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Whitehorse Delivers GOLD

When Canadians hear the words The Yukon or Whitehorse, the famous Klondike gold rush of 1896 comes to mind and in fact Whitehorse exists because of the gold fever that drove many stampeders to the area. Whitehorse is the capital and is built on the banks of the Yukon River, surrounded by mountains, unspoiled lakes and the Boreal Forest. More than seventy-five percent of The Yukon’s population makes Whitehorse their home.

Whitehorse is known as the wilderness city, but don’t let that name deter you, it is a city with many amenities and a character that’s hard to beat.

About half of the Yukon is located in the Boreal Forest. This forest is an extremely important ecozone that forms a ring around the earth’s northern hemisphere and stretches as far as Russia. It is the world’s largest forest. The Boreal Forest covers almost 60% of the land in Canada extending from Newfoundland to the border between The Yukon and Alaska. What does this mean? Lots of trees, mushrooms, berries, and an abundance of fish, big animals like Moose, bears and elk. If you visit, get used to eating what the Boreal Forest provides in many of the restaurants (and they are big portions).

A short drive south of Whitehorse one can experience some amazing attractions. I would have never guessed that The Yukon has a desert names Carcross desert (approximately 63 Km south of Whitehorse). It is a series of sand dunes and is often referred to as the world’s smallest desert. Just a short few kilometers from the desert is the village of Carcross (originally names Caribou Crossing). During the gold rush it was a key stopover and supply centre for the multitude of prospectors seeking their fortune. The community has a population of just over 450 people so tourism is its main business. This is a picturesque community situated between two lakes; Bennett and Nares lakes and is home to one scrumptious bakery, the “Chilkoot Trail Sourdough Bakery.”

It is a very rustic and simple log cabin style building, a short walk from the visitor’s centre, just look for the building with the Moose antlers. Here chef Lisa Armstrong makes mammoth cinnamon buns, and I mean mammoth. I had to have one. It takes her about 2 hours to make them (8 fit in a tray), but took me less than 10 minutes to eat one…delicious!

An exciting experience is a flight seeing tour by floatplane. Alpine Aviation provides a bird’s eye view of Whitehorse, the Mountains, rivers, lakes and of course the Boreal Forest in a vintage de Havilland Beaver airplane…the bush plane of choice for most pilots. Keep an eye out because the wildlife below. It skims across the lake water effortlessly on take-off and lands on the lake without a bounce. In the winter the floats are replaced with skis and the plane can be landed on glaciers. Just ask for Gerd Mannsperger (owner and chief pilot) for his 45-minute tour of Whitehorse.

One shouldn’t visit Whitehorse without trying your hand at fishing. Whether you are a novice or experienced at fishing, everyone is to catch a fish (lake trout) at a local lake called Fish Lake. The name almost guarantees you a catch. As a novice I went and booked an excursion with Up North Adventures. They provided the poles, the lures, the boat and a very experiences guide. Fish Lake is very picturesque and in no time I caught a lake trout, a big one may I add. Our catch was cleaned for me when we arrived on shore and then we cooked them and man did they taste great.

Whitehorse has a great selection of restaurants; they do take their food seriously here! Restaurants are diverse and have their own specialties and I had an opportunity to eat in many but my three top choices are:

• Giorgio’s Cuccina specializes in a Mediterranean/Greek fare. It is a treat to be in the restaurant and speak with Giorgio himself, a very colourful and interesting character. It is hard to say no to him especially when he wants to have a drink with you or give you a taste of his Moussaka, created with his special recipe. Giorgio’s is known for its pasta, grilled seafood and steaks.

• Klondike Rib & Salmon restaurant is a very popular place in downtown Whitehorse. There are big line-ups daily and why, because their food is great and their staff creates a great experience for all who dine there! They specialize in Northern foods that includes Northern Ocean fish, smoked meats and wild game meats. Try the fish and chips, the Alaska Cod just melts in your mouth and the fries are simply delicious.

• Antoinette’s has a very diverse Caribbean flavoured menu that constantly changes. Antoinette herself creates some of the unique recipes found nowhere else. She is a very energetic woman with a passion for food and it shows on the satisfied faces of her customers. They even do Salsa dancing in the evenings.

The summer days are long and darkness does not fall on Whitehorse until very late (11 pm or later), giving visitors more daylight hours to enjoy the beauty of the surroundings. Most restaurants close by 10 pm or sooner, while retailers close around 5 pm. It is a marvelous place to visit and when you do visit, make sure you learn how to call a moose and bring these things with you; Mosquito repellant-especially if trekking through the hills and forest, bear repellant-although the likelihood of you needing this is slim, it’s a good precaution, comfortable hiking shoes and a sense of adventure!

Frank Greco is a world traveler; television producer and host of The Travel Guy broadcast through Discovery World HD. Contact Frank at: frank@thetravelguy.tv; follow Frank on twitter (@iamthetravelguy) or become his friend on facebook.

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