Welcome to Whitehorse

“Welcome to Whitehorse”, the sign says, “Capital of the Yukon”!

Shortly on the heels of work sending me to the frigid north of Yellowknife, where I had a rare opportunity to see the Northern Lights in all their glory, I found myself sent back to the north again, for a second round of training in none other than Whitehorse. I was ecstatic. This trip to Whitehorse was cathartic for me on several levels:

The first predates me. My father visited this town over 50 years ago when he and my uncle transported a car to the owner from the US to Fairbanks Alaska. Their route landed them in Whitehorse prior to the final trek of the Alaskan Highway when it really was nothing more than a roadway of rocks and gravel. Apparently, back then the trek did quite a number on the tires of those who struck out for points west. This was even before Alaska was officially a state of the US (I think they went in 1962). The shanty town they stopped in was the last stopping point for those destined to points west during the Gold Rush of the late 1800’s. They said it had changed little in that time up to the 1960’s, and I learned why when I checked in:

Best Western Gold Rush Inn
Best Western Gold Rush Inn

The rustic décor and nature of the Best Western and Goldrush Inn notwithstanding, the remote town of about 28,000 people was very quaint and reminded me a bit of Oneonta NY where I went to high school. Not a lot of the “fluff” of civilization here, and apparently Whitehorse has some of the purest cleanest air in the world if you buy into their promotional content from the Yukon News of 2011.

My training events covered a period of seven days – five on the first week, and two days on the following week. Thus, I had a unique opportunity to do a number of excursions while I was there. These included:

  1. A hike to Miles Canyon (30 minutes one way)
  2. A hike from the Black Stairs to the White Horse
  3. A trek along the Yukon River
  4. Sampling brews from the local breweries (there were 3 of them) that proudly claim using frozen hops as their ingredients.
  5. A trip to Skagway Alaska

1. The Hike to Miles Canyon

Miles Canyon is named after General nelson Miles from the US Army as he explored the Yukon back in the 1800’s. I did not even know about it, until on one day (I think my first Sunday), I was scoping out how to get to Robert Service Way, and drove past a road that said “Scenic Area – closed seasonally”. There were a lot of cars parked around the entrance though, suggesting people were walking down the road to the canyon, which did turn out to be the case.

Me being the intrepid explorer of paved roads across the Americas, looped back, parked and hiked/walked the canyon on a whim. I’m so glad I did:

The most incredible part of these scenes is that these photos are (for the most part) straight out of camera. I did a few minor edits for exposure and white balance, but that green is real! One of the tourist placards says the green is from the basalt rocks at the river bottom, so it is not green algae or anything. We are seeing down to the river bottom there!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the kind gentleman, Chris Wheeler (and his wife), who I met while they and their dog were walking back up from the canyon below. He had a camera strapped to his chest, so we got to talking and he shared a comment on my prior post about Yellowknife. I did not know what I was messing with. If you want to see some spectacular photographs of the Northern Lights, check out Chris’ photo stream on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisnorth/

2. Black Stairs to the White Horse

A clever heading, but that’s really what they call these points of interest locally, despite the fact that neither the stairs are black, nor is the horse white, but it does have a nice poetic ring to it! Nonetheless, the climb of over 270 steps was in and of itself without taking a break an accomplishment for me, even though a kid immediately after me ran up in 30 seconds and didn’t even look winded!

Once at the top, a trail loops around the back side of the local airport, and you can continue on to the White Horse, which I thought was a pretty cool sculpture, made from donated parts of broken down equipment from local residents over time.

It was about a 5K walk to the horse sculpture, so round trip, a 10K! The reward for this walk/hike/excursion was a view of the road down into the main area of Whitehorse proper.

The Cremation of Sam McGee

The second bit of nostalgia, comes from the poem by Robert W. Service. I believe this got a nod on my prior post, so won’t regale that story again here, except to say that Service was kind of smitten by the Yukon in his day, and he actually wrote that poem while living in Whitehorse. The reference to Lake Lebarge in the poem was none other than Lake Leberge just north of Whitehorse.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.”
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum
Then “Here!” said I, with a sudden cry, “is my cre-ma-tor-eum!”

From Memory, Google if you want to find a source 🙂

I did visit but it was completely covered in snow, so the photographs are rather underwhelming and not worth sharing. Instead, just to show for frame of reference, the lake itself is actually quite large considering – 20 miles long and 3 miles wide according to Google anyway. It’s no Lake Superior but a substantial body of water nonetheless. The shape reminds me of Long Lake in NY where my dad and I often did canoe trips as a kid. I bet that’d be a fun canoe trip. But if I see the Alice May though…I’m outta there!


This post is getting rather long-winded, but I’m ok with it, and I hope you, dear readers – all 12 of you anyway, are too. I shall return tomorrow or perhaps next week with the rest of the stories from this trip, along with some more photos.

  1. Walking the Yukon River
  2. Whitehorse Brewery Tour
  3. WHitehorse to Skagway

It’s the cliffhanger effect, I know, because I am saving the best for last. The pictures from my trip to Skagway are just incredible! Tune in again to hear “the rest of the story”!

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