Miss our adventures in Tombstone Provincial Park (Yukon), Dawson City (Yukon), Kluane National Park (Yukon), or backcountry hiking? Not see my escapade on the side of the mountain? Overlook the time we watched three grizzlies fishing or visited Skagway? Check out parts 1-7 of the Klondike road trip at the links!
WE DID IT. We made it to the last installment of the Klondike Road Trip, only a mere 7 posts and five and a half months later. Cue the celebration!
Tough crowd. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the conclusion to our epic road trip through the Klondike (Yukon and Alaska) took us back to where it all started: Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory. Whitehorse is set in a valley along the Yukon River and is the jumping off point for most visitors. That’s because it’s the only city in the Yukon and therefore has the only “major” airport, but just because it’s a jumping off point doesn’t mean it’s not worth spending time there.
We got there by driving from Skagway, Alaska, the last leg of our two-week long road trip. The highway took us through stark mountain ranges where we passed by brightly hued lakes on our right and massive boulder-slides on our left (“rockslides” isn’t giving justice to the size of these bad boys). Along the way, as we neared Whitehorse, we stopped at the world’s smallest desert in Carcross. That’s right; there’s a one-square mile desert in Canada. Like, actual dunes and desert vegetation. Being only one square mile, there’s not much to see, but it’s worth a stop just to say you’ve been to the world’s smallest desert…that’s in Canada.
We got to Whitehorse mid-day and had lunch at one of the few restaurants that hadn’t closed for the season, the Burnt Toast Café. Fortunately for us, it happened to be one of the best restaurants in town. And I’m not just saying that because we had eaten freeze-dried food, Clif bars, and fish ‘n chips for the past two weeks. The food was really good, and my body practically started weeping in gratitude for finally being given some vegetables.
Even though Whitehorse is considered a “city”, and unlike other towns in the Yukon has a Wal-mart, Starbucks, and fast-food chains, it still has a small-town feel in its downtown. There are some great locally owned shops, like the eclectic souvenir store The Collective Good. Not just a place for magnets and coffee mugs, this shop has some great items from local artists and Yukon-themed apparel only found at the store.
Like every city we visit, we made it a point to check out Whitehorse’s craft beer scene and visited the Winterlong Brewing Company and Yukon Brewing taprooms. Winterlong is most definitely off the beaten path in what I can only describe as a “rural industrial area”, but it’s worth the trek to have their Weekend Warrior IPA under a heat lamp in the outdoor seating area. They also have two Russian Imperial stouts called Erebus and Terror, named after the ships that were part of the doomed Franklin Expedition. As someone who’s read books about it (and watched the AMC show), my inner nerd was delighted. But not delighted enough to have a 10% ABV beer early in the afternoon.
Because it’s a larger brewery, the taproom in Yukon Brewing felt more like one you’d find in a bigger city like Toronto: a sleek space with some great merch. And great beer, obvs. We stepped away from our IPA island and both gave their seasonal pumpkin spice beer a go. For non-beer lovers, they also have an on-site distillery but we weren’t looking to take down any gin cocktails at 2pm. We’re no heroes.
Our last craft beer stop in Whitehorse was the Woodcutter’s Blanket, an historic log building whose entrance is adorned with two huge wooden moose, fighting with their antlers locked. Although it feels like a bar/restaurant, there’s a brewery on site. Given the building is essentially a log cabin, the inside feels deceptively modern and there’s ceviche on the menu right next to the pickled eggs. It’s a super cool atmosphere and probably my favorite brewery space in Whitehorse.
We didn’t spend all of our Whitehorse time on a bar stool, I swear. We also drove 30 minutes outside of the city to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. We took the hilly 5km walking trail around the property and just marveled at all the examples of Yukon wildlife. There were dozens of mule deer sitting so still in the grass that they looked fake, a bull moose lying so close to the fence that you could see the flies buzzing around his head, and a cow moose trying to stick her neck over the top of the fence to get our attention. We could see mountain goats way high up in the hills and as close as five feet from us. There was this group of thin-horned sheep where they seemed to pile on one another and a muskox (Elliot said I was being mean b/c I said it was an ugly animal) munching on some grass right next to us. There were cute little arctic foxes, one black “red fox” that only had three legs, a herd of buffalo lounging in the pasture, and a Canada lynx that blended so well into its surroundings that it took us awhile to find it. We also learned that caribou and reindeer are the SAME SPECIES. They’re just called caribou in North America and reindeer in Europe! Mind: BLOWN.
Even though it was the end of September, the weather was still warm enough to make it a perfect day for walking around and viewing wildlife. We had seen plenty of animals in the wild on this trip, but it was no less mind-blowing to view even more.
After the wildlife preserve, we had to quickly come back to reality and wash and pack all of our camping gear. That meant hosing down our muddy boots in the hotel bathtub (and then cleaning the tub b/c I felt guilty leaving it for the maid), making sure our hatchet and Rambo knife were in our checked luggage so we wouldn’t get arrested at airport security, and playing Tetris with our two bags to somehow fit in all of our camping shit. After somehow getting everything into bags, we loaded up the Ford Expedition that had been our noble steed for the past two weeks, and made our way to the Whitehorse Airport and, ultimately, reality. Okay, not really because we still were going to spend some quality time with our friend, Jessie, in Vancouver.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: road trips are the best kinds of trips. You have the flexibility to see what you want, when you want, you encounter things that you wouldn’t if you were just taking flights (like bull moose fighting in a valley), and you get to spend quality time with your travel buddy (in my case, my hubby). Our road trip through the Yukon and Alaska gave us wildlife, Mother Nature at her finest, great food, and life lessons. Even if you don’t strike gold in the Klondike, a visit there will make you feel like you’ve found treasure…
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