Chapter 16. Klondike Highway
(Bert) I awake at 2:45 AM and check out the night sky, looking northward from the front windshield of R-Tent-III. Like most nights, the sky is blackened by dark clouds, but this time I dimly see a play in lights behind them. Pale light, barely green, turns off and on and wanders freely behind the clouds. Hardly what I would call a good show, I almost have to use my imagination to identify this as the Aurora Borealis. I watch it for 20 min. before the night sky turns very dark again.
(Shari) Rain is coming down hard and when I suggest that we go on to Whitehorse instead of stopping at the planned territorial park, all travelers jump on the idea. We are done roughing it and want full hookups and a free day. We stop for mammoth cinnamon buns and hamburgers. Bert and I share the burger and take the cinnamon bun back to the RV where I cut it into four pieces for future snacks. Arriving in Whitehorse we are greeted by four of the couples that did not make the trip up the Dempster. They want to hear all about our trip and beg for a social. We gather outside of our rig and tell each other stories of the past six days. Bill and Ginny are not here at camp and we are surprised we did pass them on the road. Where are they, I wonder? When we finally get inside at 8 PM, I tell Bert that the days after this caravan is over sure will be boring. It seems we have something neat to do just every single day.
(Bert) Rain accompanies us almost all day, never giving the windshield wipers a rest except when we stop for breaks. The weather keeps bird sightings to a minimum, but a few memorable ones: a large flock of Sandhill Cranes and later a flock of geese, both in migration south, a few dark Red-tailed Hawks dripping wet, a quick glance at an Upland Sandpiper at the Steward River bridge, twice watching Semipalmated Plovers flying along the Klondike Highway ahead of our RV, and three American Kestrels in route. As memorable is our stop at Braeburnís for their delicious hamburgers the size of a large dinner plate and easily enough to eat even when shared 50-50.
The Klondike Highway passes through mountain forests often burned, including the 1995 fire a year before we passed through the first time and farther south the 1998 forest fire which burned during our transit that year. Now having traveled this way five times in the past 12 years, I find it interesting to observe the plant succession. The 1995 fire area shows scattered blackened spruce trunks like spindly telephone poles, yet most of the terrain is now aspen grown to eye level up to the height of R-Tent-III. No darkened ground is exposed, instead blanketed by grasses and flower-depleted fireweed. In the 1998 fire area, evidence remains in the charred and fallen trees, more bare spots and a stronger base of fireweed, with shorter aspen growing profusely. Both areas display a thriving forest and, Iím sure, bountiful wildlife which would be more evident except for the constant rain that accompanies us.
The rain discourages us from spending the night at a wet forest campground, absent of utilities, and we vote to continue on to Whitehorse, arriving by about 4 PM. All of the rest of our group is already there except Bill and Ginny who we expect to show up tomorrow. We schedule an impromptu 6 PM social and the group eagerly gathers under the RVís awning as we share stories of our individual adventures. The din of conversations and laughter gets so loud we can hardly hear each other talk. We quiet down, though, to hear the conclusion of a lost camera story that began in Dawson City over a week ago. It originated when Steve found a Pentax digital camera, with unusual features such as being able to use underwater, when we visited Dome Mountain above Dawson City. No one also visiting there claimed the camera, so Steve began his detective work by downloading the photos and stored PowerPoint presentations on to his computer. Eventually he found a name on the presentation and a motorcycle license plate on a photo. He went to the police and they were able to track the license plate and even reached the young man on the telephone, handing the receiver over to Steve. The man is a student, living in Whitehorse, and could hardly believe that Steve found his camera. Steve mailed the camera to its owner.
(Bert) After so much to fill my days in the past week, I use today to catch up on journal writing, bird checklists and downloading photos. During a bird count off I attempt to cover most of the days since our last listing before the summer break. Only a few species have been added, but many of us have enjoyed getting much better looks at the elusive ones we missed earlier. In the evening we gather for carpooling into Whitehorse for the Frantic Follies show. Shari and I have seen this five times and the show varies little from year to year, yet I always am entertained by the performance which Iíd rank as the best in Alaska and the Yukon.
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