July 21, Friday
We began the morning with a big breakfast at an Espresso Bar and a bit more canvassing of the downtown area. Dawson City is inseparably linked to the Klondike Gold Rush; it began in 1889, was incorporated in 1902, and quickly jumped to be a thriving city of 40,000 . . . in 2016 its population was 1375! A few main streets are paved but covered in a layer or dust, and the rest are quaint and somehow fitting dirt roads. The store fronts are re-constructed old-townish in bright colors, and preserve many of the same names and functions as the original buildings. Side by side are buildings that have been shuttered up and untouched for over 100 years. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between the old and the new.
We headed out of town to see the Dredge No.4, a wooden-hulled bucket-line sluice dredge that mined placer gold on the Bonanza Creek from 1913 – 1959. It was the largest wooden-hulled dredge in North America with 72 large buckets excavating at the rate of 22 buckets per minute. It is essentially a floating boat that excavates raw material from a flooded “pond” through a process designed to cull the boulders, rocks, pebbles and sand, ending in a material called “black sand” which was then panned down, the old-fashioned way, by hand, with a gold-pan and water. The same process continues from hundreds of years ago to be used today in the TV show Yukon Gold.
Dredge #4 worked 24/7 from late April until late November each season -- when the temperatures were above -40 degrees. (did you know -40 degrees is where the
Fahrenheit thermometer meets the centigrade thermometer?)
Our tour host was a great guy and had a lot of stories to tell about the days of operation of Dredge #4. It lay covered in frozen mud for over 30 years and was then purchased by Parks Canada for $1 in 1970 and excavated in 1992 and is now a National Historic Site of Canada. It is simply incredible!
At that we returned to the Silvermine to pick up Charlie Button for an expedition to Midnight Dome Road. I forget the whole story of how it got its name, but I will share some spectacular pictures that we got of the Yukon River and Dawson City from high on the Dome lookout.
Our final stop for the day was the homestead cabin of Jack London, who at the age of 21 hustled out to be part of the Klondike Gold Rush from his home in San Francisco. He lived in this cabin on Henderson Creek for a summer and a winter, and returned to California penniless and sick – but with the motivation to write his famous novels The Call of the Wild and White Fang -- both of which we are listening to on audio tape as we drive along. His cabin was moved from its original location to Dawson Creek, and set up down the street from the Yukon great poet, Robert Service. It is just a one-room cabin with a food-cache, but many of the logs are the original logs!
Robert Service lived a simple life in this cabin that sits on its original location. From here he wrote novels, but is mostly known for his poems: “The Cremation of Sam McGee,“The Ballad of Blasphemous Bill,” “The Shooting of Dan McGrew,” and (my favorite) “Bessie’s Boil.” His poems paint entertaining pictures of what life on the Yukon was like. I bought a little booklet of his poems and read them to Tom as we drive along.
That’s a wrap for Dawson City. I do want to point out again that we are in Yukon Territory, Canada. I had always thought of Dawson City as being in Alaska. Tomorrow we move on to Whitehorse! That is also in the Yukon!
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2016 23' Airstream, and ‘streamin’ is the name we use to describe our adventures. Stream along as we document everything from weekend trips to longer summer excursions and full-blown vacations. You know what they say: if you’re not in an Airstream – you’re just camping!
Tom & Ella Brown