KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
When we were first inspired to travel to the Yukon in order to take the flight over the glacier fields in Kluane National Park, we thought it might be a great adventure to drive from Victoria up and back. It would be better if we could have driven north and returned by ferry from Alaska or even Prince Rupert, but that is not an option because I don’t do well on the water.
A few months later when we were really getting into planning our trip we began to realize that it would take several days to drive all the way to Whitehorse and that we would pretty much have to come back south on the same roads we drove north. In the end, we made the sensible decision to fly to Whitehorse and do our driving once we got there.
Initially, I thought we would most likely drive all the way to Dawson City while we were in the Yukon, but then I learned about the White Pass & Yukon Route railway to Skagway and we began to narrow our focus to flying over the glaciers and riding the train to the sea. As it turned out, it was the right decision. However, everyone we met in Whitehorse asked us if we were driving to Dawson, and were very surprised that we weren’t.
We asked some of the other travellers we met about their impressions of Dawson, and they all had mixed feelings about the city. From what we heard, it seems as if it’s turned into a bit of a circus, trying to portray the rowdy atmosphere of the Gold Rush era, with dance halls and kitschy bars. It sounds pretty much like Skagway, but maybe even more so. I think one restored gold rush town was enough for us. We much preferred the authenticity of Whitehorse. It doesn’t seem to be out to be anything but what it is.
When we were first planning on driving to Whitehorse, I was motivated by the chance to visit some friends who live in Vanderhoof, BC., along the way. I wrote to them about the possibility of our coming, but when we changed our minds, I was disappointed I wouldn’t see them in their home surroundings. They wrote to me several years ago after reading some of my travel journals. We became ‘pen pals’ at first, and then we met up in Victoria a few times during their frequent visits south.
As it turns out, one of their sons now lives in Whitehorse and they were planning on visiting him at the same time we were there. For that reason, we had a happy reunion the day after we arrived and met again for dinner on our last night in town.
While walking to our dinner together we stopped into a local bookshop for a browse and I ended up buying a copy of ‘The Cremation of Sam McGee’ by Robert Service, illustrated by Ted Harrison. I just couldn’t resist, and besides, I wanted to check just how much of the poem I still remembered after committing it to memory in the grade five.
We had terrific meals in Whitehorse, I was really impressed with the quality and variety of dishes on the various menus. We ate at the Klondike Rib & Salmon (Northern focus) and Giorgios Cuccina (Greek) with the Wigmores and at Antoinette’s (Caribbean) on our own the first night. Our breakfasts were so fantastic at the Burnt Toast that we returned there every morning we were in town to eat our way through their menu.
The Wigmores asked if we had been out to the suspension bridge at Miles Canyon. They offered to take us there for an after-dinner walk and we jumped at the opportunity to see more of the sights outside of the city. It wasn’t far upstream along the Yukon River but I was stunned to see how different the water looked. It was the most stunning shade of blue in the evening light and the rock that forms the narrow canyon reminded me of the interlocking basalt columns that we’d seen in Vik, Iceland and at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
The bridge was lovely, and it was a treat to walk back and forth over the surging water funnelling through the narrow canyon. However, I couldn’t take my eyes off the colours of the rock and water. As we crossed the bridge I looked down and could see a second row of rock columns just under the surface of the water. I learned that before the dam was built down stream, the water level was much lower and more of the columns were high and dry.
It was a wonderful way to end the day and to cement our friendship even more. It was clear there was much more to see and do in and around the region, perhaps even enough to entice us back for another visit. I can certainly see why people fall in love with the far north. I’d love to come some day and witness the Iditarod Dog Sled Race, but I’m not sure I could tolerate the snow and cold temperatures any longer. Vancouver Island living has spoiled me beyond redemption!