THE GOLDEN YUKON
THE GOLDEN YUKON
Large, untamed, wild and empty. These are adjectives that one connects with the Yukon. This province of Canada is 12x bigger than Switzerland and offers a home to 38’000 people. Roughly 25’000 of them live in the capital Whitehorse, the rest of this part of Canada is therefore almost uninhabited.
Through seemingly endless distances, we ride along paved and gravel roads, past beautiful lakes in all kinds of colors that, very much to our delight, sometimes even have bathing temperature. Again and again we find incredible overnight spots for our home-on-wheels and we definitely enjoy the privilege of having each day a whole different terrace in front of our doorstep.
The millions of pine trees on the left and right of the road are becoming smaller and smaller the more north we drive until they disappear completely in the arctic tundra. We are lucky and get to see loads of black bears and herds of bison, observe beavers building their dam and learn that porcupines can climb trees while fleeing. We also see moose peacefully eating water plants, hunting eagles and even a lynx along our journey.
It’s not difficult to imagine how harsh life must have been for the pioneers more than hundred years ago when they followed the call of gold up north. Nature was even wilder then and there was no paved Alaska highway running through the country. The winters were long, dark and cold. Temperatures around -30 Celsius are nothing special in these latitudes.
The discovery of gold nuggets in the river bed of the Yukon triggered 1896 the gold rush in the area around the today’s little town Dawson City. Within a short time, well over 30`000 adventurers have sought their fortune, but only few have found it! The gold rush has lasted only four years and in Dawson City, which already had electricity and street lighting back then, were a few clever ones who, rather than digging for gold in the cold, preferred to take it from the fortunate finders again… “Mine the Miners” was their motto and with gambling, alcohol or women in bars and other establishments the mostly male gold diggers were emptied their pockets.
GOLD DIGGER ENTERTAINMENT
To this day, this gold-digger charm has remained in the little city. We spend an evening in “Diamond Tooth Gerties” saloon where blackjack and one-armed bandits are just as much a part of the inventory as the dancing girls swinging their legs high up in the air to the cancan music.
And then there’s the dare… We sit in the notorious bar of the Downtown Hotel, not having finished our glass of beer yet as suddenly all eyes are directed at an old salt and when he unpacks the famous mummified toe we’re doomed… A whiskey and the toast “you can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips MUST touch the toe” later we are members of the “Sourtoe Cocktail Club” too. ?
Und dann ist ja da noch diese Mutprobe… Wir sitzen in der berühmt-berüchtigten Bar des Downtown Hotels, haben unser Bier noch nicht ausgetrunken als plötzlich alle Augen auf einen alten Seebären gerichtet werden und als dieser den berühmten eingelegten & mumifizierten Zeh auspackt kommen wir nicht mehr drum herum… Einen Whisky und den Trinkspruch “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips MUST touch the toe” später sind wir ebenfalls Mitglied im “Sourtoe Cocktail Club” ?
THE NORTHERNMOST POINT OF OUR TRIP
Needless to say, we didn’t miss a detour to the famous Dampster highway. This dirt road leads more than 700 kilometers up north to Inuvik almost at the Beaufort Sea. We don’t get that far because huge forest fires lead to temporary road closure and one of the two ferries jumped out of the ropes because of the strong wind and is out of service until further notice. Perhaps that’s how it’s got to be we think, especially because the second half of this adventurous road has a reputation for having caused longer stops due to ruptured tires or a cracked windshield. Nevertheless, we almost reach the Arctic Circle and thus the northernmost point of our adventure trip!
NEW COUNTRY, MORE HAPPINESS?!
The final stretch towards Alaska is called “Top of the World Highway”. Once again, we marvel at the endless expanse here almost at the end of the world. Nature is free of human impact, in this corner of the Yukon lives at most one or other hunter in a secluded log cabin.
And then we suddenly face the border with the USA. The customs officers are super friendly and u for a chat and we get a six months residence permit which can be extended at any time for another six months if we’d like to – so there’s nothing in our way and we are entering the largest state of the USA.