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Marsh Lake to Whitehorse, YT (42 miles)

Today’s short ride was quite enjoyable for several reasons: First, I was able to sleep in and enjoy the breakfast at The Old Screen Door B&B on Marsh Lake; second, the proprietor sent me off with 4 fresh oatmeal/chocolate chip cookies; third, I had wind to my back which made the 42 miles seem short; and lastly, my wife and I got to spend several hours walking around and enjoying the quaint little city of Whitehorse (the only city in the Yukon Territory).

Today’s photo is of the Klondike, one of the last paddleboats hauling ore and supplies on the Yukon River. It operated into the 1950s with two 500 horsepower steam-driven piston motors powered by a huge boiler requiring a man to feed it a five foot log every 30 seconds. Each worked four hour shifts and was paid $25 monthly. It took a day and half to go down river (north) to Dawson City and six days to return to Whitehorse. Loggers built stations along the route to reload the 240 foot ore boat. It could operate in very shallow water with three and a half foot draft. Notice the top cable supports. They operated like a cable suspension bridge with the cables tightened or loosened to keep the boat bottom from sagging to minimize how deep it sat in the water.

Canada Parks conducts tours on the dry dock Klondike during the summer which we greatly enjoyed.

Just a brief background on the Yukon Gold rush of 1896-1899. The North American economy was in a depression when gold was discovered at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers August 16, 1896. The Yukon Territory had very few people back then and no organized transportation system. Yet, that fall when news of the Klondike Gold Strike hit the daily papers in San Francisco and Seattle, it created up to 100,000 “Klondikers” to head into the unknown. As the rush built, the Canadian government stepped in to require each prospector to bring a year’s supply of food to prevent starvation. Gold made some rich, but hand mining was tough even in summer picking into permafrost. Latecomers, with government requirements of volume and weight, arrived by 1899 when gold was discovered in Nome, Alaska creating the Alaska Gold Rush. Dawson City boomed with an estimated 30,000 population in 1899 which soon crashed as heavier mining equipment moved in and Klondikers moved out. In 2016, Dawson City had an estimated population of 1,375.

Before I started my bike journey in May, I read the 1990 book by Harry Gordon-Cooper called “Yukoners True Tales of the Yukon.” One such story was of Fred Guder at 78 years old who annually carried his tent, small stove, clothes, blankets, and food the 300 miles from Whitehorse to Dawson each spring. For 14 straight days he walked about 20 miles a day on the Dawson Trail sleeping and eating at roadhouses along the way. Guder, who died in 1984, credited his long life and “abundant good health” to “...the simple rigorous life he had.” This is a great example of living in the Yukon where Guinness Book of World Records now rates Whitehorse the city with the world’s lowest air pollution.