Northern Lights

Trip Start Jun 01, 2009
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Trip End Sep 22, 2009


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Flag of Canada  , Yukon,
Thursday, August 13, 2009

August 11, 2009 (Tuesday) - Whitehorse, YK (162 miles)



First things first:  Yesterday was my grandson's eleventh birthday so here’s a special "Happy Birthday, Brandon" from Whitehorse, in the Yukon.  We love you and can’t wait to stop and visit on our way home.

The trip into Whitehorse was fine….rather uneventful other than we kept playing leapfrog with the folks from Kentucky we had met at Cottonwood.  We’d stop at a point of interest and they would pass us; then they would stop and we passed them.  Unfortunately, we weren’t staying in the same RV park but the couple from California were there.  No more great “happy hours” but we did visit between rain showers

In Whitehorse, we decided to split up so Nitchie wouldn’t have to take drugs.  Wendell wanted to visit the Transportation Museum and I did not, and I wanted to go to the Beringia Interpretive Centre and he did not.  So on our first full day, he did his thing while I had some “personal” time.  The following day I went to the Centre.  Although it is fairly small, there were several good displays and two short films.  What is Beringia? Between two continents on the edge of the Arctic lay the ancient place called Beringia. It was a land of ice, giant mammals and the First People of North America.  During each Ice Age, glaciers formed in the Northern Hemisphere, locking up much of the world's water as ice. Global sea levels dropped as much as 100 - 150 meters as a result, revealing the floor of the Bering Sea and creating a land connection between Alaska and Siberia. This land bridge was part of a larger unglaciated area called Beringia.  Much excavation in the Yukon and Alaska has yielded excellent specimens of many of the animals including the Wooly Mammoth, the Musk Ox, the Short-face Bear and several varieties of sheep, including Dahl.  The last, the Dahl, has changed very little from those of centuries ago and has been one of the few species to adapt to the changed in the environment.  As the climate warmed, the grasslands which fed many animals started to change, resulting in forests and vegetation that made it difficult for many of the larger animals to navigate.  Hence, they had to move on….or die.  I’ve never had a lot of interest in paleontology, and do not buy into the alarmists touting today’s “global warming”, but the Beringia Center is definitely worth the small admission fee.  The global warming issue is handled very nicely.  In fact, I read on one of their signs that more carbon dioxide is emitted into earth’s atmosphere due to forest fires, most caused by lightning strikes, than any other one cause.  So take that, Al Gore!

August 13, 2009 (Thursday) – Watson Lake, Yukon (272 miles)

How wonderful to drive on normal roads!  We made the trip in five hours with a stop for lunch, a couple of points of interest, and one or two “relief” breaks.  We checked out another RV park as we came through town but decided to return to Campground Services.  This is the famous place where Wendell sliced his finger in 2007 and had to be stitched by a Russian doctor in the Canadian Healthcare system.  That little visit cost us $500, and our wonderful military insurance only reimbursed $180.  I guess we should just be thankful we were near a medical facility because you can drive for hours and see nothing but an occasional fuel stop…and sometimes those are closed down.  The campground has lots of tall pine trees and was not crowded.  We got a spot close to the office in order to have good Wi-Fi access so it’s a little less aesthetic than we might desire, but that was our choice.

After we arrived yesterday, I baked bread again.  The weather was a bit cool and rainy, so it was a perfect day to stay inside and cook.  I also mixed together some bran muffins to refrigerate and then I made chicken spaghetti for our dinner. My sister had given me a bottle of onion & tomato dressing that I just couldn’t see fit to put on salad.  It was a little on the sweet side, so I added some beef bouillon, a little red wine and garlic  (of course), and simmered it with some leftover grilled chicken.  Served over spaghetti, it made a delicious meal.  All the time I was doing this, Wendell worked on the computer or read…then had the nerve to tell me he was “cold”.  I suggested he get up and wash dishes, but that comment only drew a frown.

Today, we drove to the Sign Forest once again.  This time, we actually took a sign!  While at Elmendorf, Wendell went to the base hobby shop and had a sign cut and engraved.  I painted the lettering and he sprayed a coat of polyurethane to protect it from the elements.  Our sign now faces the Alaska Highway at the eastern edge of the Sign Forest.  I’m sure when you travel this way, you’ll have no problem finding it among the 65,164 other signs (official count as of September, 2008).  One of the most famous of the landmarks along the Alaska Highway, the Sign Forest, was started by a homesick GI in 1942, and is now one of the main attractions in Watson Lake, at Mile 613.  In 1942, a simple signpost pointing out the distances to various points along the tote road being built was damaged by a bulldozer. Private Carl K. Lindley, serving with the 341st Engineers, was ordered to repair the sign, and decided to personalize the job by adding a sign pointing to his home town, Danville, Illinois. Several other people added directions to their home towns, and the idea has been snowballing ever since.  The place takes up a couple of acres, with huge new panels being constantly added, snaking through the trees. There are street signs, "Welcome To..." signs, signatures on dinner plates, license plates from around the world, and other imaginative creations.  Reading the signs and messages can take you on a textual tour of the world for as long as you care to keep reading and walking. There’s even a toilet seat sign!  Today, I saw one that was a distilled vinegar bottle cut in half and penned with a permanent marker.  Another sign was a dustpan….obviously from an RV.   The Sign Forest is truly an interesting place to visit….and you’ll run into folks from all over the world.  Today, a gentleman from Australia took a photo of us beneath our sign.  Thanks, mate!

We returned to the trailer just in time to miss a rain shower.  After a quick bite of lunch (leftover chicken spaghetti), Wendell took our clothes to the laundry while I visited the Northern Lights Center.  Yes, I’ve already been there but I am so fascinated by the aurora borealis that I couldn’t stop myself.  The center has a small space exhibit but the prime attraction is the domed 100-seat theater showing Yukon’s Northern Lights.  I must tell you that I spent the most relaxing one-hour of this trip sitting on a reclining seat looking up at the magnificent display of the dancing lights.  Maybe it was the music, or the combination of the lights and music, but I truly hated to see the film end.  One of the items on my “bucket list” is to see the Aurora Borealis ….live and in person.  Perhaps I’ll get a chance when I return in October.  They are visible in Anchorage sometimes, but the weather has to be clear to see them.  That could be a problem.  It is also best to get out of the city into a low-light area to observe them.  I have a website that gives the forecast and you can bet I’ll be checking it while I’m there.

Tomorrow, we have a short drive to Laird Hot Springs.  We’ll try to get into the Provincial Park but if not, there’s a commercial RV park across the street.  Wendell thinks his back might like a dip in the hot, smelly waters of the springs.  I’ll pass; my blood pressure doesn’t like water that hot.  When we stopped in 2007, I thought I was going to cook, but it’s a very popular place for both the locals and visitors. 
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