Expedition Update #3
In and around Dawson City, YT
Ian paragliding under the Midnight Sun
Dawson City was one of those places the 5intheSky team planned to stay for a while and explore. We had pre-booked accommodation in a guest house, but as it was peak tourist season, we could only get a room for 2 nights. Ian had visited Dawson City before as a stop on a motorcycle trip up the Dempster Highway to Inuvik, and was looking forward to reliving the Dawson experience with the family.
For those that may not know, Dawson City is a town on the Yukon River and was the site of the famous Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800’s and in-part, this fascinating history makes it a very interesting town to visit. Active placer gold mining continues to this day, and the city hosts an interesting mix of old timers, miners, adventurers, First Nations and of course tourists. The town has protected a number of heritage buildings, and with the dirt streets and wooden boardwalks, along with the relaxed and fun vibe, it’s very easy to relax and get into the Dawson way of life.
Some photos from around Dawson City
We had a few goals for our visit to Dawson, in particular Ian wanted to fly his paraglider from the ‘Dome’ at midnight, while Samantha had been bitten by the desire to experience a traditional Klondike “sourtoe” cocktail. Ian has been a paraglider pilot for almost 30 years and has flown paragliders all over the world, he even took a paraglider on his honeymoon with Michelle to South Africa. Samantha has far less experience drinking Jack Daniels.
We wandered down to the paragliding landing zone (or “LZ”) located next to the river in downtown Dawson, and met Trevor from the Association of Yukon Paragliding and Hang Gliding (AYPH). He was instrumental in establishing a course called “Getting High the Natural Way” aimed at giving local Dawson youth the opportunity to learn to paraglide at no cost to the participants. The course runs a few days in June, July and August and we happened to be there in the midst of it. Being able to meet everyone and talk about their love for paragliding was awesome.
Playing Spike Ball with the paraglider pilots
Shuttle cars and pickup trucks were heading up to the paragliding launch on a regular basis, so Ian grabbed his gear, and he, Sam and Chris and went up to the Dome for Ian to have a flight. The road to the launch is paved and groups of tourists, coming to the Dome to enjoy panoramic views of the city, also enjoy watching the paragliders launch.
It’s almost always not legal or safe to fly a paraglider at night because usually it's too dark. Dawson City however is far enough North that the sun does not set in June until around 4am and then rises again a couple of hours later, even the brief period of official night time not being truly dark. Because of this, and the great location and accessibility of the Dawson City ‘Dome’ paragliding site, a unique opportunity exists to fly your paraglider at midnight! Not only that, locals have established the ‘Midnight Sun Flying Club’ which has only one entry requirement - a pilot must launch on one day and land the next!
Christopher chillin' at the paragliding launch near midnight
We arrived in Dawson the morning of June 18th, and after some afternoon thunderstorms, the weather cleared in the late afternoon and conditions looked good for an attempt to join the ‘Midnight Sun Flying Club’ that night. Ian and newfound friend Martin, a Chilean paraglider pilot, headed up to the Dome launch at 11pm under brilliant sunshine. The yukon bugs were also enjoying the warm sunny weather, feasting on tender southern Canadian (and Chilean) flesh as Ian and Martin readied their gear. As thermic lift is not usually abundant at midnight, it’s important to launch close to midnight to ensure the flight time is long enough to land in downtown Dawson the following day. Martin and Ian launched almost simultaneously at 11:57 PM on June 18th and yipped and hollered as they slowly descended over town, to the riverside landing zone, touching down at 00:05 the next day. A handful of others became members of the elite club that evening, and we all packed our gear and walked the few blocks into town for a celebratory drink at one of the many Saloons, all of them overflowing with both character and characters. At the 2am closing time, we wandered back to our respective homes in clear daylight, but with the street lights on.
Ian getting ready to catch some thermals
Ian can't wait to get up and play in the thermals
The next day (actually not the next day, the same day, June 19th) we explored around town and planned for Samantha’s “Sourtoe” cocktail experience later in the afternoon. The “Sourtoe Cocktail Club” has been a time honoured tradition in Dawson City since 1973, and consists of drinking a shot of Jack Daniels whisky with a real mummified human toe in the shot glass. Its history dates back to the 1920’s when the rum-running Linken brothers got caught out in the Yukon cold and Louie Linken lost a toe to frostbite, his brother Otto cutting it off with an axe and keeping it in a jar of alcohol for some reason. Years later, while cleaning out an abandoned cabin, the toe was discovered by Captain Dick Stevenson. After conferring with friends, the Sourtoe Cocktail Club was established and the rules developed. Since its inception, the club has acquired (by donation) over 25 toes. Check it out HERE
Chris heard about this and was totally excited to watch his sister drink both a) a shot of Whisky and b) a drink with a human toe in it. Ian was up to join his second Dawson City club of the day, so off we went to the Sourdough Saloon in the Downtown Hotel. Being only 15, Chris wasn’t allowed in the saloon but was intent on watching through the window. It took an hour or more for people to be called up for the ceremony and to drink the shot, the rules being pretty simple: “you can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the toe'' There is however strictly no biting, chewing or of course swallowing the toe.
As it turned out, the bar got less crowded and Chris was able to come in before Samantha and Ian’s turn arrived to join the Sourtoe Cocktail Club. We had a really good laugh when Samantha’s time came as you’ll see in the following video:
Clearly the 5 second rule also applies to mummified toes!
Anyway, the 5intheSky team is pleased to announce that Ian Porter and Samantha Porter are now members 98,083 and 98,084 of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club.
We enjoyed our stay in Dawson City immensely and had some great experiences and memories. As we boarded the shuttle bus to the airport early in the morning of June 20, none of us could believe we had only been in Dawson City for 2 days. But new adventures beckoned, as we were heading further north, hoping to visit the remote community of Old Crow, fly to Herschel Island and end the day in Inuvik, Northwest Territories.