Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Awesome Dawson City

We as soon as we pulled off the ferry (The Top of the World Highway ends with a Ferry ride.) and drove onto the dirt streets of Dawson City we knew that we had found a place to explore for a few days.  Nan and I coughed up the money to stay in the neat park right in town and were glad we did.  Everything was within easy walking distance and I could continue exploring even as I was walking dogs.

Sharon/Sprinter showed up at the park the following day and agreed that the Top of the World Highway was best completed on dry sunny days.   She again spent some of her time keeping the dogs company as they walked us both around town. 

But back to our arrival in Dawson really is a slice of old Alaska.   While walking around the second day and touring the author's cabins,  I mentioned to the one young house guide what nice views they had sitting back up on the hill at 8th street.  The young woman stated that in its glorious gold rush days Dawson CIty extended on up the hill to about 18th street.  You can look up the mountain as of today and there is only wilderness.

The town grew quickly with the discovery of gold but steam driven equipmet soon followed and by the end of that first decade of the century there was no land left to place a claim on and the small claims had all been bought up be the larger companies and the steam powered equipment did not require the man power.  Folks were out of work and out of luck.  It cost most men more a day to live in Dawson City that the companies paid per day.

Walking through the railroad museum that same fate was apparent as it hit the railroad. The company  struggled to build the line up to Dawson and just knew all the supplies and passengers that would need to be hauled into and out of there.  It was only a few years later that they to closed the railroad down by about 1914 for lack of profit. There was no longer folks or supplied streaming into the city.     The engines on display looked neat though.  They had collected all the original engines except Engine #4.  Old engine #4 was tracked down having a second, third, and forth life running trains in various amusement parks around the country and now lives in some shed in Oklahoma.  I think he would rather be back in Alaska.

I mentioned on Facebook that Nan and I took the free boat ride up the river to visit the sight of a First Nations Gathering that they call Moosehide.   It was more like a great family reunion than the flashy Pow Wows that I have seen pictures of down in the lower 48.   The faces were genuine and some spoke volumes of their experiences.  We opted not to go to the feast and dancing on the evening that we drove in.  We admit it. We were tired from the drive but we did head out to at least see the location.

Nan had to point out a couple of times that I seem to be walking down the middle of the street as we explored. Well it wasn't as if traffic was a problem and you could see more...or so that was my excuse.

Some of the restored store fronts. 

The sweet ride that  took us up river to the Moosehide in the morning. We were the only passengers on the early ride up.

One of the reasons the chief moved his people up to the site back in 1896 was to move away from the influx of people flooding in to Dawson City for the gold rush and the saloons and all that came with that.

The school.

To the left of the school I saw the metal dish washing stand that must have been a busy place the night before. The clear containers sitting on the ground to the left are filled with dishes and bowls and cups.

Nan and I walked up the hill and walked through the old cemetery. Some of the graves were marked and many were not but small plaques lined the fence with names and dates.  The history of who was buried in the area was known just not where.....  Many died very young.

Folks were lining up for breakfast. Others were beginning to pack up their tents. This was the last day of the gathering.  You could over hear conversations about the dancing and the young kids that caused trouble late last night after hours.  Sounds like a family gathering to me.

The ceremonial fire was tended by those in charge. No one else was to put wood on it. At the end of the gathering the fire is allowed to go out on its own.

One of the tents was filled with pictures and quotes regarding the heritage of the First Nation People  and their connection with the land.  As you read the quotes below...notice anything?

It also helps if you know that Robert Service is a famous writer and poet of the Yukon and Alaskan areas. He is not a native.  He is known for writing popular stories of the gold rush time.  And if you see his picture he thought quite highly of himself.  He was a famous man who thought to share his great knowledge of this wilderness with us....  Only apparently he didn't really know the area he was writing about as well as he might have....but he didn't look like being humble was his way.

The board below explains the origins of the Moosehide Village.  In a later picture you can see how the slide stands out dramatically from the streets in Dawson City.

Many of the buildings in  Dawson City have signs to let you know what they used to be.  I just like the way this one had been added on to through the years.

These building were left in their current shape and not rehabbed to demonstrate what happens when buildings were built on the ever moving permafrost without good supports.

Just another small home on one of the side streets.

In walking through the museums I saw several old photographs from the early 1900's that was taken looking down this same street. The "Moosehide" slide is recognizable even if the horses and wagons are gone.

And when people talk about mining for gold and talk about the steam dredges and the amount of earth that got moved in the rivers of the Yukon and Alaska just try and use your imagination as to the effect that had on much of the land.  This is a picture from one of the museums.  The land we see now has mostly been reclaimed but there are still areas that you can drive past and see the giant snaking piles of gravel.

Look, his cabin is smaller than some of our RV's.  And I like our plumbing better.

And while we are on the topic of bikes....apparently early gold miners also tried to take bikes over some of those gold rush trails...there was one picture showing a mule pulling a sled and then the two bikes that were roped behind the sled....  I do want to say that if anyone has doubts about taking an RV and driving through Alaska, you need to know how many cyclists that all of us have passed all summer long.  It didn't matter which highway we were driving. It didn't matter what the weather was there were hardy souls out peddling their bikes.  Some would pull small trailers while others were loaded with front and rear saddle bags.   We would meet them at campgrounds where they would express gratitude just to find a shelter to pitch their tent under...usually this was when it was raining.   One young woman said that you could get pretty chilly in the rain coming down hill but as soon as you headed back up the next hill you would be sure to warm up again. 

Stuart was not impressed when I showed him what a working dog might have to do.

The front porch and steps of author Robert Service's cabin in Dawson City.

Service's cabin was a two room delux spa compared to cabin that Jack London inhabited.   But then Service's picture showed a gentleman who probably didn't really like to get messy.

Enough of this "Blah, blah, blah" stuff.  More pictures later as the internet permits.  Wait until you see Haines!


  1. I would be afraid a bear might look at someone on a bicycle and think meals on wheels. lol

  2. Too funny Martha. Sounds like Dawson City was a very interesting place to visit. Too bad you didn't get to go to the Pow Wow while it was more active but you still got to see the whole set up. Great pictures.