Into the Yukon with Mopps

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Canada – July 2008

Many years ago, I felt a call to Alaska. Unfortunately, lack of money and time left it just a calling. A few years later I contemplated applying for a teaching position there as it would give me an excuse to go north for the interview. I didn’t apply, so when I was given the opportunity to go on an Alaskan glacier cruise a little later, I jumped at it. While I’d never considered a cruise before, I figured I’d get to sign up for some semi-adventurous shore excursions. Semi-adventurous as I’ve only just recovered from an ankle injury that saw me using a cane for six-months and I don’t want to push my luck.

I grew up watching reruns of Rocky and Bullwinkle on TV, so I can’t think of Skagway without thinking of Dudley Do-Right, who along with his faithful dog, Faithful Dog, defeated archvillain Snidely Whiplash in a dogsledding contest there. I’m not in Skagway for a dogsledding contest, however, but rather as the entry point for doing some off-roading in Canada’s Yukon Territory in four-wheel drive Jeeps.

Each Jeep holds four passengers and the plan is that at each stop we switch drivers, but I’m teamed with a family of three from the U.K. that doesn’t have insurance, so all the driving is on me. Seems my luck is running good for this outing as I was really hoping to be behind the wheel for the four-wheel driving. We leave Skagway, passing through such uplifting areas as Dead Horse Gulch and Tormented Valley, making our first stop at Fraser, just after clearing Canadian Customs. Next it’s Tutshi Lake, just a little more north. Then we’re into Carcross and officially in the Yukon.

We’ve been in a small convoy of about six vehicles with our guide, Mopps, in the lead Jeep conveying information to us between stops through a radio system. Just before the off-roading begins, we stop at a convenience store that offers a do-it-yourself passport stamp, which some of us indulge in. It’s an unofficial stamp but so is the one I received at Machu Picchu (and many more I will collect in the future). We then get ready to start our off-roading. The last time I was in a Jeep with four-wheel drive engaged was when I used to live in the mountains and bought a Jeep for the commute up and down.

The off-roading portion of the outing isn’t going off-road to see a site, but rather a rough area beside the store that is more like a test track. Not exactly what I was expecting, but it’s fun nonetheless. As I’m not alone, I do take it a little slower than I usually would. After about thirty minutes of ups and downs and side to sides, we start the drive back to Skagway.

Once back in Skagway, I decide to walk into town for lunch. Mopps recommends a place and tells me to look up a pretty bartender there with a tattoo on her arm named Kat, so I do.

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