Paddle Whitehorse to Dawson City.

Aug 15/14 to Sept 20/14Paddle Hay River to Inuvik
Oct 18/14 to Oct 31/14Hike Castlegar to Pincher Creek, Alberta
Dec 9/15 to May 11/16Hiking & Cycling in New Zealand
June 21/16 to July 8/16Paddle Whitehorse to Dawson City
July 19/16 to Aug 3/16Cycle Homer Alaska to Whitehorse
Aug 17/16 to Oct 10/16Cycle and Paddle Dunster, B.C. to Saskatoon

I didn’t do any travelling from March of 2015 until December. I was caring for my ageing parents. In December I returned to New Zealand and it wasn’t until June of 2016 that I reunited with my canoe in Whitehorse. When I planned my Inuvik journey I never gave a thought to one day being in the Yukon, so never considered paddling the Yukon River. Once the canoe was there though I thought I might enter the Yukon Quest Canoe Race, where a horde of sleep-deprived paddlers, in a variety of craft, cover the 440 miles to Dawson in only four days. My 2015 plan for that possibility was to return from New Zealand, shortly after the river ice breakup, and paddle from Whitehorse past Dawson, into Alaska. I’d return fit and ready for the race start with first-hand knowledge of the course. However, instead, I extended my New Zealand visa by two months. With no time to train I decided I’d still be in the race, but as a spectator, paddling the route while the race was in progress.

Finally reunited with my canoe after twenty months! Big thanks to host Patrick for allowing me to leave the canoe here this long. A thanks perhaps is due to Pat’s cat too. No mouse sign in all that time. It was fall when I arrived in Inuvik, two seasons ago, and there was nothing unusual to me about the length of the day there, although it is inside the Arctic Circle. Here in Whitehorse though it was the end of June and the sun was not setting until 11:36. That took some getting used to including buying an eye mask to shut out the light for sleeping. I thought I’d have plenty of mosquitoes to get used to as well but was amazed to find that there were none. I don’t know the reason for that but it lasted the entire summer, including my trip to Alaska.

Ready to launch down the Yukon River to Dawson, a distance of 440 miles. I had a two day head start on the canoe racers. I thought that would be sufficient to get me to the finish line ahead of the majority of them. Not the case, except for a few, they all passed me.
The Yukon is a beautiful clear running river here. It reminded me of the North Thompson. Whitehorse is a very nice city too. Odd though, that it has a population of 28,000 and Dawson, the second largest city (as well, it’s the Yukon’s only other city) has a population of only 1600. The population of the Yukon is only 40,000.

The weather was very co-operative for my first day back on the water in a year and a half.

The end of my first day. Not so for the racers who would paddle for at least twenty hours before reaching their first forced stop at Carmacks.

Just where is the ‘Marge’ of Lake Labarge? In fact, the lake is called Lac Laberge but Robert Service’s poem ‘The Cremation of Sam McGee‘ changed how everybody pronounces it.

Til I came to the marge of Lac Labarge and there a derelict lay.
It was jammed in the ice and I saw in a trice it was called the Alice May
I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum.
Then here said I with a sudden cry, is my crematorium.

Ashore at the junction of the Yukon and Teslin Rivers to have a look at things as they were in days gone by.

No, it’s not the Alice May but certainly a derelict. It’s what remains of the sternwheeler Evelyn. Not my picture. I intended to stop and visit but wasn’t exactly sure of where it was located. I was on the wrong side of the river when I noticed her and decided not to attempt paddling back upriver. This was a very warm day and I chanced on a cow moose and her calf just as they were about to jump in the river. They did that just as I passed by. I thought they would be swimming across but it seems that they were only wanting to cool off or perhaps my presence made her decide otherwise.

I call this one ‘Questers Last Flop!’ This is Coffee Creek where the Yukon Quest racers must stop for three hours. Before here, they have a seven-hour forced stop at Carmacks. I left Whitehorse two days before the race started and at race start, I had a 265 km lead. I was into Carmacks about 5 pm on the day of the noon race start. The first two race teams, in two person canoes, arrived about 9 the following morning. By the time they left Carmacks, I estimated my lead to be 35 km but it wasn’t long before they passed by me.

I thought I’d give all night paddling a try (I was rowing now) and not stop until Coffee Creek. I did have to stop and snooze twice though, for an hour and a half. (Fall asleep in a solo canoe and you likely fall out of boat too!) At Coffee Creek, I slept for 8 hours after which I was able to complete the remaining hundred miles but I was only a half-hour ahead of the final boat.

Hats off to all the racers who are able to compete while so sleep-deprived! I could not do that! And total (newly acquired) respect for the stand-up paddle-boarders! My only time trying that had me saying it was the dumbest way to locomote in the whole world! Paddle right, yaw left. Paddle left, yaw right. Some of these racers beat canoes!! And special kudos to the nursing mom from Vernon who made shore deliveries, whenever she could, so her babe got it’s usual nourishment! At Coffee Creek she looked absolutely destroyed. I thought of taking her picture but didn’t think it would be right, in that she looked so wasted. After the race, I asked her how much sleep she got, at that stop, and she replied, none.

Five Finger Rapids. This picture was taken from the highway, when I returned to Whitehorse. They were a disappointment to me. Call them Five Finger Waves. Some racers have upset here. That had me zipping up the dry suit and making sure everything was well secured. No complaints about the scenery though.

Dawson City, Yukon with its landmark, Moosehide Slide in the background. What stories these streets could tell! I enjoyed five days here waiting for a shuttle back to Whitehorse and wished I could have stayed longer.

Dawson wears its heritage very nicely. This is the largest grocery store. Except for a bank sign and a Home Hardware logo you wouldn’t know there was a corporate world. It’s not a national park but there are many national heritage sites in the town.

This is what happens when buildings set on perma-frost are not properly padded. The town’s buildings are all elevated on blocks so their heat doesn’t cause the ground to thaw. That plus regular jacking and shimming to compensate for movement in the frozen ground. I didn’t know that only glaciation produces perma-frost. I thought it was the result of long cold winters but not so. Once it’s thawed it’s gone and Dawson sits on frozen muskeg. These two buildings were intentionally left to the perma-frost forces to show the result.

I took a shuttle van back to Whitehorse from Dawson City. Patrick then drove me, and the canoe down to Skagway, Alaska. At some point, I realized that if I was ever going to have a look at Alaska now was the time. I left the canoe with another warmshowers host in Juneau and took the Alaska State ferry to Kodiak Island.

The three day Alaska State ferry ride to Kodiak Island is a great way to have a look at Alaska’s mountains and glaciers. They allow you to use your camping gear and sleep on deck. Some people even set up tents. (Of course, there are berths available as well.) I was very fortunate, in that the weather was perfect. Three very sunny days with light winds.

I doubt I’m going to see a real one of these guys. (I could, if I wanted to spend $500 US for a float-plane ride to their salmon feeding grounds in the refuge). But I did witness a rare two bear sighting while paddling the Yukon. I heard what sounded like a distressed bear. Looking upslope, a black bear was running for it’s life with a grizzly only a few metres behind. This was straight down a steep grassy slope. The black bear turned into an aspen-covered draw and I expected I was going to be hearing the sounds of its demise. Instead, it came back into the open, out the other side, and the grizz, having done a 180, was headed back up the hill. I assume it was a case of ma defending her cub in that she never stopped to rest on her return back up that very steep slope.

When I took the ferry out to Kodiak I had no intention of riding back. I thought I’d only use the bike for some sightseeing. From Kodiak, I ferried back to Homer and rode to Anchorage. Then I took the train to Denali National Park. From there I cycled the almost one thousand miles back to Whitehorse. This Dahon folder is one very tough bike considering all the rough pavement and construction stretches along the Alaska Highway plus it carted a very big load. It rides much nicer than you’d think. Other than not being able to stand up and peddle, it rides like a full-sized bike. I will be adding more about my cycle trip to Alaska, at a later date.

Beaver Creek, Yukon. Canada’s westernmost community. My arrival here wasn’t intended – as a must get to destination. It just happened to be on my route returning from Alaska to Yukon. I do intend to visit Canada’s easternmost community.