So where were we......
Border formalities back into Canada, …… were a doddle as expected.
As we had entered fairly late in the evening, we quickly found a wild camp spot at the top of a mountain on the "Top of the World highway". Kerry set about making a fire and we relaxed our first evening into Canada life again. As we had sweeping views over the whole area and it was a clear night, we decided to keep a Northern Lights vigil by waking up every hour to see if we could see anything.
Well at 2am James poked his head out the side of the tent and whooooa…. There was a bright green streak directly overhead that was hanging like a stage curtain. We quickly scampered downstairs, grabbed the camera and stood about, mouths agape as we had the most stupendous showing of Aurora Borealis. The sky lights up with these colours that are a hue of green and when it gets bright enough the base of the colour turned pinkish. The lights sort of swish through the air like fine rain in high winds constantly moving. Unfortunately the moon was fairly bright and we could only imagine what it is like with no moon. We were both excited as kids on Xmas day, running around in the freezing cold with numerous oohs' and aahs. It was fantastic and will definitely be one of the big highlights (no pun intended!) of the trip.
After snapping numerous photos, luckily we had been lucky enough to chat to an Aurora photographer at the Alaska fair whom had given us some tips on how to photo the lights we were able to catch some pretty amazing shots. Take a look at the Aurora photo link to be blown away.
After a late night watching the light show for an hour, we were very aware that the weather has now totally changed and almost every night is down to freezing. We finally dragged ourselves out of bed at 9am after the sun had been on the tent a good 3 hours and had somewhat thawed us out a little. This was to be a recurring habit over the next few weeks as we froze our butts off every night.
We continued the final 60km down to Dawson city the following morning where we opted to camp on the banks of the Yukon River opposite the actual town for the day and evening where Kerry completed the Alaska web up-date and we had a generally idle day. The following day we spent walking around the historic town of Dawson City, at one stage the largest city North of San Francisco at the height of the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890's where the population had swelled to over 30,000 people.
It is amazing how much has NOT changed since then and it is very easy to imagine it as it was, ok, a few modern buildings now but in general still very frontiers like and run down. There is still the old casino's and saloon's catering to locals whom are nearly all "First Nation" natives.
We booked into a popular RV park just out of town with awesome hot showers and Kerry completed the upload to the website for Alaska, we then spent the entire evening on Skype calling friend and family. I guess some things don't change and some things do!
Our journey took us due east on the northerly roads across the top of the Yukon where it is very much in the "sticks". We did a good few hundred miles drive, spotting our first brown Black Bear. He was so fluffy and cuddly looking Kerry wanted to jump out the car and hug him. For those that know Kerry, she would not have left that car for love nor money! The big brave adventurer she is!
We took a 30km detour to a small lake on our map which turned out to be a HUGE lake by our standards. We camped in the Parks campsite for the evening and as firewood was free, had a huge fire going from about 4pm through to 11pm.The day light hours are also reducing very noticeably and it was dusk by 10pm. James has become an Aurora junky and keeps an eye out the whole time. We had been told that the lights normally appear after midnight and not much while there is a large moon. Well 10pm, we noticed the first rays of green on the horizon before the whole thing over the next couple of hours moved our way and directly overhead. We then had our most spectacular showing of the lights yet with even a hue of red showing itself below the main curtain. We snapped numerous photos and even managed to get a few with us in. Check them out!
Our journey continued on through the back woods of this area; where still the autumn colours are amazing and we cannot believe how lucky we are to be experiencing this sort of show from nature. As this while area is basically perm-frost, in the summer as these thaws hundreds of little lake and lagoons are created and restored. The whole drive meanders between, above and beside these lakes which are frankly stunning. With numerous fish available, James dug out his rod and reel one lunch time and had a few casts to try his luck. 4th cast and he had a fair size Northern Pike, he continued in vain for the next couple of hours before losing a "Monster" (don't all fishermen!) and then landing another edible Pike.
We found a quaint little spot next to a stream, set up camp, started a fire and had fresh grilled fish for dinner. This is what camping is all about! Another early showing of the Northern Lights, although not so bright and another freezing night camped we are now getting used to freezing at night. We currently both go to bed in thermal long-johns, a fleece sleeping bag inner, a thickish sleeping bag each, a blanket above and below the sleeping bag and the necessary hot water bottle. Almost forgot, with a beanie on our heads!
Another easy day drive, we visited the sleepy little bundu town of Faro where we viewed Fannin Sheep, a very unique wild sheep to the area, did a short game view tour looking for moose and wolves - no luck there, and returned to town where we found the most awesome hot showers we had taken for ages. As a bonus there was no time limit on their use so we both got our monies worth!
Back on the road at 4pm we hit the gravel road of the Campbell highway which we knew to continue like this for the next 600km. We had also been warned about oncoming vehicles throwing up rocks and after our last experience were nervous. However not nervous enough to put our wire screen over the windscreen yet!
Well about the 4th car that went flying past us at 100km/h, bang, first chip in our NEW windscreen just above Kerry's eye line. S**t. Out the Landy we jump and take 10 minutes putting our protective screen up. How annoying! The locals here don't even slow down and just continue to drive like maniacs - What idiots. Kerry had hours of fun pulling faces and rude signs and swearing at each vehicle that zoomed past us.
Spending another night in a very picturesque, freezing spot, adding another 7 bears to our total bear count we finally made it into Watson lake, about 20km down the road on the Alaska Highway from where we joined it heading north about 6 weeks ago but none of it duplicated where possible.
Our first stop was the "Sign Forest" where there is a collection of signs from all over the world totalling in excess of 60,000. They are all pinned up around the information centre and are a major tourist attraction in the area. We tried a couple of local mechanics to see if James could change the engine oil and filter in Lodzi as this was now overdue. We unfortunately came across some very grumpy and unhelpful locals at various different establishments and all in all we had the impression they were all sick and tired of tourists. We did not hang around and the following day continued down the Alaska Highway towards Laird hot springs on the Alcan Highway.
Beside a beautiful campsite set in a valley, Laird hot springs is a natural progressive hot spring set in amongst a very leafy surrounds. Here we met a young German couple we had met the day previously whom joined us for an evening dip. The weather was pretty chilly and the steaming hot water an absolute bliss. We raved about our Northern Lights sightings and the Germans were very keen to see them only having heard about them. As we were fairly far south we did not hold out much hope but decided to keep a vigil.
Around 4am, we jumped out of bed as the lights were dancing above us and rushed to the Germans campsite to rouse them. They weren't there so we continued to a platform near the actual springs where we met the Germans returning from an early morning dip, we then stood in awe on a walkway as we watched an amazing display of the lights for almost 45 minutes. We cannot describe with enough expletives how amazing it is watching this phenomenon, truly one of the great natural wonders of our world.
Kerry had seen pictures of Muncho lake, a clear blue glacial melt lake set in the mountains beside the Alcan Highway and reputedly an amazing spot to take photo's of the Northern Lights over the lake. We were accompanied by Andreas and Elke as far as the lake where they cooked us a Tuna Pasta lunch before they continued on a time constrained tour. We drove down onto a small rocky peninsula beside the lake and lazed about and took an evening stroll for the remainder of the day. We kept an hourly vigil for the Northern Lights but were bitterly disappointed as cloud moved in early and we did not see a thing. This did however warm up the night time temperature to about freezing!!