Monthly Archives: August 2016

“Naked lady on the Yukon…”

This is something like what I saw – unexpectedly – canoeing 440 miles on the mighty Yukon River

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I just got back from two weeks canoeing the Yukon River.  (That’s also the caption for the Wiki-photo at left.)   And the “mighty Yukon” is the last place on earth I would expect to see a lady sun bathing.

But one moment, out of nowhere, there she was…

You can see the full story below.  I just wanted add – at least for now – that in the picture at the top of the page, for the Yukon setting, you will need to imagine no sand.  (And no “Bikini Bottom,” for that matter.)

Instead, imagine a bend in the Yukon River, a canoe turned over next to a “good campsite,” and a red blanket, on which lay the “naked lady.”  (And I think she was a blonde…)

But first, some background.

Downtown Whitehorse and Yukon River, June 2008My last post – “Many furriners” – noted it was last July 26 – a Tuesday – that my brother and I started the drive from Utah to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.(Shown at right.)  Four days later – on Friday, July 29 – we met up with my nephew, fresh out of the Army.

From there we drove to Skagway, Alaska.  The following Monday – August 1 – we started a four-day hike on the Chilkoot Trail.  (The “meanest 33 miles in history.”)

And here’s a news flash.  There’s a reason they call it the “meanest 33 miles in history.”  I’ll be detailing that little jaunt in a later post.  (To be titled, “On the Chilkoot &$%# Trail!”)

But back to the Yukon River.  Once we three finished the “Chilkoot &$%# Trail,” my nephew flew back east – to Philadelphia – and from there to Penn State University, to begin fall classes.

That left two old geezers – my brother, 70, and me, just turned 65 – to paddle our canoes “up*” the Yukon River.  From Whitehorse  to Dawson City, that’s a distance of 440 miles, and we covered it in 12 days.  (Not counting the full day we took off on Sunday, August 14, in beautiful Carmacks, Yukon Territory, to rest and refit.)

Before we left I checked a web-post, Canoeing the Yukon River – Our Time Machine is a Canoe, written by Murray Lundberg.  Some years ago he did pretty much the same trip as ours, with his son Steven.  One big difference:  They started at the Lake Laberge Campground – instead of Whitehorse – “to cut down the still-water distance that we’d have to paddle.”

Which is another way of saying that paddling a canoe on Lake Laberge* – shown at left – is a real pain.

But that’s a story for another post.

Now back to the naked lady…

It was Friday, August 12.  We were a day away from Carmacks, and had been on the river five days already.  (And finally made it off “Lake &^%$# Laberge.”)  About 4:00 my brother was way ahead of me, when he went around a right-hand bend and looked like he was heading to shore, for a break.

There followed one lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng right-hand curve in the Yukon, one that seemed to last forever.  It was getting late and we were looking for the “good camp” listed in the guidebook.

When I finally got to the end of the long right-hand curve, I could see something, way off, a half-mile or so ahead.  (Where the river turned sharply to the left.)  I saw two small dots, near the bank – at what I later learned was the “good camp” we were looking for.  One of the dots was light and the other dark.  The lighter dot kept moving, to the left, downriver, and I figured it was my brother.  But I wasn’t sure which “dot” to paddle toward.

So I took the middle course, and as I got close to the bend in the river, I could see the dark dot was a green canoe, turned over.  (Which we never do.)  Then – I began to see – there was a red blanket next to the canoe, and something light on it.

That turned out to be the aforementioned naked lady – a reprise interpretation of which is shown at right – laying there in her birthday suit, face down, for all the world to see. (Or at least two passing canoeists.)  

Which brings up the current on the Yukon River.

Generally the current is pretty fast.  It ranges from over four miles an hour up to seven miles an hour in some places.  (Except on “Lake &^%$# Laberge.”)  That’s the kind of current that helps you paddle 440 miles in 12 days.  But it also means that when you see something totally unexpected, by the time you recognize it, the current is already moving you downriver.  (Creating a flash in the pan, so to speak.)   Which meant that by the time I recognized the naked lady as a naked lady, the current was already pushing me farther down-river.

Besides, my brother was already downriver, waiting.  (Having gotten an eyeful himself.)

As to the lady’s identity:  The last day on Lake Laberge we had landed – for a much-needed break – next to a couple in a tandem canoe.  They were from Turin, Italy, and later on in the trip we kept running into them, further downriver.  They pulled into Carmacks not too long after we did, on Saturday, August 13.  And when we finally got to Dawson City – a shade after 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 20 – they had gotten there a few hours before.

So it was my brother’s opinion – first expressed at Carmacks, on the 13th – that the “better half” of that nice Italian couple was the mystery lady, sunbathing au naturel on the banks of the Yukon.  (Besides which they took the one “good” camping spot on that stretch of the river.) Unfortunately, neither one spoke very good English, and there seems to be no diplomatic way to translate, “Was that your wife’s naked butt we saw back on Friday the 12th?”

But enough about the Naked Lady on the Yukon.

This is the first of several posts I plan to write about our other adventures this month.  And as noted before, those adventures started with our hike on the Chilkoot Trail.

To do that we first had to go to Skagway, Alaska.  And at the left is my picture of beautiful downtown Skagway, the day we got there, last July 30.

This was after checking out the Yukon River, in Whitehorse, after checking out of our hotel.  Then we drove the 110 miles or so to Skagway itself.  That’s where – among other things – we had to get a special permit to hike the Chilkoot &$%# Trail.”  (They won’t let just anybody on there!)

And among other other things, we also learned we’d lost an hour crossing into Canada.  That’s because there’s a special Alaska Time Zone, one hour earlier than the Pacific Time Zone they use in British Columbia and the Yukon Territory.

And there’s one more thing.  I took the photo at right, of one of the first things I saw at the visitor’s center in Skagway.  I thought at the time that it was unique to this part of Alaska.

However, after further review – for this post – I found out that’s not the case.  See for example Footprints on the toilet seats? – Reuters.  (“One Norwegian tourist in Malaysia said, ‘They can be very messy because people don’t seem to know how to use the toilets.  You find black spots, footprints on the toilet seats, and there’s water everywhere.'”) 

Or Footprints on the Toilet Seat: Guidebooks for Novice Travelers, noting Chinese tourists – for example – who behave “in ways the locals saw as inappropriate.”  On that note see also Travel pro-tips from the Chinese government: Don’t leave footprints on toilet seats [or] spit in hotel pools.  All of which is – I suppose – one reason they say Travel Broadens The Mind.

(And you might even see a naked lady along the way.)  But one thing both a good travel experience and a good pilgrimage will teach you:  “There’s No Place Like Home.”  (As shown below.)  

I’ll be writing more about my August adventures, including the next post:

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Wizard of oz movie poster.jpg

As Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home!”

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The upper image is courtesy of Sun tanning – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “A woman sun tanning on a Portuguese beach.”

Re:  Paddling canoes “up” the Yukon River.  To most people, going “up” means to go north, while to go “down” means to go south.  (With “over” meaning east or west.)  But to go “down” a river means to go downstream.  And while many rivers flow “down” or south, the Yukon – like the Nile – flows north.  So while we were paddling “up” north, we were also paddling “down,” as in “downstream…” 

Re:  Lake Laberge.  Most people know the name as “Lake Labarge,” from the poem by Robert Service, The Cremation of Sam McGee.  In the poem, “the narrator winds up hauling the body [of Sam McGee] clear to the ‘marge [shore, edge] of Lake Lebarge.'”  So Service changed the name to “Labarge” to rhyme with “marge.”  (See artistic license – also known as “poetic license” – at Wikipedia.)  Also, the image of Lake Laberge is courtesy of

The lower image is courtesy of The Wizard of Oz – Wikipedia.  See also No Place Like Home – Wikipedia, which noted that – aside from the famous line in “Wizard of Oz” – the phrase may also refer to “the last line of the 1822 song ‘Home! Sweet Home!,’ (John Howard Payne and Sir Henry Bishop); the source of inspiration for the other references here: ‘Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home,’” and/or “‘(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays,’ a 1954 Christmas song most famously sung by Perry Como.”  For a “live” version, see also There’s No Place Like Home – YouTube.

Re: “So many dang furriners?”

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Aerial view of Skagway, Alaska.Last Tuesday – July 26 – my brother and I started the long drive north, from Utah to Skagway, Alaska.  (At left.)

From there our plan was to spend four days hiking the Chilkoot Trail.  (The “meanest 33 miles in history.”)

In fact, the Chilkoot is so mean that we had to invite my nephew – my brother’s son, just out of the Army – to go along with us.  (Just in case one or both old geezers sprained or broke something…)

Now, about “all those furriners…”

That’s pretty much the way I felt several times over the last few days.  (After we crossed over into Canada, on Wednesday, July 27.)  But it got especially bad at the free breakfast we had at the Super 8 in Fort Nelson, BC, on Friday morning, July 29.

I’ll have more on that later.  But first, some highlights from our trip north.

The first day out we made Great Falls, Montana.  We drove 560 miles, starting around 9:00 a.m.  My photo at right shows the sky to the east, just as we got to the Great Falls exit.

That means we had 120 miles to go, to get  the Canadian border. (Unless they’ve built a wall or something.)  And driving through eastern Idaho and Montana was a good reminder of how HUUUUGE this country is, and especially the west.

Meanwhile it looked like there was a fire to the west of Great Falls, as shown in my photo at left.  I figured there was a wild fire to the west of the city, which would explain the smoke we smelled driving up to exit 278.  And it turned out my hunch was right.  (As shown by the front page of the next day’s Great Falls Tribune, for July 27.)

It took about 30 minutes to go through Canadian customs, where Interstate 15 becomes Canada Highway 4.  That’s where we had to “Arretez-vous, ici.”  (“Stop here.”)

Which brings up some of the anomalies of traveling in Canada.

For one thing, aside from speaking French, Canada uses kilometers instead of miles.  So when the speed-limit sign says “Maximum 110,” you have to calculate kilometers to miles.  (Divide the number in half, then add 10 percent.)   So using that method – half of 110 is 55, plus 11 – and you figure out that means about 65 mph on your dashboard.

And that when the speed sign says “40,” that means you have to slow down about 25 mph.

Then too, at first blush the gas prices seemed unbelievable.  For example, we saw signs in Alberta that said “96.9.”  Unfortunately, that was the price for a liter, or one-fourth of a gallon. So multiply that by 4 and you get gas at $3.87.  (In British Columbia we paid over $5.00 a gallon.)

Another thing, driving through Alberta.  We saw acres and acres of fields like this:

At first I thought the yellow-flowered crop-fields might be “golden rod,” but it turns out they were fields of Canola.  (See “A Canadian success story.”)

Then too, they have a weird system for Americans to pay for gas up here.  You have to swipe your credit card, then go in to the office and sign something.  It sounds simple but in practice it can be easy to forget.  Which explains why my brother Tom drove off from the Shell station in Airdrie.  We ended up still making good time, despite having to backtrack a bit.  (And make a belated payment for the gas, on pain of seeing “rollers” in our rear-view mirror.)

That night we made it to Drayton Valley, Alberta.  (West and a tad-bit south of Edmonton. And Calgary was HUGE to pass through!)  The next night – Thursday – we made it to Fort Nelson, British Columbia.  In America-talk, Fort Nelson runs from Mile-marker 301 to 308.

And that would be on the famed Alaska Highway, which officially starts in Dawson Creek, British Columbia.  (As shown at left.)  We passed through Dawson Creek about 3:00 in the afternoon, on the way to Fort Nelson.  And at the border of British Columbia, that 3:00 became 2:00.

(Thanks to the change-over to Pacific Time.)  

The next day – Friday, July 29 – we made it Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.  That happened despite our worst expectations, and a slew of stoppages for highway construction along the way.

This was after three straight days of 12-or-more-hours-of-driving.  I got plenty of pictures, but for some reason they don’t transmogrify from my cell phone to my computer, the way they do back in America.  And in fact there was no cell-phone service at all.  Once you hit the Canadian border, you can forget about texting the folks back home.

And I found out that my American mobile hotspot doesn’t work in Canada either.  (Which may explain why the cell-phone pictures don’t transfer.)  I hoped that once we got to Skagway, in Alaska – which is technically in the U.S. – those problems would go away, but they didn’t.  Still no cell phone service, and still no mobile hotspot.

So anyway, we hit the city limits of Whitehorse at 7:00 p.m.  (Pacific Time, or 10:00 p.m. ATL Time.)  Saturday morning we checked out the Yukon River for the canoe part of this expedition. (That is one FAST current, estimated at about 7 miles per hour.) Then we drove to Skagway and got there early Saturday afternoon.  (To prep for the hike on the Chilkoot Trail, as seen at right, in winter.)

However, there was yet another mix-up about what the actual time was when we got here. When we crossed into British Columbia – Thursday – I started gearing up to Pacific Time.  (Three hours earlier than ATL time.)  But when we got to a “necessary” store in Skagway, the sign said, “Be back at 1:45,” and it was well past that.  That’s when I learned that Skagway is on “Alaska Time.”  Alaska Time is one hour earlier than Pacific Time, which meant that when it 3:10 when we arrived in Skagway, it was 7:10 back in Atlanta.

One final note:  We DID get to watch the 13-minute video on what to do when you meet up with a bear.  That was for the benefit of those hardy folk planning to hike the Chilkoot Trail.  My take on the video:  “Be sure and get behind the OTHER two guys in your hiking party!”

As noted before, stay tuned for “further bulletins as events warrant!”

I’ll let you know how the hike on the Chilkoot Trail turns out…

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Calvin and Hobbes

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The upper image is courtesy of Willie & Joe: Summary-1 – amyatishkin.  (And of course,Bill Mauldin.)

The lower image is courtesy Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip, October 25, 1986.