Thursday, September 27, 2012

Whitehorse - Lake Laberge - Muktuk Kennels

Wednesday I got up early and ran along the Atlin road. It was another gloriously beautiful morning. After breakfast we packed up and checked out - headed for the (official) Alaska Hwy and Whitehorse.

On our way we stopped at Marsh lake and the Swan Haven. As soon as I turned off the car, two labs greeted us, so although there weren't any birds around, Mr. X still got his "wildlife" fix. Swan haven was lovely, on the edge of Marsh lake, thousands of swans come here in the spring on their way north to nest.

We then stopped in Whitehorse, but the wind was blowing, so after we took a quick tour of the library, bought some fresh groceries, and were accosted by homeless men we got back on the Klondike Hwy to Lake Laberge.

You know the place. Where Cap cremated Sam McGee according to Robert Service. We stood on the marge of lake Labarge. Mr. X and Mom took pictures while I just wanted to get back in the car. It was a beautiful drive, but man that wind was chilly.

I just about hit this doe and her sister on the road back to the highway.

Wednesday night we stayed at Muktuk Kennels; the home of Yukon Quest champion Frank Turner. We drove past our cabin thinking "surely we aren't staying there"! But we were. Beautiful accomodations. Shilo's Chalet gets two thumbs up from me.

We had a view overlooking the valley and river.

At sunset the dogs set up a racket. They probably were being fed, but it was pretty eery hearing them all howling at the sky. We were glad our cabin was not immediately adjacent to the dog yard.

In the morning we headed over to the lodge to take our self-guided tour. We managed to pet all 100 dogs and enjoyed watching the puppies run in the jumbo sized gerbil wheel.

Before breakfast this team raced by. You can tell they're loving their run.

We met Frank Turner which was fun; he's a great host. He took time to talk to us even we hadn't scheduled a tour and he had several projects he was working on (we didn't try to bug him, he just went out of his way to make us welcome.)

Many (if not all) of Frank's volunteers are German speakers - even the Irishman responded to German directions from the dog yard manager. This just added to the fun I had with the Swiss German at Little Atlin.

Muktuk is off the grid, so Mark (from Denmark) came over the cabin and started the generator with Mr. X and showed us how everything worked. We had a comfortable sofa in the living room, woodstove, fantastic gas range, lights and indoor plumbing. They had some games and many magazines. A small small fridge provided, but they don't like to plug in because it is an electricity sucker. They provided me with ice packs which was sufficient for us. I think they'd probably allow you to use the fridge if you needed to (i.e. refrigerated medicine), but you'd have to run the generator repeatedly.

The stairs here were not as steep as Little Atlin which was good. The BBQ was not as nice, nor was the kitchen as well stocked and organized. It was fine, but I couldn't find a measuring cup anywhere so our rice was quite sticky.

The front porch was perfect with nice chairs and to the side of the cabin was a large fire pit, perfect for bonfires. Mr. X had some fun splitting wood and replenishing the kindling pile.

Again, another place I would recommend for an extended trip. I think I could handle a week here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

White Mountain and Atlin

Monday night, Mr. X read about a short mountain hike just across the highway from the lodge. Tuesday morning we left Mom in bed and set off for our little hike. We walked up to a generator station and found the trailhead. Then we climbed up and up the mountain until we had a view of Little Atlin Lake, and Tagish lake. It was a beautiful, frosty morning. We had gotten a late start so we didn't hike all the way up the mountain and later found a better trail.

We returned to the cabin and packed for a day trip to the town of Atlin. We drove the partially paved road for 55 miles and saw the beautiful mountains of Atlin. The wind was blowing off the lake, though, so it was cold.

After seeing the paddle boat, museum, church and RCMP, we went out the Warm Bay road to look for the glacier. Atlin lake is the largest lake in British Columbia* and the headwaters for some of the rivers in Juneau.

We ate lunch on the way back to the Lodge - well some of us ate. I forgot to pack Mr. X's lunch so he just went hungry.

Back at the cabin we relaxed in the evening. I spent the time reading in front of the wood stove.

*Little Atlin Lodge is in Yukon territory, but Atlin is in BC. One of the magazines I read said that Atlin-ites are happy to celebrate BC province holidays, but really they're more Yukon-ers than British Columbians.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Little Atlin Lodge

When I first started planning this trip, we planned to camp. But then Mr. X's mom retired and said she was available to come with us in September for the fall colors, so I started looking for accomodations a little more comfortable than tenting.

Our first stop was with Andri, Rahel and Lukas at the Little Atlin Lodge. This family relocated to the Yukon from Switzerland 15 years ago. Their 'guesthouses' show some of their Swiss German culture - which I absolutely loved. And judging by the notes in the guest book, more than half of their visitors are German speakers (there is a non-stop flight to Whitehorse from Frankfurt in the summer).

The lodge is located right on Little Atlin Lake. We were in the Pine cabin where we had comfortable seating, running water, propane lighting and refrigerator. Mr. X made us a fire in the woodstove Tuesday morning and evening (Monday was warm). He also cooked up his chicken on the excellent grill on the covered deck. The kitchen was well stocked with everything you could want from measuring cups to champagne glasses to eggs benedict cups. I cannot say enough about how clean, and well organized the kitchen was.

Rahel provided a plate of homemade brownies for us. They were filled with homemade strawberry preserves and dusted with powdered sugar.

The lodge has a green house where they grow quite a bit of produce. Sometimes they have food for sale - we had plenty of our own so we didn't inquire, but they appeared to have tomatoes and lettuce.

They also offer canoes and motor boats for rent. There's supposed to be good fishing in the lake.

There is a driveway to the cabin so you don't have to haul your gear too far.

The stairs to the second story are a little steep, so Mr. X's mom chose to sleep downstairs. Rahel came down to the cabin and made up the futon in the living room - which was very nice - I didn't have to lift a finger.  In addition to the bedding change, we did have a couple requests for the Andri and Rahel which they attended to immediately (the carbon monoxide detector went off Monday night, the pilot light on the fridge went out). We appreciated their attentiveness and friendliness.

I would recommend the lodge for a longer trip. We were there too short a time to truly enjoy the area. I would have liked to eat outside one meal and have a bonfire in the fire pit. Mr. X wants to go canoeing and fishing next time. And we both would like to do a little more hiking on White Mountain.

These opinions are my own. I was not fact I paid quite lot of money to form these opinons.  

Juneau - Skagway - Carcross - Little Atlin

Bove Island

Monday morning Mr. X, his mom and I boarded the Columbia at 2:45 am. I had reserved an outside cabin for us so we spent the majority of the ferry ride sleeping. Mr. X and I had weird ferry/cruise dreams.

Our route had us stopping in Haines so that's where we got up for breakfast in the cafeteria. During our breakfast, the crew performed a bomb scare drill which included finding two devices, evacuating passengers and launching the lifeboats. One of the cooks stopped and talked to us. He said he found the bomb a couple weeks ago - it was a box with wires coming out of it. He made the mistake of picking the device up and then the crew had to practice detonation drills which included closing all water tight and fire suppression doors.

our shower and toilet



I think if I have a choice I will pick the Columbia. The boat is one of the nicest in the fleet and everything is clean and comfortable.

We finally arrived in Skagway at 1 pm.

And we had to hit a couple of sites: the Yukon White pass railroad and the Chilkoot trail visitor's center.

Here's a stampeder with all his gear.

We needed to be at Little Atlin by 6 pm and I'd forgotten about the time change so we quickly left Skagway on the South Klondike Hwy. Honestly, I wasn't disappointed - we've been to Skagway three times in three years.

We crossed the boarder into Canada, set our watches to the new time zone and continued on to Tutshi lake

 Tutshi lake

We pulled off the highway for a few pictures along the way and then stopped in Carcross to look at Bennett Lake and a "retirement home" shack for Mr. X's mom. She was really excited about it.

Emerald Lake

After we spotted Emerald Lake we turned back to the Tagish road and drove through some of the most lovely fall colors. Before too long we turned onto Atlin road and found our way to the Little Atlin Lodge where we were staying for two nights. We enjoyed our dinner and then watched the sunset on the lake.

Little Atlin Lake

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Golden Circle

We are just back from our Golden Circle road trip, and it was golden. Okay, so we had a few casualties - two forks and a bottle of contact solution - but other than that it was fantastic.

The Golden Circle route officially is 379 miles on the South Klondike Highway, Alaska Highway and Haines road. We added 471 miles of side trips and Tagish road, Atlin Road, and North Klondike Highway for a total of 850 miles. Stay tuned for stunning photos and B&B reviews. Oh, and explanations for why Mr. X was seen traipsing through Haines with a cane, why we petted 100 dogs, and just how tough it is to find ice cream in the Yukon in September.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Labor Day Friday: Windfall Lake Cabin

When I returned from Florida it was time to pack for another trip. We had reserved the Windfall Lake cabin and invited our friends J&J and dog Dixie to join us for the overnight trip.Dixie somehow cut herself in the car, so we were concerned about her, but she didn't act hurt so we carried on with our plans.  

This is a 3.5 mile hike with 100 foot elevation gain. To truly attempt packrafting, Mr. X carried the packrafts while I carried all our camping gear and food. Seemed to work well. 

We arrived at the cabin about 9 pm. Mr. X and I walked up the trail another 20 minutes to get some good water for filtering. He didn't mention all the bear scat we passed in the dark, which I'm grateful for. When we returned to the cabin we watched the blue moon rise over the mountain. It was a beautfiully calm night. The only downside was the guy who was hanging out at the cabin and who camped nearby...not happy about him! We played a game of Uno, ate cheesecake and then hit the sack.

In the morning, Mr. X and I went rafting. I was just planning a paddle around the lake but we ran into the Juneau Ranger District Trail crew camped at the portage (they had taken the cabin's canoe). The crew leader recommended that we take the lake outlet. So we did. This was a quiet spot and all overgrown by trees and lilypads that I almost felt like I was in the bayou. We turned around as soon as we could hear the roaring Herbert Glacier River. Apparently the river is raftable, but I'm chicken.

When we returned to the cabin, J&J had started the woodstove and breakfast was waiting for us...we should always camp with them.

The prior evening I was too tired to enjoy s'mores, but I managed to eat a few for my after breakfast snack - I've been wanting s'mores for months so I wasn't going to miss my last chance of the season. Here I am preparing my stick.

J and Mr. X were pleased to find a hose in the cabin. Mr. X hooked it up to the packraft inflation bag and they created an awesome bellows.

J pulled out his fishing pole and caught a small salmon quickly. He released it and kept fishing for trout; lots of nibbles but no good bites.  

The trail crew had been out for the week and it was time to camp elsewhere. Ward air flew in a Super Otter to pick up two of the crew and their gear. They offered us a ride, but we had both cars at the trail head. Watching the float plane had J and Mr. X talking about Lake Florence on Admiralty Island...we'll see if that happens. 

On our way out we saw more of the work that the trail crew has been doing. They replaced several of the smaller bridges with sturdy new ones. They've also replaced any broken planks and raised planking that has sunk into the muskeg.

We reached the trailhead just as it started to rain in earnest. We were glad we weren't the next group just heading out with 3 tiny dogs and a 6 month old baby in a stroller. Can you say mud?