7-26-04 Dease Lake, British Columbia to Whitehorse, the Yukon Territory

            Just out of Dease Lake, I stopped  at Jade Lake to buy a few souvenirs for the kids.  The owner of the shop talked about panning for gold in the area.  According to her, casual panning is permitted in Canada regardless of whether the land is claimed or not.  My one regret in how I packed for the trip was that I was unable to figure out how to carry my gold pan.  I remembered reading that Dease Lake was a historical gold area.  To date, there is still activity.  A former asbestos mine is now being worked for jade and gold.  The proprietor said a neighbor had pulled out a nugget out of a local creek the size of two golf balls.  He didn’t have the nugget assayed or valued, just kept it for his wife and for his own personal satisfaction.

            At my first gas stop after leaving Dease Lake, an old prospector named Bill was sitting in the doorway.  For my $1000.00 investment, he said he would develop a claim sitting over rich, gold-bearing gravel.  He told me he had discovered the location of a lost claim.  The miner of the lost claim had pulled gold from a strata of gravel, and Bill had “followed” the strata by the North Star to a new location.  Now he's waiting for someone to put up the money require to dig down 30 feet in a caisson to reach the gold.  Some of the stuff he said made sense.  Some didn't.  I declined to invest.

Shortly after leaving Dease Lake, I crossed into the Yukon Territory...


            The Cassiar Highway's north end terminated at the Alaskan Highway, at the town of Watson Lake.  I turned north on the Alaskan Highway.  The Alaskan Highway had an entirely different feel than that of the Cassiar.  The pavement was painted with white and yellow lines.  There were four lanes, two in each direction.  The roadway was cleared back about 200 feet on each side.  Mileage markers were now in miles, not kilometers.  There were roadside signs for US brands of lodging and food.

            I didn't like it.  It looked and rode like any major thoroughfare anywhere, and lacked the character of most of the roads I'd ridden to date.

            About 30 miles out of Watson Lake, I pulled over for a brief break.  In the restroom, I found a classical rendition of an old story.

             In the first act, the actor bemoans his fate:

Here I sit,

Broken hearted.

Tried to shit,

And only farted.

            In the second act, a sympathetic voice offers hope and encouragement, but with bragging overtones of smugness:

Don’t worry,

Don’t be blue.

I just shit

Enough for two.

            And in the third act, the hero achieves his dreams and goals, but not without discovering that success, like chocolate, can be bittersweet:

Decided to give it

One last chance.

Tried to fart,

And shit my pants.

            I passed through couple of towns.  There weren't much to each.  Towns are scattered about 60 miles apart, so if one doesn’t work, getting to the next takes some doing.  I finally got close enough to Whitehorse (pop 20,000) to push the rest of the way.

          The approach to Whitehorse crosses a long bridge spanning the Yukon River.

Bridge to White Horse

            I stopped for the night and booked a room across the road from the airport.  The airport had a refurbished DC-3 mounted off to one side, where it served as a giant windsock.

DC 3

DC 3 Windsock

         Inside the hotel was a small Bavarian restaurant.  I ordered Wienerschnitzel und Spatzel.  The owner/cook was Hans, from Frankfurt, Germany.  The wienerschnitzel was excellent.  So was the spatzel.  In truth, I had not had such good wienerschnitzel since the last time I was in Germany.  The spatzel was a new experience.

            I was the only customer in the restaurant, which had been open for only 3 weeks.  Apparently, the previous owners had a bad reputation.  Hans came over to check if I had enjoyed my meal, and pulled up a chair across the table.  He had traveled all over the US, including San Diego and Tijuana.  His big goal was to travel to Pomona, CA to buy a Porsche at a swap meet.  He had internet access, searched for Porsches for sale and read a lot about Area 51.

            He told me he was driving his family late at night in a Volkswagon Van towards Beatty, Arizona.  He was running low on gasoline, lost, and driving in the desert blackness towards what he thought were the lights of a city.  He ended up at a military gate, with a guard asking him what he was doing.  The guard said, "You're not supposed to be here."  The guard pointed him back towards Beatty.

            Hans also drove the Dempster to Inuvik in a Toyota Tercel.  I told him my goal was the Arctic Circle.  He said if I got that close, to push it the rest of the way.  "Why would you drive all that distance to turn around?  Go to Inuvik!"

            Hans verified what I had heard earlier about the Dempster:  the Dempster eats tires.  He suggested that I purchase tires in Whitehorse on standby to be bussed to Eagle Plains if they were needed.  Han’s wife also suggested backing this up with an additional purchase in Dawson.

           3 days of rain were supposed to be moving in.  Family Hans all agreed that the cold weather started in 3 weeks.  The forecast for Inuvik was for highs in the mid-40’s.  I might be orbiting Dawson for a spell.  I wanted the Dempster to be dry for my run.  Time to zip the liners into my suit.

           I hope Hans succeeded.  Food that good seemed out of place in a rundown airport hotel, in a town of 20,000.