Marilou and Jest

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  • Day14

    Dawson & The Toe!

    August 4, 2016 in Canada

    On Sunday afternoon, we made with to Dawson City, Yukon. We we're really excited about this part of the trip as we had both heard a lot about the "city". As you get to the city, you first have to take a ferry to cross the Yukon River. The dogs "loved" it. We quickly drove through town and set up camp at a nearby RV park and campground.

    Monday morning, we we're quite excited to go explore. Dawson City was a huge part of the Gold Rush here in the Yukon. We learned that the word Klondike (that uses to designated the area) came from a misunderstanding of a native word meaning "hammer head". The Gold Rush here was short-lived, however, in 1898, over 30,000 people lived in the city, which made it the largest one north of Seattle and west of Winnipeg. Bars, restaurants, theaters, hotels, brothels, and more, could all be found in the city. They were also the first Canadian city to get a gambling hall.

    For our first stop, we decided to go visit the Dredge #4. A dredge is a large boat-like piece of equipment used to chew through the land and waters to find gold. A lot of workers are needed to make this work, which is why it isn't used anymore. The Dredge #4 is the largest intact dredge left in the world. We did a guided tour through the entire structure; it was simply incredible. We found out through the tour that the majority of men that came up here to strike it rich unfortunately did not, and as transportation was only seasonal, a lot of them got stuck here working for close to nothing.

    We then headed out to claim #6, which is a free gold panning claim. We tried our luck at it and unfortunately came out empty ended. I guess we need to keep our day jobs.

    We then went back to down to go see all the old buildings. Dawson City is really frozen in time. So many building are being maintained either by people or by the Canadian government as national historic sites. There are also strict rules on how people can renovate their properties. No fast food or Tim Hortons here. Many buildings are also left to themselves, all leaning, to show visitors the effect of building on the permafrost.

    For our last activity of the day, we decided to go try the famous sourtoe cocktail... many decades ago, a prospector found a dead toe, preserved in salt, from a previous gold miner. For whatever reason, the tradition then started to have a shot, in which you would drop the dead toe in. Drink it fast, drink it slow, as long as the toe touches your lips. Well, we did it, Facebook video and certificate in hand to prove it!

    Dawson, all together, was one of the most incredible places we have ever seen. There is so much to do around there and it must be visited at least one in a lifetime.
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  • Day10

    Chicken, AK!

    July 31, 2016 in the United States

    On our way out of Anchorage we headed north east to Dawson City, Canada.

    On the way to Dawson we stopped in a tiny village (or gathering) called Chicken. Chicken is the smallest village in Alaska with only a handful of residents and about half that come winter.

    Really Chicken is just a small stop on the highway, but a worthy stop.

    Chicken really wasn't much more than a gold miners dredge, bar and a few restaurants- oh, and a few live chickens too!

    We set up tent along the small river and headed to downtown Chicken. A 1 minute drive from uptown. A 1 minute drive and 3 buildings total.

    We started drinking with the locals around 4, and were told that we chose the best night to be in Chicken. Chicken's summer bash 2.0 was happening and we were in luck. Live music, free food and cheap beer. Turns out we also stayed until dark, so it had to have been late, considering how north we were.

    We met some amazing folks from all of the US who sat outside to enjoy the music with us, great conversations and laughs, even a panty canon. (A tradition where you can give your panties or boxers and they blow them up in the parking lot. It took some skill as they packed gun powder and lit up the bomb. Odd, but neat.)

    Sue bought the bar and "shops" 27 years ago and maintains it to this day. She vocally hates when people ask her about her life but loves to talk about herself nonstop- a little bit of an oxymoron. You don't have to ask Sue, she'll tell you anyway (jest). She is looking to sell her operation in the next couple years as it's now a world-known tourist stop. Her son ran the bar the entire night and was as professional as bar tenders get- even though he sees a maximum of 12 patrons a night. The bar was even pet friendly as we had our dogs with us the entire night.

    We met many Europeans this night as well and we were curious on how they got their European cars and vans over. There is a shipping program from Canada to Europe for about $1,500 and 2 weeks and your car is shipped, you then fly over and do your road trip in your own car- pretty cool.

    Chicken is only open a few months a year as the highway to and from is not maintained during the winter from the Canadian or American side. Most of the residents, other than about 4 don't stay over winter.

    Chicken isn't a destination but it's worth the stop, just know you have to create your own experience because the town folk don't do this for you. We loved it!
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  • Day10

    Top of the World Highway, USA/ Canada

    July 31, 2016 in the United States

    On Sunday morning, we left Chicken, AK to make our way to Dawson City, YT. We were quite excited as we had heard about how awesome this highway is to drive. At first, it looked like a pretty usual dirt road, but as we got further into it, the views were amazing. This highway is not necessarily the highway point for a highway, however, the whole highway, for a couple of hours if right up at the top of mountains. As you get closer to cross the Canadian border, the road is suddenly one of the nicest paved road we had ever seen. Everyone's guess is that the Americans might be wanting to impress the incoming visitors. Unfortunately it is short lived! This border crossing also has to be one of the most remote in North America! If you come to the Yukon or Alaska, make sure to drive on the Top of the World Highway; it is a must!Read more

  • Day9

    Seward & Alaska

    July 30, 2016 in the United States

    We hit the Alaska border on Thursday.

    It was a day of exhausting driving from Whitehorse, but worth it. The roads from Whitehorse to the Alaska border were likely the worst in the world- or close. Though they were really bad, the Yukon has some stunning views including Canada's tallest Mountain, Mt. logan.

    Leaving Whitehorse a local radio had been tagged in Jest's tweets about the trip, so they mentioned us on air and talked about our trip. They also invited locals to call in and give us tbe best recommendations in the area- it was a pretty cool way to start the day.

    We filled gas at the most Western Canadian town at 1.40/Litre. We regret that after as 30 minutes into the US has was about .62c/Litre

    We hit the Aaska border and went straight for Anchorage. It was a long drive and at first not to many sites or scenes, but closer to Anchorage the massive mountains and beautiful scenery started to shine. The views rivalled anything we have ever seen from Alberta, BC & the Yukon, was truly amazing.

    We hunkered down in Anchorage for the night in a camp site on a river bank- was a nice site but very cold. We would imagine we continue to have the +5-7° weather.

    The next day we headed down to a great little ocean edge town called Seward. Sadly so did 3 cruise ships and it was the busiest day Seward has had in 30 some years. We are the kind of travellers that don't really like tourists! (We know how that sounds.)

    Seward is a charming town with a few local breweries, great restaurants and a massive fishing industry. We went sea kayaking here and saw some incredible scenes. A large sea otter was taking a sun bath on the ocean, we saw a dozen or so bald eagles, we also saw a salmon spawning river. We learned a lot about the life of a salmon that day, salmon lay their eggs in the same river they were born and then they die. Quite the site- a river full of rotting salmon. The birds would pick their eyes out and start to eat their flesh while they were still alive. I don't know about you, but I think I would rather be caught and killed instantly. But they aren't fulfilled in their lives until they can lay their eggs for the next generation.

    We found our way to a very cool brewery in Seward where we enjoyed a pint of local craft before heading back to Anchorage.

    That night in Anchorage we found a very cool restaurant called The Bridge which was a building built over a river. The bridge was an amazing experience, it's only open 3 months a year to keep all ingredients used local and sustainable. Well we ate on the patio we could watch the local fisherman catching their Alaskan Salmon. They catch everything locally and get all their vegetables from the very same valley. The food, server, atmosphere and drinks were top notch and we highly recommend this stop to anyone.

    Anchorage itself isn't a thrilling city, but there was a lot of cool shops and restaurants in the downtown core and a lot of ourdoor acrivities you can do in the area, not to mention seaonal whale watching.
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  • Day6

    Well, today was incredible!

    After waking up and searching for showers, we were on our way.

    This is a full camping road trip: no hotels, restaurants or luxury. Just the great outdoors, campgrounds, tents and camp fires. We are even using river water to cook with! How's that for taking life to the great outdoors.

    We keep seeing the phrase "Larger than life" on every Yukon sign, today it really became apperent as to why. This place is magical! Some of the most amazing views in the world.

    Yukon is similar to BC in many ways, without the tourists and the crowds.

    Today we headed south from Whitehorse to a town called CarCross (originally Caribou Crossing). We prefer the original name much better. CarCross was an amazing stop, rich in aboriginal culture and heritage.

    We were greeted by an elder in that town who explained the towns main totem pole, a story rich in their history and tales of the past. She then began to sing to us in her native tongue while explaining the in depth layers of her heritage and pride. We stopped at an incredible lake named "Emerald Lake". Emerald Lake had some amazing colours and bright green and blue swirls- created by the shallow water and sandy bottoms.

    This part of Yukon is very sandy and is also home of the worlds smallest desert by official designation. Though we would personally dispute this after being in a desert in southeastern Saskatchewan last year.

    The elder who spoke to us in CarCross told us a story of their four seasons, which included a wonderful tale of the northern lights dancing in the winter for them. As we know Canadian winters are long and harsh. To the natives, the northern lights are their ancestors dancing in the sky to keep them company in the winters and to make their short cold days bearable.
    She told us in summer the days are long, this is their chance to get out and play while the northern lights rest. They rest in Emerald Lake, which the native locals call "Rainbow Lake" and have for hundreds of years. We too will refer to this lake as "Rainbow" instead of "Emerald".

    The town was full of incredible history including a man carving a totem pole, which would go for around $100,000! This man has carved faces for people around the world and those carvings go for $10,000 or more. He gifted one to Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and since then has been world famous. His work and skills are incredible and his passion admirable.

    CarCross was also home to the oldest retail business in the Yukon, still in operation today.

    We added some other incredible historic stops to the journey today. First, we stopped by the Venus Mine, which still had a waterhouse standing (large wood structure in the pictures). This is where, in 1910, the ore was brought down from the mines. We could still see the mine entrance at the top of the adjacent mountain. We told the elder earlier about the wolf crossing our path, her eyes widened as she told us this was a symbol of great luck for all of us. On the way to Venus Minesite we had to walk on the shoulder of a low use highway for about 1KM. Safe walk and no comcern, within this walk charles slipped out of his harness and ran right for the highway as a single car was coming. The car was driving slow, and stopped as I ran out for charles. It wasnt a life or death moment but could have been a bad situation. We figure the highway guard rail scared charles forcing him to panick as the car came! It was our lucky day. The situation lasted seconds, all parties calm. Thank you lone wolf for the luck- it came just in time.

    We then drove a few kilometers down the road to the old site of Conrad City. In the early 1900's, over 3,000 people lived in the city, working for the ore industry. Unfortnately, as the rush went into Alaska, the city died down. A nice path led us to a fallen bridge and a few houses still "standing". It is incredible how those structures are still intact and not vandalized. Doubftul would be in Alberta.

    Our last stop was he Robinson Roadhouse. The Roadhouse was used as a train stop for freight and passengers between Whitehorse and Skagway, AK. Many old buildings are also left standing along with old stoves, old canisters, etc. Again, we were amazed to see this site untouched.

    Before heading back to the site we headed into Whitehorse to grab another blanket, we have been getting anywhere from 1°-6° overnight on this trip- why didn't we expect this?. While in WH we stopped at the SS Klondike 2, for a photo op and to walk the dogs. We are back at the campground getting ready for a long day of driving tomorrow to Alaska. At the time of typing, I am being harassed by TONS of small black flies. Probably the only thing we could do without around here!

    If your interested in more photos, Jest has been sharing on his twitter; twitter.com/jestdempsey
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  • Day5

    Bigger Than Life: Yukon

    July 26, 2016 in Canada

    The day started again on the Stewart/ Cassiar highway. Again we did not see much on that road. We attempted at finding some ghost towns documented online, wihtout much success. The only trace of those we seen was a large pile of asbestos where the old Town of Cassiar lays. We had planned to stop at the border of the Yukon for the night, but decided to venture all the way to the Whitehorse area instead.

    Imagine the best scene from a childhood mountain trip. I remember when I visited Banff for the first time and it was an incredible scene, a memory that sticks forever. Well, the Yukon was like that over and over, possibly not as grand as some Rocky Mountains, but a continuously natural beauty, km after km.

    The Yukon roads are okay, somewhere between Saskatchewan & Alberta.

    Our first stop in the Yukon was the Rancherio Falls. Nice short boardwalk hike that led us to two waterfalls. The dogs got quite excited to get out of the car, but that was unfortunately not our final destination for the day.

    We then have hit a campground just east of Whitehorse where we will stay a couple days. We are going to check out many local sites for the next days before crossing the border to Alaska.

    Wildlife today; moose, ravens, rabbit. No where near the excitement of the bear cubs and wolf, but still pretty cool.

    Travelling with Stevie Nicks and Charles has been a lot of fun! It hasbeen hard to gauge their excitement, but we think they like it. Charles loves the car ride and hates the camp fire experience, SN the opposite. We quickly realize how much she is scared of metal bridge. Pretty funny to watch. So far both have been great road trip dogs and we are finding some cool dog spots along the way.

    Camping in the Yukon is pretty cool. Nights are $10-12 and come with unlimited free firewood. Local Yukon residents even stay for free. In contrast, BC was about $22/Night with $8 "bundles" of wood. The Yukon is a steal of a camping deal. Lots of little flies, but I guess we will have yo put up with them.

    We have seen way more American plated vehicles up here, and not many other provinces, would seem that we are not the only ones #DestinationAlaska.
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  • Day4

    Northbound: Great Northern BC

    July 25, 2016 in Canada

    After a pretty great camping experience, we headed another 7.5 hours North West.

    Today, like the last 2, we saw some pretty spectacular sites, many with rich Canadian history.

    Soon after our departure, we spotted a massive mountain called the Hudsons Bay Mountain- a grand site. The mountain had it all. Glacier, green, and red earth.

    Our first stop was quick - we spotted a pretty cool canyon and waterfall in Moricetown! (Photo attached)

    We headed west to a town called Hazelton- a town rich in history, including that of The Northwest Company & The Hudson's Bay Company. This town was a pivotal trading area during the gold rush era, full of aboriginal heritage and amazing totem poles. Today Hazelton (now refered to as Old Hazelton) is a charming heritage site that lives in the past to welcome tourists.

    Just miles away from the old site and across a one way traffic vehicle suspension bridge is New Hazelton. New Hazelton was not all exciting but did have some spectacular mountain views.

    After a quick lunch on a cliff site, we headed north on the Stewart/Cassiar highway! When the term "road less travelled" is used - this road has got to be the original source. In 300 KM's we saw 0 towns, 1 gas stations and only a handful of other automobiles.

    Today we got a cool glimpse of the BC wildlife - we had a deer cross the highway in front of us, we saw several bald eagles flying overhead and just when we thought the area was souless and a little further up the highway of an impressive site, a wolf crossed the road in front of the car, completely unphased by our presence.

    Another hundred KM's north, we saw two bear cubs playing on the side of the highway. We had to turn around and watch them play for about 5 minutes before they headed back to mom. There wasn't another car on the road during these moments - it was very cool and felt like we had the world to ourselves.

    Tonight we are staying at a beautiful campground called Kanaskin Lake Provincial Park, just miles east of Alaska.
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  • Day3

    It's only day two but it feels like we've been on this road trip for a few more than that.

    We were sad to say goodbye to the Shuswap region this morning, but excited to get the northern BC leg of this trip underway.

    Today consisted of mostly driving with many stops along the way.

    Stops like Fort Alexandria & Fort Fraser.

    Both stops have strong links to the Northwest Company, and the Hudson's Bay Company, pre-merger.

    The Hudson's Bay Co took over the Northwest Co in the late 1800's. The areas we saw today have everything to do with the Cariboo Gold Rush of the 1860's. The Cariboo Rush was the largest British Columbia gold rush and some say it's this very rush that built BC. Even the roads and towns we experienced have everything to do with that very gold boom.

    Finally we stopped at Fraser Lake (Beaumont Provincial Park) for the night - great campground and beach/lake- even a beach for the dogs. Fraser lake is also the site of Fort Fraser, which included a standing barn built by the Hudson's Bay Company in the late 1800's (See Photo)

    The drive today was another 7 hours and 700+ km's.

    Its not just about reaching #DestinationAlaska for us, it's about all the moments experienced along the way.

    Its unlikely we will post again until the Yukon (Day #4), as we have no cell service past this point.

    ...time to go off grid completely.
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  • Day1

    Rest & Relaxation: Blind Bay, BC

    July 22, 2016 in Canada

    Earlier today, leaving Red Deer on Highway II, we saw a sign, an Alaska themed semi.

    The first stop is at our friends Trent & Melissa's. They have this awesome cabin in Blind Bay. This is the 4th year Jest has been visiting over the summer, and year 2 for Marilou. The cabin is on the Shuswap Lake near Salmon Arm, BC.

    Incredibly in Marilou's new car we used just $40 in gas to get from Red Deer to Blind Bay. 700KM/7.5 hours of almost all mountain driving.

    The dogs were pretty excited to get out of the car and see the kids. They already went for a dip tonight, and tried the SUP board with Trent & Melissa's daughter, Avery.

    This area is similar to the wine region of California! Beautiful Rocky hills, vineyards and plenty of winery's for Marilou to take in. This is Canada's fruit region as well- the Okanagan is home to the best tasting cherries, apples, grapes, blueberries, peaches & more. And they are ripe right and ready now.

    We're here until Sunday.

    Swimming, bonfires and skipping rocks are planned.
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  • Day1

    Almost Ready! Red Deer, AB

    July 22, 2016 in Canada

    One last half-day of work and we are ready to hit the road! We will be enjoying a full 2 weeks of holidays with our 2 little dogs during which we will venture all the way up to Seward (Anchorage), Alaska. First stop for the weekend: Blind Bay at the Shuswap, BC!

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