Linda and I are not big on touristy things. It's probably a little ironic given that our lifestyle would seem to dictate otherwise. Call me cynical but I find that the majority of places that are deemed tourist attractions are more like meccas for marketing and sales. Sadly, the historical richness of a region gets boiled down to T-shirts and cheap trinkets. So this attitude set my expectations for a planned visit to Dawson City in Yukon. What I found, however, was the complete opposite.
We arrived at Yukon River Campground after a long a grueling trip over Top of the World Highway. This was one of two campgrounds we were considering but, once we found a site we liked, we decided to stay put. It was a little more wooded and shaded than we would like because we were relying on our solar panels. We had a lovely view of the Yukon River and it was a hop skip and a jump to the ferry that goes to Dawson city so we really weren't complaining.
Our epic journey from Chicken to Dawson had worn us out so we decided to forgo one of the walking tours offered by the Visitors Center. Instead, we found a car wash and power-washed thick layers of mud off Toadie's exterior. We headed up Dome Road for the obligatory photograph of the Yukon River and Dawson City and then Linda headed back to the campground while I stayed to visit the museum.
Ever since seeing Charlie Chaplin's "Gold Rush" when I was a kid, I've had a strong interest in the story of Yukon pioneers of the late Nineteenth Century. The museum was really a joy to experience. The displays were elaborate with mannequins dressed in the costumes of the late 1800s in bank, stores, saloon type scenarios. There was an incredible collection of photographs from the era and some fantastic information. The documentary film "City of Gold", shot in the 1950s, was actually up for an Academy Award and was a fascinating account of the history of Dawson. Next, I participated in a "Miner's Meeting", a reenactment of a people's court where someone sat accused of poisoning two men. One of the visitors sat in for the accused. At the end of the trial, we all enthusiastically voted that he be hanged! While there, I also learned about rocker boxes and how to properly pan for gold. I felt ready to tackle the Yukon when I emerged. All I needed was my own pan, a few furs, one ton of food supplies, a few dogs and horses and I was all set!
Some of you may know that I shoot photographs using a pinhole method (Linda wishes it was called something else, LOL!). Basically, there's no lens on my camera, just a tiny hole. The look of the photographs is reminiscent of those taken back in the era of the gold rush so this venue was perfect for this style of photography. I spent the wee hours of the next morning walking around Dawson capturing some creative images. I visited the famous poet Robert Service's cabin. With no one else around, I sat on his chair on the deck. It felt kind of eerie because everything was dead quiet. Walking around town that early in the morning, really made me feel like I had stepped back in time.
Speaking of stepping back in time...smack in the middle of town there is a structure that looks like a little information booth but it serves a much more interesting purpose. This is what's called a Camera Obscura (latin for "dark chamber"). The idea harkens back to the Fifth Century, B.C. It was discovered that, if you are in a room that is completely dark and you then poke a tiny hole in the wall, a perfect image of the outside world will be projected upside down on the opposite wall. It was the beginnings of what we now know as photography. Although inventors understood how to project an image, it took centuries to create a method of "fixing" that image to paper as a photograph. Anyway, the local art community in Dawson City built this particular Camera Obscura and Linda and I went inside to experience its magic. It works on the same principle as my pinhole photography so it was especially thrilling for me.
The very friendly and informative people at the Visitors Center recommended some places for breakfast and, after poking around in the gift stores, we headed back to the campground and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.
On our departure morning we decided that it would be fun to do a time-lapse of Scoopy getting on the ferry so I took Toadie to the other side of the Yukon River first and the shot an epic film of Scoopy's odyssey to Dawson City! It was a little nerve-wracking for Linda but she handled it like a boss, as usual.
I felt like Dawson City has an authentic connection to its colorful past. I came away feeling like I had a greater appreciation for its history and I attribute that to the excellent museum and Visitors Center. I could have easily spent a week here and not run out of things to do so I'll put a return visit on my bucket list.
We’re on our way to Whitehorse to restock and hopefully have a little time to visit a few places in town before we head out again.
NEXT UP – The Cassiar Highway!