We carried on south with the feeling that we really did not want to be heading home. After one month on the road we were really into the rhythm of traveling and the simplicity of the outdoors. Tim suggested we stop at Atlin Lake, a slight diversion to the route home. Tim had visited Atlin several years earlier and had been impressed by both the scenery and the artistic community. I remembered my father taking a hunting trip near Atlin back in the 60’s and had childhood memories of stories and photos that led me to believe that this was indeed a place not to be missed. What initially was meant to be a short visit to Atlin, turned into a 4 day layover, as Atlin and its surrounding Park was a unique and wondrous place. Full of eccentric and artistic people, the town strives to maintain a historic look and manages to pull it off in a way most communities fail to do. It has an authentic, but not ‘touristy’ feel, at the same time exuding the wild nature of the place. While gold and silver mining was clearly an important aspect of the history of this area, the land has recovered and does not show the intensive scarring and destructive carnage of places like Dawson City. Much to our elation the old mining roads are still open and with a decent 4WD vehicle, can be explored to heart’s content.
The next day we checked into the Atlin Centre for the Arts, run by artist Gernot Dick. Our timing was impeccable as Gernot invited us to stay in his new “5-star Cabin” which he was just completing after several years of construction. Gernot, a 70+ year old with the energy of a 25 year old, had built the ‘luxury cabin’ from ground up with his own hands. We then arranged for a day-trip led by Gernot on his jet boat the “Atlin Quest”, accompanied by artist Dominik Modlinski ( www.paintingjourneys.com ) and another local resident, Nan, who was a character worthy of a whole chapter. We jetted across Atlin Lake, pausing at the base of spectacular Cathedral Mountain, continuing through the ‘second narrows’ a photographer’s playground of tiny islands and beautiful reflections. Our brief stop was just a teasing of the photographic possibilities that are available in this pristine area. Much too quickly we proceeded on to Copper Island where we landed and prepared for a hike to the 1000 foot summit. It was quickly apparent that Gernot had a hiking speed that none of the rest of us possessed. Tim and Dominik managed to keep up, but I baled out half-way in exhaustion, knowing that I could not manage a straight ascent at this speed. I opted to take the bear spray and wait at the half-way point, a sunny slope with amazing vistas, while they continued the climb. I was content to munch on bumbleberries, photograph the surrounding mountains and unusual cloud patterns, while for the first time in weeks, I could peel off a few layers of clothes and relax in the sun. Gernot is locally famous for his ‘runs’ up various mountains and his annual cross-country ski excursion where he does a 75km lap around Teresa Island in anywhere from 5.5 to 10 hours! For anyone visiting the area, a stay and tour with Gernot is a must. ( www.atlinart.com ) We ended our jetboat excursion with a brief stop for lunch at ‘Peggy’s Cove’ . Peggy (Nan’s late mother) was locally known for her life as an artist aboard a homemade barge which was often anchored in this secluded nook of wilderness. A memorial marker stands where her ashes are scattered in this serene setting. As our tour of the lake ended, I sensed that this is a place that one could return to many times, not only for its charming town, people and landscapes, but as the perfect location (100km south of Whitehorse) from which to venture to other great photographic locations like the Alaska coast and Kluane National Park.