Chapter 9. Yukon Territory
© Bert & Shari Frenz, 2002 All rights reserved.
(Shari) Oh my, the alarm rings at 5 AM and I am out of the bedroom with teeth brushed before I realize I got up an hour early. No way should I go back to sleep if I want to feel perky when we leave in 90 minutes. So I treat myself to a rare cup of percolated Starbuck's coffee and keep watch over the campground. The sun is high in the sky already and looks like an 8 AM position to me. Two men are walking their dogs and soon I hear Wally rummaging around outside. We leave promptly at 6:30 because we want to get past the rough narrow road before we meet any oncoming traffic. I have prepared the group for the worst. In 1996, Bert and I almost had a divorce over this road and when we reached the U.S./Canada border 40 miles distant, I could not get out of the motor home fast enough and as I slammed the door, I said "I am never coming to Alaska again." Obviously I did not keep my word, and I only relate this story to underline the ghastly road conditions. However, someone on this caravan lives a charmed life. Apparently the road grater went through yesterday and the road is extremely smooth. The sky hardly has a cloud and we observe the full benefit of the beauty of this road. Beyond the Eagle cutoff, it is called Top-of-the-World Highway for a reason. After paying our dues, so to speak, the road smoothes out and we are afforded a spectacular view. Every time I take this road I marvel at the distance I can see and the nine layers of mountains in shades of blues that surround me. The trip is only marred by the fact that David detects an electrical smell in his coach. After stopping, the men gather around his motor home, poking at wires and sniffing the motor. Finally Wally diagnoses the problem as an auxiliary fan that is malfunctioning. The solution to the problem is not to turn the fan on. Simple enough. After dinner Bert and I walk to a gambling saloon. Previous wagonmasters have told me that the show there is terrific and we are not disappointed. PLUS, I win $10 on the slot machines before the show starts. Well really, I netted about $7, but hey. We have front row seats and the dance hall girls embarrass the men in the audience, including Bert. I love it!
(Bert) You might think that Fireweed derives its name from the intense reddish pink of its blossoms, spiraling up the tall stem like a flame lapping a dead tree trunk. In Alaska and the Yukon, the sun loving Common Fireweed typically is relegated to the roadsides, living on the edge of boreal forests. On our way to Whitehorse this afternoon we are just north of Fox Lake. We passed this way on August 4, 1998, and I wrote in my journal, "Near Fox Lake we encounter a more recent fire: blackened trees stuck in a sea of glossy mud. Patches of short grass appear like golf greens in a black fairway. In the distance the mountains are hazy and in a couple spots curls of smoke ascend." How different this looks today. After fire comes Fireweed. Here we learn the real derivation of the name "Fireweed," for the mountains are blanketed in the pink colors of this flower. For twenty miles we drive beside distant mountainsides clothed in billions of flowers. I have never seen so many flowers. The pink glow surrounds us for miles. Now no longer restricted to the roadsides, the Fireweed infests all of the land once covered by spruce, hiding the gray ash and the black char in festive pink. Only the remnant blackened spruce trunks add contrast to the vibrantly colored mountains. Out of death comes abundant life.
Next Chapter Table of Contents