Current News – Sorry for the really long pause in releasing the next blog some of you probably thought we had fallen off the face of the earth, well we nearly did kinda but more of that later for now this is a quick update on our current whereabouts.
We are just north of the California border travelling down the 101 Hwy, internet access has been sporadic to say the least and we have had none in the few campsites we stayed in. It is hard with the few daylight hours now to fit everything in and seems really strange to be blogging about the longest day when we are nearly close to the shortest.
We will give you more of an update on our next blog and you shouldn’t have as long to wait this time.
Blog 277 Whitehorse to Mayo 21st – 23rd June 2013
We said our goodbyes to our fellow travellers on the longest day, (check out the date on the local newspaper) our time together was fun but now we had to go our separate ways, we had to shoot into town to do some chores after we waved goodbye. First up to find a friendly bike dealer to organise a tyre for our return leg, our laundry was also building up and we needed to register with the post office so Harri could send the replacement coils out to us, the temporary coil on the dash was doing a sterling job but it was supposed to be just that – temporary.
Outside the bike shop we met Belt Drive Betty just heading off to Dawson on her own road trip across Canada. She runs a magazine and a scheme called “never ride alone” where riders in remote areas can check in by phone at their destination so the appropriate authorities can be alerted if they don’t arrive. She was very friendly and a bit of a character, here she is posing with her mascot. Inside we fueled up on coffee.
We took a little wander round the town and just caught the tail end of a native fair to celebrate the solstice. This little tram took tourists round to see some of the sights. In the city is this statue of Jack London known for his novels “The call of the Wild” and “White Fang”. He camped in the Whitehorse area after running the Whitehorse rapids and Miles Canyon on his way to Dawson city. He was only 21 yrs old at the time and the influence of his time in the north was evident in his five novels and sixty-five short stories and helped put Yukon on the map.
That night we donned our usual sleeping attire, an eye mask. This far north and especially on the longest day we would be lucky if we got more than a few hours of darkness so the eye masks had been an increasingly essential part of our equipment. The near constant daylight meant it was really easy to lose track of the time. Our new neighbours who showed up at 4am to erect their tent rather loudly showed it wasn’t just us struggling with their circadian rhythms.
Next morning Kev fitted a new tyre for our upcoming Alaska leg we had been warned by the locals “tyres don’t last long around here”, it seems we were back to coarse chip road surfaces again. This tyre a D404 Dunlop had made it from Vancouver including the island to Whitehorse in the Yukon, it wasn’t great mileage and Kev vowed to continue his search for the best touring tyre.
Here are some pictures of Kev removing the old tyre and using a ratchet strap to seal the bead on the new one while he pumps it up.
Karen seemed to be in shock about something.
That night we chatted to some other neighbours, his brother a first nation elder who showed up later had run to Mexico for charity not once but twice in 1992 and 2004. Later that evening we met Denny, he often stopped by the camp ground with his guitar to see who was in town and meet some travellers. He stopped by our camp and treated us to an impromptu guitar session, it was the start of great friendship. We hopped in Denny’s pick-up truck to go and see some local sights, by now it was almost 11pm but no worries it was the longest day so we were not about to run out of daylight. Denny said pop by tomorrow to use the internet and stuff which we were grateful for.
We left for Mayo that afternoon at 4pm which is usually when we are beginning to think of where we need to stop for the night but as daylight lasted almost 22hrs we had no worries.
Travelling up the Klondike highway we were following in the footsteps of the first nation people who first travelled this route. A road called the Overland Route was built in 1902, it was 530 km long, with roadhouses every 30-40 kms. Over 275 horses were used in a season to service the stage coaches that plied the route. The horse-drawn stages left from 6am – 6pm and people paid $125 for a one way fare which was a huge sum of money at that time. The drivers often called skinners worked on the boats in summer and the overland trail in winter. Here are the remains of the Montague roadhouse which operated until 1940, the roof was removed and installed on Carmacks roadhouse which still operates today.
Carmacks served as a refuelling station for the sternwheelers when rivers were the highways and between 1898 – 1955 woodcutters ruled the woods, they were employed to cut and stack “cords” of wood for the sternwheelers to pick up. Over 350 sternwheelers were in use in their heyday. A cord of wood is a stack of four foot long logs 8 feet high and 8 feet long. Sternwheelers used huge amounts of wood, the journey from Whitehorse to Dawson City would require 120 cords.
Incredibly this carried on until the 1950′s when the newly built Northern Klondike Highway made Sternwheelers un economic and obsolete.
A lot of the history of this region hinges around the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. We will delve more into the history of that as we travel north. Our next major destination Dawson City boomed during the rush of 98, remember there was no road then so the stampeder’s went to extraordinary measures to get at the gold. Most came via Seattle on sternwheeler paddle steamers up as far as Skagway or Valdez on the coast of Alaska. Here they had to disembark and carry their supplies over mountains, one option was to climb the infamous Chilkoot Pass then descend to Lake Bennet where they cut down trees and built boats to carry themselves through Miles Canyon and the Yukon River to Dawson City over 800 miles away. This in itself was a dangerous journey and one of the many hazards they faced was five finger rapids pictured below. Five red columns of rock jutted out of the river and the turbulent waters around them caused many a boat to sink and claimed many lives. The current these days is nowhere near as fierce as it was then. The river flow is now controlled by a dam further upstream. Remember as well this journey was only possible in the summer once the river ice had broken up typically from May to October. In winter the Sternwheelers were pulled out of the water or they would be crushed by the thick ice.
Pelly Crossing was established as a ferry crossing and highway construction camp when the Klondike Highway was built in the early 1950′s.
Before anyone had even heard of the Klondike gold rush the first mining in the Yukon was for placer gold near Mayo in the gravel bars of the Stewart river in 1883, predating the famous Klondike gold discovery by 13 years. Many creeks in this area became significant producers of placer gold prior to the discovery of the world class silver deposits near Keno and Elsa (near Mayo) about 10 years later. Mayo was established as the supply centre for the gold producers before silver became the mainstay of the area. The clamshell bucket in the photo was used circa 1912 in the mining industry.
The Mayo/Keno area is quite high and its claim to fame is that it is both the hottest and coldest area in the Yukon. +97Deg F was the hottest here but all the records were broken on Feb 3rd 1947 when the spirit dipped to record -80deg F, Brrrrrrr. Mercury freezes at -39deg F so spirit was used to record in these cold places.
The Binet house in Mayo was a restored homestead built by Eugene Binet for his wife in the 1920′s now it houses the history, geography and geology of the area.
In 1938, 2,000 tons of sacked silver ore were stockpiled at the sternwheeler docks at Mayo awaiting the spring opening of navigation for shipment down the Stewart river. Ore was shipped by wagon down to Mayo from the mine sites of Keno/Elsa 40miles away.
In the Binet museum at Mayo the guide there showed us some Galena silver ore, it consists mostly of silver and lead. The ore here is unusually high in silver content.
Next up – Keno silver city