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The Great Beringian Road-trip Part 4: North To Adventure on the Klondike Highway

The Great Beringian Road-trip Part 4: North To Adventure on the Klondike Highway

After two days in Whitehorse we  headed north on the Klondike Highway towards gold, adventure, and Dawson City.

Well, okay, mostly just towards Dawson City. But we were tracing the path of the gold rush pioneers, which was good enough for me.

Once we were out of town, things got very remote, very fast. There was farmland, mountains, the highway, and nothing else. No buildings or road signs or even other cars. . . until I passed a giant ‘Bakery’ sign.

The sign was by a turn-off to a narrow, unpaved road, leading to what seemed like nowhere.

Of course I followed it. It said there was a bakery.

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Still, after well over a mile on the little road and no sign of a town – or anything else – I was almost wondering if the sign had been some sort of mirage when I finally found Mom’s Sourdough Bakery. It was a ridiculously charming cottage, even with the animal skulls outside. Inside we found the owner – a friendly woman named Tracie – and shelves full of pies.

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The tiny space was decorated with memorabilia from Tracie’s days as a gold miner and as a musher in the Yukon Quest, which is kind of like the Iditarod for people who think the Iditarod is too easy. She told us stories while we got our pie and coffee, and I left with the humbling knowledge that no matter what I do in my life, I will never be quite as cool as a gold mining, dog-sled racing, baker.

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About an hour later we stopped for gas at Braeburn Lodge – possibly the first gas station I’ve seen with it’s own airstrip. Inside were cinnamon buns and signs announcing that the Lodge is a checkpoint on the Yukon Quest.

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Back on the road we saw a lot more scenery, and little else. Every hour or so there would be a lodge, gas station or visitor’s center – usually a single building – or a sign pointing out the turnoff to a campground. But for the most part, without even traffic, we were alone.


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Carmacks had a rest area and what looked like a nice little visitor’s center, but it was closed, so we kept going.
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We passed two wrecks, both single, overturned cars. I don’t know what had happened to the drivers or how long the cars had been there , but it made me grateful for my sturdy SUV. The Klondike was better paved then the Alaska Highway, but I still wouldn’t chance it in a lightweight car.


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At Pelly Crossing, about five hours into the drive, we stopped at a gas station/restaurant/post office that was also a motel and the town bank. Next door, in a little one-room cabin, was the Big Johnathan House interpretive center. Inside were educational exhibits, displays, and crafts from the local First Nations community.

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 And then, after the prairie had long since given way to the remains of gold dredges, we reached Dawson. I was hoping to stay on the Dawson City side of the river, since the only way across is by ferry, but we couldn’t find a place. So after a stop at the visitor’s center – where we watched a short movie on the gold rush and acquired armfuls of brochures – we crossed the river, and set up camp for the night.

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Next up: The Most Interesting Hostel in the World!

Previous posts: The Great Beringian Road-trip Part One, Two, and Three.

 

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25 Comments

    • I kind of wondered if Mr Antlers out there ended up in a pie himself.

      Reply
    • I think that woman was actually the most interesting woman in the world. You’d think she should have a movie deal by now!

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    • No! The farthest North I’ve been in the Yukon is Dawson City – but my next roadtrip goal is to go from there up the Dempster Highway through Tombstone Park.

      Reply
    • I’ve done both coasts but skipped all the middle provinces. But the Yukon is definitely my favorite!

      Reply
    • That was the visitor’s center – it was actually the only building I could find in the entire ‘town!’

      Reply
  1. These are the stories you’ll tell your grand kids.
    Would be interesting to revisit Pelly Crossing then. Wonder how much it’ll grow beyond the gas- station/restaurant/post office-that’s-also-a motel-and-town-bank stage over the next 20-30 years.
    Marcia recently posted…Sometimes, It’s All in the HandsMy Profile

    Reply
    • Most of these towns actually used to be bigger – they were either founded during the gold rush or as army posts around WW2 (when the highway was built because Alaska was thought to be a prime target for the Japanese.) Now, all that’s left is rest stops on the road and some small First Nations communities – and a lot of the children there leave for high school or college and don’t come back.

      Reply
  2. Hi Jess, what an amazing road trip! I like all the charming places you visited along the way – the bakery with an owner who had great story to tell, the quaint visitor center. My particular favorite is Pelly Crossing with gas station/restaurant/post office/motel/town bank all rolled into one. How delightfully quaint!
    Marisol@TravelingSolemates recently posted…My Philippines, the BeautifulMy Profile

    Reply
    • When I stayed in Beaver Creek (another Yukon town) for the summer, they had a small office that was the post office 3 mornings a week, and the bank 2 mornings. But even with 80 people, they had a separate motel/restaurant!

      Reply
  3. I would have followed that Bakery sign, too! It sounds like it led you to a wonderful stopping point and a fascinating woman to chat with. I will also never be that cool. What kind of pie did you have? Bison?
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted…Seeking The Statue of Liberty in ParisMy Profile

    Reply
    • I had the local cranberry pie! It was amazingly good. Yukon wild cranberries are so much better then what I was used to. I wish I’d brought more cash, I would have taken one of everything to go.

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    • I’m used to public buildings being multi-purpose in these little northern towns, but this poor place seemed a bit overloaded!

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    • To be fair, it’s hard to make a cupcake out of moose. And that’s pretty much the only easily available Yukon food.

      . . . I’m pretty sure if someone did make a moose cupcake I would still eat it, though.

      Reply
  4. If someone wanted to set a trip for me, Wile E Coyote style, all they would have to do would be set up a ‘Bakery’ sign pointing off a cliff.

    Reply
    • Thank you!

      Reply

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