Loonies in the Campground Shower

Wednesday 25 June 2008 — Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada

Our CampsiteIt was a cold night. After writing in my journal at 2am by the natural light radiating from the horizon, I passed out in the tent, only to be woken up by the early morning chill. And the cries of a baby. Somewhere nearby a family of campers had brought an infant along with them. I silently cursed them and rolled over on the hard earth beneath my thin sleeping bag. I tossed to try to lay in an acceptable position, but ended up curling in a ball to keep warm. This wasn’t ideal, but at least it was semi-tolerable. Damn that cheap sleeping bag. The morning came too quickly, although I could not sleep long.

Dazed from the long drive and poor night’s sleep, I stumbled out of the tent and out into the fresh Yukon air. It was going to be a great day, indeed. With eyes that were not sufficiently open, I made my way to the bathrooms, which thankfully were a short walk from the tent. Upon inspection, I quickly noted the small box located on one wall of the shower stall. Oh great, I have to pay to get water. The cleverly placed box required $1 Canadian coins and I only had a handful of change that included a couple of $2 coins.

This dilemma was resolved at the main office to the campsite. My still dazed mind didn’t know what state the rest of my body was in. All I knew is that I needed a shower. I held up the $2 coin and before I could stammer anything more than, “uhm, I….” the cheerful woman behind the counter chimed in. “Loonies?” she said. “Ah, yeah.” The exchange was simple and I was squeaky clean in no time, also meaning that one loonie provided what I thought to be 5-7 minutes of running water. I decided I was loony enough for only one go.

Yukon RiverThe day was amazing. I eventually woke up from my daze, even before I had coffee and spent the daylight hours walking around town, and being guided by a friend of Ray’s, who is a recent transplant from Texas (who rather enjoys his new locale). Among the other places we went was Miles Canyon along the Yukon River. Once upon a time during the Klondike Gold Rush, these were treacherous waters, but now that the river is dammed for hydroelectric power, the force is significantly less. Still, it’s a great site to see. The afternoon sun was not too hot for a stroll along the river.

Also a favorite of that day was the cranberry wheat ale from the Yukon Brewing Company. Mmmm. I am the proud owner of a new Yukon Brewing Company hoodie that reads, “Beer worth freezin’ for”. Got that right. OK, maybe not in the wintertime high of around 0 degrees Fahrenheit in January. But a good beer, IMHO.

We finished out the day with a walk and a rousing round of Uno back at the campsite…still playing cards past 10pm whilst sunlight still hang in the sky. The second night of sleep was much better, thanks in part to my comfy new hoodie…and the loonie that helped me get more hot water in the shower.



Experiencing the Midnight Sun

Kluane Lake

Tuesday 24 June 2008 — Yukon Territory, Canada

We had crossed the border from Alaska into the Yukon Territory hours before. Dazzled by the geographical wonders that continuously passed before my eyes, I hardly noticed the late hour. Midnight approached and the sun, low on the horizon filled the open sky; dusk was soon to follow. Not accustomed to the late night light, somewhere out of my own experience in the lower 48 states, an alarm went off. There was still an hour or more of driving until we reached our lodging destination at Whitehorse. I began to wonder how we would find our site at the campground and how we would pitch our tent in the dark.

Without thinking it through, I turned to Ray and asked, “uhm, do you have a flashlight?” Though not yet worried, I wondered. Setting up a tent in the dark after 12 hours in a car is not what I consider fun. This, of course, was a stupid question. He just looked at me. Of course we don’t need a flashlight, because in the summertime, it won’t get much darker than dusk. Intellectually I knew this, the experience however, played tricks on my body and mind. For me at all times of the year midnight=darkness with the visibility of stars. However, this was midnight sun country. And near 1am, I was still wide awake enjoying the slowly fading sunlight; it never got completely dark.

Yukon NightWhen we rolled into Whitehorse and found the campground, I again began to wonder. OK, now we are here, but where the heck is our reserved spot? Again, the answer was simpler than I thought. As luck would have it, the spot was found without much searching, marked “Reserved for Ray” and close to the parking lot. When all was said and done it was after 2am. The photo to the left shows the remaining light, shortly before I crashed in the tent.

Sleeping was not as easy as being extremely tired and passing out. The chilly night air kept me cold and partially awake in my cheap sleeping bag in spite of my pants, shirt, long sleeve shirt, socks and fleece. My shivering body periodically woke me up, making me wish I had purchased a sleeping bag with more insulation, instead of quickly finding an inexpensive one. I curled up in a ball to keep myself warm and pulled the top over my head to block out the light. Yet all was well, as I repeated to myself, “Holy crap; I’m camping in the Yukon!”

This mantra followed by deep breaths shepherded me through the night, and I awoke with a smile to greet the glorious morning sun of a fresh new day…

Leaving Alaska & The Art of Photography from Moving Vehicles

ghost in the mirror

Tuesday 24 June 2008 — Palmer, Alaska, USA

We had a long day ahead of us. After a stack of delicious blueberry pancakes prepared by his mother, Ray finally finished packing up “Dora” the Ford Explorer. A few hugs were exchanged, goodbyes said. We drove away from his life in Alaska on a cool and cloudy summer morning, bound for a destination a few thousand miles away. The first stop was 12-hours away by car. Only one road exists to drive in and out of Alaska. It was quiet those first few minutes in the car, but eventually we settled in for the journey. We passed the Matanuska Glacier, mountains, through taiga and approached the border with the Yukon Territory. There were long stretches of road construction and patches of extremely bumpy road, warped by the frost and cold temperatures that cover the area most of the year. Settled in for a long ride, but still full of adrenaline, I could not help myself from snapping many pictures along the way–while the car was in motion.

Rainy RoadLong road trips through beautiful country can present a problem for trigger happy photographers such as myself. My eyes glued to the road and land around me, I have a continual string of inspiring scenes. In recent years of travel, I have acquired a skilled technique to ensure roadside stops are made less frequently. One may only have a few seconds before a stunning mountain scene fades away and there may not be a place on the road to pull over. Thus, when a passenger, I have my three cameras nearby to pull out as inspiration strikes. The necessity to be quick must be balanced by carefully preparing the shot, although sometimes rapid fire works better. While I have used my 35mm cameras for this, the digital is optimal for such craziness, as the rate of misfire is high.

Sometimes it works very well, like the photo below. Driving into the night, we pressed onward to the city of Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. After moving through a rainstorm, the clouds broke to reveal the clear blue sky and open country. Distant snowcapped mountains towered over the horizon. I took this from the car sometime around 11pm on the 24th of June. For an inhabitant of the lower 48 states such as myself, it was fascinating to experience the midnight sun.

Summer Night in the Yukon