Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Alaskan Idyll, Days 6,7 -Whitehorse, YT

Whitehorse was founded during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, when thousands of prospectors descended upon the area in search of gold. Today Whitehorse retains much of its historic flavor and has many museums, restaurants, and entertainment opportunities. We were there only 3 days, which is much too short a time to enjoy Whitehorse to its fullest.

Winnebago Goddess Seen in Whitehorse

On Tuesday our group was treated to a 2 hour narrated tour on the Yukon River through Miles Canyon aboard the MV Schwatka. The Yukon was the primary transportation corridor for miners stampeeding to the 1898 gold rush. Miles canyon was the site of dangerous rapids until it was flooded by constructon of a dam in the 20th century. The weather was perfect and we saw a golden eagle as well as a grizzly bear running up the riverbank.

Miles Canyon, Flooded by the Whitehorse Power Dam
Golden Eagle Spotted in Miles Canyon
Bird Houses in Miles Canyon Riverbank

Docked on the lake adjacent to the MV Schwatka were a number of float planes, which are a popular form of local transportation to remote regions in the Yukon and Alaska.
Local Transportation
After our cruise we enjoyed a 3-hour bus tour of Whitehorse, which included stops at SS Klondike II and the Whitehorse Fish way. The SS Klondike II is one of the largest stern-wheelers to have sailed on the Yukon River. It has been fully restored and a guided tour as well as a video is offered.
SS Klondike II

Our stop at the Whitehorse Fish way was less than impressive, as there were no fish climbing the fish ladder.
Whitehorse Fish Ladder, With Power Generating Facilities in the Background

Wednesday was a free day so Keith and I shopped (Wal Mart, grocery store, hardware store) and toured 2 excellent museums.

The first museum we visited was called the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre. Beringia was an area of the Yukon, Alaska and Siberia never covered by glaciers during the last ice age. It was a land bridge that allowed people and animals from Asia to migrate to the North American continent. This land bridge emerged as sea level dropped over 300 feet during the last ice age. The center contains many fossils of wooly mammoths, scimitar cats, giant beavers and other animals. The exhibits are well done. We both enjoyed the museum very much.
Globe Showing Beringia Land Bridge (Dark Green)
Beringia Museum Diorama

Our second museum of the afternoon was the Yukon Transportation Museum. This museum focuses on how transportation opened up the Yukon. The museum includes exhibits on the construction of the Alaska Highway and the White Pass and Yukon Railway. We enjoyed this museum very much.
Agressive Driver Spotted at the Whitehorse Transportation Museum
Original Alaska Highway Construction Vehicle

Adjacent to these two museums, at the entrance to the Whitehorse International Airport, is a unique wind vane. It is an old airplane (DC-3?) mounted on a pivot post, which rotates in the breeze. We were told that any wind over 7 miles per hour will turn this aircraft.
Whitehorse International Airport Wind Vane

There is another excellent museum in downtown Whitehorse called the Mcbride, which includes exhibits on the gold rush, First Nations relics, and mining displays. Keith toured this museum in 1998, but we missed it this trip because we ran out of time (and energy).

We were fed two dinners at the campground, one excellent and the other not so good. The excellent meal included a really good grilled steak, baked potato, salad, and Nanaimo bars for dessert. The latter are a tasty northwest specialty; they include layers of chocolate and graham cracker crust, with a crème filling. 3-1/2 COWS for this meal. The other feed was roast beef, mashed potatoes & gravy, peas, carrots, corn, salad, and various desserts. All of this stuff was very good except the beef, which was tasty but completely un-chewable. Overall meal 3 COWs; beef ½ COW.

After our diner on Day 7 we boarded a bus for downtown Whitehorse to see a performance of the “Frantic Follies”, which is a vaudeville revue from the Gold Rush era, complete with Can Can dancers. One of us thought the show was quite funny and entertaining, while the other sat out in the lobby for the second half of the show, after the dancers were finished.
Where it Happens in Whitehorse

We returned to our coach after 11 pm, in full daylight. Tomorrow morning at 9am we head out to Skagway. Stay tuned.
Midnite Sun in Whitehorse

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