Yukon River Trip – Part 1

Well hello everyone. Yet again, I’ve left it far too long to update the blog. Life just seems to get in the way of me being able to sit down and write. So much has happened since I last put pen to paper, that I almost don’t know where to begin. We now have chickens. Can you believe it? After several discussions with Kaitlyn over the pros and cons of having chickens, I decided that getting them would be worth the argument that would follow my decision. Having brought them home Kaitlyn decided that having a few chickens around the place couldn’t be anymore crazy than not having them. So, having heard her say this, I also got another puppy! Well, why not hey! It’s a mad house here anyway. We named the puppy Winnie after Winnie the Pooh. So, we have a Pig and Pooh now, as well as old faithful Shylo. We didn’t name the chickens, but we did name the rooster “Joe,” after our first WorkAway we had here, as he was the first one to start work on the chicken house. Joe has 13 hens under him, and they all do a fantastic job of providing us with fresh eggs. Now anyone reading this will know that looking after puppies and chickens is almost a fulltime job, so as soon as we got them, I did what any loving husband would do and left to go canoeing in the Yukon for 3 weeks. Leaving Kaitlyn to take care of that job. So, that’s what I’m going to write about today. Canoeing the Yukon River. So, grab a chair, stick your best paddling trousers on and prepare to be whisked down the river with me.

Our chicken coop

The plan for the trip was put in motion two years ago when I approached my friend Dale to see if he wanted to give it a go. He had been struggling in his personal life after losing his father and then, a short time later, his mother-in-law. I was concerned for him and hoped the trip would give him something positive to concentrate on and redirect his mind towards. For me, having cracked my sternum and having put on a few extra pounds, I hoped it would help me kick start a slightly healthier lifestyle. (I’m still waiting to see if that happens.)

Two years seems like a long time, but it very quickly came around, and we had also added an old friend Annie to our team. So, on the 15th June I drove to Prince George airport and picked up Annie who had decided to fly into there to join me for a road trip to the Yukon. As I pulled into the airport, I heard a metal on metal scrape coming from my wheels. Great, I’m about to drive over 2000km and my brakes are on the way out. There wasn’t much I could do about it so off we went, leaving around 16:00. We drove pretty much continuously until 0300 where I had to pull over for a nap. 3 hours later I woke up and we carried on to Whitehorse arriving at midday. By this point my car sounded like I was dragging a bunch of tin cans behind it, due to the brakes being so bad and we still had to drive over 500km to Dawson City where I was planning on leaving my car, ready for when we got off the river. We spent the night in Whitehorse and in the morning drove the rest of the way trying very hard not to use the brakes. We rolled into Dawson at 11:00am with my car making plenty of noise to let everyone know we had arrived. I left the keys with an employee of the hotel we would be staying at, then phoned a garage to arrange to have the brakes repaired while I was away. I can’t explain to you how amazing everyone was who was involved with getting my car back to a road worthy state in my absence. It really shows what a great community Dawson is and how willing they were to help out a stranger.

Anyway, at midday we got onboard the local bus for our ride back to Whitehorse. The starting point for our canoe trip. The journey was a 6-hour bone shaking ride and by the time we arrived back at the hotel I was convinced I had damaged my nervous system which actually wasn’t so bad, as Anna thought she had permanently damaged her lady bits. Sore parts to one side, it was an excellent service with a great driver.

We spent the following day buying supplies for the trip and then popped into the canoe rental company (Up North Adventures) to fill out all the appropriate paperwork. I walked into the shop and stood at the counter was Jason Fox. If you don’t know this guy, he is an ex British special forces soldier, and has made several television programmes for UK television, and even one of which you can watch on Netflix internationally I believe. He, along with his friend Sean Johnson, were about to embark on a 49-mile hike to the source of the Yukon River, and then canoe the entire length of it, all the way to the Bering sea. What a trip. All in aid of his charity Rock to Recovery. Foxy (I can call him that as we’re now friends,) is very open about his own struggles with PTSD and Rock to Recovery hopes to help people in similar situations. I hope once I have this place sorted to try and get involved with them somehow. We discussed their trip and I gave some info on the river regarding the sections I knew and agreed to meet on the river for beers when they caught up with us. We did meet up in Dawson, but I’ll get to that later.

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Lake LaBerge
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Lake LaBerge 

We started our little paddle (750km) on the morning of the 19th June. Having loaded the canoe, we set off towards Lake LaBerge where we hoped to camp the first night. Lake Laberge is a widening of the Yukon River north of Whitehorse. It is fifty kilometres long and ranges from two to five kilometres wide. Its water is always very cold, and its weather often harsh and suddenly variable. Because of the weather changes you can face on this lake I wanted to be right on it ready to start afresh in the morning. We found a really nice island just at the start of the lake where we setup our tents, lit a campfire and cooked up a nice dinner. Pasta and spam. You can’t beat it! The following morning, we awoke to a really misty but calm day. We set off on our way to cross the lake. After a couple of hours, the mist lifted, and we were blessed with the most perfect day. Crystal clear and calm waters, what a treat. Such a contrast from the last time I paddled across it when the wind was blowing, and our canoes were in danger of being swamped. I could hardly believe our luck and we put in a relatively long day to get within 12km of the end of Lake LeBerge. We stopped fairly frequently for pictures and to take in our surroundings. It was so peaceful, we only saw one other boat the entire day and that was only for a few minutes as it blasted past us with its engine roaring. Apart from that we had the whole lake to ourselves, along with several Bald Eagles that we spotted. Amazing experience. We camped that night on the shores edge, on a lovely sandy beach with a view to die for. The following day we weren’t so lucky with the weather and it took the best part of the day to get off the lake. The wind had picked up and it was more like canoeing on an ocean. Crazy what a difference a day makes. We did eventually get off the lake and soon hit the fast-flowing water of the Yukon River again. I think in the last hour we managed to do a further 9km. This is my favourite part of the river, and the scenery is truly stunning. It twists and turns and flows so beautifully, with so many shades of green. Even the water seams to take on an emerald colour.

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All the shades of green once you enter the Yukon River past Lake LaBerge

Now, before I go any further I must tell you about poo logs. A poo log is a log that is ideally placed for you to have a comfortable off load whilst out in the wilderness. I personally have a poo log rating. It runs from 1-10. 1 being poor and 10 being the best experience ever. There is no such thing as a zero rating as any log is preferable to sit on and dump rather than no log. I’m pleased to say on this trip we found a 9. Within the rating system you must take into account, position of said log, height of log, comfort of log, view from log, as well as it’s ability to conceal you from your fellow travellers and or passers-by. The last thing you want when “pinching” one off is to be exposed to the world. Having explained this to you, I can now tell you the majority of our conversation would start by someone saying a rating number as we paddled passed an island with a log. All would be quiet in our canoe but then out of nowhere one of us would say “6” followed by and murmuring of agreement or disagreement. The 9 was a truly excellent experience. It had a great view, it even had a back support and footrest. The only reason it didn’t make the 10 was due to it leaving the user slightly exposed to passers-by. You can’t have everything.

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Take note of a 7

The end of day 3 saw us camping once again on an island in the middle of the Yukon River. I choose Islands due to them having far fewer mosquitos than on the riverbanks. Top tip if you’re ever canoeing out in Canada. This island was known to me as Chive Island. We had named it that back in 2011 when I first canoed this river due to the huge amounts of chives growing on it. They were still there this time. A great place to camp, there was even a bench there to sit on.

The next day we set off under heavy looking skies. As the day went on we started to hear thunder in the distance. Deciding we didn’t want to be on the water during a thunderstorm we pulled onto the next island we came across and all huddled under my poncho, whilst sat on the floor watching the lightning edge ever closer. At this point the wind picked up and the rain started to come down pretty hard. After sitting there for probably 20 minutes and with no sign of it coming to an end we quickly erected one of our tents and all huddled in it till the storm passed. As soon as it stopped the sun came out and we carried on our merry way. The following day was a very similar experience only, this time we put the tent up before the rain started and didn’t sit under a poncho for 20 minutes.

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Waiting out the thunderstorm

After 6 days we arrived at the Colemine campground in Carmacks at around 19:30 after putting in an 88km day. Burgers and ice-cream were quickly ordered, followed by a few beers. It’s a wonderful place, very small, friendly campground around 2km from the main town. There is everything there you could possibly want, even toilets so I didn’t have to find a log. We ended up staying 2 nights in the end. On the second day we borrowed 3 bicycles and headed off to town to restock our food for the rest of the journey. I hadn’t ridden a bike in probably nearly 10 years and shocked myself that I didn’t fall off immediately. We looked like something out of Last Of The Summer Wine as we peddled to town. If you don’t know that show I suggest you Google it to give you an idea.

I’m getting aware that in order to fully explain the trip and give it the justice it deserves then I need to go into quite some detail, and having last Sunday told everyone it would be up in 24-48hrs I have decided to split it into two parts. I shall continue writing and post part 2 very soon. If you have any questions feel free to fire them over and hopefully I can answer them in the second part. I still have 400km of paddling to tell you about, watching the Yukon River Quest teams paddle by, Fort Selkirk, plus the time spent in Dawson City.

As always, have a great week and I shall speak to you all very soon.

 

©Nick Hunter

3 thoughts on “Yukon River Trip – Part 1

  1. Thank you for sharing! This is a bucket list trip for me and I will be saving this. Well-written! Hope the rest of your trip went great!

    Liked by 1 person

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