Monday, 4 September 2006, Tetsa River Regional Park, BC
We have found some warmer weather, although still not t-shirt weather for Juergen, so we are still on the quest. The overnight minimum here was only 11°, but the pay-off is that it is fully dark by 9.00 - just when I was getting used to those long evenings!
On Friday we continued down the Alaska Highway, 20km from Whitehorse to the intersection with the South Klondike Highway. This highway runs about 100 miles down to Skagway, which is pretty close to Haines (where we were about a month ago) on the northern end of Lynn Canal - it is in fact only 13 miles by water from Haines, but it is 359 miles by road! Although the road to Skagway, through the White Pass, is supposed to be very scenic we decided to drive just as far as Carcross and then back to the Alaska Highway through Tagish. We were just a few kilometres down the road and it started to rain. The road passes by many large lakes and between tall mountains - unfortunately we could barely see the former and the latter were completely shrouded in cloud! We stopped at the Carcross Desert - the world's smallest desert, and it was raining so hard that the only photos were taken out of the truck window.
We drove the couple of kilometres into the historic town of Carcross. This was the place where the construction crews of the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad from Skagway to Whitehorse met and laid the final rail. The railroad was built between 1898 and 1900 during the gold rush to service the miners travelling from Skagway to Whitehorse. They would arrive by boat in Skagway and then travel on from Whitehorse by riverboat. As it was still raining heavily we drove around the town, took some photos from the truck and then drove on. The rain followed us back to the Alaska Highway and south. I am sure that on a clear, sunny day this detour would really be worth it. Or wait until next year when the railroad will begin to run again all the way to Whitehorse. At the moment it is possible to take a trip by train about an hour out of Skagway, but no further.
About 80 km down the Highway we finally stopped at Teslin Lake Campground, just outside the small town of Teslin. The rain hadn't stopped but it had reduced to a drizzle. On Saturday morning we had planned to stop in Teslin to visit the George Johnston Museum, but unfortunately it was closed. We are not sure if that was because it was Saturday, or because it is closed for the season, but most of Teslin seemed to be closed. Along the road we are noticing more and more roadside visitor facilities - motels, campgrounds, service stations - that are boarded up and show closed signs. Evidently the first weekend in September marks the end of the tourist season here. Those that are not already closed will probably be so by the end of the month.
About 40 km before Watson Lake the Highway crosses the Continental Divide, which divides the drainage systems of North America. In this area the rivers to the west mostly drain into the Yukon River and eventually into the Bering Sea (Pacific Ocean), and the rivers to the east drain north into the Beaufort Sea (Arctic Ocean).
Just outside Watson Lake we stopped to photograph the rock messages alongside the road. These had been very common along the Alaska Highway but we had never stopped to photograph them before. Travellers, or locals, have taken the time to spell out messages on embankments beside the road using large rocks. We had seen more impressive ones - for example, white rocks used on a grey rock background - but this particular site was certainly the most prolific, with hundreds of messages covering several kilometres of roadside. According to the 'bible' they were begun in 1990 by a swim team from Fort Nelson.
In Watson Lake, the most amazing thing is the Signpost Forest at the visitor centre. It was started by a US Army soldier in 1942 when he was working on the Alaska Highway. He was recuperating at Watson Lake and had been asked to repaint the signposts - he decided to add a signpost to his home town. Since that time people have been adding to the signposts, and there are signs from all over the world. I found it quite overwhelming - currently they estimate having more than 50000 signs. We added our own evidence of having passed this point.
On the outskirts of Watson Lake, we crossed out of the Yukon into British Columbia for the last time. We weren't sorry to leave the cold weather behind, but the Yukon had certainly given us a lot of great sights to remember and the people were, for the most part, open, relaxed, friendly and helpful.
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