Day 2, October 12, 1997: Tok to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory

Yesterday I wrote that "The weather is brutally cold for this time of year...". Well, after the weather in Tok this morning, yesterday seems balmy in comparison. Woke up to -3 degrees F and a thoroughly frosted up car. For our metric readers, this temperature is equivalent to several kilometers beyond bloody-well-freezing. The car defrosted in ten minutes, my fingers in twenty, but the road wasn't so cooperative.

The road stayed intermittently-to-solidly icy for a couple of hundred miles from Tok to past Kluane Lake. Fortunately the instincts for rear-wheel driving in icy conditions came back to me pretty quickly. I only embarrassed myself only once with a 180 spin and that was only while exiting a roadside pull-off so it might not count against my record. With luck I may be past the really nasty stuff now, although the Canadian weather service calls for snow here in Whitehorse tomorrow...

The scenery today was spectacular fading into boring. The early stretches featured beautiful snow-covered mountains and spectacular lighting. To capture these adequately would call for a reincarnated Ansel Adams and was beyond me. Later on I was presented with lower mountains and huge stretches of snaggy spruce forests. Unfortunately the road was so bad in the early going that I couldn't spare attention for gawking.

The roads, despite their icy covering, were pretty good in the Yukon. Far, far better than what I experienced back in 1976 when I last drove the whole route. Back then it was mostly gravel which turned to mud at the slightest provocation. This time virtually the entire stretch has been pavement of sorts although there is still some loose gravel floating around due to patching and a bit of construction. Overall the experience is vastly easier than it was.

Whitehorse has grown into quite a little metropolis since my last visit. Back then it featured a dozen bars and an A&W drive-in for entertainment. Now there are still a bunch of bars, although nicer ones, and there is still the A&W, but there are also some nice restaurants and theaters. The output from the local micro-brewery is quite palatable also. Whitehorse even has a well-equipped industrial area and the economy seems to be much improved.

The attached picture shows sunrise taken fifty miles outside Tok. Great scene, but difficult to capture well. The smaller insert shows one of only two wild mammals I've spotted. Had expected a lot of critters but there was only a skunk and this shy gray fox (or is that a coyote? I couldn't tell myself). The skunk was seen standing passively by the road seemingly waiting for the bus to come along.

Tomorrow we press on to Watson Lake at the Yukon Territory / British Columbia border as the next leg of our 12,000 mile solo tour driving on the edge of the US continues.


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