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Wilderness Adventures - July, Week 4/2006

Normally about the Anahim Lake and Nimpo Lake region of the West Chilcotin, this summer Wilderness Adventures will include the Alaska Journel for 2006 since that's where I'll be! Don't forget to roll over the pictures on the right for more information.
You can search this site for a subject of interest to you at the bottom of this page. Check out the Picture of the Day.

7/24/2006 7:29 PM

Lapie Canyon

We went farther east of the pretty little town of Faro Sunday to fish in the Lapie River. It's about a 40 mile drive with some of it on gravel but it was in excellent shape. In fact, most of the main gravel roads here are as smooth as butter and in much, much better shape than a lot of the pavement we rode north of Haines Junction in the Yukon and in Alaska.
The road to Lapie Canyon is called the Campbell Highway. It actually splits around Ross River and you can choose to follow the Canol Road to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories or down to Watson Lake toward British Columbia. Nothing really stands out on the road until you get to Lapie Canyon. That, is absolutely stunning! Your first glimpse of it is as a rushing torrent squeezed between two sheer rock walls from the bridge and the color of the river is an awesome pale glass green and as clear as any river I have ever seen. We made our way into the provincial campground close to the river then walked downstream looking for large pools where grayling might hide. Andy caught one grayling and I panned some of the rocks along shore. I can't imagine a nicer way to spend a sunny Sunday.
Eventually we went on to Ross River since it was less than ten miles from where we were at Lapie. I must say that Ross River was a disappointment dedicated mostly to trappers, prospectors and particularly to the Native Reserve there. It's a dingy little place located on the banks of the Pelly River and the most interesting aspect by far was the rickety suspension bridge built for foot traffic in 1942.
We split back to Faro, which seemed such a strong contrast with its neatly clipped lawns, flowers and obvious civic pride and got to camp in time to have the best shower I've had since we left home. John Connelly RV park right across from the visitor center. If you're going to Faro you have to remember that name because the place is a breath of fresh air after all the other parks we've been to in both countries. We made sure to return to the visitor center and thank the lovely and helpful lady there for providing such a nice place for campers and just to pass on how impressed we were with the town's kept up appearance.
We returned to Carmacks this morning and headed for Whitehorse with few stops. We enjoyed the country and when you start getting closer to Whitehorse you see prettier and prettier spots. Fox Lake is quite pretty and Lake Laberge, from what we could see of it through the misty rain over the mountains looked to be a beautiful lake. The Yukon River widens to form this 40 mile long lake and if you're a fan of Robert Service at all, you'll remember these lines from his ballad, "The Cremation of Sam McGee".
"The Northern Lights have seen queer sights. But the queerest they ever did see, was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge I cremated Sam McGee". Do you know, I've often empathized with Sam McGee ... especially in the middle of a long Chilcotin winter working night shift at the mill.
We passed the lake framed by the pretty Miner's Range with one peak topping out nearly 7,000 feet and rounded the corner to see it had squeezed back into its river form. There was the fantastic Yukon again and the country really started changing quickly on the way into Whitehorse. We even saw farming country! I didn't realize how tired I was of seeing swamp until we saw our first blue green field of oats.
We got into Whitehorse in time to go back to the RV park we had stayed at before, (I know, but better the devil you know than the devil you don't) and pick out a little more private spot where we had some woods at our back and we're not crammed in quite so tightly as we were last time we were here. Since we also knew the park offered Wi-Fi and free and clean showers, (not always an option) this is where we'll stay for the night. I need to get online because it could easily be a while before I have access to the internet and good showers will be nice because we may be dry camping for the next few days.
We went into Whitehorse for groceries and to stop again at the visitor center there. We hadn't been there since we went through over a month ago but we wanted to pick up a book while there. Just to let everyone know, the little blonde lady there is just super and we thank her for her help in acquiring the book!
We're not sure what's ahead of us or even where we'll go. We know we want to head down to Carcross tomorrow but from there we have to decide whether we're going to deke back into Alaska toward Skagway or Hyder or head to Atlin. We may go for Atlin just because the last two border crossings have shown us that my passport isn't necessarily good enough to get me back into Canada. Since it is an American passport and I do not have my proof of Landed Immigrant Status with me, Canadian customs has been quick to point out that they don't have to let me back into the country even though all of my I.D. and proof of residency is Canadian and has been since June 15, 1966. I guess customs now requires a special card proving residency status so I will have to check into applying for it when I get home. In any case, we don't know if Skagway is worth chancing the hassle at the border. I guess we'll decide tomorrow.
Just a word of apology. I realize that this page is probably going to load brutally slow because of all the images. Believe it or not, I've really been restraining myself with the pictures because I've taken hundreds and its so hard to decide what people might like or find interesting but I didn't want to miss out on posting the pictures I have. I've just erased one so that I could put in an image of the spectacular Lapie River but if I do many more articles before now and the end of the week, there really is going to be five weeks in July!

Just to let you know, the article below was written several days ago but is only now being uploaded with this one because I haven't had access to the internet, so if you would like to follow along from Dawson City to Whitehorse, look below!

7/22/2006 8:43 PM

The Road To Faro

This won't be uploaded for a few days because I have no Internet connection but I thought I would catch up on the articles now rather than in Whitehorse.
We left Dawson City and headed south taking our own sweet time enjoying the country and especially the Klondike River for as long as we followed it anyway. We stayed the first night in a Government Campground with lots of trees and firewood, which pleased me no end. We walked through the woods to the Stewart River, which is a big, slow moving river much like the Yukon and then back along Moose Creek which was thick with undergrowth. It was a good, long walk and we decided we were too tired or too lazy to bother even trying to go fishing. We kept hearing helicopters and it just didn't make any since considering our location so we walked down to where they were landing. We found a fuel cache and never did know whether it was forestry or perhaps mineral survey, but we did see a place nearby called Moose Lake Lodge. Let me tell you, that is one unique place! We went back to camp and looked it up in the MilePost. The description was intriguing enough that we decided to go back in the morning for breakfast and have a look around the place. The visit was worth it!
Next, we deked off into Mayo and back out again just because we wanted to see it. Binet House in Mayo is an excellent museum/interpretive center and actually gave us a very clear understanding of the geology of the region and of permafrost. After a while all museums start to seem the same with the same information. After all, how many different ways can you describe the same history? But this museum was just excellent and we spent hours there reading and studying the displays.
There was also a stuffed grizzly bear accompanied by a news article called B&E At The B&B that made for some pretty fascinating reading. This grizzly, old and small but in good health with good teeth had entered a B&B while the owners were gone. When the owner came home and realized his house had been vandalized he went for help and both men went back to the house with the one fellow packing a shotgun. They were on the glassed in veranda studying the huge freezer that had been knocked over and completely emptied of several hundred pounds of food when suddenly they heard this huge thumping and shattering of glass and scattering of furniture. The guy with the gun just had time enough to raise it to his shoulders and sight on the front door when this grizzly came charging out of the house. He squeezed off two shots before the bear was past him, and he shot it once more as it ran down the driveway. He walked up to it and dispatched it completely before returning to the house.
Every room in the house was a complete shambles. They had pictures of the inside of the place up on the wall and I've never seen anything like it. Every piece of furniture, rugs and carpets were shredded. Everything was overturned. There was food and food wrappers scattered everywhere. The mess was absolutely stupendous! It turned out that the reason the bear had not heard the men in the porch where they had been for up to eight minutes was it had been sound asleep in the master bedroom at the back of the house...on the bed! Later investigation showed that the bear had dragged a lot of the food off into the woods behind the house several hundred feet away but most of his time had been spent in the house. It was estimated that he had been holed up there for four to five days and since it was late October, had the owner not returned to disturb the bear, it was thought he very likely would have denned up in the house for the winter.
Had I not seen the pictures that went with the article, the story would have been a hard one to believe but you could tell that the fellow that killed the bear was not happy about having to do it. However, as he pointed out, once a bear starts breaking into houses and becomes familiar with human smell, it doesn't stop and go back to the wild. It just becomes more and more dangerous.
Unfortunately, this bear was like all the bears we saw in Alaska. Stuffed!
In all our travels in Alaska we never did see any bear that wasn't behind a fence or stuffed. We did feel better when on our first night back in Canada we saw a black bear meandering up the road towards us as we came down off the dome above Dawson City. It's sure surprising to me that we aren't seeing more wildlife than we are.
Shortly after we left Mayo and came back to the main highway we came on a creek called Crooked Creek and listed in the MilePost as being excellent Grayling fishing. We skittered into a pull out and let the dogs go for a short run. Since we couldn't get the little fold down spin casting reel to work we pulled out our big fly rods. A little bit of overkill considering we didn't have enough room in the brush by the creek to cast out a fly so we just dabbled them over the water as we stood on the bank above. Andy hadn't had his line in one full minute before he had a grayling on the line! It was pretty cool. We fished for a few more minutes without luck so we hit the road again. We landed in another Government Campground for the night at Tatchun River where the grayling fishing was also said to be excellent. There weren't many calm pools on the river and a lady with fisheries had just released 15,000 salmon fingerlings into the river as Andy looked on so I don't know if that hindered the grayling fishing or not but we didn't get anything. As it turned out, our one fish was lots for supper for the both of us and it was excellent! Neither of us have eaten grayling before but had heard lots about it. It has white flesh and a very delicate taste. In fact, it's hard to believe it is fish because it really doesn't taste like it so you would have to be very careful with the spices while cooking it or you would drown out the flavor.
The campground ended up being pretty full with people headed to Dawson City for the musical festival but still nothing like the 'gravel pit' sardine can RV parks we've had to become used to in most of the towns. The trees, the bush, the quiet and the fire were all great and when we took the dogs for a long walk we ended up on the shore of the Yukon River which was bonus.
We headed for Carmacks in the morning and shortly past our camp is a pullout above the Yukon River called Five Fingers. Even though the Yukon is wide and slow, in this spot it has five huge rock bluffs dividing the river into five narrow channels or 'fingers', hence the name.
Everything we read and the video clips we saw in Whitehorse indicated that this was considered the most dangerous spot on the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson because the big steamboat paddlewheelers had to negotiate their way through one of the channels. The pilot would hug a rock on one side to keep from being sucked into the rapids against another rock, while men on the deck with poles would push against the rock to keep the ship off of it.
Just north of Carmacks you turn off toward Faro and for a little while you follow the Yukon River, which I have decided is my all time favorite river in the whole, wide world. On the one side the Yukon makes its stately way along the valley while on the other side of the rode you look up at great, grassy bluffs. The country was very similiar to that along the Fraser River in the Cariboo Chilcotin on the way to Nimpo Lake and we saw our first pine trees in over a month!
We stopped at one high viewpoint over the river because several canoes were making their way down river. The lead paddlers waved to us as I took pictures and it almost made me want to be in their place.

We passed a spot called Eagle Rock on the Yukon in 1906 where a steamboat blew up and burned. Six men were killed when one of the fellows on board was showing another his pistol and it was discharged into a large cargo of gunpowder on board.
Faro is a really interesting town mostly created to support one of the largest lead/zinc open pit mines in the world that operated off and on for nearly 30 years. It shut down in 1998 and it's a real shame. The very pretty town, named for a card game, sits high on a bench overlooking the Pelly River and surrounding hills and mountains. A lot of the apartments, townhouses and homes built for workers in the mine are empty and many of the stores and businesses are closed but the town is neat and tidy, sports a beautiful golf course and you can tell that there's a lot of civic pride taken in the presentation of the town with municipal lawns neatly mowed and flowers everywhere. There is also a visitor center museum with lots of good information about the area. The visitor center runs the town RV park and it is just awesome! Beautiful, treed spots with full hookups, free showers, laundromat and walking trails for .... guess...guess...$10! It is unbelievable that these gravel pit parks get away with charging 30 bucks for a tight spot stuck between behemoth motorhomes wondering if you'll ever see the light of day again, charging a buck for a two and a half minute shower and overcharging on laundry, and yet the town of Faro can provide the facilities they do for the price they do. As a result, we'll stay for two days because we can leave the trailer here and head for Lapie Canyon toward Ross River. My mother swears it's awesome grayling fishing and a store owner told us today that you'll find gold if you pan for it on the Lapie River.
I tried panning the Pelly River while Andy dropped a fishing line at the mouth of a little creek feeding into the Pelly. He did better than me by catching and quickly releasing three grayling ranging from four to six inches long while my gold pan came up empty. That's okay, the sun was warm on the rocks and it was a nice way to spend a few extra minutes of the day.

7/19/2006 8:01 PM

More Dawson

We decided to stay an additional day in Dawson City because there is just no way you can see all of the town's buildings in one day. And trust me, they're well worth seeing!
Aside from the fantastic restored buildings, there are also some pretty interesting ones on their last legs. Perma-frost appears to have been the number one enemy of many of the old buildings. However, many built by the government of Canada or Yukon with the underlying motive of impressing the soberness and stability of these buildings upon the general population have never looked better. One building erected in 1901, the Commissioner's Residence, came to symbolize the Government's stabilizing presence and looks alarmingly like a Southern Estate house you might find in Georgia.
The Anglican Church on the right was predated by a log building in 1897. In 1902, $12,000 was collected from miners on the creeks to erect the existing church at a cost of $15,000. Many of the nicer, long lasting buildings in Dawson seem to have been built right around 1901-1902 indicating the city had really begun to boom and the Canadian Government, churches and others had decided to make their presence known.
In any case, regardless of who put up all the buildings in Dawson City or their purpose, they're fabulous to see and I highly recommend this as a must do travel stop.
Something else that I find completely fascinating is the way the Yukon and Klondike Rivers mix after the two meet. Both huge rivers, they look entirely different. The Yukon is laden with silt and is muddy a color as you will ever see while the Klondike is a deep, rich green and clean as could be. It takes a long time before the Yukon finally dominates with its color but watching the silt boil up through the rougher and faster Klondike is really hard to describe. I did get a picture though and you'll see the Klondike pushing a point of clear, clean water like a knife into the dirty Yukon over on your upper right.
We went up to Claim #6 today located along Bonanza Creek to do some gold panning, however, even though the sign says otherwise I suspect that ground too has been worked and reworked by big machinary in the past hundred years.
It's been another great day and the weather has really been holding for us. We've got our Yukon fishing licenses now and I look forward to spending the next few days making our way south slowly, investigating the country and fishing along the way. We're expecting to stay in Provincial campgrounds only so we won't be anywhere that I can upload articles. Stay cool 'cause we hear there's a heat wave in BC and you'll hear from me in a few days!

7/18/2006 12:29 AM

Woo Hoo! Dawson City!

This truly is a city to bring out the spirit of adventure that settled much of British Columbia and the Yukon, Alaska, and Canada for that matter. Right from those crazy buggers that braved the Chilkoot Pass to the ones that forged the Klondike Trail, that spirit lives in each and every one of us every time we take a step away from the norm. I don't know about you, but those steps away from the norm were probably set off by the very books of my childhood that thrilled you to the core when you read "Call of the Wild" and the "Cremation of Sam McGee" along with all those other stories that set up that yearning to get up and go. And it all started here....
We spent a truly fascinating day touring Dawson City (not all of it) and got to meet a very neat man. His name is Dick North and he's spent a good part of his life keeping Jack London's name alive and well. We thought we had arrived right on time for the once a day Jack London Interpretive Talk and promptly ran into a sign. We slipped under the rope and snuck quietly onto some benches trying not to interrupt the gentleman at the front of the room as he spoke. Unfortunately, we must have performed a great faux pas because he berated us for coming in under the rope. I checked my watch, it was still before three! But you know, you can't always be right, and that's a good thing. What the heck, we run on Chilcotin Time in the Chilcotin, and apparently Dawson City runs a few minutes off from British Columbia.
We listened to Dick North recount some great stories and I studied the photos on the wall but it wasn't until the 'thing' was over and the mini crowd had left that we struck gold. We had made our explanations and apologies and then Andy began speaking with Dick as I read reference after reference to that very same man up on the wall in relation to all the Jack London memorabilia. Andy's a good one for drawing people out and when Dick asked where we were from and found out it was Nimpo should have seen his eyes light up! "Grass Beyond the Mountain, Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy, Rancher Takes a Wife, yeah, I've read everything I could get my hands on about that country! What about Edwards and his place?" he asked. "You know, after the Lonesome Lake fire. That was really sad. What happened there?" Well blow me over with a feather folks, this man knew our part of the country! He even knew someone that used to be an airline stewardess and he was pretty sure she had married someone from Nimpo Lake back in the 60's. We've got to check that out for him.
I can't begin to tell you what a cool guy this was much less to find out he knew far more about our area than we knew about his. When I took a closer look at the counter I realized that a book that my Mom owns and that I had heard about was written by Dick. There was another book authored by Dick North nearby that had just come off the presses and Andy purchased that with a signature. Sometimes you meet someone that makes a little twang in your heart. Maybe it's because he loves his subject so much and can tell a story that seems real, but even though elderly and a little hard of hearing, Dick North really brought Dawson City alive for us and that was only the beginning of the day!
Andy and I went from there to the Robert Service cabin and we were disappointed to note, as were others, that it wasn't open as promised on the visitor center brochure, but you never know, maybe something came up.
We walked around many of the buildings in Dawson and have more to do tomorrow. I was so impressed with the care to attention and detail used to reinstate these old buildings. Some are in disrepair but most have been repaired and renovated to make them useful. No major fire or flood had ruined the fine buildings that make up this town from late 1896 to the mid 1900's and whoever decided to save Dawson City in its original form deserves a big pat on the back. Even the new buildings seem to be required to follow a certain building design that fits in pleasingly with the rest of old Dawson. It's flawless and seamless and very difficult to detect which are the old original buildings of the Klondike rush and the more recent. Best thing to do is go around and read the little signs. It is absolutely fascinating and fun!
The spirit of the original Dawson has been kept up in many small ways. There are no paved streets. They're dirt and gravel just as they would have been in 1901 although not quite as nasty as they looked to be in some of the old photos. The sidewalks are wooden boardwalks and the roofs and sides of most of the buildings both old and new, are covered in corrugated tin as they would have been back then. Most buildings are faced with clapboard, many have false fronts and here and there the logs on the side of a building peeked through its tin covering.
Some of the fancier buildings, such as the bank that Robert Service worked in for a year as a clerk, is faced entirely with decorative panels of tin. Though still stately, the old bank is in a sad state of repair compared to the similiarily built Masonic Hall. This magnificent building is in pristine condition and looks as though it was built yesterday.
Wherever we have gone in this little 'city' the people have been helpful and pleasant. We drove up onto the 'dome' above the city, a climb that takes you to nearly 3,000 feet and spoke to some bikers that had pedaled their way to the top. The lead fellow was a local so Andy got lots of great info from him and I got some great shots of the spectacular view. They say that you can see the midnight sun on the longest day from this dome and I don't doubt it a bit. The 360 degree view is awe inspiring. You can see the extensive mining activity of over a century from the dome and the true magnificence of the Yukon River and all her valleys.
From there we drove down Bonanza Creek where the gold strike of the century started the greatest gold rush stampede of all time in North America. That same creek that runs behind our camp site was also one of the richest strikes ever recorded. From the dome and on our drive you could see even under the tree growth, that miles and tons of gravel had been worked by dredges, hydraulics and small equipment in the hunt for gold. One of those dredges, Dredge #4 is the largest wooden hull bucket-line dredge in North America. Check out the
Picture of the Day and you'll see how the old dredge dwarfs our truck.
According to the MilePost those dredge tailings that we saw have been worked and reworked two and three times in the search for gold. That avid hunt continues today as you pass claim after claim being worked by big machinary.
You will probably have noticed that I've switched to another week yet again. I have a lot of pictures of Dawson City and area that won't fit on this page with all of the Valdez pictures without slowing the pageload too much. So if you would like to see articles uploaded in the last two days just go to July Week Three.
At this rate I'm going to end up with five weeks in July!

Don't forget to roll over the pictures on the right for more information.
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The purpose of this web site is to draw attention to a remote area of west central British Columbia. It is a beautiful area that relies heavily on tourism. The search engines don't know much about the West Chilcotin, Anahim Lake, Nimpo Lake or any of the other small communities in the region and I hope to change that! Even as large as this site will eventually be, there just isn't enough room or time in the day to fully describe this incredible country but I am going to try scraping away at the tip of the iceberg, so join me!

Follow the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!
Canyon and green river.
Five Finger Rapids.
Two rivers join.
Leaning buildings.
Beautiful Church.
Fantastic old Pillared Building.
Little cabin.
Decorative building.
Fantastic wooden faced building.
River from above.
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