Backroads of Dawson

My friend Nathalie is currently in vacation mode with a lot of time off AND she has a 4×4, high clearance vehicle perfect for driving on washboard routes. So, she has been very content over the past two days to show me some of the far reaches of the Dawson area that she discovered over the course of her winter here.

Our adventure started last night, with a bit of a tangent. We went out just before 9 and spent so long trying to decide what we wanted for dinner that our only inexpensive option wound up being the casino. The dining choices in summer-time Dawson are incredible! We didn’t realise just how big the variety is until we started the whole “Greek?” “Nah. Italian?” “Nah. Fish and chips?” routine. We wound up getting pizza at the casino and then sharing a veggie dog from the hot dog cart. 🙂

We left Gerties just before the 10:30 show because we were in a talkative mood. Nathalie suggested we hop on the ferry so she could show me the location of west Dawson and Sunnydale, two neighbours on the other side of the Yukon River where homes are 100% self-sufficient. She and I are sort of interested in buying property in the area and have pretty much narrowed our options to west Dawson, so we also spent some time looking for and at empty lots.

West Dawson feels like a remote suburb–houses are fairly close together but there is quite a bit of tree coverage for privacy. Sunnydale, though, is isolated. Roads are maintained in west Dawson so folks can go to town in their vehicles in the winter via the ice bridge, but Sunnydale residents rely on snowmobiles and dog sleds. There are a few businesses on that side of the river, including a kennel and the Top of the World golf course, but otherwise it’s still almost pristine wilderness.

Let me pause here to get back to the buying property topic since I know that raised a few eyebrows. I’m entertaining the idea of buying a small chunk of property that I won’t need to build on just to have a physical address of my own to firmly establish my ties to Canada and Yukon. I would like for it to be RV accessible so that I could use it as an RV pad. I started to think about this last year, and the idea continues to grow on me. If I choose to buy in Dawson, the time to do so is now as prices are starting to sky rocket. This is still very much a project written in sand.

Today, we were going to go gold panning again, but decided instead to check out the gold fields route. I will come back to this route in greater detail when we go again since today was really a scouting mission with no time for pictures. As a teaser, I will say that this route has you climb up so high above the Dawson valley that rivers were still choked with ice and there was several feet of snow in places even though the mercury was at over 30 degrees!

I can’t get over how big this country is, country in terms of the wilderness expanses. There is just green as far as you can see with a swath of golden road cutting through it. I have to say it–it’s like driving on the yellow brick road through the Emerald City!

We’d been driving for over an hour when I started to get concerned about returning to work on time. The landscape was always the same and we hadn’t seemed to make any progress, so I was happy when Nathalie recognized a landmark and told me we were 45 minutes out, giving us an at home ETA that would give me a half hour to spare.

Throughout our drive, Nathalie shared her tales of life in winter Dawson and told me about a really colourful local character. I may come back to him if I get to meet him and he agrees to give me a formal interview. He officially made life in Dawson feel like a novel. 😀

In other news, the weather is HOT and DRY and SMOKY. The fire season is almost a month early this year and it promises to be a bad one. Anyone heading north better keep on top of road closures. A very bad fire just west of Tok closed the road between Tok and Fairbanks and nearly took out a full community. Meanwhile on the 40km up the Dempster highway a huge fire broke out today and will most likely close down that road within a few days. Interestingly enough, it’s the same customers who complain that we’re in a territory-wide fire ban (What, no fire pits?! You guys suck!) who also complain that there is poor visibility on the Top of the World and Dempster Highways. *shakes head*

It’s been a couple of full days and I can’t believe that we’re about to roar into June!

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