Sunday, June 16, 2019

Tale of Two Dawsons

Dawson Creek is near the northeast corner of British Columbia. It's famous as the Mile 0 point of the Alaska Highway. It's the center of an area of an agricultural economy. As you travel west on the Alaska Highway, you'll experience an area with a petroleum economy before getting into the Rocky Mountains, known for their beauty and potential for animal sightings.

If you travel far enough west, you'll eventually run across this sign the second time you enter the Yukon territory. The sign at the first crossing from B.C. to Yukon has seen better days, but the second crossing is clearly marked, perhaps because it's on the outskirts of Watson Lake.

Whitehorse is the capital of Yukon and home to about 75% of the territory's population of 38,000 people. Whitehorse is a juxtaposition of government, supply center, and history. There are lots of interesting things to see around the area, but this trip we were headed north.

We overnighted at Five Fingers Rapid, a point of concern for river travelers headed to the Yukon gold rush. The recreation area parking lot had no limitation signs although their website says it's day use only. Just beyond Five Fingers is the Tatchun Creek Campground, a typical Yukon Government Campground with free firewood, outhouses, and gravel sites for $12 a night.

Dawson City was high on my list for this trip. We missed it last time because the river hadn't thawed yet. As a fan of history and rust, I was in my element.

Dawson City is the second largest city in Yukon, with a population of about 1,800 people. Mining is still active in the area.

The town is an interesting mix of old buildings settling into the permafrost, old buildings restored and used, and new homes and businesses, some made to look old.

Saint Andrews was built in 1901 and last used in the 1930s. The building is now internally braced but continues to settle.

There was an earth cache concerning permafrost that led us to look carefully for buildings that were settling. This was my favorite, but I couldn't ever get a picture without something parked in front of it.

Across the river, past a very nice (and large) Yukon Government Campground, was the paddle wheeler graveyard. There were six wooden hulled paddle wheeler sitting along the river, mouldering into the sand as the forest grew through them.

One one of the six still had recognizable paddle wheel frames. Of course, it also hosted a geocache!

Fans of Discovery's Gold Rush know that dredges are still in use in the area. The largest dredge is not in use but is in the continued process of restoration. It was so large I couldn't get a decent camera angle to get it all.

The dredge buckets for Dredge #4 were large enough to make a lounger.
As we wandered, we would find old equipment. In this case, a Caterpillar R-4 with a cable operated blade. Originally used to build the Alaska Highway, it then found a life on a gold claim.

Abandoned trackhoe hiding in the trees.

My favorite was this very creative trommel, supported by old truck wheels & tires, and powered by an old truck rear axle. Since it was parked with a bunch of other old, tired equipment, it's hard to say if it was ever successful.

We didn't seen Tony or Rick or Parker as we wandered around town, but I did spot the Jasmine B and Kid Commando (which looked scary skinny) parked next to the ferry landing.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Chasing Cinnamon Buns & Animals

The dense smoke from the fires in Alberta had us a bit askew and likely had an impact on what animals we spotted.

For a couple days we suggested the only animals we would see for this trip were on yellow signs, and that was nearly true for moose and absolutely true for stone sheep.

We had a couple good bear days, including one day when we spotted four different ones. I was especially pleased to get this picture of a black bear grubbing for insects.

BJ got proof that I wasn't that close.

In addition to animals, I was chasing cinnamon rolls or cinnamon buns as they are known here. Tetsa River Service claims to be the Cinnamon Bun Center of the Galaxy or something like that. With the weather cooler and wetter than forecast, we decided that staying here overnight would be more appropriate than our planned stop 10 miles and 1,000 foot higher.

Obviously, while their self promotion got initial attention, they've also received some meaningful recognition of their skills. By overnighting, we even managed to arrange to enjoy ours at a more socially acceptable time of day.

What a great way to start the day! (And no, I didn't share - BJ got her own.)

As last time we were here, I was taken by the sign on the gas pump. Turns out the price per liter was the same this time as last, but with the difference in exchange rate, it was much cheaper than before.

We did see wood bison several times along the way including some young ones,

and a single porcupine that didn't look too happy about being photographed!

In the interest of journalistic research, we stopped early one morning at Johnson's Crossing to check out their highly regarded cinnamon buns. They were good, but in the opinion of the judge (me), Tetsa can continue to make their claim to fame.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

West, North, East, & Even a Bit South

Our route through BC was designed to pick up as many 'regional municipalities' (counties) as possible while getting us time in Kelowna and eventually to Alaska. From Kelowna, we headed to Kamloops. Along the way, we dropped off one of the #smokeybear75 trackables, simply because the cache was titled, "Smokey Bear Rested Here - On Way to Vernon!"

I was especially impressed with one of the earth caches near Kamloops. We were able to buy fuel, observe the EC requirements and find a spot to park for lunch, all within 300 feet of one another. Very efficient!

One of the other earth caches we attempted has now been signed so that you can't approach as close as we would have liked,

while another purported to featured painted cliffs, but nothing like the painted cliffs in the southwest. We did, however see a mountain sheep here - the only one we've seen on the trip so far.

We wandered around 100 Mile House looking at murals and discovering the town is bigger than I thought. We took advantage of their municipal campground for the night.

I really enjoyed this central part of B.C.  Lots of open, grassy valleys fringed by tree covered mountain ranges. Lots of old buildings including some very large log barns.

Had we been traveling slower, I would have been tempted to check out the Antique Machinery Park instead of just visiting the cache.

Last time we came home from our Alaska trip, we'd noted lots of "No Camping" signs at rest stops and other pullouts along the highway. This was the only one I spotted in B.C. this trip, but they are quite prevalent in Yukon. (The blog will get there eventually...)

We spent one night at Crooked River Prov. Park, in part because there was an earth cache and a traditional cache near the day use area. When we logged our earth cache observations, the cache owner mentioned there was a new cache near the park entrance so we stopped and snagged a First To Find the next morning.

I took a bunch of pictures at Dawson Creek because it's such an iconic location, and then managed to lose all of them when trying to download them to the computer. This was the only survivor.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Spokane to Kelowna

We departed Spokane under grey skies and occasional drizzle. Thankfully, traffic was light as we transited the city, picking our way north.

We stopped to view Crystal Falls but decided the rocks were too slippery and the brush too wet in the drizzle to bother trying to locate the geocache. If it hadn't been for the geocache symbol tantalizing us, we likely would have missed this beautiful waterfall entirely.

We did visit a couple other caches, adding two more Washington counties to our list.

It was raining when we pulled up to the border crossing at Nelway, BC. We snickered a bit when the camper in front of us got pulled over for inspection, but then we also got pulled over for a 'random inspection.' While waiting, we discovered the folks in the camper were also geocachers.

We stopped at an rest area overlooking Castlegar between rain showers.

Our plan had been to stop at Nancy Greene Prov. Park, but it was both early in the day and still raining so we continued on... Thought we might stop at the Provincial Park at Christina Lake but the signage said to turn left and we couldn't find any place to turn left.

We ended up at the municipal campground in Grand Forks where a group of deer seemed to own the place. A choice of full hook-ups or dry camping and hot showers in a new bath building.  Overnight, we enjoyed more rain.

The weather forecasts suggested improvement as we headed west,

and by the time we got to the overlook above Osoyoos the clouds were breaking up and the temperatures were climbing into the high 70's.

We took a lunch break along Lake Okanagan. Of course, part of our break time involved figuring out how to access the geocache there, and trading a couple trackables.

We settled into a spot at Bear Creek Provincial Park, across the lake from Kelowna where we were serenaded nightly by marmots sitting on a log pile across the fence. This park was very nice. It was supposed to be reservation only, but we had no problem getting a space for three nights. Their W/E sites were nearly full, and their FHU sites were totally booked, but we didn't want either.

We spent part of one day wandering some incredibly nice logging roads above the park in search of Challenge Bear and Run Cacher Run geocaches.

It turns out the individual who placed the caches is no longer active and the caches are poorly maintained with some as much as 40 feet off - a bit tough when you're searching for a micro in the woods. In spite of the Did Not Finds that we were accruing, we did spot our only bear of the trip, so far. The bear wasn't willing to wait around for us to get a closer picture. :-(

The spring flowers were out in abundance, and we'd finally found some sunshine.

Our second layover day in Kelowna involved an early walking tour of downtown to complete a Wherigo (WIG) cache that was a tour of a number of public art installations. There's actually a second WIG cache nearby that tours more public art, but Turk made it clear that one tour was enough.

Our second cache that day started in a park and ended in a library. It was significant to us because it was BJ's 2000th find. It was special to me because BJ worked in a library when we met so library caches are always special.

Onward towards Alaska.