I have a completely unproven fear that every four straight days of hotel breakfast buffet I consume will eventually shave off a year of my life; in that case and at my rate, I don’t think I’ll make it to 45. These days, going out three nights in a row is exhausting, much less three night-less Yukon nights, but I still managed to hoover up as much of the Klondike spirit as I could withstand.
After a long breakfast that included a loopy, sleep-deprived discussion on the appropriateness of apple juice as a beverage for adults, and similarity in smell of that drink to kid pee, I eventually set about to St. Paul’s to see Spencer Krug of Sunset Rubdown, Yegor Dyachkov of geeky-cool classical trio Triple Forte, and Victoria-based flamenco group Alma de Espana gamely play together on a Spanish-flavoured jam before each performing alone. Later, Krug joked that he was playing a song on the piano for the time because the Spanish guitars onstage didn’t have the any dots on the fretboard to help him find his place on it. (more…)
Okay, my time in Dawson was more judiciously spent on Saturday. I saw some performers play music that I probably wouldn’t have in my car–the only time I would ever willingly listen to a recording of Franco-Klezmer act Gadji Gadjo would be while scanning through the music stations on an Air Canada flight–but when it was performed live in front of a multitude of appreciative northerners, I succumbed easily. The Dawson City Music Festival, which seems to book acts that are uniformly free of attitude, has been full of these moments.
We turned in on Thursday night, not long after arriving in Whitehorse at 11 p.m. and we left the next morning with our lovely and amazing host and driver, Deb from Yukon Tourism. Deb moved north from Simcoe, Ontario over twenty years ago with her husband, a RCMP officer. Back then, she told us, he had to pass a psychological test before his work transfer was approved: “They wanted to know whether he was crazy enough,” she joked.
While I’ve arrived in Dawson by float plane and would like to one day get there by canoe, the drive up is made pleasurable by the distinctly regional nature of its highway culture. On the Klondike Highway, you won’t find a single Taco Bell or Denny’s. Instead, you’ll find idiosyncratically ornamented gas stations that double as gift shops and diners. The Braeburn Lodge is famous across the territory for selling cinnamon buns that are roughly the size of a newborn infant. While we’re there, a carload of teenagers pops in and each one of them picks up a bun to presumably feed them the weekend. In a rock yard outside another diner off the highway is a giant mosquito carved from wood. (more…)
From next week, writer Kevin Chong will be blogging from the Dawson City Music Festival in the Yukon, which begins July 17.
This will be my fourth trip to the Yukon in the past two years, and though I’ve managed to squeeze some work assignments into my travels, I keep finding excuses to return to renew my big heart crush on the place and its people. If you don’t like the Yukon, I probably won’t like you.
In my opinion, the Yukon is Canada in its most undiluted, and perhaps best, form. Like the rest of the country, it certainly gets cold enough there. And the abundant natural splendour is barely smudged by its human footprint. Its 30,000 or so permanent residents are an eccentric mixture of First Nations people, Canadians originally from other parts of the country, Europeans (many of the campground signs here are written in English and German) who fell hard for the writing of Jack London and Robert Service at an impressionable age. (Check out Johnny Cash’s spoken-word performance rendition of Service’s spooky tale-in-verse, “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” here.) The pioneer spirit is still alive, its Gold Rush-era steamboats and brothels proudly burnished for happy tourists, and yet because so many Yukoners come from elsewhere and often travel during the cold, dark winter, the smallness of the communities never feels small-minded. (more…)