, it got worse. Here is the description in the book 'Milepost', the Bible for Alaskan travel.
And, it follows up these words of warning with these:
Of course, signage helps too. Looks like a gravel road up ahead - for about 50 miles.
Believe this sign when you see it.
Looks like a small roller coaster.
But, here are the hardy souls. We saw several groups of bikers on this road.

Then we moved on - to the worst part of the road. Potholes so numerous in spots that Gary couldn’t go around them but had to choose which one to go through. Shoulders so soft that we could see where others had spun their tires getting around corners. A road so narrow that sometimes there were only 3 lanes.

Blind curves with no shoulders and a steep drop-off. Holy Cliffhanger, Batman, we’re on the outside of the curve. Don’t look down.
What a road. My teeth were chattering as much as our RV was rattling.

We finally hit the border. We’re leaving Alaska
Entering the Yukon.
And, the border stations. Oh, oh. What’s that on our windshield? Not in the forecast. Didn’t I read above in this blog that you should NEVER, EVER travel this road in the rain? It’s dangerous, slippery, the shoulders are soft and the drop-offs - whoo-eee. AND you won’t get the views that the road is known for.
Here’s our RV and car after we had driven those 50 miles. Can you see the car? Where are the headlights? Rear-view mirror? Ha, ha.
Our tow bar was caked in mud. How will we ever get this off unless we can wash it first? What if we have to unhitch the car to get across the river to Dawson City on the ferry? Unhitch this mud ball? Drive this mudball? (BTW, that’s a blue yoga mat covering the windshied to protect it from rocks.
The back of the Jeep was even worse.
Even our back-up camera got into the act. So muddy we couldn’t see out of this for schmatz.
Finally we were at the ferry to take us across to Dawson City, our goal for the day. We were in line, Gary ran out to ask if we had to unhitch and, when the guy said no, he ran back to get the RV onto the ferry.
Strike up the band. Whew. Easy ride, nice ferry and we were at the campground by 7:00. We have a back-in spot (one with another RV in back of it) but, she put us into a spot that had no one in back of it so we could pull-thru. We did this, ate dinner and then headed on over to the car wash to get in line. What a sprint.

The mud was easily 2” thick in the car wash but we stepped through it to get our RV as clean as we could. What a mess.

Would we recommend this road to anyone? NO - not in an RV. A car maybe. But, if you like your RV and want to keep it in one piece - this is not your road. Too much shake, rattle and roll. But - we met 2 caravans on the road, coming from the opposite direction. So, obviously, it’s popular with the caravans. Probably want to show people the ‘real Alaska.’

It’s now 8:30: time to unhook the Jeep, hook up the utilities, shower and hit the hay. It’s been a long day.