Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Whitehorse Adventure

Our Valentine weekend getaway took us to a 'new-to-us' Canadian Territory - the Yukon! It was a fun little winter wonderland getaway. Of course we had in mind that travelling so far 'up north' in winter might give us a glimpse of the Northern Lights....as yet elusive to us both (after travelling in search of them a few years back to Iceland without success)...this was it - round 2 in the Aurora battle....*

Whitehorse is a pretty small town of around 37,000. It's the main city in the Yukon with over 75% of the population living there! Whilst it started off it's life caught up in the craziness of the Klondike Gold Rush, it's settled into it's current role as a main stop-off on the Alaska Highway. The highway was built in 1942-43 by the US Army after the Pearl Harbour attacks. It was handed over to the Canadians following the war and now it a major tourist route between northern BC and Alaska where thousands travel each year. Obviously not many of them travel the road in winter....and so Whitehorse is quite a sleepy little place in the off-season! But that's not to say we didn't have plenty to fill our time on our 3.5 day break!

Downtown Whitehorse - the museum and main street

We used Airbnb to book our accommodation. (and if you use this link to sign up for Airbnb you'll get a $30 credit on your first stay!) We spent our first 2 nights in the city and the second 2 nights at an incredible Mongolian Yurt about 1/2 hour out of town overlooking a frozen Cowley Lake. The Yurt wasn't just our bed for the night but ended up being a really memorable part of our trip! We arrived after dark and had a brief 1/4km walk through the trees and along a ridge line to get to the yurt on a well trodden snowy path. It was a clear night so we got a hint of what the view would bring us come morning - it was so exciting! Our host had the wood burning stove roaring away and the yurt was amazingly cozy and we immediately felt right at home. Come morning we stepped out onto the little deck perched right on the edge of a high ridge to a stunning view of the snowy mountains in the distance and an expansive view out over a frozen Cowley Lake.

Views from our cozy Yurt! Overlooking a frozen Cowley Lake where we snowshoed on our final morning!
We spent some time exploring Whitehorse itself - the city is quite compact and easy to walk around...we got lucky with the weather and had quite mild temperatures during our stay. We found some awesome little shops to explore - the Aroma Borealis was a lovely shop full of scents, potions and crystals - we brought home one of their unique essential oil blends. The Collective Good was another favourite - it was a beautifully curated design store of unusual and modern home decor, clothing, accessories and gift items with a great selection of local items but full of many others from all around the world - we'd been looking for some coat hooks for our mud room for the longest time and I was happy to find something a little different here! And we couldn't pass up the opportunity to get our 'outdoor store' fix! - we both could spend forever in a great outdoor & sports clothing and equipment store - Coast Mountain Sports was Whitehorse's answer to REI and MEC! Obviously it's a great outdoor adventure area and they have a fabulous store to service it! And of course we couldn't pass up the local brew - Yukon Brewing, where you can sample all their beers on tap!

It may be small but Whitehorse serves up some top-notch eats! We loved pastries at Baked Cafe, Brunch at Burnt Toast, hot chocolate and snacks at Bean North. We dined at Antoinette's on our first night - a friendly and busy spot serving incredible Jamaican food with some wicked flavour and flare. We took our time over dinner, enjoying the house created cocktails and even managed to save room for dessert - squeezing in as much of the awesome food as possible! We picnicked in the yurt on our second night and on our final night hit up the Dirty Northern bar. We'd heard great things about their pizza and it didn't disappoint.


We lounged in the thermal waters at Takhini Hot Springs, visited the small but awesome MacBride Museum - I loved exploring the exhibits on 'ye old life' and socio-economic growth of the town - lots of stuff on the gold rush and rural outpost type life!  We took a 2 hour drive south to pop into Skagway, Alaska (where it was a totally different climate and not a snowflake in sight!). The drive south was stunning and we had gorgeous weather for it - blue skies and the crisp white snowy mountains as far as the eye could see, stopping at Carcross briefly en route!

Views around Carcross on our day trip to Alaska!

Our final morning before our flight home we squeezed in a snowshoe hike across Cowley Lake - the snow was crazy deep so it was a healthy workout! Just as well as our journey home ended up being rather long and frustrating. Having flown via Vancouver all the way back to Kelowna, we were on finals with the wheels down before deciding the fog was too bad and they routed us back to Vancouver with a night in a hotel! Oh well, bonus day on vacation!! And a great vacation it was too!

*And whilst we caught a glimpse of the Northern Lights it was a little faint and shimmery pale blues - not the wild dancing greens you see in photos, and so for now I'm not quite 'satisfied' enough to check it off my bucket list and the aurora battle continues!

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