60° North to Whitehorse

Where I last left off, Andy and I had hustled our way up Highway 37 (Dease Lake Highway / Stewart-Cassiar Highway) to just a few hundredths of a degree north of 60° latitude.  The Stewart-Cassiar comes to a junction with the famed Alaska Highway (Highway 1).  The Alaska Highway would take us into Whitehorse.  The thought of the highway being a thin ribbon that just cut – not in a destructive way – through the mountains, forests, and tundras of the north kept popping into my head.  Most of the roads in this region are like that; long, thin stretches that appear to unravel out into wilderness.

We fill up with diesel at a station at the junction; this is was our first taste of being out there.  The shelves of this store consisted mostly of some odd, off-brand candy, beef jerky and some mosquito netting for around your head.  There were actually two stations at this corner.  The first had a note taped to the diesel pump: “Go to the other station.”  We had this feeling that Whitehorse was going to even more remote.

I am not even sure what time we rolled out of the odd-feeling fill station at the junction with the Alaska Highway.  We pushed on toward Whitehorse.

The Alaska Highway crosses back into British Columbia west of Watson Lake, but it quickly snakes back north into the Yukon.

The map we had for Whitehorse was a standard tourist-issue map that we had picked up from the strange fill station at the Dease Lake Highway/Alaska Highway junction.  There was little feature that we did not notice: north on the map was pointing to the right instead of the traditional straight-up.  This small detail caused our sleep deprived brains to get incredibly confused.  Not to mention that, at 11:00 PM, when we rolled into Whitehorse, the sun was still high in the sky.  After circling the city a couple times, we got our bearing and settled in on finding a hotel.  We would stay in Whitehorse a couple of nights as we had just burned through 2,100 miles of road in a bit over 50 hours since Bozeman, MT.

While performing our orientation-circle of Whitehorse, we passed the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre.  Given that it was approaching midnight, visiting the centre would have to wait.

We traveled back around to the downtown and settled on the Best Western Gold Rush Inn.

The next day, we did touristy things.  We hit up the downtown for coffee at Baked Café; then headed over to the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site.

The S.S. Klondike is a sternwheeler paddle boat.  It was the primary means of getting between Dawson City and Whitehorse from 1929 to 1952.  It has since been put on the shore of the Yukon River.  Staged for tourists, the boat now just sits.

It was fascinating to walk around the boat; the huge steam-driven pistons that turned the paddle; the cargo area; and the pretentious viewing room with its wicker chairs and tables.

After the S.S. Klondike, we headed to the Beringia museum.  Andy, for the most part, talked for a couple with a researcher there.  I am a wannabe scientist who happens to be a software engineer; the talking was not my domain, so I kept things to a minimum with a few quips here and there.  I think the neatest artifact in the museum was a toss up between North America’s largest mammoth skeleton or the giant sloth.

The next day, we would head out of Whitehorse to Dawson City, and then north – up the Dempster Highway.  Our goal was to get to the Arctic Circle or the Peel River crossing.