June 13 - 15
We rose very early (4:30AM) on Tuesday to catch our last ferry to Haines, which is the first Alaskan city on the mainland (all of South East Alaska is a series of islands) . From Haines, we headed north, crossed into Canada on our way to the interior of Alaska. We had planned a short trip and camped in the deserted "Million Dollar Falls" Yukon park. As we settled in to our site, Tom asked. "Where is the train?" We had been in other Canadian parks where the train system was almost in the park. So, it was natural to think there was a train with the roar and rumble we heard. No train - it was the falls. This is one of the most spectacular falls we had ever seen and it was so close to our camp, that we could walk a short distance to view it from a solidly constructed catwalk of wooden steps and viewing platforms. We really enjoyed our stay in this park and left after a leisurely breakfast of bacon and eggs.
There are few roads in this part of the world because of the mountains and the harsh weather that lasts for for a great deal of the year. The Haines Highway connects with the Alaska Highway in Haines Junction (the first town on the route), in the YukonTerritory of Canada, and is the only way to dive to the rest of Alaska. Along this beautiful stretch of road, we hit a metal object that cut a hole in one of the rear dual tires and caused it to go flat (not really since the outer tire was taking the full load). There is no cell phone service, so we knew we had to either fix it ourselves (a daunting task) or find a place at the next town. We drove slowly and made it to Haines Junction where we were fortunate to obtain a new replacement tire (ripped sidewalls are not repairable) at Source Motors Garage and Store. It was a hot (75 degrees) day in the Yukon and we had to wait until the owner (Thomas) put a set on new tires on another customer's car. We had lunch and the tire change was accomplished in 45 minutes. What a lucky break that he had a tire and that this experienced mechanic was there to do the job. While in a real pinch we have the spare tire, jack, and wrench on board, this is not a simple tire change with an 8 lug wheel and a 5 ton van. That night we celebrated the "bad news - good news".
As we approached the next campsite, Cottonwood RV Park, we encountered construction on the Alaska Highway. A new surface was being applied and it was very dusty. Luckily this was short and we turned into the RV park. The owners of Cottonwood RV Park live in Bellville, Ontario during the winter months which makes them our neighbors on the other side of Lake Ontario. This is a nicely kept private park with electric (that they generate) at our lake side site. The lake is Kluane, the largest in the Yukon. For its size, we were amazed that there is nothing on the shores like the lakes we know of back home. This is real isolated wilderness. The natural, unspoiled beauty of the Yukon has taken us by surprise and this is one of our favorite places on earth.
When we arrived it was sunny and hot. We took the kayaks off the top of the van and readied them for a paddle the next day. During the night (the 2 hours between 1AM and 3 AM) it began to rain and our week of sun was over. The temperatures never rose out of the 50's all day, but we had a wonderful kayaking just before lunch. When we got back in, the sky opened up and we had a real rain. Still, it is so relaxing to just sit and listen to the raindrops on the van's roof, eat a leisurely lunch, and snooze. As evening fell, the rain slowed and we had a chance to put the kayaks back on the top of the van, ready to take off to Alaska the next day.