Yukon & Engler Family Quest(s)

I was talking to my sister about our Alaska trip the family went on in 2000.  I was explaining something about a dog musher’s location on the current Yukon Quest to her, and we both knew exactly where he was.  The Yukon Quest sled-dog race is currently in action, and as I’m sure you know about me by now, I’m rooting for our team, Allen Moore and the SP Kennel dogs.  He finished the race in 3rd place going for 1000 miles in 9 days, 5 hours and 7 mins.  So proud of him racing with half his team as rookies on the Quest.  Wishing safe racing for the rest of the teams still out on the trail.

This area of the world brings back fond memories of our family trip, so I thought I would try and tell you a bit about it; what the memory banks choose to at any rate.  We took a Holland America Cruise/Tour which left from Vancouver, Canada, traversed the calm waters of the Inside Passage while we drooled at the lush green forests along the banks.  At Skagway, we disembarked the ship and made our way to the White Pass and Yukon train that would take us to the land portion of this trip.

The train wound its’ way around a very narrow and steep railway making a climb into the Yukon Territory.  Once all our passports were checked and found to be in good order, we hopped on a tour bus and headed to Whitehorse.  This year the Yukon Quest finish line is in Whitehorse.  What I remember the most is the beer hall dance show we saw while staying in the hotel and a really big burger for dinner with the Alaskan Amber Beer!

 

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The Holland America “Bus”

Up early the next day, we hit the road and made our way to Dawson City via our bus.  My sister remembers in Dawson City, “all the houses leaned to one side or another.”  Something to do with the permafrost and not being able to sink foundations very deep into the ground.  I remember them being colorful.  Dawson City is where I saw my first, and hopefully not my last, Northern Lights.  We set a wake-up call at the front desk and if the lights make a showing at night, they call your room to let you know.  I’ll never forget my family, all in our PJ’s and coats, standing out witnessing this event.  You will have to witness them to understand this, but it is not just viewing them, there is a “feeling” to the lights.  It’s eerie and wonderful all at the same time.  I hope while I’m up north in March for the Iditarod, I might see/feel them again.

 

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Northern Lights photo credit Nelly Volkovich

From Dawson City, we hopped on a Holland America private yacht and made our way up the Yukon River to Eagle Alaska.  The Yukon Quest normally mushes on this river section, but this year, the jumbled ice forced the race onto land and a very mountainous journey.  Eagle is only accessible by mushing or airplane in the winter, so they stock up during the summer, by heading into Fairbanks via the lone, mountainous, single lane road.  I will NEVER forget this part.  I wasn’t even driving and had white knuckles.  Our bus and an RV had to pass each other, and of course, the bus had the outside lane.  My heart rate is increasing just writing about it.  Moving on.

We made our way to Chicken, Alaska.  Made famous by some gold panner in this area that couldn’t pronounce Ptarmigan, the State Bird of Alaska, so he called them chickens.  So the story goes.  From there we continued on down to Tok.  I don’t remember much other than I missed meeting a musher (Hugh Neff?) and learning about sled dogs and racing.  I went to bed early I was so tired.  Imagine how much longer I would’ve been following these sled-dog races had I powered through my sleepiness?

The next day, the bus drove us to Fairbanks via a lunch stop at 40-Mile, which is a section of river that created some havoc on those gold stampeders as they continued making their way to their fame and fortune.  It’s also a convenience stop on the Yukon Quest.  The bus pulled over on the Top of World Highway and we climbed American Summit and looked out over the world it seemed.  You can see as far as your eyes and cloud cover will allow.  Again, the Yukon Quest traverses this range.

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Yukon Quest Trail Map

So you can see, why this race means a little something to me.  When they mention these out of the way pit stops and mountain peaks on the coverage of the race, I can picture them and I swear it’s helped keep my memories of the trip with family sharp.

When I leave for the Iditarod next month, it will be my fourth trip to Alaska and my second to Anchorage.  I can’t wait.

Thanks for reading.

 

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