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Personal Bests

Spring 2012 (V6I1)

What a strange and wonderful place we live in. We were so inspired by the results from our first-ever Best of The Yukon Readers' Poll, we decided to create our own personal-best list. On the following pages, staff and contributors share the people, places, and experiences that make their Yukon life truly north of ordinary.
BEST PLACE TO GO SLEDDING IN JULY

Montana Mountain


You’ll need four-wheel drive, a bike, or legs that won't get tired, but if you make your way to the upper portions of Montana Mountain, in Carcross, you’ll find the Yukon’s best summer-sledding spot. Though the lower portion of the peak is already a hotspot for mountain bikers and hikers in the warm months, few take advantage of delights above the treeline. Ascend via the road around the big washout--though the trail directly over the washout is shorter, the footing is loose and it’s very narrow and not recommended--and you’ll find lengths of snow running in little gullies along the mountainside. Some of these gullies are a bit flat, but keep looking--one or two of them will give you enough slope and length to enjoy a good run of sledding. Pack the hibachi and make a pleasant summer’s day of it, but be sure to bring your snow pants, too--the late- season snow is wetter than it is frozen. --Elaine Corden

BEST PLACE FOR A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE


St. Luke's Anglican Church


St. Luke’s Anglican Church is perched along the front edge of Old Crow, a soft, underhanded stone’s throw from the Porcupine River. The building, made of logs the colour of a worn penny, is much like the remote village in which it stands: peaceful, weathered, heavy with history, and a brief walk from the dense Yukon bush.
   Inside, there are unpretentious, chocolate-painted pews; hand-beaded altar cloths; and several pizza-box-sized stained-glass windows. The embellishments are modest, but the small gusts of colour enhance the tranquil air emanating from this structure. Simply put, St. Luke’s is the perfect Yukon church. The fact it requires a pilgrimage of Hajj-like proportions--Old Crow is only accessible by air and, in the summer, boat--merely adds to the divine atmosphere.
   It’s difficult for any but the hardened agnostic not to be moved in St. Luke’s. Not convinced? Take in the Sunday morning service, which often features the ethereal voices of a choir that sings hymns in Gwich'in and chances are you’ll be singing hosannas for a week.  --Wayne Potoroka

BEST COMMUNITY PLANNING

Faro Golf Course


Densification of the downtown core is a development principle that’s recently taken root in communities across Canada. But in Faro, this philosophy was employed years before it was even a fetish for forward-thinking municipal planners.
  Nearly two decades ago, Faro residents were eager for more recreation options and decided to build a golf course. And even though the community is surrounded by enough vacant land to make a real-estate developer reach for a drool bib, residents decided to build the nine-hole track right through town.
  Fairways run parallel to streets and weave through residential areas. Greens are a short chip shot from homes, and, before a course realignment, one hole skirted close enough to the school that unruly shots had a chance of ending up on the roof.
  Faroites might have been ahead of their time when they intensified their downtown with a golf course. But their decision had one practical benefit that’s turned out to be the course’s best feature: the first tee is a short walk from wherever you are in Faro--a good thing if you’re like most duffers and enjoy a tipple with your round. --Wayne Potoroka


BEST PLACE FOR IDLE CONVERSATION

Yukon River

photo: Jerome Stueart
For an escape from the Whitehorse summer hustle and bustle, grab a friend and launch a canoe along the Yukon River, anywhere from Rotary Park to Kanoe People. Relax--you’ve got a blissful three hours with your buddy before your pullout at the Takhini River Bridge. The current is strong enough to carry you with minimal paddling, and speedboats, if you encounter any, will slow down as they pass so you aren’t swamped by their wakes. You may see eagles, possibly a bear or beaver, but mostly it’ll be just you and your buddy. Chat away. Talk about life, the universe, and everything. Make sure to arrange for a pick up at the Takhini River Bridge. (You’ll have to paddle like gangbusters at the last minute to not be carried away by the merging of the Yukon and Takhini rivers.) Some canoe rental outfits will do this for a fee, but if that fails, prevail upon friends who know how valuable a little river time can be. --Jerome Stueart

BEST YUKON COMMUNITY THAT'S NOT IN THE YUKON

Atlin, B.C.

  photo: Manu Keggenhoff
Atlin.  To know it is to love it and to get there is only possible via Yukon Highway 7. Though the charming town of roughly 450 residents is technically in British Columbia, located 51 km south of the Yukon border, most Atlinites and many Yukoners consider it part of the territory. How does a town south of 60 get a pass? For starters, there’s the simple fact that Atlinites have to do a lot of their business in Whitehorse. A major shopping trip, a visit to the dentist, and access to the South via land, sea, and air all require a trip into the Yukon. But it’s not just a one-way street: Atlin has the look and soul of a Yukon town, with a well-preserved gold- rush history that informs much of its appearance and character. What’s more, it shares a lot of the quirks and idiosyncrasies that Yukoners love most about their home. A vibrant First Nation? Check. A community of weird and wonderful artists? Check. Tonnes of Germans. Double check.
  The little village, perched on a giant lake, set against a backdrop of glaciers and mountains has become the go-to choice for Yukoners seeking an easy weekend retreat, especially in the summer, when the 92-km drive from the Alaska Highway turnoff is clear and picturesque. Take a dip in the warm springs or a paddle on the lake, or pop down the weekend of the Atlin Arts and Music Fest, in July, where you’ll likely run into many, if not most, of your Yukon friends. Stay for the weekend and you’ll barely notice the border on your drive back. --Elaine Corden


BEST PLACE TO WATCH RAVEN (AND FIND A SLIGHTLY USED BED FRAME)
photo: Manu Keggenhoff
Whitehorse's Son of War Eagle Landfill

The Son of War Eagle Landfill is like a strange, smelly bird sanctuary. On any given day, there will be hundreds of ravens creating a cacophony of unsettling noises as they fly, squabble, and scavenge for their next meal.
  “They’re everywhere--400 or 500 of them,” says Alex Martin, who’s worked at the Whitehorse landfill for about a year. “They gather in little groups, and it seems like the bigger ones will pick on the smaller ones. If there’s a scrap of food, the big ones will fight the smaller ones to get it.”
  According to Martin, the best time to spot ravens is in the late afternoon, between 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., near the compost and the piles of household waste. The landfill is also a beacon for eagles and coyotes, making the area a photographer’s dream.  
  And the dump is not just for dumping anymore. While you’re there (or at any Yukon landfill) check out the free store, where people leave their landfill bound items that might have a bit of life left in them.   Depending on the day, you can find pretty much anything from a wool sweater to a half inflated basketball. Or, if you’re adventurous, you can get a salvage permit from the city and scour the landfill proper. --Leighann Chalykoff


BEST PLACE TO FIND A TRAVELLING PUB

Bombay Danny's


Dawson City inhabitants have the well-earned reputation for being a little eclectic and having a way-off-the-beaten-path attitude. It’s no surprise, then, that patrons of Bombay Peggy’s Victorian Inn and Pub deal with the temporary absence of their local in an unusual way. The closure of the popular watering hole each winter (along with many other Dawson businesses) had reduced regulars in search of camaraderie to wandering the snow-filled evenings, searching for a Peggy’s stand-in. Something needed to be done. Enter Dan Sokolowski, a filmmaker and out-of-the-box thinker with a big idea--Bombay Peggy’s, the winter edition, also known as Bombay Danny’s. Held almost every Friday night during the pub’s off- season, the winter edition sees the fun travel
to a different home each weekend, with an open invitation to the entire community to come meet new people or old friends, laugh a lot, eat great food, and forget the Yukon winter outside for a few hours.
   Volunteers offer up their home for a Friday evening, and Sokolowski dreams up a new name and poster for their pop-up pub based on Peggy’s original logo--Louisiana Lulu’s, New Delhi David’s, Shanghai Shelley’s, Guangdong Greg’s … even Bombay Next Door, which saw the pub’s owner, Wendy Cairns, host the bar in her own home. E-mails are sent out and an invite is posted on bombaydanny.blogspot.com, the online HQ for the shape-shifting tavern.
   Guests bring their beverage of choice and an appetizer, and the host puts a red light outside his or her front door--tribute to Peggy’s bawdy-house past and a beacon to all who show up. There’s always plenty to eat and drink, and hosts can usually count on a guest or two to stay behind and help with the cleanup. Attendees are respectful of the makeshift bar’s pre-midnight “closing time,” and by winter’s end new friendships have been forged, with fond memories likely to be conjured up around the table when Peggy’s opens again in the spring. --Shelley Hakonson


BEST PLACES TO CATCH A MAMMOTH
                                                      photo: Sonja Ahlers
Tagé Cho Hudän and Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centres

Even with much of the Yukon’s wild still untamed, it’s often easy to forget that it was once a much more dangerous place. For a quick reminder, make a pit stop at Tagé Cho Hudän Interpretive Centre in Carmacks the next time you pass through town. There, in addition to a museum describing the history of the Little Salmon/ Carmacks First Nation’s Northern Tutchone people, you’ll find the world’s only mammoth snare, a frighteningly simple contraption consisting of little more than a few ropes strung up in the woods. A small diorama depicts how the snare works: a web of crocheted babiche acts as a tripwire, sending a cascade of strategically half-cut trees down upon the head of whatever beast is unlucky enough to wander through. There’s little more to it than that, but, coupled with the museum’s stories and pictures detailing human encounters with the be-tusked behemoths, it makes for a pretty convincing portrait of prehistoric Yukon.
  For maximum effect, pop by the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in Whitehorse on the same day, where you’ll find a life-sized mammoth sculpture rearing its massive head, trunk raised, gesturing towards the past. Stand for a moment in the shadow of its tusks and recall the fragile, spindly snare in Carmacks and thank your lucky stars the age of the mammoth has come and gone. --Elaine Corden


MOST ACCOMPLISHED DEBUT

2011 Adäka Cultural Festival

photo: Megan Graham
Sixty performers.  Fifty-five visual artists. Nine days.  These numbers would be impressive for any cultural happening in the Yukon, but the fact they’re from the first-ever Adäka Cultural Festival, held in Whitehorse in 2011, makes the achievement even more remarkable.
   Celebrating Yukon First Nations art and culture, Adäka (which takes its name from the Southern Tutchone word for “coming into the light”) was envisioned by co-producers Charlene Alexander and Katie Johnson, who wanted to build on the success and energy of the YFN 2010 project, a delegation of artists who participated in the cultural presentations at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. With the help of volunteers, the two amassed some of the best talents and assembled a nine-day spectacular at the height of the Yukon’s hectic summer tourist season.
   The festival offered a bit of something for everyone. Performances from traditional dance groups like the Taku Kwaan Dancers dazzled audiences with songs, drumming, and elaborate regalia. Fiddlers collaborated for square dances and a fiery jigging contest, and artists and craftspeople taught visitors traditional practices like moose-hair tufting and beading. At the Old Fire Hall, finished products such as prints, carvings, and moccasins were available for sale, while food vendors sold burgers and bannock to keep energy levels high.
   With so much to see and do, it’s a wonder that Adäka managed to fit everything into a mere nine days. This welcome addition to the Yukon’s summer-festival lineup will surely shine for years to come. --Megan Graham


BEST INVITE-ONLY WEEKEND RETREAT

Moosehide Gathering          


For a lot of the time, Moosehide Village, located five-km downriver from Dawson City, is off- limits to most Yukoners. The small settlement is part of the traditional territory of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and a sacred space that’s only accessible for non-citizens of the nation once permission has been obtained. However, every two years, since 1993, the First Nation opens up Moosehide to the public for a weekend in early August, offering visitors a chance to explore the grounds and partake in a celebration of culture.
   Moosehide Gathering, which takes place Aug. 2–5 in 2012, sees First Nations people from across the Yukon and Alaska converge, sharing traditions and song, honouring the land and their ancestors, and talking about plans for the future. Non-First Nations citizens are also more than welcome and invited to camp out for the weekend or just pop in for a visit via volunteer-operated riverboats running day and night from town. There’s plenty to do, see, and learn, with entertainment, storytelling, crafts demonstrations, and vendor booths. There are also massive feasts each night served up gratis to hundreds of hungry attendees. A full belly is inevitable, but a full heart is
a surprising treat. --Elaine Corden


BEST PLACE TO CONDUCT NATURE

Haines Junction Airport

We’ve previously written about the joys of a flightseeing tour of the glaciers in Kluane National Park and Reserve, offered out of Haines Junction Airport by Sifton Air, but here’s a little joy we didn’t mention. On a clear winter day, head to the Haines Junction Airport slightly before sunrise. Park, bundle
up, scramble on top of a pile of plowed snow, and face southwest toward the mountains. (Note: True megalomaniacs may also want to bring an iPod filled with the most stirring classical crescendos possible.) As the sun rises, make like a mad conductor and lead the symphony of light around you. Ignore the
quizzical looks of airport staff. Take a moment once the sun has come up and marvel at what you’ve accomplished. Now get in your car and head for breakfast in Haines Junction. You deserve it. --Elaine Corden


BEST WAY TO PROVE YOUR YUKON CRED

The Mittenless Handshake

Most cultures incorporate the handshake into its daily rituals. For millennia, humans have met friends and friends-to-be with an extended, open hand to show they weren’t palming a weapon. It was, and remains, a pleasant--and practical--way to show one’s friendly intentions.
  But the handshake has a special place and purpose in Yukon custom, especially in the coldest months: a true litmus test for people’s Yukonicity is whether they remove their winter gloves when shaking hands, even on the frostiest day. Leave the glove on and you might as well take it off and slap your compatriot across the face with it. At the very least, you’ll be announcing to the person on
the receiving end of your mitt-festooned hand that you are not of this place.
  It’s an odd variation on the habit considering human flesh can freeze quickly when temperatures plunge to the south end of the thermometer. But this convention, which is seemingly unique to the territory, proves Yukoners are willing to brave a little bit of cold for the hand-to-hand warmth of friendship. --Wayne Potoroka


BEST WAY TO SUPPORT TOURISM

Le
arn German


While French and English are Canada’s national languages, in the Yukon German can come in very handy, both for conversing with our many German
immigrant friends and the throngs of German tourists that arrive in the territory each summer. Since Condor Airlines started weekly summer flights between Frankfurt and Whitehorse, German-speaking tourists have accounted for a larger and larger portion of summer guests. Knowing German has become more useful, and that means if you can master the language you’ll have your pick of tourism jobs. Tourists will be thrilled to know you can speak even one sentence of flawless German, and you’ll feel like the consummate host. --Jerome Stueart


BEST PLACE TO FEEL PATRIOTIC
Shipyards Park, Canada Day

High noon. Shipyards Park. Canada Day.
Yukoners gather around the swearing-in
ceremony that will transform people from all over the world into brand new Canadians. Some of the best speeches ever given by our politicians happened here, with talk about what it means to leave your country for a better life and the beauty and glory that is Canada. A surge of patriotism, rare here, hits the crowd like a warm wave. We identify with those people who come to be part of us. We may not know the longing, the hard work, but we know the pride we feel under the maple leaf. These new citizens remind us why we love our country and renew our own sense of citizenry. There’s something moving about people who’ve struggled to be where you love to live. Around these newly minted Canadians, a crowd of hundreds is ready to pull them in. After O Canada is sung and hands are raised, we all hug like family. --Jerome Stueart


BEST PLACE TO CELEBRATE A BIRTHDAY

Eagle Plains Lodge & the Arctic Circle

Northerners are known for their ingenuity and ability to have a good time, so it comes as no surprise that Yukon birthday celebrations can get pretty creative. One of the best birthday getaways is the Eagle Plains Hotel, a true oasis on the Dempster Highway. You’ll instantly feel younger when you walk into the hotel and are greeted with a seventies-chic mural of an eagle soaring above a majestic mountain landscape. To the left, the Arctic Circle Restaurant offers hearty burgers for road-weary birthday girls and boys. On the right, the Millen Lounge provides festive beverages and its own crew of party animals. Through the magic of taxidermy, a bear holds court at the pool table, a moose overlooks cozy leather couches, and an elk attempts to hide in a corner among lush indoor flora.
   As if that’s not enough, Eagle Plains is located less than 40 km from the Arctic Circle. Although the site marker is fairly modest, it’s likely the coolest place you’ll ever eat a birthday cupcake. At the front desk of the Eagle Plains Hotel, you can request a certificate to commemorate your trip to the Arctic Circle. The document officially proclaims that you have “joined the ranks of those hardy souls venturing north to retrace the steps of the early day adventurers.” Let it serve as a reminder that getting older doesn’t
have to mean losing your adventurous spirit. --Megan Graham


BEST REASON TO TURN DOWN TAKHINI HOTSPRINGS ROAD IN THE WINTER

Takhini Hotsprings at 40 Below

The Takhini Hot Springs are open year-round, but, for a quintessential Yukon experience, don a bathing suit, flip-flops, and a toque to enjoy +39° C waters of the natural springs when temperatures outside drop past –39° C. Even if the thermometer sinks to –55° C, the Hot Springs remain open, say operators. There’s plenty of reason to brave the long, chilly run from the change rooms to the pools. For starters, there are the health benefits of the waters themselves, which contain minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron, said to be good for joints, bones, and boosting the immune system. There’s also the simple act of relaxing--undeniably good for the soul.
   Once a month, during the new moon, you can stay until 2 a.m., and Mondays are adults only, with floating candles bobbing atop the water’s surface. You may even win a pool punch card for the craziest frozen hair as your water-logged locks crystallize in the icy air. If you’re really lucky, your plunge with
coincide with a display of northern lights, allowing you to float on your back with unrestricted views of the swirling colours
overhead.
   Forgot to pack your suit? Don’t worry--everything you need is available for rent, even the pool itself if a private dip strikes
your fancy.
  Visit during the daytime and you can easily make a whole day of it. The property includes an ice-climbing facility, as well as a network of cross-country ski trails and a retreat centre. Bundle up and you can easily snowshoe or ski over to the nearby Yukon Wildlife Preserve to visit majestic northern beasts or to Bean North Coffee Roasting Co. and Café, where you can tour the company’s roasting facilities or simply enjoy a bowl of delicious homemade soup. You might even run into Hot Springs co-owners Garry Umbrich and Carla Pitzel there, skis propped
against the railing, cheeks healthy pink, and smiles bright, looking every bit a living testimony to the life-enhancing qualities found on the Hotsprings Road. --Erin Linn McMullan


BEST PLACE TO SEE WILD ALASKA

Klondike Trail of '98 Road Relay After-party


Sure, you could hike up a Kluane peak or gaze at Alaska from a scenic spot at the Top of the World Highway, but for a true glimpse into the untamed wilds of our American neighbours, look no further than the after- party for the Klondike Trail of ’98 Road Relay. Since 1982, the 176.2-km, 10-leg running race, which follows the historic gold-rush stampeder route over the White Pass, from Skagway to Whitehorse, has drawn legions of pavement pounders from both sides of the border, banding together in teams with silly names like Wrong Distance Runners and The Frail of ’98. The relay, held each year in September, is renowned as a wonderful bonding experience for runners and boasts a healthy mix of ultra-competitive racers and rookies who may be lacing up their sneakers for the first time.
   While every runner’s effort is appreciated and admired (especially those who run the notorious Leg 2, which travels 1,004 metres up the American side of the White Pass in
just 9 km), the truly impressive display comes the evening after at the post-race party, held at Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre, in Whitehorse. Following 2011’s running, teams of friendly young warriors from Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and beyond could be found tailgating in their rented RVs in the parking lot or enjoying the live band inside, dressed to the nines and looking as though they’d just come back from vacation. As most runners were hobbling home to bed, many of the Alaskan teams partied into the night, dancing onstage in perilously high heels or, in
one case, forming a human pyramid so tall you probably could see Russia from its peak. --Elaine Corden

BEST PLACE TO WIN A MARATHON
 
Mayo Midnight Marathon

Ever since Oprah did it in 1994, finishing a marathon has shot to the top of many people’s bucket lists. The daytime talk queen, and many after her, proved that running a gruelling 42.2-km race is not strictly the milieu of elite athletes and, in fact, can be accomplished by almost anyone with a dream and the commitment to train. But what about winning a marathon? For most of us, that’s never going to happen, but if you make your way to Mayo for the Mayo Midnight Marathon, held in the evening each year on or close to summer solstice, you could increase your odds significantly.
   It’s a simple numbers game. The community-run race usually draws less than 20 runners attempting the full distance, and with six racing categories (Men’s and Women’s Open, Masters, and Seniors), there’s a good chance if you cross the finish line you’ll at least place in the top three for your group. Imagine the bragging rights!
   Of course, you don’t have to run the full route to feel like a champ in Mayo. There’s
half-marathon, 10-km, 8-km, and 5-km courses to run or walk, and the citizens of the
community are famous for coming out in full force to cheer athletes on as they follow the historic Silver Trail under the midnight sun. To top it off, volunteers cook up a substantial breakfast for runners the morning following the race and do their best to single out every finisher for a round of applause. --Elaine Corden


BEST YUKON TREAT WITH AN INTERNATIONAL REPUTATION


Yukon Brewing Co. Beers


Yukon Brewing Co. beer attracts worldwide
attention for its flavour at international brew tastings. (Yukon Red won Best Canadian Amber Beer four years in a row, baby!) But the beer isn’t found just anywhere. It’s available in the Yukon (of course) and parts of B.C. and Alberta. And that’s about it.
   As a result, the Yukon is becoming a destination of choice for tourists who appreciate a well-put-together beer. Guests can get a tour of the brewery and explore the
Yukon approach to crafting award-winning brews. But the best part of the tour isn’t the backroom view of the vats; it’s testing the eight signature beers that are only found
onsite. From light ales to thicker stouts, to seasonal beers like Peter, Peter, Pumpkin
Beer, the Yukon Brewing Co. has a beer for everyone and several great reasons to tip
a growler under one of the taps to fill a jug of Yukon Brewing Co. joy. --Jerome Stueart


BEST SPOT TO CONTEMPLATE YOUR PLACE IN THE WORLD

Keno City Signpost

The Watson Lake Signpost Forest may have been immortalized on its very own Canada Post stamp, but for a more isolated location to find your place in the world, we suggest a visit to Keno City. Famous for its rich silver deposits, Keno provides a golden opportunity to remind yourself just how far you are from everything and everyone else.
   In 1956, the United Keno Hill Mines erected a wooden signpost at the top of Keno Hill to commemorate the visit of scientists participating in the International Geophysical Year, a project aimed at inspiring a post-Cold War renaissance of global scientific interchange. The arrows on the signpost point towards cities represented by the delegates and note their distance, in miles, from Keno: Rome, 5,100; Haifa, 5,800.
The signpost is a vigorous 10.5-km uphill hike from downtown Keno or a chance to put your vehicle’s four-wheel drive to good use on the bumpy gravel road. When your breath is caught and the colour returns to your knuckles, you can admire the beauty of Faro Gulch and the surrounding alpine landscape.
An ideal time to make the trek is in autumn, when the valley is transformed into a blanket of red, orange, and yellow. No matter what time of year it is, a trip to the signpost is best concluded with a stop at the Keno Snack Bar for a pizza and conversation with locals. Despite the town’s name, Keno is not a gamble--a visit to this Yukon community is a sure bet. --Megan Graham


BEST PROOF THE WORLD IS GETTING BETTER

Cadence Cycle's Purple Bike Program


Bike sharing is a concept that's growing in popularity, and no wonder. Borrowing a bike is the perfect antidote to high cost, by-the-day rentals and the hassles of ownership. And going by bike is a great (and green) way to travel, too.
  Montreal and Paris may have their high- tech, computerized bike-share systems, but for simplicity in getting bicycles under the seats of people who need them most--including the Yukon's numerous seasonal workers--the Whitehorse- based Purple Bike Program winshands down.
  The Purple Bike Program was started, and is still maintained, by Philippe LeBlond, former owner of Philippe's Bicycle Repair (now Cadence Cycle). If his name sounds familiar, that’s because LeBlond is also the mastermind behind the five metre diameter geodesic dome made from bike-wheel rims, as seen in his Whitehorse front yard and various northern arts festivals.
   Here's how bike sharing works, Yukon style. Drop in to Cadence Cycle in May (508 Wood St.; (867) 633-5600) and hand over a $150 deposit in exchange for a bike. Return the bike intact by the first snowfall, and you'll get half the deposit back. Routine maintenance is included, and the bikes may also be rented by the day: $10 on day one, and $1 per day after that.
  Other than their trademark violet colour, the bikes may not have a lot in common, and they range in size and style. But they're well maintained, and you can't beat the price--or the included goodwill. --Kathy Sinclair


BEST PLACE TO GET YOUR ICE CREAM ON

Closing Day at Klondyke Cream & Candy

Don't get us wrong. Any day is a good day to get an ice cream at Klondyke Cream & Candy, located on Front St. in Dawson City. With a decent selection of flavours and frozen yogurts, this seasonal business is a tasty way to shake off the dust of Dawson's summers. Most days, you'll see a passel of tourists slurping up iced treats along the boardwalk in front of Klondyke Cream's purple storefront, but for those diehards who stick around to see the summer wind down in Dawson, there’s a special treat to offset the bittersweet
feeling of watching beloved businesses close their doors for winter.
  Each September, on the final day of business for the year, Klondyke Cream & Candy embraces the adage you can't take it with you. For one day only, the shop hands out its wares free, drawing a crowd of kids, parents, seniors, and everyone in between in a lineup that stretches out the door.
   You might not get your first choice of flavour, but who's complaining? This could be the only lineup in which everyone is in a fantastic mood. World leaders, take note: the key to peace on earth just might be free frozen dessert. --Kathy Sinclair


BEST YUKON BANNOCK

Freda Roberts’ Bannock


Bannock is comfort food --the poutine of the North--and arguably the Yukon’s unofficial foodstuff since the once ubiquitous Pilot Biscuits were grounded by advances in perishable-food storage.
   This First Nations delicacy with roots in
Scotland is a simple concoction of baking
powder, flour, water, and salt fried in oil. But the secret ingredient that makes each recipe unique is the family history and flair that infuses every delicious, greasy bite. (Recipes, and secret ingredients, are
passed from one generation to the next.)
   Naming the best iteration of the formula
is difficult and possibly foolhardy--holding one bannock recipe above all others is like spitting in everyone else’s cast-iron bannock pan. While the safe route is to suggest the best bannock is that which has been made just for you, there’s one bannock maker who stands alone: Freda Roberts of Dawson City.
   For years, locals and tourists enjoyed Freda’s transcendental bannock--which employs sugar, whole-wheat flour, powdered milk, and "positive thinking" as taste-altering components--at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre, where Freda served up the doughy bits hot from a camp stove. But, alas, Freda’s moved on to other non-bannock-related challenges, so if you’d like a taste of her fry bread, you’ll need an invite for dinner. --Wayne Potoroka


MOST APPETIZING USE OF TWITTER

@klondike_kates

Brevity is not just the soul of wit anymore. Twitter, the socialmedia website where users share text-based posts consisting of 140 characters or fewer, proves less is more as people continually find creative uses for the microblogging site.
   Last summer, Yukoners who discovered the Twitter account of Dawson City’s Klondike Kate’s Cabins & Restaurant (@klondike_
kates; twitter.com/Klondike_Kates) might have wished they’d never clicked the “follow” button. Jeff Mickelson, the head chef at Kate’s restaurant, used Twitter to share mouthwatering descriptions of the nightly dinner specials featuring tasty northern ingredients. “Sweet Tooth Rhubarb ketchup,
double crème brie, and 16 hour pit smoked pork shoulder, grilled sourdough, Ol’ Uncle Berwyn’s birch syrup,” read a typical post. Often, Mickelson attached photos of the dishes to his tweets, leaving nothing to the imagination.
   Followers responded positively to Kate’s innovative way of sharing their menu, although those unable to make it to the restaurant expressed jealousy. Pained responses included, “It's killing me. Everything looks so good,” “You're making
us hungry. We'll need to arrange a delivery service to Whitehorse,” and the simple, emphatic “STOP IT.”
  Turns out it’s not easy to stay focussed when barraged with images of plump sourdough bread loaves, sizzling sausages on the grill, and an incredible variety of locally foraged mushrooms. Consider yourself warned. --Megan Graham


BEST YUKON WATERWAY MISADVENTURE NOBODY'S HEARD OF

SS Columbian
Shipwreck

The SS Columbian sternwheeler was carrying cargo, cattle, and a crew of 25 men up the Yukon River to the Tantalus Butte coal
mine, in 1906, when a Laurel-and-Hardy- esque mishap visited the vessel.
   Two gun-loving deckhands were monkeying around with a firearm when one of them stumbled on a gangplank and accidently
discharged a bullet into the Columbian’s deck load--which, unfortunately, was three tons of blasting powder.
   A thick wall of flame engulfed the boat and six men perished, a number that would have been higher if not for Captain J.O. Williams, who brought the uncontrollable Columbian to shore with a superhuman effort. It remains the worst Yukon waterway mishap in territorial history.
  But even if you’re a Yukon history buff who knows George Carmack from George Black, chances are you’ve never heard of this unfortunate calamity--odd, given how the Yukon tourism industry loves to highlight fabled yarns like this one. You can learn more, however, by stopping at Eagle Rock, on the Robert Campbell Highway, that overlooks the site of the catastrophe. You’ll also find a roadside sign that details the story--which is how, incidentally, most Yukoners learn about the Columbian and this curious maritime history. --Wayne Potoroka


BEST PLACE TO TRADE OUT THE OLD AND BRING IN THE NEW

CKRW'S
Trader Time

Trader Time is a bit like northern Canada’s version of Coronation Street-- for a quick glimpse into the heart of our culture, tune in. The half-hour radio show airs twice daily each weekday and for an hour each Saturday on CKRW-FM. For over 40 years, this modern trading post has helped Yukoners swap and shop and, remarkably, is still more popular locally than online buy-and-sells like Craigslist or Kijiji.
  Behind every item bought, sold, or exchanged is a story. “I’ve got a set of Ford truck tires I’m willing to trade for a kick sled
and a good dog,” one caller might say. “And, by the way, if you know of anyone who has kittens, we’re looking for some.”
   Along with good deals, Trader Time offers intimate glimpses of life in the Yukon from joy to disappointment (“diamond eternity wedding band, never worn”), to occasional sorrow (“if
anyone has seen ‘Mary’ in the last couple of days, tell her to call home, we’re worried”).
   As regular listeners to Trader Time know, it’s possible to be moved to tears and laughter, sometimes within the same call. And because the show is live, it can be a surprising affair, especially when callers try to sneak in commercial sales and neighbourly pranks or jump onto a political soapbox or use language inappropriate for daytime radio.
   All that aside, Trader Time is often a Yukoner’s first and last call in the territory to find what they need or give away what they don’t. --Erin Linn McMullan


BEST PLACE TO WARM UP YOUR FUNNY BONE

Open Mic Night at the Jarvis Street Saloon


Having a hard time locating your sense of the warm and ridiculous in the dead of a January –40° C chill? Open mic comedy night at the Jarvis Street Saloon (formerly Coasters) at the 202 Motor Inn in Whitehorse can thaw the crankiest mood.
   On Jan. 19, 2012, a packed house witnessed the grand finale of the Punchline Punchout comedy contest. The eventual
winners, the Mallory-Lang-Lang express (also known as Shannon Mallory, Graham Lang, and Meagan Lang) were awarded a three-night headlining spot at The Laugh Shop, in Sherwood Park, Alta.
   For several weeks previous, every other Thursday, six teams and other hangers-on braved the chill inside to impress judges and audience alike. The format: a comedy-scene
regular squares off against a newbie. Each performs a five-minute set. A “rant round” follows, wherein the audience suggests the topic and team members go head-to-head for
a one-minute verbal set-to. By applause, the audience picks the winner of each round.
  “We found out quickly that the contests we run bring out the crowds, give us the exposure, and sucker new folks into it,” says Whitehorse comic Anthony Trombetta, an early progenitor of the comedy scene. “So now we have a comic base that is actually quite huge per capita. There's at least over two dozen semi-regulars out there, which is pretty awesome.”
   A warning to the overly sensitive: political correctness is not on the table or the stage, so a suspension of day-job sensibilities is advisable. --Brenda Barnes


BEST WAY TO FASHION YOURSELF AFTER THE LOCALS

SKOOKUMbrand Yukon Anoraks

Newcomers to the territory always experience an epiphany when gathering warm clothes to protect against the Yukon winter. They realize that long johns and thermal shirts have appeal, and Carhartt bib pants even have moments of sexiness, though usually because of the person wearing them. It soon becomes clear that mushing, snowmobiling, and even driving through the sub-zero landscape can be done with style.
   SKOOKUMbrand has been combining
fashion and function in their line of lightweight, cold-temperature anoraks since 2005. Designer and owner Megan Waterman has developed three distinct styles for men
and women. They come in colours that range from conservative to candy-bright and are trimmed with responsibly harvested wild fur.
   Norway likes them, the International Polar Year endorsed them, and the line of eye-catching outerwear helped represent Yukon at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.
  Waterman’s company, Northern Garments, is based in Dawson City. Early on, she made the smart move of using local models to show off her wares in catalogues and on her website, skookumbrand.com.
   The grins on the faces of Antoinette Oliphant (Whitehorse restaurateur), Gordon MacRae (Yukon Parks superintendent), Wendy Cairns (Bombay Peggy’s Victorian Inn and Pub owner), and other fit and fabulous Yukoners add personality to the garments’
warmth. And if they can look so stylish and pleased getting ready to go out for a sub-zero ski, then maybe so can the rest of us. --Meg Walker


BEST PLACE TO TRACK DINOSAURS

Ross River

Ross River doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Lying along the lonely Canol Road, far from the well-travelled Alaska and North Klondike highways, the com- munity doesn’t garner much, if any, mention in Yukon guidebooks. 
  But Ross River has plenty to recommend it, including heart-stopping scenery and the walkable 316-metre Ross River suspension bridge, the longest in the territory.
   But the best reason to visit Ross River is the chance it offers to dust off the pith helmet and play paleontologist. Most people think woolly mammoths were the only large creatures that roamed the Yukon, but dinosaurs once walked this land, a fact confirmed with the Yukon’s first discovery of fossilized dinosaur tracks, in 1999, near this tiny village four hours from Whitehorse. The 85-million-year-old footprints were found by sheer luck by Dr. Roland Gangloff, the curator of earth sciences at the University of
Alaska Museum in Fairbanks, when he and his assistant took an unplanned side trip to Ross River and stumbled across the fossilized impressions in rock formations at an abandoned mine and beside an old road.
   There are plenty of areas still left where fossils might be found. And just think: Gangloff found tracks when he wasn’t even trying. Imagine how you might do with a little effort. --Wayne Potoroka


BEST PLACE TO SPOUT NEW WORK TO A RECEPTIVE AUDIENCE

Brave New Words at Baked Café

Want to test drive new or developing work? Brave New Words is Yukon’s answer to Manhattan’s Nuyorican Poets Café, where Allen Ginsberg used to spout beat. Held at Baked Café, in downtown Whitehorse, on the last Tuesday evening of every month, this local launch pad for writers and musicians proves there’s plenty of talent north of 60. Often the first stop for readings of plays and scripts, short stories, and comedy, Brave New Words draws a wide variety of emerging
talent. Producer Lauren Tuck encourages
participants to “write new work, refine old work, and showcase their pieces in ways that haven't been performed before.”
   In this judgment-free zone, newcomers are always welcome amidst a loyal crew of regulars, all engaging in a high-energy exchange with the audience. “Standing on the stage is just like recharging my batteries,” says Nicole Nolet, a poet and regular performer. “It ignites me as a person. When I’m on the stage, I just turn on--that’s the real me.” Audience member, and sometime political satirist, Linda Leon says she enjoys watching performers discover where their work can go--not everyone reads from a prepared script, and performances often spark old-school scribbling amongst audience members waiting to join the lineup.
   Like all the best creative endeavours, Brave New Words inspires an improvisational spirit that includes all ages, points of view, and languages. Tuck recounts poet Josée Fortin’s suggestion before delivering a francophone contribution: “If you don't understand French, then close your eyes and listen to the sound of the words. It's like music.” Likewise, contributors aren’t limited to one form. For one performance, volunteer usher Paul Davis introduced a screening of his film, –40° C, by composing an ephemeral postcard onstage, then mailing it via the curbside post box, ensuring the energy of the evening flowed beyond the walls of Baked.
  “This truly is a community event,” says Tuck. “The Yukon is the most amazing place
on earth." --Brenda Barnes


BEST (LESSER-KNOWN) PLACE TO SEE YUKON'S TREASURES

Heritage Resources Unit Offices


Yukon’s Heritage Resources Unit holds a cache of ancient treasures, such as arrowheads, dinosaur bones, and artifacts
found in Yukon’s alpine ice patches. Located at the corner of Industrial and Quartz roads in Whitehorse, the office is home to more than 37,000 archaeological and 15,000 paleontological specimens.
    The territorial government began managing the collection, in 1985, so objects found in the Yukon could stay in the Yukon. Before that, they were sent to Ottawa museums for safekeeping.
    To the untrained eye, many of the items don’t look like much--a chunk of rock, a chipped piece of bone--but, to Yukon archaeologist Ruth Gotthardt, every piece tells a story. “It’s a window into a moment in the past,” she says. A scattering of fire- cracked rock can show where people settled to cook and camp; an oddly shaped bone lashed with sinew can answer questions about how hunters trapped game during long periods of cold, harsh weather.
   It’s the Yukon’s cold weather that makes the collection so special. The territory is a destination for ice-age researchers from
all over the world because the permafrost preserves things, like proteins and DNA, in the specimens. In fact, a recently unearthed ice-age horse bone dating back 750,000 years contains the oldest DNA that’s ever been analyzed.
   The Heritage Resources office is also a good place to realize how insignificant human beings have been in the history of the earth. Yukon paleontologist Grant Zazula cares for objects that are between 24,000 and 85 million years old, including a rare set of ice-age camel bones, the arm bone from a short-faced bear (a species that died out 11,000 years ago), and the office “pet”--a freeze-dried 24,000-year-old ground squirrel named Ted that looks like it’s been run over by a truck.
   Although it’s not technically a museum, Yukon’s Heritage Resources office holds open houses at least twice a year and may be able to give a tour if you give them advance notice. --Leighann Chalykoff


BEST FREE PLEASURE CRUISE

George Black Ferry

Tourists may decry Dawson City’s lack of taxis, but here's something that should untie any knotted knickers: the George Black
ferry, which travels across the Yukon River during the summer months as part of the Yukon highway system, connecting
passengers to otherworldly West Dawson and the Top of the World Highway to Alaska.
    From mid-May to mid-September, 24 hours a day, walk or drive on at the landing on Front Street for a trip across the river. Cost to you? Nada.
   The boat may be small (the maximum capacity is roughly 10 cars or five RVs) and waits can be long during mid-summer traffic
peaks, but anyone who's ever had to wait for a ferry in the South will know the routine and still find themselves generally delighted.
   Hostel dwellers and campers returning to their West Dawson digs always have a safe way to get home after one too many, as well. When the midnight sun begins to dim, just flash your headlights or a Petzl and the ferry will come fetch you--even if you're the only passenger. With the 3 a.m. wind blowing
through your hair, you might feel a bit like a rebel Cinderella in her pumpkin coach, replete with a band of ferry-crew footmen.
Like many of the best things in life, the seven-minute journey is all too brief, and, of course, service ends in October, when the
river begins to freeze. But, when the George Black is in service, there's nothing stopping you from whiling away a hot, sunny afternoon, iced coffee in hand, joyriding back and forth from town to wilderness. --Kathy Sinclair







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