Leaving the Yukon

Leaving Dawson City. 
After three months. 
On the shortest day of the year. 

It seemed strange to be leaving after becoming accustomed to the routine of the previous three months. Our thermometer, at The Berton House, was at it lowest since our arrival in late September. Officially, Environment Canada reported Dawson City as the coldest inhabited community on the planet at minus 48. Dawson has been cold all week long, and the coldest place on the planet honours have been going back and forth between Dawson and Mayo (also in the Yukon).

Kathy Webster picked us up, just as she did in the beginning, only this time she dropped us off at the airport for our Air North flight to Whitehorse.

After a long wait (the flight delayed at Old Crow) we made our way onto the tarmac and climbed into a dark cabin, and in spite of the complete lack of light, and frosted spectacles, we eventually found seats. 

Dawson Airport has a small airport, with one gate: Gate 28. It is also not cleared for take offs and landings in the dark, so there was a scramble to get us airborne before the sun slipped away completely. In truth, it looked dark to me.
And so it ended. Our three months in the Yukon. 

More is coming as we journey to Buenos Aires for the next three months. You can follow that adventure, beginning in early January,and more too, at  www.murraychronicles.com


Minus 45

We awoke to a temperature of minus forty-five this morning. The dew point was minus fifty-two. 

A good day for a walk-about don't you think? Well maybe not, but I went out anyway, at around sunrise: 11:10. 

The town was covered in a thick blanket of ice fog.

The ice fog forms near the ground. The hill to the town's north, or the slide, is getting a wee bit of sun. Visibility in town is limited.

And no, there isn't a Farmers' Market here in the winter. We missed that entirely during our three months in Yukon.

There aren't many people walking around at minus forty-five. This morning, three drivers stopped to offer rides, which is a rather nice thing to do, and not an uncommon thing here in Dawson. 

Four hours later, give or take a few minutes, the sun is setting. 

The official temperature has warmed to minus forty-four.

These photos were taken just outside the Berton House . No second walk-about for me. Not today.


A community concert

Community gatherings are important here in Dawson City, and especially so during the dark and cold days, weeks and months of winter. There are a variety of Open Houses and Dinners; the RCMP, the Library, City Hall, the list goes on.

There are festive concerts too, this one on December 16 featuring a variety of acts and sing-a-longs in aid of supporting a school in Belize. We were there.

The Ice Bridge

Yesterday it was minus thirty-four with a wind chill of forty-two. I decided to walk across the river. 
I've done this before, but not on the official Yukon Highways Ice Bridge.

There isn't all that much too it oddly enough. A four lane highway, on ice. Obviously built to certain standards of course. Or one would hope.The snow is cleared and I suppose they might sand it from time to time. People drive slowly. Even at high noon you can see how much we are in the shadows with a sun low on the horizon.

It was cold. Bitterly cold. 
Too cold  to be walking across a frozen river in the Yukon.



A week before the shortest day of the year, and the sun is barely visible over the hills to the south of Dawson City.
At this time, December 14th, the sun rises at about 11:00 and sets at 15:20, give or take. 

When it is clear, the sun long shadows and lights up the slide to the north of town. The sun is there, and yet it isn't, in our southern way of thinking. Here, on the left, Sherry stands on Seventh Avenue with the slide behind her. On the right, the sun is almost visible behind her.

We live in the shadows. We see the sunlight only on the hills around us, and only a reflection. 
And only when it is relatively clear.
It hasn't been an easy adjustment. Nor will be readjusting to the South. There is beauty in the dark.


Now this might be a problem...

Here in the Yukon liquids freeze in winter if left outside. 
When it is cold, as in most of the time, one shouldn't necessarily chill their wine or beer on the porch. 
The porch is much colder than the freezer in the fridge!
Trust me. I know.

Pipes can freeze too. In Yukon, we are warned to not soak the dishes (the inevitable slow drip might cause a problem). We are told to flush the toilet regularly and take long, hot showers or baths every day, and at least once per day. In fact, when it is cold (as in minus forty or better) we should fill the tub with hot water and let it drain, even without bathing. We have a space heater aimed at the toilet and another in a crawl space aimed at other pipes.

Freezing pipes can be a big problem in some of the old buildings around Dawson. And most of the buildings are old.

Here, at the Berton House, we had an issue with the bath tub during a recent cold spell, which the writer's consort was only able to remedy after much effort (but that's why I'm here after all).

The scene we see today, is a problem in the town centre. Lots of action. Much slushy water. Jangling of keys. A street is blocked to vehicular, and pedestrian traffic. It's an inconvenience, and a expense to the citizens of Dawson City. And I suppose they are used to things like this one.

"Did anyone see my keys? I think I dropped my keys. They were here a minute ago. Damn!"


My Dog Sledding Experience ~ Redux

I had great fun with my dog sledding experience. It was exhilarating beyond belief. I'm probably not going to compete in this year's Quest, but maybe... next year?

Gaby Sgaga, of West Dawson and keeper of eight sled dogs, made the whole thing look much easier. In addition to sled dogs, Gaby finds time to  write for the weekly: What's Up Yukon

Dan Dowhal, originally from Toronto, and a recent Berton House Writer-in-Residence himself, loved the North, and Yukon in particular, so much, he moved to Dawson City. Here Dan stands patiently, awaiting my triumphant return. Below, that's me in the distance, trying to breathe.

Apparently getting back into the truck is not as easy as getting out. But sled dogs are a happy group as evidenced by this one on the right, and he didn't even get to come with us.

And at the end of another Yukon adventure, there is always a fine reward.