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Mike Maddock, General Manager
2011-01-07 / Travel

Alaska, the Final Frontier

By Warner M. Montgomery Warner@ TheColumbiaStar.com


The sign on the well–paved Klondike Highway read: CAUTION ELK NEXT 60 KM. The sign on the well–paved Klondike Highway read: CAUTION ELK NEXT 60 KM. At Carcross we left the train and got on a bus (motor coach) for the trip on the Klondike Highway to Whitehorse, capital of the Yukon Territory. All of my adult life I have yearned to drive the Klondike Highway, preferably on a motorcycle, but given the circumstances, I sacrificed for a bus ride.

The 438– mile– long Klondike Highway links Skagway in Alaska through British Columbia with Dawson City in Yukon Territory and follows the route blazed by the Klondike 1898 gold miners. When begun during World War II and completed in the 1970s, the highway was gravel. It has since been hard surfaced. It is part of what is called “ The Last Great Road Trip” from the U.S. through British Columbia and Yukon to the Arctic or through Alaska to Fairbanks and on to the Arctic or to Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula.


We saw one dead moose and this regal bald eagle along the Klondike Highway. We saw one dead moose and this regal bald eagle along the Klondike Highway. Just outside Carcross we passed the smallest desert in the world, the remains of the sandy bottom of a glacial lake. A few miles later we came upon a fantastic view of Emerald Lake, notable for its intense green color.

The Klondike Highway is also known as Moose Highway. We saw one moose, and he was dead in the road. That was the only moose we saw during our entire trip except those in museums.

We took a pit stop at the Braeburn Lodge. It claimed to be a check point for the 1,000–mile Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race. We saw one old bedraggled husky lying next to a museum– piece sled. Inside was the lodge’s second claim–to–fame—The World’s Largest Cinnamon Bun. Linda and I split one of the two-pound buns and a cup of very thick coffee.

At dusk we approached Whitehorse, Yukon’s largest city, home to 26,000 cold souls. Signs claimed it to be “The Wilderness City” and “ Ten Minutes Drive from Nowhere.” Great mounds of slag from the nearby mines were reminders of the negative aspects of digging in the dirt. We heard later that modern-day miners can buy a truckload of the slag, pan it, and sometimes find leftover gold grains.


The Klondike Highway circles the beautiful Emerald Lake. The Klondike Highway circles the beautiful Emerald Lake. Next week: Whitehorse and Frantic Follies



This slag is environmental pollution left over from mining near Whitehorse. This slag is environmental pollution left over from mining near Whitehorse.

Braeburn Lodge has the largest cinnamon buns in captivity. Is this Santa Claus or the Bun Elf? Braeburn Lodge has the largest cinnamon buns in captivity. Is this Santa Claus or the Bun Elf?

The Carcross Desert is the smallest desert on earth. The Carcross Desert is the smallest desert on earth.

“Five Finger Rapids was a major obstacle for the gold stampeders going down the Yukon River,” says my wife Linda. “Five Finger Rapids was a major obstacle for the gold stampeders going down the Yukon River,” says my wife Linda.

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