I had been making good time that morning. Great time. Dawson was within my reach. Dawson City.
The weather had been sunny and still and the current fast. Progress was quick.
All of that changed in the afternoon though. I had just 5 miles to go to town and my mind was more preoccupied with what flavor of ice cream I was going to get in Dawson than anything else.
Then the wind came bringing with it rain clouds.
Oh wind and her wild ways.
You can hear the wind. You can see the gusts raging over the water before they hit you. It gives you time to brace yourself. Time to hold your breath so you don’t breathe in the sediment they carry. Time to angle your kayak so they don’t throw you off course.
And then it hits you. It is an oppressive feeling. A helpless feeling. Your ears fill with the sound and you struggle forward.
Kayaking has seemed luxurious compared to thru-hiking. I can carry more comfortable gear. I can throw in my traveling guitar and a couple of books and nice food without stressing about every single ounce. . .but when you are out on the water, there is no hiding from the weather. No thick forest to shelter you from rain as you travel. No shade when it is sunny and hot. No hill to walk behind to hide from the wind. Whatever the weather is, you are in it.
The wind was as wild as I had seen it on this trip. In minutes it started whipping up white caps. The gusts were erratic coming from all different directions. Never a tailwind though.
Should I set up camp?
But I’m so close! That mint chocolate chip ice cream is so close!
Another blast of wind . . .
Imposing whitecaps . . .
I need to set up camp.
I had just about made this decision when I turned the corner to find a protected slough behind a nice island with tall trees. I had seen the spot on the map but hadn’t considered paddling it. I took a second look at the map. The slough stretched a ways behind the island and would get me close enough to the boat landing. I wouldn’t have to cross the broad river. I could just stick to the shore . . . this could work! Ice cream, here I come!
Only a light breeze made it to the slough and after I made it around the island, Dawson City was right there.
I was so excited when the town came into view, I almost forgot to pay attention for the boat landing on the opposite side of the river. Dawson City sits right at the confluence of the Klondike and the Yukon. Where clean, clear Klondike water meets the silty already giant Yukon.
I landed my boat. The wind was still strong and throwing sand in my face but that didn’t matter anymore. I had made it.
Dawson is quite a place. It is so chalk full of character, you could spend weeks there and not have had enough of it. This town was the goal of all those thousands of prospectors who came to try their luck in the goldfields during the gold rush over 100 years ago. How far they had come. How much they had risked.
Dawson could have faded into obscurity like so many of the gold mining communities from Klondike Rush times. It nearly did. Over just a handful of years after the rush, its population dove from 40,000 to 8,000 to 5,000 to 1,000 but the town stubbornly held on and there it sits today.
Dawson still has dirt streets and wooden sidewalks. Some of the buildings are over 100 years old. Some have been restored and some have been left alone and sink low to the ground. The elegant theater is still there, Jack London and Robert Service’s cabins are there. Dawson still has a frontier town feel. It is after all a 6 hour drive to the nearest outposts from there. 6 hours to Whitehorse and a 6 hours to Tok and an entire days drive to Inuvik.
It is an incredibly friendly place. People would say hello and even introduce themselves as I was just walking down the street. I was very excited to meet two other travelers: Sarah and Oskar who are right now walking across Canada! Check out their website here.
I stayed at a hostel for a couple of days and went on a tour of dredge 4 a ways out from town with Claire (from Australia) and Patrick and Ben (from Germany). It is good to be around people. I will be off the road system in a couple of weeks and these opportunities will be gone.
If I can make it to Dawson, maybe I can make it to the sea.