We reached Watson Lake in Yukon Territory after driving on what can only be characterized as a really bad road. (Worried a little that this was NOT the worst we shall see, but it was the worst so far). The Cassier Highway is all paved, but very bumpy, narrow and with quite-sharp and steep dropoffs on both sides. Requires no small amount of focus – you don’t want to slip a tire onto, or G-d forbid over the edge of the pavement – that would make for a VERY bad day. Fortunately, there was very little traffic, in either direction, so most of the time I just pointed RV WHERE YET right down the middle of the highway – as best as I could tell, because the pavement was not striped.
We did see some wildlife along this highway – and some idiot tourists as well. We had been warned – the latter tend to stop, often right in the middle of the road, and jump out to take pics. We happened on a camper who had done so, but had picked a spot just over a rise, so virtually invisible from traffic coming up behind him. FORTUNATELY, the bus is high, and I could therefore JUST see the canoe on top of his camper; therefore was able to stop. And, because WE are even higher than the canoe, I was pretty sure anyone coming behind us would also be able to stop. True, there was a Bear and 2 cubs right next to the road – a GREAT photo op, but could have been a disaster quite easily.
When we reached Watson Lake, we reconnected with Steve and Kathy, who had left Stewart before us, at the “Downtown” RV Park. That is a VERY optimistic name…there is not much “Town” to be Down in. The RV “Park” part was also very optimistic. Tightest spots yet. Empty when we got there, full by late evening, everyone passing thru! We did manage to “squeeze” a small space in between our coaches for dinner al fresco – the evening was beautiful!
The “park” itself was fine – electricity and water and laundry. Wifi for 2 HOURS ONLY (tightly metered) but my cell phone actually worked and 4G LTE!!! That is pretty special, out here. Especially since Watson Lake is SOOOO remote that, according to the park proprietor, Amazon won’t deliver here! He regaled us with tales of how expensive the laundry machines were ($10K each for commercial washers) and hard to keep running because parts are hard to get (and expensive) up here.
Of course, the proprietor WAS Scottish. Now, I don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes, but the tourists that stop in the middle of the road for photo-ops are ALL GERMAN (according to the Scot). And, he was typical Scotch-Frugal. We wanted to stay ‘til 2:00pm on the day we were leaving so we could visit the Northern Lights Center. We asked if that was OK. He said, ”Sure, as long as we were UNPLUGGED.” Clearly, he did not want to provide us with a SINGLE ELECTRON that we had not paid for.
And, speaking of Amazon…I had arranged for several packages to meet us on the road. The only place we actually had a fixed reservation was Chicken, Alaska, which will be the subject of future blog post(s). The Only way to deliver there was via “General Delivery” at the Post Office. The RV Park Owner/Music Festival Promotor in Chicken gave me the email address of the Postmaster, and I cleared receipt of packages there.
The problem is, Despite CLEARLY stating USPS “GENERAL DELIVERY” in my shipping address (p.o. box 9999), Amazon chose UPS for some (not all) of the product. Which of course was returned undeliverable. The notification said it was waiting for pickup at UPS in Fairbanks, many miles and hours from our present path.
There is a service rep at Amazon (name of Alexis – no relation to Alexa, she said) who took ownership of the challenge of getting my boxes to me – She SAID she could and would. She even called it “Operation Chicken!” I almost expect to see them on the back of a dog sled, or dropped from a Water Bomber. We’ll see if it happens, somehow.
I know that the second attempt at shipping by Alexis ALSO ended up going by UPS, which AGAIN would not deliver to Chicken (and the package would again be waiting for me in Fairbanks). I called Amazon Again, and the supervisor’s response was, “That is the shipping department’s fault…not in our control!”
I said, “What do you mean, not in your control. AMAZON is you and AMAZON is your shipping department. Of COURSE it is in your control. And it is costing you a fortune and aggravating me that you are shipping and reshipping incorrectly.”
Watson Lake did have a couple things worth seeing and doing. First, and actually WORLD FAMOUS, is the SIGN POST FOREST. This is easy to describe, but hard to explain the “atmosphere.” There are 6×6 poles sunk in the ground, and THOUSANDS of hometown signs attached to them by travelers.
It started in 1942, when a lonely GI, in Watson Lake during construction of the ALCAN Highway, put up a sign with the distance to his hometown. Since then, many who travel THROUGH Watson Lake (no one EVER travelled TO Watson Lake) have left a sign of THEIR hometown.
|It is so unexpected and quirky – we just sat in this park “feeling” the energy from all those marks left by all those travelers.|
At one point, Liz asked, “I wonder if any of our Bluebird Friends left a sign on their way thru…” At that moment, I looked up, and there was a “WANDERLODGE OWNERS GROUP” Plaque right above us. How I spotted that, and at that moment, in the sea of signs is inexplicable.
We posted an inquiry about the Bluebird Sign, and Randy Dupree fessed up…they had passed thru with a small caravan of Bluebirdbrains and the group had placed it in 2015! He said when they were here, the roads flooded both in and out of Watson Lake and they were stuck there for 4 days. Which was not too bad, he said, because there were a bunch of fellow travellers also stuck, and they had an impromptu good time involving amateur theatre.
I am sure there is more to that story – next time we see you, Randy, I want to know what part YOU played!!
Anyway, we did NOT have that issue (either flooding OR amateur theatre; we did have the good time part!). There are big fires not far away, and the locals were VERY worried about the coming fire season. It was already dry and burning during the spring “wet” time.
The other thing-worth-seeing is the Aurora Science Center. This is a museum/exhibit/tourist trap featuring everything you ever wanted to know about the Aurora Borealis, which is something we HOPE to see this summer, but are beginning to understand will likely not. The center, OF COURSE, was closed on the Sunday we were in Watson Lake, but we made a collective decision to delay our departure until 2:00PM the next day. After all, because it does not get dark at all, the sun not even setting until after midnight, arriving a bit later than usual at our next stopping point (wherever that is) is of little consequence.
I guess I intellectually understood the whole “endless daylight” thing…
The ASC did not disappoint – two spectacular IMAX movies on the Aurora, putting into context what we hope to see someday. I say “someday” because it is clear we are NOT going to see it this summer! At 2:00AM I opened my eyes in Teslin, Yukon Territory, and discovered it was still quite light outside. I guess I intellectually understood the whole “endless daylight” thing, but this really brought it home. Teslin IS at 60.1676 degrees North Latitude, after all! Fortunately, the sleeping area in the bus is fairly dark with tinted windows and blinds, so I had not really realized the scope of lightness we are living in. “Someday” for Aurora purposes will necessarily be in the wintertime, when we will plan to return NOT in the bus and in MUCH WARMER CLOTHES!!
The CRUSH of disgorged passengers promised to be excruciating or invigorating
Leaving Watson Lake, Steve and Kathy and Los Harris again decided to diverge. Liz and I wanted to go to Skagway DESPITE the expected 5 cruise ships in the harbor the days we would be there. The CRUSH of disengorged passengers promised to be excruciating or invigorating (we had been warned about this, actually, by someone staying across from us at a park along the way), depending on one’s perspective. Steve’s was clear: He wanted no part of this; preferring a root canal, I believe he said.
Part of me agreed, but Liz and I decided to go anyway to learn a bit of history and enjoy the pandemonium. This whole “not seeing anyone for miles and days” up here is wearing on us urban (if not urbane) creatures. Besides, our friends, the Mitchells (of Margarita fame on these pages) had recommended nearby Chilkoot for hiking and rafting. We decided to meet back up with the Enfingers in Whitehorse a few days down the road.