dawson city, northwest territories

We’ve taken a free day in Dawson City, for folks to fix up their busses and get some personal time away from the group. We’ve been on the road over a week, and lots of folks haven’t had time for laundry or provisioning.

Three days ago, we had our first serious incident. Jorge was lighting a campfire. It flared up on him unexpectedly, and his long hair caught fire. Before he was put out, one half of his face had been burned pretty badly. The group salved the burn, but it looked pretty nasty. My van had split off from the group so that John and I could travel through Whitehorse, and the accident occurred while we were away. The accident occurred while we were gone, on Yukon highway 4 near Ross River. When we rejoined the group at Frenchman’s Lake (outside Carmacks), we found out about Jorge.

He was being brave and a little too macho about it, insisting that it didn’t hurt too badly. He didn’t see the use of going to a hospital, but we finally convinced him to go. Yesterday, he left Frenchman’s Lake early heading for the clinic in Dawson City.

Meanwhile, another problem occurred. Don Kane’s bus refused to start, and all of the mechanics on the trip couldn’t figure out what the problem might be. Don, Bob Hoover, Eddie, and Tobin were all looking into the engine compartment, debugging the engine. They couldn’t figure out what the problem might be, and we eventually tow-started the Kanes’ bus. Don’s bus continues to have weird electrical problems (no headlights, no radio.) We’ll keep it running.

Disasters aside, Frenchman’s Lake was a beautiful spot. The lake was clean down to about 3 meters, and Dave had brought a canoe with him from Anchorage. We took turns taking the canoe out onto the lake. John and I paddled to a far shore of the lake, and pulled ashore. I wanted to walk somewhere where no one had been.

The shore was thick muskeg, a deep bed of moss and fungus. It sank six inches under our footsteps, and then sprang up again. When we laid down, the spell of the forest was thick in the air, and the moss was more comfortable than a featherbed. The sunlight speckled down through the fir trees, and we lay there, listening. The only sound we could hear was the buzz and hum of insects, and the occasional bird.

Yesterday morning, John woke me up to listen to the cry of the loon. We both listened to the song, and the echoes over the lake. Then we got up and dressed.

On the way to Dawson City, we passed a sign that said ‘Organic Vegetables!’ We all agreed that Organic Vegetables would be a Good Thing, so we stopped at Partridge Creek Farm. The veggies there were amazing. You could select what you wanted from a list, and the proprietress would walk into the field and pick the veggies fresh.

Now we’re in Dawson City, here at the base of the Dempster. Dawson City is remote, and the streets are dirt. Along each road is a boardwalk. The place is half-falling-down, and only about 2000 folks live hear year-round from a gold-rush population of around 30,000. It’s also expensive here. Gasoline is around $2.80 Cdn, and a mug of draft beer is $4.50. Still, it’s damn tasty, and “Better than that American shit”, as one guy at the bar told me. I had to agree.

I had two beers, and John drove us back to the campground. Now, two beers is double my limit, and I was very tipsy. I made a point of walking around saying hello to everyone who was still awake. It was 12:45, but it was still very light out. Yvette said “Wow, you look really relaxed!” I laughed.

Tomorrow we head north once more, leaving Dawson City early to hit the dirt of the Dempster. My next dispatch will be from Inuvik.



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