Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Yukon Trip - Day 3 - Carcross, YT

After a comfortable sleep at Sojourner’s Loft we awoke to a cloudy (but not rainy!) day and enjoyed a breakfast of coffee, oatmeal, raisin bread, and fruit. The highlight of the morning was getting to take outdoor showers. We were hesitant, given that it was a dewy 10 °C out, but the garden hose water warmed instantly when run through the propane-powered heater and it turned out to be such a fun experience for us city folk to shower under the birch trees.
We packed up, said our goodbyes to our lovely hosts Trudy and Bob, and headed up Atlin Road back into the Yukon.
We swung west over to Tagish Road and stopped for a picnic lunch at the end of a long bridge over Marsh Lake on the Tagish River. The scenery was just beautiful, with nearly specular reflection of the clouds and landscape off the lake surface. The glacial blue water was so clear that peering over the edge of the bridge, we could see the weeds on the lake’s bottom.
In the early afternoon we reached Carcross (formerly “Caribou Crossing”), another little gold rush town, with a population of 289. Our first stop was the Carcross Desert, an unexpected expanse of sand dunes nestled between the mountains. It’s not really a desert, but a collection of sand that was formerly trapped in glaciers, carried down to Bennett Lake by the Watson River, and blown by winds into dunes. The dunes were phenomenal and we hiked up to where they disappeared into the taiga, which was high enough an elevation to yield a rewarding view.
souvenir sand
We drove for a few minutes to reach the town of Carcross and stopped in at the Visitor’s Centre to pick up a walking tour pamphlet. We headed out on foot (no need to drive when you can walk the length of the town in about five minutes) to check out the general store, old hotel, White Pass & Yukon railway station (which still runs trains between Carcross and Skagway four times a week), and post office.
General Store (now a souvenir shop) and old hotel (no longer operating)
railway station
White Pass & Yukon train
looking towards downtown along the rail line
post office
Walking down one of the two residential streets we saw the Catholic church, library, old school house, new school, correspondence college, bakery, and community hall.
Catholic church and houses
old school house
With two sides of the town fronting a river and a lake, Carcross feels like a little West Coast fishing village. Rather than fish, though, the industry was gold. Tourism followed soon after, as evidenced by the old S.S. Tutshi sternwheeler on display, which transported tourists around the Southern Lakes (Tagish and Atlin Lakes) between 1917 and 1955.
what remains of the S.S. Tutshi sternwheeler after a 1990 fire
Bennett Lake Beach, steps from downtown Carcross
railroad bridge across the Nares River, between Bennett and Nares Lakes
Tourism apparently remains Carcross’ primary industry, with several tour buses, a jeep tour convoy, and a group of mountain bikers passing through during the couple hours we spent there. There is a relatively new touristy area with a handful of First Nations boutiques behind the Visitor’s Center. It seems that Carcross gets enough tourist traffic from Alaskan cruises and overland travellers to support these businesses. By comparison, we encountered only a few fellow tourists in Atlin.
new tourist shops
We walked across a pedestrian trestle to take a look into a row of dilapidated prospectors’ cabins. While there wasn’t much inside of these, it was interesting to imagine their residents of days gone by.
pedestrian bridge and Bennett Lake
gold rush cabins
gold rush cabins along the Nares River
view across the Nares River to downtown Carcross, from the window of an abandoned cabin
purple loostrife, Nares River, and downtown Carcross
We headed back along Tagish Road to kilometre 40, where we will be spending the next two nights at Dunroamin’ Retreat. Dunroamin’ is a lovely property on Crag Lake housing the log home of the very friendly Suzanne and Rob and a log cabin which they rent to guests on a two-night basis. The property is every bit as whimsically charming as Sojourner’s Loft in Atlin, with potted flowers, lawn ornaments, hammocks, a fire pit, and a dock on the lake. In addition, the grounds house a laundry cabin, greenhouse, sauna, Mongolian yurt, treehouse, and canoes, all of which we’ve been invited to use.
wind chimes and our log cabin
hammock overlooking Crag Lake
seating area in the greenhouse
fire pit
Mongolian yurt
fire pit and sauna
muskoka chairs overlooking Crag Lake
dock on Crag Lake, looking west
looking east
fall colours
post office bird house
unique garden decorations
antique glass electrical insulators
stamp-decorated stool
vegetable garden

Our log cabin, built with much care over several years by Rob and Suzanne, is beautifully constructed and decorated. With the wood stove having been lit this morning, it is also very cosy. We have a bedroom loft, living room with a futon, kitchen, and dining area.
There is electricity but no plumbing – not to worry, there’s conveniently a garbage can-full of lake water beside the sink that we just ladle out for cooking, washing, and boiling. There’s also drinking water (although Suzanne and Rob drink the lake water). For bathroom facilities, there’s an outhouse. As for bathing, there are the sauna and lake.
sauna on the lake
within the sauna
We’ve spent a comfortable evening cooking up a big dinner of Kraft Dinner with tuna, coleslaw, and baked beans, and looking through some of the big cabinet of books in the living room (including reading Robert Service’s The Cremation of Sam McGee).

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