Striking Gold In The Yukon

If you been following the blog, you know – just like that, I left Alaska.

It took some discussion (I work for a corporation, people), but in early September I was asked to transfer to our Togwotee Mountain Lodge, outside of Grand Teton National Park.  One week (!) later, I was gone.  Leaving was a bit awkward because I left just before closing and our big employee checkout day, but they managed without me.  Barely.  Somehow.  🙂

Up to Fairbanks on the Parks Highway, then down to Tok (pronounced like “toke” or “poke”) on the Richardson Highway.  One of the joys of Alaska – even though Tok is nearly due east of Denali, I had to drive 120 miles north, and then back south again.  Tok is the only land entrance to Alaska, so every Alaska Highway traveler goes through it.

At least this time I remembered underwear and socks!  No stops at the Napa auto parts store.

The fall colors were at or near peak, so I was caught between constantly wanting to stop to take pictures and needing to put miles behind me.  While I’m confident I could have taken better and more varied photos with more time on my hands, hopefully I did OK capturing this grand area.

Near the town of strange little town of Tok.

Crossing the border into the Yukon, I was shocked at how stunningly beautiful it is.  I don’t know what I expected really, but somehow I didn’t expect it to be so grand.  A snowstorm in the previous few days brightened up the peaks, and the fall foliage was at its colorful peak.

Welcome to the Yukon! I had no idea what I was in for.

Lots of time to think on this trip.  After struggling with being in Alaska, suddenly I found myself questioning leaving.  What do I really think about the change?  Will I regret leaving?  Should I make the transfer long-term, or return as planned to Alaska in mid-January?  Why was I suddenly finding myself nostalgic for a place I spent so much time complaining about?  And what about my new location?  Yellowstone is my favorite place on the planet.  I literally choke up with happiness every time I go there.  And Togwotee is so close to Yellowstone!

My favorite photo of the trip. I love the dramatic scene and the bold colors. I wish I could have had an hour to work the scene more and make the photo even better, but I’m pretty happy with what I grabbed in a 5 minute stop.

The panoramic version with 100% more for your viewing pleasure!

Words of advice for anyone planning on a trip to the Yukon.  First, GO!  It’s incredibly beautiful if you like dramatic mountain scenery and wide open spaces.  Two, be prepared to be VERY flexible with your lodging options.  Were I to do it again, I would camp.  It’s a superior choice.

Night 1.  I arrive in the little hamlet of Beaver Creek, just inside the border.  Two of the 3 lodging options are closed for the season.  The 3rd – Ida’s Motel – has oil cans stacked at the front desk.  The owner gives me a look that clearly says “how much can I soak you for?” when I ask the cost.  $99.  The room was OK, but in the morning, no hot water.  I ask the owner what’s going on, and he basically says “I don’t care.”  Later I discovered on TripAdvisor that my experience is not unique.

Night 2.  Rancheria Lodge.  The family that owns it is friendly, welcoming, and helpful.  Unfortunately, it appears that they have done no maintenance on the property that was put up in 1949.  My room is best described as a dump.  At least it was “only” $80.

Night 3.  Thankfully, much better, sleeping in the town of New Hazelton.  “28 Inn” is what a motel should be – inexpensive, basic, but clean and comfortable.  What a concept!

Another scene I wish I could have had longer to shoot. All the elements are there for a fantastic shot. So while this is no casual snapshot, I can’t help but think I could have achieved something finer with more time to more around the scene.

Added to the life list – a two week vacation of hiking, driving, and camping in the mountains of the Yukon.  In late August or early September, AFTER the mosquitoes are gone!

From the Yukon I drove south into northern British Columbia.  Stay tuned…