This past weekend was the Yukon’s August long weekend, celebrating Discovery Day – the anniversary of the discovery of gold that kickstarted the Klondike Gold Rush 124 years ago.

We usually like to get out of town for this long weekend now, since town can get so busy. Even during the summer of Covid, visitors from British Columbia are allowed in the territory without isolating so tourism has really been picking up. There was a parade and a baseball tournament and just generally a bunch of loud drunk people roaming the streets.

This time I wasn’t one of those people. We drove up the Dempster on Friday after work to our spot on the Blackstone River…..

Well, that was our plan, but it was full! Full of people, tents, campers… grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

So we went south about 5km to another spot. Not as nice, closer to the road, but okay. Instead of being on the river, there is a small shallow pond there, with a large gravel area to park and camp.

Normally a stagnant pond would mean a million bugs, but there was a stream keeping everything moving. So there were only a hundred thousand bugs.

Actually the bugs weren’t bad. Mosquitos in the evenings, black flies in the afternoon, and no bugs in the morning when it was too cold. (Yep, we camped with the furnace on at night! So luxurious!)

I’ve never seen the Dempster so busy. People were camped everywhere. Everywhere you could pull off the gravel road, there was a tent or camper or truck. Lots of British Columbia plates. Assumingly also a lot of Whitehorse people. I guess we have to share our paradise. There was a vehicle going by at least every 5 minutes all weekend. Almost like a real highway! When I was up here during my sabbatical I’d see a vehicle only every few hours, if that.

Saturday I did almost nothing at all. I got a fire going early in the morning and listened to podcasts all day. Such relaxation!

We played a few games of Trivial Pursuit. Jeff won them all this time. I was a super dud on the sports trivia! Shameful really.

Hank did his usual – eat sticks, dig, play in water, get tangled up.

The first night we were solo, but by the second night we had another trailer beside us from British Columbia and another couple of trucks pulled in beyond some trees. So crazy to be so busy!

Our camper batteries seemed to be unexpectedly low, so we ran our little generator a couple hours each day trying to get the batteries back to their expected capacity. We don’t really use them for much, other than the water pump, and sliding the bump out in and out. And I suppose raising and lowering the hitch. Oh and the furnace fan. But there is a digital clock on the stereo and a carbon monoxide detector that are always on, so we need to find a way to kill the power, short of pulling the batteries out completely, like we do in the winter.

A small flock of ducks landed on the pond and got Hank really interested! If only we didn’t keep him tied up, I’m sure he’d have tried to catch one.

Since we weren’t camping right on the river, we didn’t have a ton to do, other than relax, so we cut the trip short a day and went home on Sunday.

On the way south we saw a low cloud snowing on top of one of the peaks! Terrible photo through Jeff’s windshield, but you can see the white stuff under that cloud!

Once we got home, we saw the frost warning for Sunday night, so I harvested my herb garden. I haven’t had a big herb harvest in this house yet, and couldn’t find any good place to hang them, except on the only curtain rod in the house, in my office. I can’t remember how long it takes to dry herbs, but until then, my work space is … fragrant. I’m looking forward to the oregano the most. I have no idea if the chives will dry well. The thyme and sage will just be a bonus if they dry well.

On Monday afternoon, we took a drive to a place Jeff had heard about and got a personal firewood harvesting permit for. It is about an hour from town, up a really steep long climb on a “road” that is really more of a trail that should have mandated maximum full support bras for the ladies because it was such a rough climb, I was hugging myself and trying to keep my legs from slamming into the door and centre console. The drive up must have been 25 minutes – with the wheel hubs locked and in 4 wheel drive to get us through the ruts and over the rocks. No way we’d pull the trailer we usually use for firewood up there!

The view was worth the effort it took to get there! It is quite high, and the scene of a forest fire many years ago. The trees were very sparse, but long dead, dry, not rotten, and the bark had already fallen off. The perfect kind of firewood!

We already have 4.5 cords of firewood split and stacked that we purchased from a commercial harvester that was recently killed by spruce beetles. But we would feel so much better if we had more than 5 cords, and this type of wood burns much longer and slower, possibly because it is so dense. All the wood we burn is spruce, but these trees you see standing here are each 80-100+ years old with super dense growth rings. Too dense to count the rings. That makes the wood burn slower.

Jeff cut only 3 or 4 trees down and they stacked nicely in the back of the truck.

So nicely that after work today (Tuesday), we went back for another load! Another beautiful day – 19 degrees Celcius! (could have used this weather when we were camping!)

The flowers you see are fireweed – the Yukon’s official flower! Fireweed is a pioneer plant – meaning it is the first to grow when there is a disturbance, like forest fire, or even recent ground disruption like from mining equipment or road construction. Most, if not all, of the plant is edible. I’ve even tried it!

Fireweed blooms from the bottom to the top. The old wives tale is that once the last flowers die at the top, winter is 6 weeks away. What a pleasure to see them still blooming up here! (They were about done north on the Dempster!)

Today Jeff cut down 6 or 7 trees. The truck wasn’t full, but perhaps you can imagine the effort it takes to lift an 8 foot dense log into the back of a tall truck. Now imagine it the day after you decide to try a beginner yoga class on YouTube.

We should have plenty of wood now. As fall is settling in, Jeff will be hunting for caribou and moose soon, to fill the freezers for winter too. If the weather holds up, depending on Jeff’s hunting trips, I may just take another solo camping trip up the Dempster to get some fall pictures!