The Southern Lakes

I left Whitehorse after a great lunch with Jan Grauman. He is a resident in the Canadian physician program (already an MD in the U.S.) and he’d had three shifts in about 30 hours since arriving in Whitehorse. Since he’s young he didn’t seem blurry at all, just serious. We had a great time bemoaning the health care system and talking about family. I got to talk by phone with both of his parents, who I love dearly. For my final few moments in Whitehorse I foisted my parking ticket onto Jan and left with a full heart.

I took the Alcan south-east then cut down to Tagish. I’d left a message with some people with cabins that I would like to stay the night. In that tiny far flung community of about 100 it took me probably an hour to find those cabins and then I waited another hour for someone to show up. By then the hour was growing late and I went off in search of other lodging. I ended up somewhere where dogs were not welcomed and I got a reduced rate since I agreed not to turn on the heat. Selkie slept in the car.

What little I think I know about Tagish is that “the narrows” where now there is a bridge is where the crazy gold seekers crossed and that some local Yukoners resent the government settlement with local First Nations for what’s been done to them over this last 150 years or so. (This deduced from a book I skimmed called Paddle til Dark, which is funny since it never gets dark in summer.)

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I looped back up the Klondike Highway to see what I had missed taking the route I had to Carcross. (I saved Carcross for my last two days) and stopped at the Spirit Lake Lodge, which has no access to the lake. A Thai family owns it and they have delicious food, according to my vegetarian palette. I hiked across the roadway from the lodge to an old railroad right of way, probably from the day the train had run to Whitehorse.

People have been saying summer is over since I arrived but now, alas, I think they are right. It is said that when the fireweed is going to seed like this summer is over and indeed it’s intermittently cold and rainy.

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But then, after a few squalls the next day turned out to be dry and breezy in Carcross. I drove past Bove Island as far as I could to get a round trip out of my electric charge from Spirit Lake but didn’t make it to the Chilcoot Pass.

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After that I wandered around the stores in touristy Carcross and got established at the Fox Hollow B&B—this is my street…

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Many years ago I was married to Steven Watson. He was a good guy and had a good family. His sister Katie had a beautiful little boy named Matthew and about 40 years ago he was killed in a car accident because Katie, after a long day of packing up her house to move, in the late afternoon slow traffic of a hot day fell asleep at the wheel. That tragedy has echoed down through the years. (This store sure made me think of time!)

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I learned about the 1873 expedition of Schwatka who followed the Chilkoot trail through Tlingit and Tagish country about 15 years before the gold rush, until he reached this area where the Bennett lake begins the chain of lakes to the Yukon and how he made it to the Bering Sea in just 2 months… Really hard to imagine…like Lewis and Clark it really plays with my imagination. I also learned about the Tlingit and the Tagish and how they managed to live side by side through arranged marriages between their two matrilineal bands. The young woman at the museum explained how that had worked out for her grandparents and I can certainly see it.

I’m glad to know a little more about our world but what mainly I want to take with me is the vastness and beauty of the country and I regret leaving it as my time grows shorter. I am not attracted to the idea of wintering in the north or ever living here but just to having the living images of a day like today with the dynamism of the weather imprinted somehow on my skin, in my eyes, in my awareness for all my remaining days. I also love the sponginess of the woods, how vibrant it is when every square inch of earth is covered with moss, berries, lichen… The staidness of where I live and the mostly undramatic and overly hot weather makes me shrink inside to think of after the dynamism of the lands I have loved here. The fleeting nature of things baffles me. These heroic adventurers are frozen in memory why not our most vivid and cherished recollections?

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My last day here I wasn’t able to do laundry. No water because the water truck doesn’t deliver on Sundays. They are surrounded on three sides by water but depend on chlorinated water by truck! Instead we hiked along the railroad tracks for awhile and then up onto Montana Mountain. Our last walk will be along Bennett Lake. I’ll have to get up early to get into Skagway in time to do laundry before the ferry.

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