There’s a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There’s a land — oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back — and I will.
Clean air, friendly people, towering mountains, expansive lakes, meandering rivers, preserved history – the Yukon is indeed spell binding.
Whitehorse – the Wilderness City is the start of our journey into the land that the Raven created. The territorial capital with ¾ of the population, feels like a city that is10 times larger. A heavy government presence has endowed Whitehorse with the trappings of a larger southern city. The Yukon Arts Center showcases the local visual and performing arts and is 10 minutes from the newly built Canada Games Sports Center which will host the Canada Games in February of next year. Wal-Mart, Superstore and a new Canadian Tire Superstore threaten to complete the transformation to a Southern City.
We spent our first evening in Whitehorse with Connie and Larry Dublanko, friends of Marg’s parents, who have “retired” in Whitehorse. “Retired” is a relative term as Larry mines for Gold on his Claim near Mayo, 400km North of Whitehorse using his dredging machine that he keeps in his garage!
The following day we visited for a few hours with Bruce McLennan, Peter’s MBA classmate, Deputy finance minister in the Yukon Government, who offered us the perspective of the Yukon of a long time government employee.
We then picked up our Mazda 3, our wheels for the next two weeks, and drove to the sights in Whitehorse. First stop, the McBride Museum, which set the stage for the history we would encounter over the next two weeks, starting with the native history through the Gold Rush to the modern day. A short visit to the SS Klondike, one of the largest riverboats that plied the Yukon river until the mid 50s, supplying Dawson City from Whitehorse. Next stop, the Whitehorse Fishway, the largest wooden fish ladder in the world, built to allow the migrating fish to swim past the hydro station on the Yukon river. The 3200km journey is the longest salmon migration up a river. The Yukon river is navigable from the Bering Sea to Whitehorse, which facilitates both the salmon and human river transportation.
A different form of river transportation started shortly after our visit to the fishway with a charity river paddle from the dam to downtown Whitehorse organized by the Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club. This was just one example of the strong community spirit that exists in the Yukon.
We completed our day by visiting the Beringia Museum, a natural history museum that shows what the Yukon looked like during the last ice age, when their was land bridge between Alaska and Siberia. The main exhibit features Mammoths and other extinct animals. There was also an opportunity for us to try our spear throwing techniques that the local hunters used during the ice age.
The evening ended by visiting Peter’s cousin Susan who has lived in the Yukon for 25 years, and seemed to know about ¼ of the people that came through the Tim Horton’s during the two hours we were there chatting about life in the north.