Days 47 and 48…Dawson City YT

Days 47 and 48 were spent in and around Dawson City YT and we have a lot to tell ya about.

Dawson City is still…despite it being 2015…is essentially a frontier town. There is one paved street in town, Front Street that runs from the ferry landing over to the city limits where it turns into the Klondike Highway that we’ll take southwards on Sunday. Other than that…all roads are gravel/dirt, most of the buildings are still the false front type architecture that was prevalent in the gold rush days of 1898, and lots of people in the visitor center, museum, and other places like that were in period clothes.

Day 47 (Friday August 14) was devoted to a trip in the morning for a walking tour of downtown Dawson City and then a bus trip in the afternoon out to see Dredge #4 and also a working gold mine. Our tour was done by Justin who is a 3rd generation gold miner…we got a tour of their placer mining operation, saw the mine run by one of Connie’s favorite Dutch miners from the Gold Rush show, and panned for gold.

I checked again to see if we had gotten a picture of the Canadian guy dressed up in the early 1900s suit who did the Robert W. Service verse reading yesterday…he was really cool and into his job and we actually enjoyed Service’s verses as they were definitely different from most poetry you’ve heard. We’ll check around the caravan and see if somebody else got one we can borrow.

Our walking tour started at the Visitor Information Center where we met up with our tour guide Martine who was…as expected…in a period suit and hat. She’s a middle aged woman who was born in French Québec but moved here with her husband and raised two kids. Quite a character…great storyteller with an impeccable sense of timing to deliver her humorous anecdotes. She led us on a merry little walk around town for an hour or so.

Shots from around Dawson City on the tour.

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The last brothel operating which shut down in the late 1930s. Run by Ruby, the lady in the second picture.

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Working man’s bar in the industrial end of town…note the nekkid lady picture over the bar.

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Oldest saloon in town.

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See, I told ya it was a frontier town…notice all the dirt roads, board sidewalks, and period buildings.

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Like the marketing here. Must be a guy store…actually it’s Klondike Thawing Machinery Company which sold gold mining equipment and supplies.

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Few verses of Robert W. Service on the side of one of the buildings.

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After our tour we drove up to what is known as the Dome…the mountain overlooking Dawson City…got this shot of a couple of parasailers right after they took off from the top.

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Dawson City looking upstream on the Yukon River…the two parasailers eventually landed after a 10 minute or so flight on the little grass strip you can see just right of center on the river. We had seen a windsock on that area on our walking tour earlier and wondered what it was as the area was too narrow and short for an aircraft to land. You can just make out the Top of the World Highway on top of the bluff just right of center; it’s going away from the camera and curves to the right around the trees.

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Wider view looking upstream.

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Our rig in Bonanza Gold RV Park down by the Klondike…we’re in the farthest row to the left just behind the bushes. The road to our left is the road we took out to Dredge #4 on the bus tour.

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Looking downstream at the Klondike and distant mountains.

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Out at Dredge #4, this is the digging boom but it doesn’t have any buckets on it. As I learned ya the other day the buckets are pulled counterclockwise over this bar like the chain on a chain saw, dig up the gravel, and dump it into the hopper inside the dredge under the wheelhouse.

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Tye top of the trommel…looking aft on the barge. The hopper is above here and you can just see the bottom of it at far left. Gravel from the digging arm dumps into the hopper then into the rotating trommel to separate large rocks from gravel and gold.

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Connie standing by one of the buckets…60something of these on the digging arm. About 2,000 pounds each and each dug up about 16 cubic feet of gravel.

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The control room where the winchman worked. Note the control levers which he pulled to adjust various things…note the linkage at the bottom and remember that for a couple of photos…it will become clear what they do.

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Sluice section…these were lined with canvas then miners moss which is roughly woven cloth usually made of coconut fibers. Ripples made of metal go on top of there and the gold/gravel mixture is  washed down the slanted sluice boxes…the ripples cause eddies which trap the heavier gold in the ripples and the gravel mostly washes out the bottom end.

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The winches that pulled on wires to raise/lower the digging arm and pull on the cables that swing the dredge right or left in it’s arc as it digs the face of the pond. The bars coming down from the top are attached to the control levers in the winch man room…everything is controlled from there via mechanical linkage.

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We then headed out to the Goldbottom Creek mine for a tour of a current day placer mine. Placer gold comes from a Latin word meaning loose…i.e., the gold is not attached to rocks but is free floating. You dig away 2 layers of overburden…the foot or so thick active soil portion at the top then the 20-40 feet of permafrost dirt/rock/ice before getting down to the pay streak of gravel containing gold just above bedrock…the pay streak gravel is what is sluiced and further concentrated to extract the gold. This is a water supply pond and is currently pumping water up to the active cut about 1,500 feet up the mountain from this site.

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Water monitor used to wash away the permafrost overburden.

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Looking 90 degrees to the left from the monitor above…this is the area where the overburden is partially washed away…about 30 feet here from the grass/moss at the top down to the level ground at the bottom of the frame. They’ve been washing this away all season and it will probably be next year before they expose the pay gravel and commence sluicing to get the gold.

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Small sluice box near the monitor.

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Once the sluicing is completed…they have concentrated gold/small gravel/dirt that is then run through this rotating separator while being rinsed with water to trap the heavier gold which runs up the spiral and down the hole in the middle to a collection pot.

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Two ounces of flake gold which was separated from about a half coffee can of dirt in about 90 seconds with the separator above.

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Largest nugget recovered at the Gold Bottom Creek mine…3 troy ounces. Modeled here by our friend Sandy who lives about 2 miles from where we winter in Seminole Campground. 

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Connie panning for gold…she struck out today…no gold except for 2 really little flakes which we brought home.

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Paradise Hill which is being mined by Tamarac Mining which is owned by Tony Beets…he’s the profane Dutch guy on Gold Rush that moved the dredge from Alaska to the Yukon last season.

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That ended our tour and we headed home. We went out to the Sourdough Saloon at the Downtown Hotel for dinner (Nachos) and brews. We were going to have a Sour Toe Cocktail…but it turned out they only serve them from 2100 until 2300…so we’ll try again tomorrow as we didn’t want to wait around another almost 2 hours.

 Ok, on to Day 48 (Saturday Aug 15). We slept in and then did some minor chores around the rig…had to water our doors again, sewed up some bras, and got out the hot glue gun to stick down some of our shelves. Our shelves sit on those little adjustable brackets and we discovered that when you bounce up and down the shelf sometimes bounces as well and this can knock the little bracket clips off. So…Neil just put a dot of hot glue on top of each shelf where it meets the bracket…hopefully that will keep them from bouncing and hence coming loose. After that we headed off to the Jack London Museum in Dawson City…he’s the second famous author that spent a short period of time here back in the day. He was most known for a novel “The Call of the Wild” plus some others although he originally came to the Klondike as a miner during the gold rush back in 1898. There was a lady there (again in period clothing) but she wouldn’t let us take any photos of her who gave a 40 minute or so talk on his history in the area. Many years later his cabin was rediscovered and moved from out in the woods to just down the street from the Robert W. Service cabin…which is still in it’s original location on 8th street in Dawson City. 

Jack London’s cabin, cache, and the interior of the cabin. The original cabin was deconstructed and then used to build 2 replica cabins…one here in Dawson City using half of the logs and the second using the other half of the logs at Jack London Square down in Oakland CA as he is the most famous son of that city.

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After that we picked up some bread, milk, and eggs we needed; went to Mass and then headed on over to the Sourdough Saloon at the Downtown Hotel for dinner and the Sour Toe Cocktail experience.

Neil and Connie sitting at the bar.

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Kara posing with the brews…they never let me go and pose with them; they always take her as she’s easier to carry around. It’s discrimination I tell ya…discrimination!!

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The piano player at the bar…we never got this  guy’s name but he was there banging out the tunes both nights we were in. Played a wide assortment from classical tunes to Scott Joplin to The Beverly Hillbillies. Kept everybody clapping and stomping their feet.

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We had a couple of brews…Yukon Brown Ale, mighty yummy…and some dinner…a BLT with avocado for Connie and a bacon cheeseburger for Neil. Both were pretty good but what we were really waiting for was for 2100 to roll around for the Sour Toe Cocktail Club ceremony.

Now…I’m sure you’re askin’ yourselves…just what the heck is a Sour Toe Cocktail. Well…Ima gonna tell ya all about it. See…way back when there was this miner who got his toes frozen with frostbite and they started to get gangrenous and smell…so the local barman ended up lopping it off to save the poor feller’s life. Once that was done the doc just tossed it into a box of salt and over many years it essentially became a mummified toe. It rested in a display box in the Sourdough Saloon for many years…until one day this riverboat captain who had captained riverboats on many different rivers but never the Yukon. He happened to be passing through Dawson City and was bragging about what a great captain he was…and the locals told him that in order to be a real Yukon riverboat captain you had to have a Sour Toe Cocktail. This libation is constructed by getting the shot of your choice…it was originally required to be Yukon Jack which is an orange flavored likker they cotton to up here in the frozen hinterlands…and in drops the toe. It’s passed to the recipient along with the admonition

      “Your can drink it fast or you can drink it slow…but your lips have gotta touch the toe.”

The recipient then quaffs the drink and this makes you a member of the club. In 1973 the Sourdough Saloon instituted the club for people who happened to be in town and it’s become somewhat famous ever since. The original toe is long gone…somebody swallowed it so there’s now a $2,500 fine if you swallow the toe…so ya don’t wanna do that o’course. The current toe came from an unfortunate lawnmower accident and has been sterilized and then mummified, it’s stored in salt and wiped off between shots. So…off we went for the ceremony.

The toe on it’s bed of salt.

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Connie at the ready.

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And down the hatch…this was when she was drinking up the toe jam…which is after you drink your shot the proctor grabs the toe and squeezes all the likker out of it into your glass…a bit salty at the end.

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Next was Neil’s turn.

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Ahhh…kissin’ the toe. Gotta follow the rules ya know.

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Our certificates…well, one of them anyway…both of them got a certificate and a wallet card.

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With that our day…and time…in Dawson City was done; so we headed home and watched TV until bedtime. Tomorrow we’re off on a 2 day transit to Whitehorse YT…about 350 miles total.


About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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2 Responses to Days 47 and 48…Dawson City YT

  1. Mj Trainor says:

    Haha! Great stories! Mummified toe … ick! 🙂

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