Home > Trip > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2013 > Daily Dispatch #186

September 27, 2013: Watson Lake Rodeo Grounds/Watson Lake Signage

Rodeo Grounds. We stayed here, at the community riding center, three times before. This was the only place in which we stayed on the trip down and back. This is because it’s my favorite camping area/horse facility. I have many fond memories of this place. For example, it was where Siggi had the encounter with Tony Lama.

The gate to the facility is usually in the teapot on top of the outhouse adjacent to the big chain-link gate/fence. Not this time. We immediately did a 360 degree turn (no easy feat with truck and trailer) and went directly to Twilight Hardware, in hopes of finding Dalys, the owner. This is because we figured that she’d know where the key was. Dalys, we were told, was out doing maintenance work on a trapline trail. We were instead given Brenda’s phone number. We knew Brenda would know, because she is the unofficial head of the centre. As it turned out, we were put in touch with the wrong Brenda. However, she had the phone number of the right Brenda. So off we went, over to the bulk fuel supply place. There the correct Brenda gave us a key and told us where to put it once we were in the yard.

It is not technically a rodeo ground, since rodeos are no longer held there. But the name remains out of respect for the original founders.

The place was much the same, except for their being less activity than previously. Tony Lama was not running loose this time, but was in with some other horses. Here and there were corralled horses. The mix included a handful of minis and ponies. We put Signy and Raudi in a round pen. The facilities here are so clean that we don’t have to worry about finding the usual rodeo grounds detritus – some of which includes wire, cans, cigarette butts, and twine.

The horses, who remembered this place, raced around for a bit, then lowered themselves onto the ground and rolled. They’d been high-lined for the past few

days, so it obviously felt good to have room to stretch their legs.

Later, as Pete was making dinner and I was doing chores, Brenda came over for a visit. It was Friday afternoon – she had a glass of wine in one hand, and a cigarette in the other. Her stories about the place were punctuated with a very infectious laugh. We talked some about the compost station. It’s a three-sided structure, with two bays of manure. When full, they are turned into a third. I noted that it was quite impressive, and said that we had not, in our travels, seen such a together manure management set up. I also added that if this could be done large scale in the Yukon, that it could be done anywhere. Brenda noted that it was government funded – in part it exists to teach kids about composting. She did mention that soon the current grant will run out, upon which the president and board will apply for another.

Tough to leave. As usual, I felt quite at home.

Signage. Perhaps the biggest tourist draw in the Yukon is the Watson Lake Sign Forest. I suspect that the place was previously known as the place in which people stopped to replace car, truck, and bus transmissions. This is probably still true, but additionally, those who are stuck here can now idle away their time (no pun) by reading signs that have been posted here for the past 30 or so years.

I love signage, so I always look forward to stopping here. We never, ever linger, so I always walk away feeling as though I have been cheated. It seems to me that every sign tells a story, stories of trips done on foot, in cars, on horseback, by bicycle. Some travelers have taken great care in making and stealing signs indicating their point of origin. And some travelers have been more spontaneous. In addition to the more traditional signs, some have put their names on Frisbees, shoes, dust pans, commodes, and shirts, and tacked them to the posts.

The visitor center staff maintains and puts up most of the signs, with others going in and tacking up their own. The thousands of signs are very neatly organized. This is impressive, because there are so many on hand. And I’d think that some would be inclined to nail one sign over another.

Ironic, to see on the entrance, a paper sign that read “Do not Post Signs on this Post. Of course, there are a handful on it, including a construction worker’s hat, which someone managed to fasten on the uppermost rail.

We had a sign to post. We should have left it at the visitor’s center, but instead felt inclined to be subversive. Back in Antelope I found a Government No Trespassing Sign in the cabin kitchen; the sign had paint splattered on it and looked destined for the dump, so I put it in the tack room trailer. It was Pete who found a prominent place to post it—a treated piece of 2x8 that something faded and unreadable written on it. He then rightly said that people will see this sign and smile when they read it.

Next: 187: 9/28/13: Wolf Creek Provincial Campground