Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dawson City -- Part II

What We Would Have Missed!!

It would have been a shame to have missed Dawson City!!  As previously reported, we were concerned, and rightfully so, about taking our motorhomes across The Top of the World Highway to get there.  The alternative was to drive from Tok, Alaska, down the Alaska Highway to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and then north some 300 miles to Dawson City--making a round trip from Whitehorse (which is on the Alaska Highway, which we needed to travel!) about 700 miles.  Most likely, we would have said, "Nah, let's pass on Dawson City!".  I think all of us would say, "What a miss that would have been!"

As I mentioned in Dawson City -- Part I, we arrived on the Wednesday just as this little village's biggest celebration of the summer was kicking off!  Called Discovery Days, it celebrates the discovery of gold near here in 1896 which set off the Klondike Gold Rush!  We lucked out, as I said, and got into a campground in the heart of town for the whole weekend.  This entire odyssey has been like that--show up somewhere, not knowing what is going on, and falling into a neat "happening"!  And then there is the weather:  we have had lots of inclement weather, but if we need a good weather day to do something, the skies clear and the sun shines, and we "LUCK OUT"!

There were scheduled events going on from Thursday through Sunday.  We walked down to the Visitors Center on Thursday morning, got the agenda, and picked out our "must dos"!  There were lots of them, including the walk along Eight Avenue--the "highest" and last avenue up from the river--which is called Authors' Avenue.  Two famous authors had cabins there just a block or so apart--Jack London and Robert Service.  So, did you read "Call of the Wild"?  Sure enough, we had to go up for the walk along Authors Avenue!

We walked a lot "downtown".  Great restorations have taken many of the old period buildings are now back as they were.  Here is one...famous or infamous, as you may decide!  It is the local gambling hall and "ladies of the night" place...not sure the second part is still in business, but it is a through-back!

In the parade which there is more to follow, here are the dancing girls from Gerties riding on a fire truck...seems appropriate, eh??

Jack, Betty, Tam and Ray recognized the girls!  They went to the show at Diamond Gerties one evening while Ritchie stayed home to work on his computer.  The report?  The little bit heavy lady in the passenger seat sang, and the four girls kicked up their heels.  As someone commented, "Not much"--Betty, was that you??  Jack, of course, had been big on saying the guys should go to the 12:30 show--that's a.m., folks!--because it "got really racy then!".  NOT TO BE!  Ain't one soul in the Alaska Odyssey awake at 12:00 a.m. to walk downtown a few blocks for a racy can-can show!

The Rivers Merge!

A bit of geology and history:  the YUKON River runs from the mountains above Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, 2000 miles north and west to the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska.  It is navigable from above Whitehorse all the way to the ocean.  Hence, it's importance during the Klondike Gold Rush.  Especially since the Klondike River empties into the Yukon at Dawson City!  And it was just up the Klondike that gold was found in 1896!

The Yukon River comes from the top; the Klondike River comes in from the left.  Dawson City is in the foreground

"Stampeders",  as they called, rushed up to the Yukon Territory by the thousands in 1898 in search of their fortunes in gold.  This was because news of the gold discovery didn't make "the Press" in the Lower 48 until 1897 when the first gold bars from the Klondike arrived in Seattle and San Francisco in July of that year.  The "Gold Crazies" rushed up to Alaska anyway they could.  They came mostly into Skagway, then on foot north across the Chilkoot Trail, down to the Yukon River, to Whitehorse, and then to Dawson City where the gold was--supposedly!  Since its discovery in 1896, most of the land around Dawson City had already been claimed by 1897, so the folks who came rushing in during 1898, left empty handed.
But Dawson City swelled from a few hundred souls to over 40,000 for a brief time.  Imagine:  1898, and your little town gets overwhelmed with thousands of outsiders!!  The pictures from that time are certainly impressive!

We did drive up the Bonanza Creek Road--on which the original gold discovery was made--and stopped at Claim #6 which now belongs to the Klondike Visitors Bureau.  You can stop, get out your gold pans, dig up some dirt from across the road, and wash out the junk to find your fortune!!  The sign there says you can only do this 3 days a month!  We wondered, "Who are the gold police that enforce this???"  There were no video cameras around that we could see, and no Police Cars came by!  Besides, we were miles up the dirt road from the highway in Klondike!  Anyway, we had left our equipment at home, meaning rubber boots and gold pans...but none of these folks in the photo were yelling, "Eureka, I've found it!", so we didn't feel like we had missed out on "digging out our gold!".

Gold panners at Claim #6, Bonanza Creek, Yukon Territory!
So, the folks in photo weren't getting much gold!  Back in the old days, that's the way it was done, but it wasn't very productive.  Come on inventors, mechanics, and innovators:  let's build a machine to do it for us!  Called the Gold Dredge--mentioned in Part I.  Here is a schematic of how mining on the Klondike River and Bonanza Creek suddenly changed!

This is Gold Dredge #6...already mentioned!  She mined a lot of Klondike Gold in her day!
This is more to come about our lovely time in Dawson City...stay tuned, and enjoy!!  Parade and Mud Blogs yet to be documented!!
All our best from the 49th State!
The Alaska Odyssey!!

1 comment:

  1. Tam,
    I still have my bucket of dirt from across the road at that site. 10 years ago and I wonder just how much is being brought in each year to satisfy the tourists. So together we'll have to pan that bucket one day and see if we can find any gold. Finders keepers, they say.