Monday, July 25, 2016

Alaska - Day Four: 1477.1 miles to Watson Lake, YT

We went to bed the night before praying for good weather. We had big plans to kayak to Laketon on the other side of the lake. We had been looking forward to this for weeks! When we asked both Zack and Andy what their favorite thing about their trips to Alaska were (we asked them independently on separate occasions) they both said exploring the ghost town on Dease Lake.

The weather was looking promising...

I had to stop at the Rabid Grizzly Rest Stop. I didn't have to go but it just had such a cool name! ;) I was also hoping it would tell us where Laketon was on the map. No such luck... :(

At milepost 322 we read all about Laketon, how they'd built boats there during the gold rush (1872-1880) and how it was the administrative center for mining in the region. But there wasn't a sign of it anywhere. We drove a few more miles and pulled into Sawmill Recreation Site. There was a campground and boat launch there. It seemed like a good place to walk down to the lake to scope it out. Across the lake was nothing but high rock walls and we couldn't see anything down at the end of the lake. And no one there had even heard of a ghost town on the lake.

We weren't willing to just paddle around a 20-something mile long lake looking for a mysterious ghost town, so we just got back on the highway.

Then Chris saw it. Just a glint of a metal roof on the far shore. We immediately turned around (one of the many perks of having a mini-van RV) and looked again. Sure enough, there it was nestled in the trees and brush.

Maybe we could reach it from the Dease River that flowed out of the lake?

Nope. But there was a cool old abandoned truck...

Sawmill Point was only about a mile from where we saw it, so back we went.

We aired up the kayak and started paddling towards the opposite shore...

We were pretty excited! It only took about 30 minutes to get there...

We were not disappointed! There were all kinds of dilapidated old cabins to explore and moose bones to take home to William! We were glad we had brought our bear spray, too.

Then we rounded the corner and found the "big house" and a boat pulled up to the shore.

 It was obvious that someone had been squatting there and that at some point someone had thought about doing some "improvements". The big pile of sheetrock was a clue.

When we saw dark clouds coming over the hill and heard thunder, we knew it was time to hightail it back to the campground...

Despite the headwind, we made it back almost as quickly as we'd gotten there. Not getting struck by lightning is a good motivator. But by the time we got there, the storm seemed to have broken up. So we put everything away and had lunch...

Back on the road, we didn't stop again until we got to Jade City.

The mines in the Cassiar Mountain Range produce about 1 million pounds of jade each year! 92% of the world's jade comes from this region. It was interesting to see what jade looks like before it's all cut and polished. I picked up a pair of jade earrings and watched them work for a while. Chris enjoyed their free coffee and we both took advantage of the washroom (flushing toilet) and free wifi.

It takes a whole lot of water to cut and polish jade. You have to keep those blades from getting too hot!

The Milepost described Boya Lake as "unusually beautiful". We had to stop and see if for ourselves. It was an understatement! The lake was the most gorgeous turquoise blue I had seen outside of Hawaii. We so wanted to stay and kayak again but we needed to get more than 87 miles in one day. But we vowed we would return on our way home and explore this spectacular lake!

North of Boya Lake, we hit brand new pavement. It was a nice change after suffering two chips in our windshield already on the Cassiar.

We also passed through miles of burned trees from wildfires in 2010 and 2012 that shut down the highway for several days.

Apparently spray paint is hard to find on the Cassiar... ;)

When we arrived in Yukon we had our picture taken by three young men heading from cherry picking in BC to hunting mushrooms in Yukon. We also met two couples from Salem, OR on their way to Alaska.

Between the really great wifi at the Watson Lake visitor's center and the Signpost Forest (we didn't even get to see half of it) it was time to stop for the night.

The very helpful ladies at the visitor's center told us where to buy ice and about a very nice government campground just a bit out of town on the lake.

Despite the very nice covered picnic area with woodstove, I was thankful we didn't need it. The free firewood made us sad we hadn't brought an axe or hatchet with us. But we were able to borrow one from our neighbors...

A solid topped picnic table meant we could enjoy a quick game of Banangrams and cookies before bed. After all, it wasn't dark... ;)