View topic - August 2014 Yukon River trip - part 2

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PostPosted: April 3rd, 2015, 8:22 am 

Joined: February 18th, 2005, 12:41 pm
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Location: Denver, CO
8/12/14 - Tuesday - Day 8 Woke up about 6 to the patter of rain on the tent. I didn't have the tarp up as it hadn't looked like rain last night. Now I was sorry I hadn't rigged the tarp. Rolled over and went back to sleep as it rained lightly on and off for a while. It stopped about 7 and I got up and did breakfast and it didn't rain again. Wiped down the tent and packed up and hit the river at 9:50. About 20 miles downstream is the "town" of Minto - just a few houses and a landing for barges. A barge was heading in as I came into sight, and 3 canoes had just left the boat ramp there. Minto is one of the many alternative starting points for canoe trips. Minto itself is just a little settlement for the mining in the area. A big rocky bluff a half mile or so back from the river, "Minto Bluff', had a bunch of sheep or mtn goats on it. They looked more like sheep to me thru the binoculars, but too far away to be sure. I took a channel on river left to avoid the barge and other canoes, but eventually both channels merged and I said hello - group of 3 boats and 6 people - I'd see this same group from time to time for the rest of the trip. A couple from MN and the other 4 from Ontario. For a while I kept pace with them, but they were a lot fresher than I was, they having just started the day before from Carmacks, and my 15' solo wasn’t going to keep up with 17' tandems anyway - though I tried to pass them, it was them who passed me and kept ahead till they stopped for a lunch break. I made it to Fort Selkirk by 10 of 4, so it took 6 hours to go 42 miles. Ft Selkirk is an old settlement with 20 or so restored log buildings including the old Trading Post, 2 Churches, and many homes. All but one were empty, not really restored like Colonial Wiliamsburg, just empty. The Yukon government and the local First Nations tribe operate the place, with a local born interpretive guide and many signs describing life there in the early 20th century (1890 thru 1930's). There is a free campground that has picnic tables and outhouses, and water, though there was a sign recommending it be boiled. I walked around looking at many of the buildings and the native cemetery - no spirit houses here, just little colored fences around each grave. There were natives living there also, in cabins just downstream from the restored area. I'd guess there were maybe 20 other people camping there. Its only accessible by water I think. I restocked with water using a little gravity filter that I'd rigged up - just kept it working as I cooked and ate and walked around. I set the alarm for 6am to try and hit the river before the rest of the boaters. It rained a little here and I set up the tarp, but hardly any rain. camped at mile 297 - did 42 miles today.

8/13/14 - Wednesday - Day 9

I got up early and hit the river first, but not by much. As I started out, a couple of native women shouted a good morning to me and something else I couldn't make out. Not long after that , the group from MN/ON caught up and slowly passed me - they told me that the natives had warned them to not camp at Isaac Creek because of a wounded bear in that area. Good thing they passed that info on to me, as that had been where I'd more or less planned on camping that day. Not too far upstream from Fort Selkirk the character of the landscape had changed from mostly sandy bluffs and high dirt/sand banks to a now more rugged basalt cliff scenery, which would continue all the way to Dawson. The guide was still showing the changes in height etc very accurately. Somewhere along the way here, I saw one canoe ahead of me moving slowly. (I’d passed the 3 boat group earlier when they stopped for lunch) I recognized it as being a guy and his young son that I'd chatted with at the landing at Fort Selkirk, though they had moved on soon after. I made it a point to catch up and pass on the warning about Isaac Creek, and also about not camping at Coffee Creek, which was also warning of a lot of bear activity. I went past Isaac Creek several miles and started looking for a camping spot. The first island I stopped at had fairly fresh bear tracks when I checked it out, so I went another mile or so and two more islands later, set up camp. It had been a beautiful morning and I had a tailwind all day, so I took it easy that day. I'd started at 8:30 and stopped at 3:30, so it took 7 hours to go 50 miles, averaging about 7 mph. That was about the pace I traveled after leaving Carmacks. The islands were not the best places to camp. The bears seemed to use them frequently, and there were always moose tracks whenever I stopped. There was a lot of brushy willow and alder, and the woods were thick with brush, including a lot of thorny wild rose bushes - so you would wind up camping on the gravel bar at the head or tail of the island instead of in the trees. I set up camp at 5, just at the edge of the brush, and soon it started to rain a little. The sky had gotten totally overcast, but there were no trees nearby to use to set up my tarp. So I just looped some rope around a bunch of alders and bent them over a bit to make a little shelter to cook under - crude, but good enough. It mostly kept the rain off until I finished. Then it started raining more and steady about 7, and I went into the tent
camped at mile 346.5 - did 50 miles today.

8/14/14 - Thursday - Day 10 I woke up about 6 and it had stopped raining during the night, but it was still total overcast and it looked like it would rain some more. Everything was wet and sandy. That is the trouble with camping on the shore; it was either cobblestone or sand or mud. I dried off the tent as much as I could and packed up, hustled thru breakfast and started paddling about 10. It did clear up and become a nice morning eventually, with a tailwind again The pattern since Minto had been like that, start out with a little tailwind in the early morning, and then transition to light headwinds - at Minto, the river turns more westerly or north westerly rather than nearer to due North as it had been the first 6 days. Near Ballarat Creek, I saw an animal running on the beach about a mile ahead of me. I eased over towards it and saw it was a lone Caribou. They never stop moving. As I got closer, it noticed me and ran towards me some to get a better look, and I took a picture as I went past. Coffee Creek was a couple of miles later, and a plane took off from their landing strip. One of the guidebooks was also warning of a lot of bear activity there. Coffee Creek was actually a base for mining activity further up the creek, and later, there was considerable helicopter traffic, between Coffee Creek and Dawson I guess. The guidebook showed where the small creeks came in to the river. Some were dry or too far across the river to bother with, but I had marked "Sparkling Creek" as a place to stop and maybe get water. Actually though, I stopped at a nice small creek a bit above that and spent a lazy hour or so filtering more water, having a snack, and fishing where the little stream flowed clear into the muddy river. Not a fish to be seen, and caught same. Sparkling Creek turned out to be smaller and not as good a place as where I did stop. Since I didn't seem to be having any trouble making 40 or 50 miles a day, I decided to stop early today at Kirkman Creek. This was a private home that you could stop at and buy fresh baked goods, and pay to camp if you wanted to. It had a nice grassy lawn to camp on and I thought it would be nicer than mud or sand. I paid for camping but didn't buy any bread or anything as I had plenty of food to use up. Some time after I'd set up camp, the ON/MN group stopped in and did buy some stuff from the "bakery", then they moved on a couple more miles. I talked to them later and found out that I wasn't the only one who thought that the woman there at Kirkman was not very friendly. Seems a bunch of German movie makers had stopped and did a lot of filming without getting permission, and that made her mad. In any case, no one bothered me there and I did some more reading in the one book I'd brought along and just took it easy. camped at mile 374 - only did 27 miles today.

8/15/14 - Friday - Day 11 Up at 5 and paddling by 7. This was the coldest morning so far with a lot of dew - grass was still damp from yesterday's morning rain and lots of condensation on everything. Not far along after I left, I saw a moose swimming across the river ahead of me, and a bit later I passed the ON/MN group at their camp on a gravel bar. I passed one other camp further along near O'Niel's Landing and also saw a barge moving up river – I gave it lots of room as it was pushing a big bow wake. I stopped at mile 391 at the confluence of the White River and did the recommended hike up the bluff for the view. It was about a half a mile and maybe 800' elevation gain - felt good to stretch the legs. After this confluence, the river becomes even more silty and changes color to a dull grayish brown. I'd had a tailwind up until I stopped at the confluence, but when I started out after my hike, it had already changed to a headwind and it stayed that way the rest of the day - maybe 15mph wind, and enough to more or less counter the slow current and make it more work to paddle. I'd planned on about a 45 mile day hoping to get to mile 420 or so, but short of that it started looking like it would rain again, so I started looking for camp sooner, around m 415 or so. First place I checked out, an island, had two sets of fresh bear tracks heading right for the spot I was looking at a hundred feet away. Passed on that, and got out of there fast. Two canoes, 3 guys came drifting past – they’d started in Mayo and came down the Little Salmon River to the Yukon. I saw fishing rods so I asked about their luck. They had only caught one Shefish. I stopped to check another spot where there was a shelf up against the rock cliff, but it had too many boulders and logs and was a tough climb up the crumbling bank. Paddled a bit farther to the mouth of Excelsior Creek and I found a good spot there. It had been used not too long before, and there were no bear tracks so looked good to me. One of the guidebooks I had said to avoid the creeks because of bears, but I'd passed locals with motor boats who had been camping at a creek, and this camp seemed to have been used by the same or other locals, with heavier gear than would be likely with canoes, so I figured if it was good enough for them, good enough for me. Besides, the islands seemed to be visited by the bears frequently enough anyways (one of the trip reports I’d found was by a ”local” from Dawson – he mentioned that he personally knew of 2 or 3 incidents of bears attacking camps on islands; I knew of one other). It had started to rain a little lightly before I got here, so first thing I did was to set up the tarp above where I'd pitch the tent, and waited the first bit of rain out. Then went ahead and set up camp when it stopped for a bit. Even though this was a little bit muddy, it was a nice enough spot and I had the trees to use for setting up the tarp. Earlier in the day, before I got to this camp, I'd been passed by a jetboat full of guys, and a bit later, a second jetboat with more guys. After setting up camp, one of the motor boats that had been at Kirkman Creek passed by too, going to Dawson – that was about the only motor boat traffic I saw. Seemed to be miners heading to town for the Weekend. You could hear the boats coming for a mile or more, and then another mile or more downstream till they rounded the next bend. I started cooking dinner about 6, and it started raining again and harder, so I moved my cooking stuff under the tarp. I'd set up wood for a fire so I could burn my trash, but gave up on that idea, and it being about 8, just went into the tent for the night. camped at mile 417 - did 43 miles today.

8/16/14 - Saturday - Day 12 I'd set the alarm for 5:30, but didn't get up yet. It had rained on and off all night, and it was colder and damp this morning. Fog and low cloud deck, maybe only 300' above the river. I wasn't going anywhere soon. Took my time breaking camp, and then did breakfast under the tarp. I did start a fire this morning, and kept it going for several hours as I waited for the clouds to lift some. Gave me a chance to burn the accumulated trash also. About 9:30, it looked to be clearing, so I headed down river. Until I started out, the wind had been out of the south, but now it was in my face again and would stay that way till I got to my next camp about 5pm. I wanted to get maybe 15 miles or so from Dawson today, but camp this one more night on the river. I checked out one island maybe a quarter mile long. Stopped and walked the shoreline and saw no bear tracks, just Moose - this island was near a cliff, and less likely to be visited by bears I think. When I landed there, I'd heard a Peregrine skree skreeing, but thought nothing much about it - I'd seen half a dozen or so falcons along the way, so didn't pay much attention. I returned to my boat by walking down the center of the island through the woods. But it was so thick with rose bushes that there was no easy path till I got back closer to my boat at the head of the island. Then I found a decent camping spot that had been used before and decided to camp there - until that falcon started to dive bomb me, closer and closer. I started waving a stick I picked up to keep it farther away, but it must have had a nest somewhere nearby, even though I didn't see any. Or maybe it was just very territorial. In any case, I moved on. Checked another spot or two, and checked out Caribou Creek which seemed to have a road to it, but it was much too steep except where an old fallen down log cabin sat. I kept looking and finally found a half way decent island to camp on - saw some boot tracks, so it was probably used before but no good tent spots. I wound up sawing away some alder branches to clear a decent spot up on the bank - it was better than setting up in the sand or gravel nearer the water, and had enough nearby trees so that I could set up the tarp. There were a few mosquitos here in the thick cover, but not bad. Hadn't mentioned mosquitos much before because there had been so few. I only used insect repellent once, the fifth morning when it was cooler. This was really pretty dry country, with hardly any swampy ground to breed mosquitos. I'd even brought along a bug net hut to cook in if the bugs were bad, but I never even thought of setting it up. I'd stopped later than planned and ate about 7, and into the tent about 8. Camped at mile 458 did 41 miles today.

8/17/14 - Sunday - Day 13 I was only about 10 miles from Dawson, so I wasn't in a hurry to get started and took my time. All the time while I was doing breakfast and packing up the wind had been from the south - of course, as soon as I started loading the boat it switched to a northerly wind and was getting stronger, This would be about the worst wind I paddled in and it made for hard going with waves coming upriver at me and confusing the currents. What was happening was a strong NE wind blowing down the Klondike River valley and blew right to the Yukon, bounced off the western side cliffs and blew downriver. Made for a hard slog, and I was now glad I only had 10 miles and not 15 to go. As I got to Dawson and passed the mouth of the Klondike, the wind suddenly dropped and then changed to a tailwind for the last mile or so. I passed a Huck Finn/Tom Sawyer raft moored to the bank with a couple of scrundgy looking characters on it, just building a fire for their breakfast. I said hello and went around the corner. I could see the ferry boat crossing the river below, so I knew where the landing was. But I had been hoping to be able to stop short of that and camp nearer the water. There was a Hostel upstream from the ferry landing, but it wound up being higher up on the bank than I hoped it would be. Plan A was to camp near the river so as to be able to ferry across in my canoe to the town dock, take my boat apart and bag it, and be at the location for the bus on the 19th. But I had to go to plan B which was to just camp at the hostel and somehow get the boat to the bus later. So I landed just upstream of the ferry landing, and unloaded my boat there. One of my guidebooks had said that the hostel had water and canoe carts that could be borrowed, so I stacked my gear in the bushes and hiked up the hill following their signs. It was about 1:00 or so and the office was closed, but the sign on the door said if you were tenting, just go set up and come back later. So I grabbed one of their home made canoe carts and took it back to the boat. It was set up pretty well, and I loaded my boat, put all the gear in it and balanced it nicely, and it was pretty easy to haul the whole works up the hill to the campground. They had some wooden tent platforms, but I opted for softer dirt in some trees where I could rig the tarp up, and set up camp. Good thing I did set up the tarp, as it was going to be raining a lot. Before I took the boat up the hill, I took advantage of a small clear creek at the landing to wash out the boat and get most of the mud off. There was one solo German guy, and 3 other Germans who had come down the Little Salmon R – at the only two occupied sites, so I had my choice of spots. There were a few people in the cabins too it looked like. About 3 or so, and the owner came back and I checked at the office - paid for 2 nights at $14 per night. I had looked around a bit before he got back, after I'd set up. No hot showers! and running water was just straight from the creek. No hot showers as I’d been looking forward to, and if I wanted a bath, it was up to me to haul firewood up to the bath house, get the stove going that heated a drum of water and take a tin washtub bath, pouring buckets of water over my head to rinse off. Nah, Pass on that, I'll just stay dirty. I did take my stove to the wash rack outside the bath house and heated water to shave with though, but that's as good as it got. The hostel, being across the river from the town, did not have any power, nor city water. Pieter, the owner, had a big tank he would fill with city water and keep a reservoir filled for drinking water. I asked Pieter if he knew of anyone who I could get to haul my bagged boat over to the bus stop on the 19th. He said he was going over on the 18th, and I could ride with him and leave the boat ahead of time at the Husky Bus office. I hadn't known they had an office in Dawson - I thought they were based out of Whitehorse, but it was in Dawson instead. Anyways, after cleaning up a bit, I walked the 200 yards or so to the ferry landing and took the free ride to town. Walked around some and had dinner - A burger and beer - cost about $20 with tip. Everything in Canada cost about half again what you'd pay in US, though the exchange rate was about $1.05 Canadian to $1 US. I wandered the town some more - its small enough you could walk it all if you wanted to, with a population of 2 or 3 thousand I think, the second biggest city in Yukon. As expected, lots of tourist shops, and lots of tourists, and again many if not most were Germans. It rained on and off the rest of the day. I went into a casino to watch for a while and then had dinner in the "Downtown Hotel". I bought a couple of stamps there for postcards and overheard as a customer checked in, for one night - $169 for a room there. Went back to the ferry, back to the hostel and my $14 tent site and called it a day.

8/18/2014 - Monday. It rained most of the night and everything was fairly wet, including my boat. I did breakfast in their shelter, then took my boat over to a roofed over long picnic bench where I could dry it and disassemble it. Spent several hours wiping it down and cleaning gravel out of it. I had to be done before Pieter left for town, which he said would be 1:00. I just made that, and we put my boat in the back seat of his truck, but that left no room for me, so I rode in the bed of the pickup down to the ferry and across the river. The ferry runs 24/7 and was never empty that I saw. The landing on the west bank is the start of the "Top Of The World" highway that goes to Eagle Alaska. It had lots of traffic and was an all gravel road -the RVs and cars coming down from it were all coated with mud spray. The way back to Whitehorse for me was via a mini-bus. 20 passenger bus with enough room in the end for gear. I had made a reservation for the 19th and had pre-paid my fare in Whitehorse. So Pieter took me over to the Husky Bus office and I checked in with Jesse, the owner, and left my big duffle bag with the boat there - I'd stuffed my shotgun in there too and my fishing pole and my emptied out dry bag form my food. Then I walked around some more, had lunch, back to camp and later went back into town, spending a rainy day wondering around town. Dawson was the town built up for the Klondike Gold Rush Many of the miners came up the Pacific Coast to Skagway, over the Chilkoot Pass to the Yukon River, and down the river all the way to Dawson. At one point it had about 40,000 people, and a lot of the buildings dated from that period - about 1898. There were a lot of interpretive signs in windows here and there and two visitor centers – one for Yukon and another for Northwest Territories. After I got tired of the town, I went back to camp.

8/19/2014 – Tuesday I took advantage of a break in the rain to pack up my camp. Everything but the tarp was dry, and I dried that mostly. I barely managed to consolidate my gear into my two remaining dry bags - a 115 liter big pack and a 40 liter or so smaller one, and a fanny pack for lunch and water bottle. I ate breakfast at the campground, finished packing and hauled my gear to the ferry and to town. The bus office was open, and I just left my two packs there so I could wander around for a couple of hours till the bus left.. The bus was scheduled to leave at noon, and I had a couple of hours to wander the town a bit, and walked the mile over to the Klondike river and back. After everybody was loaded up, the driver made an announcement that they had a bad tire and we would be delayed till 1:30 while it was repaired. Wound up being longer than that and we didn't leave till more like 2:30, arriving in Whitehorse about 10. Nice thing about their service, they had agreed to drop me off at the storage lot where my truck was, and due to the delay announced they would take everybody wherever they needed to go. So I hauled all my gear from the bus into the storage lot after I opened the gate and loaded up my truck. Everything was closing up about now, so I got some water and drove south out of town and back to the dam at mile 7 where I camped for the night.

8/20/2014 – Wednesday Slept in, had breakfast, and headed for town. Stopped on the way to revisit Miles Canyon, hiking over the foot bridge and taking a few pictures, then drove to the visitor center. Inquired about showers and was told I could get one at the Robert Service campground just outside of town. That worked fine - this was coin operated again, using the $1 coins, but only about 2 minutes per coin. I used two, then shaved and went back to town to get groceries, gas, water and stop at a bank to exchange some currency - I was about out of Canadian currency. Had lunch and started home when I began to hear a clunk, clunk, clunk in the front left wheel. The lug nuts had all come loose! and when I jacked up the wheel, I could wobble it a good 1/4 inch or more. Retightened it, and all the rest and left Whitehorse about 2. Wanted to get to Watson Lake if I could and got close. I turned off on the Cassair Highway in BC thinking to take a back road home, and slept near a lake just off the road. Saw only a single Black Bear on the road today, that crossed in front of me.

8/21/2014 – Thursday In the morning I changed my mind and decided I didn't want to ride a lot of gravel road after all, and that I did want to go back thru the Muncho Lake area again, so I backtracked a few miles to the Alaska Highway and headed East. I saw a few caribou, a couple of herds of woodland bison and some stone sheep today. It mostly rained lightly all day, so I didn't really do much tourist stuff. I did stop to see Smith River Falls, which was nice, and stopped at big Teslin Lake for bit to stretch the legs, but mostly drove back. After going past Buckinghorse River, I was again in heavy truck traffic from the oil and gas activity. Made it to Dawson Creek and stopped for lunch and gas, and continued. Wound up getting a golf ball sized rock into my windshield thrown up by one of those big trucks, that almost took me out - just missed hitting in front of my face and hit behind the rearview mirror instead. Only because it hit at an angle did it not quite punch thru the window, but it blew out a lot of glass chips into the cab. Grrr! I stopped for an hour to clean out the glass, and was really hating those trucks now. Took a different route back hoping to avoid truck traffic, but the truckers use that route as well. Anyway, camped just south of Grande Prairie on a back road.

8/22/2014 – Friday drove south and eventually got past all of the oil and gas activity, and into some nice country. This area had the only logging activity I saw in my travels Went through Jasper and Banff national parks, but it was another all day on and off rain with very low clouds, so I couldn't see much. Past Banff on Highway 1, I turned south on route 40 and this was a surprisingly spectacular back road, west of Calgary. I camped along it for the night.

8/23/2014 - Saturday - a repeat of the wet weather, I headed south to US border crossing near Glacier N.P. but it was raining and so cloudy you couldn't see any mountains at all, so I kept on and finally stopped in Livingston MT for the night, at an I-90 rest area. This set me up for the next day to spend some time in Yellowstone.

8/24/2014 – Sunday Well it rained all night and was still raining in the morning. Had breakfast and gassed up the truck and drove to the North entrance to Yellowstone at Gardiner. The mountains were coated with fresh snow above tree line, and even some of trees were white coated. My original plan had been to spend 2 or 3 days in Yellowstone, including canoeing into Shoshone Lake. I stopped at a backcountry office to check on permits, mostly just for the heck of it, and the weather. Forecast was more rain, changing to snow overnight. Went to plan B, and just spent most of the day driving around. I got snowed on up at one pass. Finally the rain stopped in the afternoon, and I finished my touring with a stop at Old Faithful. Where Yukon was full of German Tourists, Yellowstone was overrun with Chinese, by the busload. Cleared out of Yellowstone and gladly took the road to Dubois where I stopped at Togwotee Pass for the night.

8/25/2014 - Monday – about 400 miles to go, and go I did. Back home about mid-afternoon. Paddled 12 and a half days, 460 miles. Drove a total of 5,459 miles round trip. Cost about $2,200 for everything; spent $967 Can for Gas, and $460 US for Gas; Shuttle was C$100, Bus back with canoe was C$164; the rest was for guidebook, map case, fishing lic., groceries and eating. Not bad. Gas in Yukon about $5/gal BC was $6/gal Alberta about $4.50 a gallon.

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