Thursday, August 20, 2015

Yukon Trip - Day 1 - Whitehorse, YT

After a 2.5-hour flight from Vancouver, my parents and I arrived this afternoon in Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon and the first stop on our week-long northern road trip. The ten-minute airport shuttle bus ride provided our first glimpses of the city, which seemed quaint and cheery, its loveliness enhanced by its location between rolling mountains, on the banks of the Yukon River. Eager to get sightseeing before the forecasted rain arrived, we checked into the Westmark Hotel and headed over to Budget to pick up our rental car.
our Klondike license plate
Our first stop was the Visitors’ Information Centre, a huge and beautiful building on the riverfront (its prominence made sense when we saw how many non-Yukon license plates there were around town). After picking up a few pamphlets and a parking permit (parking downtown is free for visitors!) we walked out to the riverfront trail. The Yukon River is wide, surprisingly fast-moving, and a beautiful clear green. We followed its purple loostrife-lined bank a few blocks south to the S.S. Klondike II, an old sternwheeler riverboat now recognized as a National Historic Site.
full rainbow behind the S.S. Klondike II
From a visitor centre and short film, we learned that the S.S. Klondike II was one of three sternwheelers that provided transportation to cargo and passengers along the Yukon River, between Whitehorse and Dawson City, during the first half of the 20th century. It operated between 1937 and 1955, after which it was beached in the Whitehorse shipyards, until its restoration and relocation in 1967 to its present location (by means of a three-week push through the downtown, lubricated by 8 tons of Palmolive soap!). We toured the main deck of the ship, seeing the wood-burning engine, steam-driven paddlewheel, crew quarters, and cargo (food, liquor, and many many cords of wood for the 36-hour (down-river) or 4.5-day (up-river) trip). Although we were not permitted to visit the upper deck (the wood was slippery from the rain), we had a fantastic (free!) visit, certainly enhanced by the several friendly and knowledgeable interpreters on site.
flat hull and massive paddle wheel
steam-driven machinery
fruit cargo
We proceeded on foot on a downtown walking tour, following our map past a number of historic residences and businesses. We saw the waterfront trolley take off from the old train station, checked out a log church and four-storey log “skyscraper”, and spotted many historic murals. Given the fickle weather (rain alternating with sun and blue skies…every five minutes) we ducked into a couple of gift stores to keep dry, in which we found everything from “moose dropping” candy to Ted Harrison prints.
White Pass & Yukon train station
waterfront trolley
a sculpture of Robert Service's writing desk, with The Cremation of Sam McGee; and an old-timey Starbucks
log church
log skyscraper (Whitehorse's building code does not permit more than four stories) -- this is actually someone's residence
straight out of the gold rush era
CBC North
a historic residence and one of the many public flowerbeds

We headed back to the Westmark around 7 pm to eat our packed dinner (we planned out and packed along pretty much all of our meals!) and are enjoying a 9:43 pm sunset, hoping that the clouds clear for a potential aurora borealis sighting tonight!
a great hotel that fits in well with the rest of the old buildings
We'll be heading out of Whitehorse to Atlin, BC today, so won't have wifi for the next few days...I'll catch up on posting when internet is available!

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