We had read about how the yukon territory has 10x more wildlife (bears, moose, goats, wolves, caribou, sheep) than people… but somehow the ridiculous number of wildlife sightings we were having in northern BC mostly plummeted when we entered the Yukon.
The territory is epic beautiful and untouched…we loved the vistas and views we saw along the drive- but somehow the wildlife viewings dropped off. Our personal theory is that its related to the nature itself. In BC the width of the path cut for the highway is quite wide on either side of the highway and most of our sightings have been animals hanging out/grazing in that space. In the Yukon the forests literally come right up to the high on both sides…meaning very little grazing space for wildlife. In most cases- if we had stumbled upon large animals they would have literally standing in the middle of the road (and we probably would be wishing we hadn’t seen them at all).
We stopped briefly in Watson Lake just across the line and walked through the signpost forest. We aren’t usually much for the roadside tourist trap…but man this thing is really something. What started out as a homesick soldier posting a sign from his hometown has now grown to 90k plus signs. Its otherworldly. A little kitsch, a little creative, a little strange- but its a sight to be seen. Someone also mentioned after we passed that they also have wifi…which is admittedly rare on this journey and getting moreso as we continue north.
Whitehorse was far larger and busier than we expected (or were ready for) but we needed some supplies and to restock so we hit a few stores. Jen even stopped in for a wax and a pedicure… something she planned before leaving town and has been looking for in almost every town since, but this was the first place big enough to come by without advance notice. I hit canadian tire for a fishing license because I’ve been regretting not being able to cast a line every time we camp beside the river for a night. Figured there’s only on way to (legally) solve that dilemma!
Also grabbed another jerry can for water… since we now have a fully functioning (albeit simple) water system for the first time of 6+ years living in a van. We figure we might as well be able to swap out tanks when we run low and refill less often…especially given the remote nature of the territories ahead. We will eventually upgrade to larger tanks like those we installed in the last ZENVANZ build…but for now it not only has us on the road and exploring…but with far more luxury than we’ve ever known before. Washing dishes in the sink, spitting after brushing your teeth, washing our faces in the morning… suffice to say we feel downright spoiled!!
Camping in the Yukon is remarkably easy. So easy we found ourselves staying a few nights at official campgrounds (which almost never happens). In the yukon all government campgrounds are already setup and designated, all unmanned, all first come first serve and all really lovely. You pay on the honor system ($12CAN per vehicle per night), there’s somehow already firewood in your camp spot when you arrive no matter what time of day that is. We assume this is some magical yukon firewood fairy because we never saw anyone actually tending to these campgrounds, but they are all clean/pristine, well maintained and awaiting you’re arrival. We couldn’t help it- we stopped.
We camped, we campfires, we actually had a good time and were thrilled to be supporting them. Then on the second night we realized that as much as we loved supporting the best campground system any state or province had come up with- that we actually still didn’t need it- or want it.
As much as we were happy to support them, we still don’t need any services and have the ability (and time) to drive/explore every unmarked road we can find and in most cases find something better than what’s in the planned campground with more nature, less people and better views- so we started opting out just like we do everywhere else. But…if you’re driving through try them out, give some money to Yukon to let them know they’re doing a pretty cool thing and then make your own choices. As you should be doing anyway…nobody reads this blog anyway. ;)
After whitehorse we would have continued on northwest to Alaska if our only goal was to stay on the alaska highway, but we instead turned north onto what they call the Klondike route (all roads here are unofficially called whatever gold rush they were built for). This route takes us north through what can really only be call turnouts but are labeled as cities on the map, and eventually to Dawson City, which used to be (in gold rush years) the largest city in the NW after seattle.
Oh how times have changed… but Dawson does have a fantastic way of making you feel like you just stepped all the way back in history and are visiting not just the capital of the gold rush but the period of time as well. We somehow stopped in during a huge music festival, so I’m certain the town is typically much slower/laid back than it was during our visit, but between the artist and produce market and a few shops in town we were able to get everything we thought we needed for a few days really off grid.
From here we turn onto the Dempster Highway, headed for the arctic ocean…and from what we’ve read, its wise to take just about everything you need with you- because you aren’t going to get it en route.