The next morning we headed South to Carcross, where Marg has been on an exchange in high school, and hadn’t been back since. Carcross is a shortened form of Caribou Crossing, and was on the migration route of the caribou from Bennett Lake to Tagish Lake. The route to Carcross follows the original trail to Whitehorse and passes picturesque Emerald Lake as well as the Carcross Desert, a pocket desert complete with sand dunes, a few miles from the town.
Carcross sits at the end of Bennett Lake and was an important part of the route through the Chilkoot Trail and then later the White Pass railroad that prospective miners used on their way to Dawson. Many of the buildings from that time period have been restored. We paid a visit to the Simmons house as well as the Church at the edge of town, where Marg went on the Sundays that she stayed in Carcross. More details about the history of Carcross can be found at http://www.yukonalaska.com/communities/carcrosshist.html.
We continued through the middle of the Southern Lakes area towards Atlin, BC. The Southern Lakes Area consists of 6 large lakes, 5 of which are interconnected to form over 600km of navigable waterway, as well as the headwaters for the Yukon river. More information about the Southern Lakes can be found at http://www.southernlakesyukon.com/
Atlin BC was the site of a mini goldrush around a few years after the initial Gold Rush in Dawson. At one time, Atlin had over 10000 people on its shores exploring for gold. Now there are 400 people in town, working mainly in tourism and mining. The downtown has a few historic buildings that were not destroyed in the fires that plagued the town, as well as the SS Tarahne which is now dry docked as a restaurant.
A few km down Warm Bay road is the Atlin Art Center, founded by Gernot Dick, an art teacher, originally from Austria, who spent over two decades teaching at Sheridan College in Toronto during the fall and winter and then spent the summers in Atlin giving art and wilderness courses. He moved to Atlin about 15 years ago to operate the Center as a year round retreat for Artists and Writers. He also has a few tents available for the less artistic, such as us, who come to experience nature. Gernot suggested that as we only had one full day in Atlin, that we hike up Monarch Mountain, a 4 hour return trip from the Center. This hike proved to be the highlight of the trip for us, as the view of Atlin Lake, Llewellyn Glacier and Teresa island was one of the best we had seen from a day hike. The long twilights produced a quality of light that accentuated the form of the lake and the island. This combined with the wind that blew from the lake gave the place an incredible energy that we had only felt when in a very remote wilderness area in Southern BC. We will definitely be going back in the near future to explore the southern part of Atlin Lake. More information on the Atlin Art Center can be found at http://www.atlinart.com/index.html.