I Backpack Canada » Yukon http://ibackpackcanada.com A backpackers travel guide to Canada Fri, 15 May 2015 19:13:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 7 True Yukon Experienceshttp://ibackpackcanada.com/7-true-yukon-experiences/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/7-true-yukon-experiences/#comments Thu, 12 Mar 2015 20:24:40 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=7116 I’m happy to feature a guest writer on I Backpack Canada this week. I was recently approached by a fellow writer who wanted to share some of her stories and photos. Gemma Taylor of Off Track Travel has been hiking, paddling, driving and writing her way around Western Canada with her boyfriend Jean Robert since 2011. Together, they’ve […]

7 True Yukon Experiences is a post from: I Backpack Canada

]]>

I’m happy to feature a guest writer on I Backpack Canada this week. I was recently approached by a fellow writer who wanted to share some of her stories and photos. Gemma Taylor of Off Track Travel has been hiking, paddling, driving and writing her way around Western Canada with her boyfriend Jean Robert since 2011. Together, they’ve managed to cover a massive part of western Canada, including BC, The Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. I love seeing other writers’ and travellers’ stories and advice on Canada, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity! Be sure to check out her site for more posts like these! With that said, I’m going to shut it and let Gemma take over from here.

Canada’s Yukon is truly a place like no other. The name alone evokes images of wilderness and adventure. But where to start? Here are seven experiences which I believe sum up the Yukon best.

Photo by Gemma Taylor

Photo by Gemma Taylor

Hiking and camping on tundra in Tombstone Territorial Park

This protected area is a real rarity. Located only an hour from one of Yukon’s main two highways, Tombstone offers remarkably easy access to pure Yukon wilderness. In Tombstone, you can hike and camp anywhere. Seriously, it’s just a matter of choosing which direction you want to go and starting to hike if you have some back country experience. The lack of trees allows for unparalleled views and relatively straightforward navigation, though the squishy tundra can take some effort to cross. With few visitors even despite the road running through it, reaching solitude is not a problem. You can enjoy the magnificent views from a mountain summit all to yourself.

Photo by Gemma Taylor

Paddling the mighty Yukon River

Follow in the footsteps of the Klondike gold miners and journey up the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson City. Rustic camp-sites line most of this section of the mighty Yukon, as do relics of the past. Up until the 1950s, the Yukon River was the main highway in these parts. Explore abandoned telegraph stations, stern-wheelers and trappers’ cabins. Slow down and get on river time; there’s no hurry here. Mountain goats and moose can be spotted along the journey as well as grizzly and black bears. With an average river speed of 10km/h, paddling the 700km route is less intimidating and more achievable than you may at first think.

Photo by Gemma Taylor

Photo by Gemma Taylor

Crossing the Arctic Circle

The Yukon is home to Canada’s only all-season highway passing the Arctic Circle. The Dempster Highway is a 740km dirt road that currently reaches all the way to Inuvik, NWT. The journey is the destination here, as the highway passes over tundra, spectacular wide-open landscapes and incredibly rugged mountains. This is a place that reminds you how small you are. Reaching the Arctic, your expectations are likely to be thrown out of the window. There may not be many people in this area but it is still vibrant with local culture and a variety of wildlife. And it gets hot in the summer, up to 24 hours of the day to match the sunlight. Just remember to take bug spray – the mosquitoes are alive and well throughout those 24 hours too.

Dog-sledding in a winter wonderland

Whipping through the forest on the back of a sled pulled by a team of dogs, mushing in the Yukon offers a winter experience like no other. With the Yukon River freezing over, the humble dog sled was once the main form of winter transport in the Yukon. February’s annual Yukon Quest race continues to keep the spirit of epic dog-sledding journeys alive. Visitors can get in on the action too with various mushing experiences on offer around the Yukon, which can be combined with visits to hot springs. A wonderfully low impact way to explore the wilderness, the dogs are likely to be as excited as you.

Photo by Gemma Taylor

 

Stepping back in time in Dawson City

With a year-round population of 2000, you may expect Dawson City to be a sleepy place. It is in fact anything but! Centre of the 1896 Klondike Gold Rush, Dawson City is now almost like a living and breathing museum. Costumed interpretors wander the streets in summer and tour visitors along the wooden boardwalks and around the preserved Gold Rush-era buildings. Thrice nightly cancan shows continue in Canada’s oldest casino, Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, while brave souls in the Westminster Hotel down a drink with a dead appendage in it to join the ‘Sour Toe Club.’ The half-way point of the annual Yukon Quest, Dawson City knows how to party in winter too.

Experiencing the Midnight Sun / Watching the Northern Lights

“There are strange things done in the midnight sun” wrote Robert Service in 1907 and he was absolutely right. Summer days are long in the Yukon, averaging at 20 hours for much of the territory. With this much daylight, exploring doesn’t have to stop at dinnertime. The Yukon offers an entirely different perspective to what is summer; one that is seemingly never-ending and full of possibilities. On the other side of things, winter days may be short but in exchange they provide the opportunity of seeing the famed Northern Lights. Who needs long days when there is a dancing light show happening in the skies? Yukon skies shimmer with green throughout fall and spring too, but the dark nights of winter provide the best time to see the show.

Driving in Yukon territory

Photo by Gemma Taylor

Driving the Alaska Highway

The longest stretch (958km) of the famed Alaska Highway actually runs through Yukon Territory. Considered one of the best drives in the world, the ‘Alcan’ was originally built to connect Alaska with the continental USA during WWII. It may be a modern road today but it still evokes adventure, even if you don’t drive it all the way to Alaska! Lined by mountains and one-of-a-kind views, the road travels past some of Yukon’s most iconic sights, such as Watson Lake’s Signpost Forest (started by the road builders in 1942), the Yukon River, Kluane National Park and the stunning Kluane Lake. Short detours from the main highway lead to anomalies like the Carcross Desert and intensely coloured Emerald Lake. If you have time, take the ultimate road trip and drive the entire highway from Dawson Creek, BC, to Fairbanks, Alaska.

About the Guest Author of this Post

Gemma has been hiking, paddling, driving and writing her way around Western Canada with her boyfriend Jean Robert since 2011. Their most recent five month road trip stretched all the way to Inuvik, NWT. Sharing their outdoor adventures and travel tips on offtracktravel.ca, Gemma has also recently released an eBook ‘the Ultimate Guide to a Working Holiday in Canada’ to help enable others to go on their own Canadian adventure. Connect with JR and Gemma on Twitter and Facebook.

7 True Yukon Experiences is a post from: I Backpack Canada

Watch now!

]]>
http://ibackpackcanada.com/7-true-yukon-experiences/feed/ 0
Burlesque & Beers at Diamond Tooth Gertieshttp://ibackpackcanada.com/burlesque-beers-at-diamond-tooth-gerties/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/burlesque-beers-at-diamond-tooth-gerties/#comments Mon, 08 Oct 2012 12:30:18 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=4724 Red velvet curtains, wood floors, games of chance, and cold Yukon beer greet each visitor of this unique gambling hall. Smiles crawl across the faces of new visitors and only enlarge at the sight of Gerties Girls, a beautiful bunch of cancan dancers who take stage three nights a week. Welcome to Dawson City’s famous […]

Burlesque & Beers at Diamond Tooth Gerties is a post from: I Backpack Canada

]]>

Red velvet curtains, wood floors, games of chance, and cold Yukon beer greet each visitor of this unique gambling hall. Smiles crawl across the faces of new visitors and only enlarge at the sight of Gerties Girls, a beautiful bunch of cancan dancers who take stage three nights a week. Welcome to Dawson City’s famous gambling hall – Diamond Tooth Gerties – a unique blast from the past that continues to dominate the nightlife of of this small Gold Rush town.

Timing is Everything

As with most gambling halls, the atmosphere in Gerties changes with the clientele. Show up too early (say the 6pm or 9pm show), and expect to see the PG rated version of the Yukon. RV Tourists and Cruiseline Crusadors fill the hall for a very tame taste of Gerties. However, if you’re able to pump your brakes for a few hours, you’re in for a completely different show.

yukon-slot-machine

I was amongst a loyal group of comrades, hell-bent on seeing every side of Dawson City. Being fans of beer and gin & tonics, we felt obligated to sample drinks coincidentally close to 2 separate showings of Gerties Girls. The 9pm was quiet, we observed people that were well over 20-30 years our senior gamble and drink. The girls danced, embarrassed a few older gentlemen, and smiled as wide as possible. While it was nice to see some Baby Boomers throw a beer or two back, it was still rather family-friendly in my eyes.

dawson-city-diamond-tooth-gerties-girls

The Midnight Show

Returning at Midnight, the crowd had drastically changed. Lights seemed a little more dim, and Gerties Girls seemed a lot more scantily clad. Locals lined the bar and filled the poker tables. Men with beards longer than the hair on my head slugged beer back like water. The show started, and the bar cleared to watch. Beautiful girls doing sexy things on stage can make the most honest man stop and stare.

Once Gerties Girls left the stage to change outfits, a male performer took stage – clearly trying to seduce the opposite sex in the same manner that Gerties Girls do. It didn’t appear to be working; however, it was then that I figured it out. I looked back at the bar & every inch of standing room around the bar had filled with men seeking refills. As the man-dancer got off stage, the man-drinkers returned to their observation stations. This was genius – Gerties was using the man-dancer to get the men to drink more & also allow the lady-dancers time to change. Yukon ingenuity at it’s finest!

dawson-city-yukon-beer

A Run-in with an Angry Fellow

I joined the flock and learned the rhythm of the bar – it would appear timing out your next drink required accurate planning. Showing up too late meant you missed a song and dance with Gertie & her Girls. After refilling my beer I managed to bump into a local Dawson City gentlemen who didn’t like the cut of my jib. With the assistance of his friend, I was able to convince this rather angry fellow that smashing my face in wouldn’t do either of us any good. In lieu of his act of kindness I was merely encouraged to buy the three of us a shot. That seemed like a fair trade, “Three Tequila’s it is!“.

dawson-city-diamond-tooth-gerties-gambling

A Beautiful Venue

As the final set of Gerties Girls finished up, I did an ocular pat-down of the gambling hall. Men and women were playing blackjack against traditionally dressed dealers in suspenders. The sound of a slot machine spilling it’s guts into the cup of a lucky winner rang through one corner of the bar, lights flashed, people drank, smiles were all around, and the floor was filled with people enjoying a show that could have been put on in the early 1900’s.

Dawson City is this little hidden town in it’s own bubble. Time doesn’t appear to have had much of an affect on it. The beer tastes good, the locals are friendly (even the drunk one that wanted to fight became an ally after drinking tequila with him), and the amount of things to see and do around this little town is astounding. Find a way up here if you’re ever in Whitehorse and see what I feel is the “real Yukon”. A little rough around the edges & jammed full of sexy history, beautiful scenery, and an ample supply of alcohol.

Diamond Tooth Gerties is a non-profit gambling hall that started in the 1950’s by a keen bunch of locals who wanted to promote tourism in The Yukon. Named after Diamond Tooth Gertie, a real life Klondike superstar / lady of the eve who differentiated herself from the “other girls” by sticking a Diamond in her teeth. Diamond Tooth Gerties serves beer, liquor, texas hold’em, roulette, blackjack, and all the slots you can shake a stick at.

Entry Cost: $10.00

Special thanks to the kind folks at Tourism Yukon for helping arrange this excursion, and to the fine people of Diamond Tooth Gerties who let me snap photos of this unique piece of Yukon culture.

Burlesque & Beers at Diamond Tooth Gerties is a post from: I Backpack Canada

Watch now!

]]>
http://ibackpackcanada.com/burlesque-beers-at-diamond-tooth-gerties/feed/ 2
Chopper Flight Over the Tombstone Mountain Rangehttp://ibackpackcanada.com/chopper-flight-over-the-tombstone-mountain-range/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/chopper-flight-over-the-tombstone-mountain-range/#comments Tue, 02 Oct 2012 13:22:42 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=4801 Crawling into the rather small helicopter on the tarmac of Dawson City’s tiny airport, I couldn’t help but smile. Up until this point, I had never stepped foot inside a helicopter, and what better way to pop my chopper cherry than in the colossal mountains of the Yukon. Looking at this sophisticated piece of machinery, I couldn’t […]

Chopper Flight Over the Tombstone Mountain Range is a post from: I Backpack Canada

]]>

Crawling into the rather small helicopter on the tarmac of Dawson City’s tiny airport, I couldn’t help but smile. Up until this point, I had never stepped foot inside a helicopter, and what better way to pop my chopper cherry than in the colossal mountains of the Yukon. Looking at this sophisticated piece of machinery, I couldn’t help but awe at the wonder of flight. Four blades connected to a shell, slicing through the air to provide lift to a handful of men stuffed into its insides. It’s a strange notion the more you dissect it, but as the helicopter got off the ground, I’d never felt more safe, and never felt more alive.

trinity-helicopters-tombstone-tour

Trinity Helicopter Tours

I first met our helicopter pilot at a bar in Whitehorse a few days before the flight. While talking over some beer it turned out that we were alumni’s to the same elementary school in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – talk about a small world. I had almost forgot about the encounter in Whitehorse until I ran into him again in Dawson City. I laughed thinking “I wonder how many helicopter pilots are in the Yukon, and how come I keep running into this fellow.” As it would turn out, he was fated to blow my mind with the dangerously endearing beauty of the Tombstone Mountain Range.

tombstone-valley-yukon-helicopter

Tombstone Valley

Departing from Dawson City, we climbed the currents of air eastward, exploring the hills, valleys, and trees that completely surround this small town. Our pilot provided us with some colour commentary on the way up, explaining some of the work being done in the current gold mines, and briefly informing our group of the geological studies being performed in the area. It wasn’t long before the tree line began to fade into rocky outcrops – which fast became massive slabs of earth that stabbed the sky.

trinity-helicopters-tombstone-mountains-spires

Yukon Spires

As we flew through Tombstone Valley, it was clear why this area of mountains was used as a landmark for first nations people. The towering spires on each side, the epic beauty of small rivers, colourful greenery, and deep shades of blue, grey, and white make for a scene that can only be described as mind-blowingly-memorable. We hovered in the area, snapping photos, and circling the sharp jagged spires along the Tombstone Territorial Park.

tombstone-mountain-yk

Tombstone Mountain, Yukon

Flying up to Tombstone Mountain, it’s apparent how the name stuck. The sharp flat face and jagged edges truly do the name justice .Looking over some of the mountains, you could see completely different weather systems lingering, threatening our clear skies. Our pilot seemed sure they weren’t going to sneak our way, but it was something he was going to keep an eye on. As we approached the 40 minute mark our helicopter began it’s flight back to Dawson City; however, not before a quick fly by of the the city & the Dredge Ponds which scour the surrounding area.

What are Dredge Ponds?

The dredge ponds located throughout the Yukon are remnants from several multi-million dollar machines that clawed through the land, digging for gold. Their method was far from “good” for the environment, but in those days the word eco-friendly didn’t sit anywhere near machines. In order to extract the gold from the land, a complicated process involving washing the soil with water from the rivers and lakes nearby forced the gold to fall to the bottom of these massive machines. While some see the dredge ponds as a scar on Yukon’s past I can’t help but feel they’re a unique piece of Canadian history.

dredge-ponds-gold-mine-yukon

As our helicopter landed along the Dawson City airstrip I stepped onto solid ground once again. I couldn’t help but laugh in shock of what I’d just seen – taking in the Yukon from the sky is truly the only way to get a grasp of the scale and sheer enormity of this Canadian territory. The Yukon is so sparsely populated by humans, yet so densely populated by wildlife, trees, rivers, mountains and lakes. With helicopter tours starting for under $200, you’d be a fool not to jump aboard.

Trinity Helicopters in the Yukon

Trinity Helicopter Tours offers the most spectacular views of Gold Fields, Tombstone Park, Ibex Valley, Fish Lake, Wheaton Valley, Chilkat Glacier, along with City & River tours in Dawson & Whitehorse.

Dawson City: (867) 993-3971

Whitehorse: (867) 393-3598

Special thanks to Tourism Yukon and Owen at Trinity Helicopters for helping me get up in the air!

Chopper Flight Over the Tombstone Mountain Range is a post from: I Backpack Canada

Watch now!

]]>
http://ibackpackcanada.com/chopper-flight-over-the-tombstone-mountain-range/feed/ 0
The White Pass & Yukon Route – Gateway to the Northhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/the-white-pass-yukon-route-gateway-to-the-north/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/the-white-pass-yukon-route-gateway-to-the-north/#comments Thu, 02 Aug 2012 17:19:18 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=4712 Driving from Whitehorse in the Yukon to Fraser, B.C to climb aboard the White Pass & Yukon Route is an experience unto itself. The scenery in this region can hardly be described. Hues of blue & green with sharp contrasts of icy white and dark charcoals and black cover the rocky mountainous terrain. It’s as […]

The White Pass & Yukon Route – Gateway to the North is a post from: I Backpack Canada

]]>

Driving from Whitehorse in the Yukon to Fraser, B.C to climb aboard the White Pass & Yukon Route is an experience unto itself. The scenery in this region can hardly be described. Hues of blue & green with sharp contrasts of icy white and dark charcoals and black cover the rocky mountainous terrain. It’s as if a painter had only a few colours on his pallet, but somehow managed to make a masterpiece with various tones and shades. The old train parked along the tracks overlooking this natural work of art is a stark reminder that you’re still a part of civilization, even if you can only see a few dozen people.

whitepass-yukon-route-train IN FRASER-BC

All Aboard the White Pass & Yukon Route

After awing over the beauty of Fraser, B.C, I boarded the train and was greeted by a friendly young train employee who happily points out the Train Engineer and the Conductor. At a cost of $135, taking the WhitePass is a great way to get to and from Skagway, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon. It’s worth noting that this isn’t your typical Eurorail type of train. These carts are old, and the rail line is practically ancient. While it may not be the fastest train you’ll ride, the slow pace gives you ample time to take in the breathtaking views during the ride.

whitepass-yukon-route-train-tracks

Old Sounds on an Old Train

As I acquainted myself with my seat, the train slowly began to move forward and I watched as the natural skyline began to change. My cart rocked gently back and forth, swaying to the beat of the precise heavy bass caused by the turning of the wheels. The hissing cry of metal on metal added a sense of old time flavour to the experience. The steam whistle screams and makes me jump. I laugh at myself for not expecting that. As the train passes through canyons covered in snow and ice I couldn’t help but feel as if it’s winter. It’s June 1st – practically summer – and snow in these regions are still measured in feet, rather than inches.

yukon-train-to-alaska

A low ceiling of misty white clouds hangs over the mountains. Sleet and rain gently pour down, adding a sense of adventure to the slow moving train. Walking outside of the trailing cart I snap photos of the ever changing terrain. After passing through a few tunnels it’s clear to see we’re approaching a rainforest. Snow trades it’s place for massive trees and the temperature begins to warms up. Waterfalls and cliffs can be found every few kilometres along the rail line.

yukon-bear

Does a bear sh*t in the woods?

As the train curves around bends, I hang over the iron rails and snap photos. Then suddenly, as if waiting to see the train go by, a large brown bear is crouching beside the tracks. He isn’t moving, and one passenger asks “Is it real?” – as our cart is dragged a little further down the track we see the bear from another angle and quickly find out that yes, he is real, and yes bears do in fact shit in the woods. Our cart erupts in laughter as someone jokes “It’s the Charmin bear!“.

alaska-bound-from-yukon

On to Alaska

Moving slowly along cliffs and waterfalls, across old bridges and rivers, we made it to our final destination – Skagway, Alaska. While I have many thoughts and opinions on Skagway; I’ve decided to leave them be for now (separate post on that coming soon). A train with this much history and beauty along it’s path really needs to be experienced to fully understand it’s allure. You don’t have to be a train buff, history geek, or arctic explorer to enjoy the Whitepass Yukon Route. All you need are some curious eyes interested in seeing one of the most beautiful stretches of rail you can find in North America.

whitepass-yukon-route-sign

The History of the White Pass & Yukon Route

The rail line between the Yukon and Alaska was built in 1898 in response to the Klondike Gold rush. Over 100,00 men & women stormed the Klondike region in hopes of striking it rich. These stampeders needed a quick way to get themselves and their gear into the region, and wealthy entrepreneurs of yesteryear tried to strike it rich by providing a futile service to the region. The single-track rail is 27.7 miles and takes you through the Norths most rugged terrain, including the Coast Mountains, Tongass National Forest & The White Pass Summit between British Columbia & Alaska, which sports a soaring elevation of 2,865 ft or 873m.

The White Pass & Yukon Route was designated an International Historic Civic Engineering Landmark in 1994, alongside such other engineering feats, including the Eiffel Tower, The Statue of Liberty and the Panama Canal.

The White Pass & Yukon Route – Gateway to the North is a post from: I Backpack Canada

Watch now!

]]>
http://ibackpackcanada.com/the-white-pass-yukon-route-gateway-to-the-north/feed/ 3
Panning for Gold at Claim 33http://ibackpackcanada.com/panning-for-gold-at-claim-33/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/panning-for-gold-at-claim-33/#comments Thu, 21 Jun 2012 12:13:41 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=4718 The Yukon, home of the largest gold rush in history. 100,000 stampeders from across the world invaded the region in search of riches. While only 30,000 to 40,000 actually made it across the treacherous terrain, and only a few thousand even struck gold, people continued to flock. Gold fever they call it! It’s a game of chance […]

Panning for Gold at Claim 33 is a post from: I Backpack Canada

]]>

The Yukon, home of the largest gold rush in history. 100,000 stampeders from across the world invaded the region in search of riches. While only 30,000 to 40,000 actually made it across the treacherous terrain, and only a few thousand even struck gold, people continued to flock. Gold fever they call it! It’s a game of chance with the elements; however, I was about to find out there was also some skill to it.

 

dawson-city-gold-panning-yukon-claim-33

Gold Fever at Claim 33

I arrived at Claim 33, a museum, souvenir shop, and one of the few locations the public can come to pan for gold themselves. It’s here that I’m taught that you can pan for gold all you want, but if you don’t have a proper technique, you’re going to lose every bit of gold you find.

I’m handed a black steal pan with a pile of gravel and dirt. I’m guided to the water trough where I’m given a brief tutorial on the proper way to pan for gold. I start sifting through the dirt and gravel, trying to separate the gold flakes from dirt in hopes of striking it rich. I shake my gravel in water, washing it, trying to loosen the dirt. I’m corrected multiple times due to my poor technique but soon get into the rhythm. Wash, pour, dip, wash, pour, dip.

dawson-city-gold-panning-yukon-1

It’s all about the Technique

After a dozen attempts I appear to be making some progress. My friendly instructor laughs at my terrible technique. In the time it’s taken me to get half way through my pan, she’s finished three, and found gold in each. It seems I would have been a starving stampeder had I been around during the Gold Rush of 1898.

As the large stones are sifted out of my pan I see my first flake shining in the lip of my black metal pan. “GOOOOLD!” – I concentrate on not losing the flake. Praying that by shaking the last big rock out, I don’t accidentally knock out the precious flake with it. Another gold flake pokes through the thin dust. I think to myself “I’m gonna be soooo rich!“.

gold-flakes-klondike-dawson-yukon

Gold Fever in the Yukon

It soon becomes apparently that I have Gold Fever. I begin planning to sell my life and move up here to become rich. I shake, dip, wash, pour, until finally – I present my earnings for my 15-20 minutes of labor. 4 gold flakes – estimated value… not a lot. In that instant I’m cured of the fever. While clearly my technique needs some work, it’s surprisingly fun sifting through dirt, a practically worthless pile of nothing, and turning it into a few gold flakes that could actually be worth something. My back aches from the short time I was bent over – those Stampeders had a hard life. For those that struck it rich, it must have seemed worth it. For those who didn’t, I can’t imagine the despair.

While panning for gold my seem a bit “touristy” – it’s a great way to learn the history of the Klondike Gold Rush and really does provide an accurate portrayal of the pain and frustration the thousands of Stampeders would have felt. Many locals in this area spend their time off knee deep in rivers and streams panning. It’s sort of a mix between a hobby and a part-time job. If it pays off, it pays well, if not – well, they get their fair share of Vitamin D and get to take in the outdoors. Which in my eyes, is one of the best riches you can find in the Yukon.

Panning for Gold at Claim 33 is a post from: I Backpack Canada

Watch now!

]]>
http://ibackpackcanada.com/panning-for-gold-at-claim-33/feed/ 0
The Sourtoe Cocktail – A Yukon Traditionhttp://ibackpackcanada.com/the-sourtoe-cocktail-a-yukon-tradition/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/the-sourtoe-cocktail-a-yukon-tradition/#comments Mon, 18 Jun 2012 10:49:39 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=4769 You may have heard of it in passing. Whispers of a drink so strange it simply can’t be true. “You’re kidding! Is that even legal?!” – is the most common reaction. I’m talking about the Sourtoe Cocktail. Take one highball glass, fill it with a liquor of your choice and drop one severed human toe into […]

The Sourtoe Cocktail – A Yukon Tradition is a post from: I Backpack Canada

]]>

You may have heard of it in passing. Whispers of a drink so strange it simply can’t be true. “You’re kidding! Is that even legal?!” – is the most common reaction. I’m talking about the Sourtoe Cocktail. Take one highball glass, fill it with a liquor of your choice and drop one severed human toe into the drink. The Jagerbomb’s got nothing on this. It’s sort of become a viral phenomenon – and people travel from all over the world to Dawson City, Yukon to join the Sourtoe Cocktail club.

captain-dick-stevenson-sour-toe

Welcome to the Home of the Sourtoe Cocktail

Walking into the Downtown Hotel (Corner of Second St & Queen) – it’s clear you’re in the home of the toe. A giant wooden carving of a severed toe hangs above the bar, inscribed on the carved statue is a Capt. River Rat’s name, along with his year of birth, and an awaiting year of death. It would appear the Captain is still kicking it. I think to myself – “Good to know – surely he’s lost count of how many he’s done and if he’s still alive, how bad can it be!”

I’m greeted by a friendly young lady who has earned the title of “Sourtoe Captain” – her job is to encourage patrons of the bar to enjoy a Sourtoe Cocktail, and upon their agreement, bring them to the back of the bar and initiate them into the Sourtoe Cocktail Club. People gather around the back, waiting for the next person to join the club.

She tries luring me in with her cute eyes, I smile and politely decline “Just spectating for now thanks, probably tomorrow night!”“But I won’t be here tomorrow night, you’ll have someone else…” she replies. After a bit of back and forth I eventually find myself in the chair at the back of the bar, starring at a severed, wrinkly, pickled human toe. Surprisingly the toe isn’t all that creepy as a whole, it’s just the  nail. Dead people’s nails look ridiculously disgusting.

sour-toe-cocktail-dawson-yukon-3

One Jack Daniels with a twist of Sourtoe

The bartender offers me a glass – “Yukon Jack?” she asks –”Jack Daniels please“, I reply. She pours me two fingers and brings back my highball to the table. I smell the oaky tones of JD and hope it’s enough to mask the taste of dead people. I then made a promise to myself, this is the closest I’ll ever get to cannibalism. She picks up the severed human toe, and drops it into my glass. It bounces gently on the bottom of the highball glass. I make eye contact with the toe, then The Captain passes me the traditional Sourtoe chapeau. I slap it on, give her the thumbs up just as she starts to speak the words that seal me in as a member of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club.

I hear my cue – “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow – But your lips have got to touch the toe.” – I pick up the highball and bring it to my face, slowly pouring the warm JD down my throat, savouring the burn. The toe falls from the bottom of the glass and touches my lips and I decide to hold it there for a couple seconds. Make it official – and likely get a neat photo in the process. The crowd that’s gathered around me cheers as I release the glass from my lips and place it back upon the table. The toe sits upright in the bottom of the glass, as if it’s saluting me for my accomplishment.

sour-toe-cocktail-dawson-yukon-jack-daniels

A Sourtoe Cocktail with The Captain

As I recover from the burn of the drink, I shake my head in debelief and ask The Captain – “How many times have you done the Sourtoe Cocktail?” – she looks down shyly – “Only twice…” – I reply “You should do it again! Do a Sourtoe with us!“. After a few prodding words of encouragement from me, she says “What the hell! It’s been a while!“. Her drink is prepared and she asks me to read her in – the script is thankfully printed on my newly minted certificate.

I ask politely “Can we trade hats? Your’s look more official.” – she hesitates, assessing whether I’m worthy of wearing the Captain’s hat. She slowly removes it from her head and passes it to me. I slap on the awesome Captain hat with a big smile and belt out the initiation words. She slams a Sourtoe Cocktail like a champ – “Clearly not her first time”, I think to myself. The Captain sticks her hand out “Hat…” she says. I pass her the Captain’s hat and she slaps it back on, adjusting it slightly, laughing – “You don’t know how many people try to get me to do a Sourtoe Cocktail with them, you guys got lucky!

severed-toe-sour-cocktail-dawson

Member No. 44,119 & Counting

As I get up out of my chair, thanking her for the experience, another patron sits down. The Sourtoe Cocktail practically sells itself. It’s an experience. One of those unique & quirky things you don’t want to leave Dawson City without doing. You’ll be happy to hear that once you pay to do the Sourtoe Cocktail once (Cost of $5 + drink cost), you can do them free for the rest of your life – you only have to pay the cost of the drink. Did I mention you get a Sourtoe Cocktail Club card? I keep mine beside my health card.

The History of the Sourtoe Cocktail

In the early 1970’s, this wild Yukon character (originally from New Brunswick) named Captain Dick Stevenson a.k.a Captain River Rat, found a preserved severed human toe in an old cabin near Dawson City and had the bright idea of turning it into a drink. People who knew Captain Dick guffawed, saying – “Nobody will do that, you’re crazy!” – while he may stretch the definition of sane, turns out everyone was wrong. The Sourtoe Cocktail became an immediate hit, and it wasn’t long before people were sucking them back like they were going out of style.

Originally the Sourtoe Cocktail was done in a pint of champagne, but it has since evolved into a highball of liquor, typically whiskey; however, they’ll drop the toe in just about anything – including Virgin Sourtoe Cocktails. They’ve gone through 4 human toes already, one was lost, one was stolen, and yes, one was even swallowed! While there’s been a few minor changes to the initiation, one rule remains the same. The drinker’s lips must touch the toe. As the initiation process so boldly proclaims “You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow – But your lips have got to touch the toe.”

The Sourtoe Cocktail – A Yukon Tradition is a post from: I Backpack Canada

Watch now!

]]>
http://ibackpackcanada.com/the-sourtoe-cocktail-a-yukon-tradition/feed/ 2
Ride the Yukon Trails with Boreale Mountain Bikinghttp://ibackpackcanada.com/ride-the-yukon-trails-with-boreale-mountain-biking/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/ride-the-yukon-trails-with-boreale-mountain-biking/#comments Thu, 07 Jun 2012 14:02:19 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=4676 Flying down a narrow trail with twists, turns, jagged rocks and protruding tree roots, I couldn’t help but laugh in the face of the danger. As I made it to the bottom of the hill, I lowered my gear, and began pedalling uphill, distracting myself with memories of how I managed to find myself Mountain Biking in […]

Ride the Yukon Trails with Boreale Mountain Biking is a post from: I Backpack Canada

]]>

Flying down a narrow trail with twists, turns, jagged rocks and protruding tree roots, I couldn’t help but laugh in the face of the danger. As I made it to the bottom of the hill, I lowered my gear, and began pedalling uphill, distracting myself with memories of how I managed to find myself Mountain Biking in the Yukon.

I was picked up by a shuttle bus from Whitehorse, a small city of approximately 30,000 – home to the S.S Klondike and what locals like to call “the colourful 5%” – a cute name for the quirky individuals you’ll find in the North. Our group was driven 20 minutes out of town, along gravel roads lined with lush northern trees and pull up to a massive black trailer being unloaded with mountain bikes.

Corbin Fraser Mountain Biking

Photo by Tim Hogan

My group anxiously barrage our Mountain Bike Guides – Marsha, Sylvain, and Kate – with questions. “Will we see bears?” – “How hard is the terrain?” – “I’m new to this, will I survive?” – they politely smile and ensure we’ll all be safe, all have fun, and see some incredible sights along the Yukon River. Marsha concluded it all with, “As for the bears, the Yukon’s big, they have better places to hang than around us.” We were then given safety waivers to sign – just part of the process for being able to do an adventure tour worth.

Mountain Biking Safety

Photo by Tim Hogan

Fit for Comfort & Safety

Our group is a mix of those who’ve never seen a trail in their life, to those who casually partake in Mountain Biking whenever they get the chance. Experience level aside, everyone is getting along fine and eager for the ride. After being fitted with some premium mountain bikes by Sylvain and observing Kate – Mountain Bike Guide/Instructor – perform her magic (she appears to be able to accurately guess head circumference and fit helmets in one go), we go through a brief but thorough safety overview. Once everyone is feeling comfortable with their new rides, we start along the single track.

Yukon Mountain Biking

Photo by Tim Hogan

Easy Does It…

The first ten minutes we take it slow – feeling out the mountain bikes and acclimatizing to the hyper-sensitive disk brakes. I’ve flipped my personal mountain bike twice with the same setup (once in the middle of traffic, another time on a trail, graceful…I know), so I was glad to see our guides ensure everyone felt confident, including clumsy ol’ me.

Pro-tip (Care of Kate)

Keep only 1 finger (two at most!) on the front & rear brake to ensure you don’t hammer on them too hard, resulting in a painful face-plant. Disk brakes are awesome – but particular.

The simple single track track gradually builds in intensity. Brief inclines keep our glutes hard at work, while fast and bumpy downhill sections give us time rest our bodies, and increase our adrenaline. We dodge roots, jump fallen flora, and bounce gracefully over stoney outcrops. Twisting, crouching, bracing then stretching as we weave through some of the Yukon’s best mountain biking trails.

miles-canyon

A Stop at Miles Canyon

We rested at Miles Canyon, a small fjord surrounded by trees, and crossed by a suspension bridge. In the heat of the summer, locals have been known to jump the bridge and cool off in the frigid northern waters. A photo op ensues and we quickly discover who’s the “photo traveller” and who’s the “moment traveller”. We rehydrate, saddle up and push on.

Boreale Mountain Biking

Photo by Tim Hogan

Our guides lead us along the Yukon River, gradually pushing our group towards harder, and more exciting terrain. The conversation with the trail picks up – “Ahwwoooooooo” – followed by bursts of laughter. The screams of adrenaline (and fear) echoes through the valley and a smile refuses to leave my face.

Breathe In That Yukon Air

I breathe in the fresh mountain air and gulp down some water. Our guides ask if anyone is willing to do some tougher trails. I’m covered in sweat, slightly out of breathe, but happily raise my hand and am joined by five others. We separate from the herd with Sylvain and proceed to the more extreme side of Mountain Biking. Steep declines grace almost every inch of these trails. The front suspension absorbs the brunt of the force of jumping roots & rocks, my elbows and knees take the rest.

More speed, more adrenaline

Our final hour of the tour was spent chasing one another through advanced trails. Our nouveau group of six quickly became close friends, sharing water and “did you see that?!” tales from meters behind. We concluded the day back on a gravel clearing where the tailer was parked. High fives finished off the adventure and we agreed that some cold Yukon Brews were going to taste good tonight!

Boreale Mountain Biking

Photo by Tim Hogan

With the help of Boreale Mountain Biking, the Yukon has been put on the map in the mountain bike scene. Trails cover this Canadian territory, allowing riders to bike all day and night (note: the sun rarely completely sets during the summer months this far north). They also offer multi-day mountain bike tours through the region, where you get to experience the great Yukon outdoors and sleep in a series of Yurts set up along the trail. Boreale Mountain Biking is based out of Whitehorse. Mountain bike trips start at $90 Half Day / $165 Full Day

Special thanks to Tim Hogan for photographing the entire ride! 


Ride the Yukon Trails with Boreale Mountain Biking is a post from: I Backpack Canada

Watch now!

]]>
http://ibackpackcanada.com/ride-the-yukon-trails-with-boreale-mountain-biking/feed/ 0
Best Hostels in Canadahttp://ibackpackcanada.com/best-hostels-in-canada/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/best-hostels-in-canada/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2009 18:57:27 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=196 Best Hostels in Canada is a post from: I Backpack Canada

]]>
The hostel scene in Canada is still in it’s youngest stages. They are spread out few and far between. However, despite lacking a decent hostel in every city, there are a good handful that I would personally recommend as the best hostels in Canada. Bare in mind, these are based on my own personal thoughts, opinions, and experiences.

Shuswap Lake Hostel – Shuswap Lake, BC

Shuswap Lake Hostel is located in a prime location, best hostels canadahalfway between Banff & Vancouver. The stop is definitely worth it, as there is quite a bit to do in the area. What’s unique about this hostel is that the dorms are actually inside some old restored train cars. The dorms themselves are a bit squishy, and can get pretty toasty in the summer, but it’s a unique stay, and is in surprisingly good condition, despite being so open to the elements. best hostels canada

The Shuswap Lake hostel also has some great views. With Squilax Mountain to one side, and Shuswap Lake to the other, you’re bound to work-out your neck during the first few minutes of arriving. The hostels right on the water, and has a free canoe to book or borrow. The owners were very informative about the area, and the hostel had a really cool dog which loved to follow people around the yard.

  • Each train car has it’s own kitchen and bathroom
  • There’s a cool beaver lodge right around the corner from the hostel that’s worth checking out,
  • The hostel is right off the Trans-Canada highway – the Greyhound bus stops right in front of the hostel
  • The hostel owners are very eco-friendly, they are proud compost owners, and love all things natural

More info on the Shuswap Hostel here

 

Banff Alpine Centre Hostel – Banff, Alberta

A fantastic hostel right in Banff, with all the luxuriesbackpack banff of a hotel. They have several 4 and 6 person dorms, as well as some private rooms with doubles & queen beds. They recently added a few log cabins too, which can sleep up to 5 guests. The cabins looked really cool, they have washrooms, TV, telephone, seating area, and a fireplace. If you don’t have the cash to cough up for a private room, the dorms are just as good. They were in great condition. The hostel itself has plenty to do. They’ve got a couple lounges, and a great lookout deck with some great scenic views of the mountains.

This hostel also offers free wifi, so if you’ve packed your laptop you should have no problem connecting to the internet. They also have several internet kiosk stations for those without. One of my favourite reasons for nominating this hostel as one of the best hostels in Canada is that it’s home to a great backpacker pub called “The Storm Cellar”. There are so few of these in Canada, and this one is definitely one of omy faves. The Storm Cellar has karaoke nights, open mic night, live bands, free pool and darts. If you’re an Aussie or Brit you’re sure to find someone from your corner of the globe.

More info on Banff Alpine Centre Hostel here

Dawson City Hostel – Dawson City, Yukonbackpack yukon

Located right on the rivers edge, Dawson City Hostel is quirky to say the least. Despite it’s clashing colours, and the fact that it doesn’t look a thing like any other hostel, this one’s actually not that bad. It truly does give off that rustic feeling you should expect with heading to the Yukon. Plenty of room, great people, great views. The owners are more than happy to tell you about their city, what to do, where to go, how to get there. There are 40 beds in total, several of which in dorm styles. The hostels location is perfecetly situated in the city. Nearby pretty much everything from museums, attractions, nightlife, shopping, hiking, and the river. There is also free parking, which for vehicle owners, rocks. Oh, and did I mention this hostel has a sauna?

The hostel helps plan your own true authentic “Klondike” experience, which is what most people come here to do. Pan for gold, check out a well preserved part of Canadian History, and experience the truest form of North America.

More info on Dawson City Hostel here

Ottawa Jail Hostel – Ottawa, OntarioBackpack Ottawa

Feelin like spendin a night in the slammer without all the nasty paperwork and criminal records. Check out Ottawas Jail hostel, easily one of the best hostels in Canada. The jail you’ll be staying in here was in operation for more than 100 years, and has since turned into a thriving hostel. This hostel is centrally located, all dorms are in renovated jail cells, and are more spacious than you would think. Take a tour of their un-renovated 8th floor, and check out what life was like in the pen.

The hostel is located near many museums, including the War museum. It’s a short walk to Parliament Hill, and several parks as well. Now despite the fact that you’re staying in a hostel, all the ammemnities you’ve grown so comfort of having are here as well. An open kitchen, a lounge with Satellite TV, internet kiosks and wifi, laundry and dining rooms. If you’re going to be in Ontario be sure to check this one out. They have plenty of dorms and several private cells rooms as well. Keep an eye out during the evenings, apparently this place is haunted.

More info on Ottawa Jail Hostel here


Tofino Hostel / Whalers on the Point Guesthouse – Tofino, Vancouver Island, BCbackpack tofino

Located on the shores of the Clayoquot Sound is one of western Canada’s hidden gems. Tofino is a small little hippie town with great surf, great people, and lots to see. Tofino Hostel does this town justice. It’s a great place to kick back after a long day on some of Canadas best surf. The hostel is located in downtown Tofino, and is a short walk to just about everything. An open self serve kitchen, which was always surprisingly clean when I visited, is available. The hostel also boasts a TV room, and games room (with pool table and foos ball) and a wet sauna. The staff are extremely helpful, and will do everything in their power to make your stay in Tofino a memorable one. Book early in summer as this one tends to fill up sooner than most Canadian Hostels.

More info on Tofino Hostel here

Auberges Montreal / Montreal Youth Hostel – Montreal, Quebecbackpack montreal

Located right in downtown Montreal, this hostel is close to everything you need to experience life in Montreal. The Montreal Youth Hostel is close to some amazing restaurantes, and is right in the heart of Montreal Nightlife. Pick a day and there is something going on in Montreals nightlife, whether its some indie band playing a small show, a theatre production in the park, or a festival right nearby, there’s something for just about everyone. The hostel is in great condition, especially considering the mansion the hostel is in is over 135 years old.

The hostel has a great little bistro right in the hostel, which serves coffee, tea, breakfast, and lunch. It’s also got this beautiful terrace which overlooks the city. It’s a great way to wake up in one of Canada’s most cultural cities. The hostel has free wifi for everyone, so feel free to get your nerd on. Montreal Youth Hostel also has several female only dorms, along with male & mixed dorms. All in fantastic condition with plenty of room to get comfortable.Definitely worth checking out.

More info on Montreal Youth Hostel here

Chateau Bahia – Pointe-à-la-Garde, Gaspésie, Québecchateau-bahia-hostel

This is another one of those “and you can sleep in it?” moments you might have. This Castle was built over 18 years by Jean and his father. The castle is entirely constructed of wood. It looks like something you would see in a fairy tale, or an MGMT video. The castle has 23 rooms, some even in the towers of the spires. Chateau Bahia has the best views of the Baie-des-Chaleurs and offers plenty to do in the area. The hostel owners offer a pancake and maple syrup breakfast every morning in the massive hall, followed by a candle lit dinner serving some true Quebecois dishes.

The area has many great hiking trails, along with some superb mountain biking trails. Take a stop at the many nearby beaches for a dip or just bask in the sun. Grab a fishing rod and try your luck at wild salmon fishing, or grab a kayak or canoe and paddle your way through the Matapedia River. There is lots to do around here, and with a very intriguing place to come back to, this is definitely one of Canadas Best Hostels.

More info on Chateau Bahia here


Auberge Festive / Sea Shack Hostel – Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, Quebec

Another Quebec hostel, this one just as awesome as the last. The hostel is Auberge_Festive_Sea_Shackproud to admit they are a bit of a party hostel. They’ve got a great little bar overlooking the ocean, and live music playing several times a week. The hostel itself is pretty cool too, you can stay in a tipi, a cabin, or camp on the beach.The hostel is located right on the beach, and has terrific views of the area.

Spend the day hiking, kayaking, fishing, or just hanging out at the bar getting your drink on. The Sea Shack also offers tours in the nearby Gaspesie National Park. The hostel owners are more than happy to help you arrange any activities in the nearby area. Keep an eye out on the water views as the whales tend to feed around here as well. I highly recommend this hostel for the young and the young at heart.

More info on Sea Shack hostel here


If you know of any other worthy contenders for the Best Hostels in Canada please feel free to comment. There are new hostels being started each year, and unfortunately I haven’t even come close to seeing them all. I’m sure there are a good couple handfuls of other hidden gems I haven’t even heard of.


Pointe-à-la-Garde, G0C 2M0
Gaspésie, Québec

Best Hostels in Canada is a post from: I Backpack Canada

Watch now!

]]>
http://ibackpackcanada.com/best-hostels-in-canada/feed/ 1