A paddling adventure on the Yukon River – Smithers Interior News


Sequel to On the Ropes in the December 16 edition of The Interior News.

After moving our camp from historic Fort Selkirk to the paddlers site, we were greeted by camp host Mr. Trudeau, an interesting guy who had worked in the Bulkley Valley as a lumberjack for the Hobenshields.

He had landed a job to reconstruct the Fort site. There were also three paddlers, an Austrian canoeing alone on his fourth trip to the Yukon, and an American couple from Seattle.

The next day it was raining quite hard, so we got to know each other better while waiting for good weather in a shared cabin with a wood stove. I almost got too comfortable and forgot about our trip.

That afternoon, however, the rain stopped and we continued. Summer days are long in the north and we were able to cover some pretty good ground (actually water). The river moves at a good pace and you always study the water for the best channel and where to go out for the evening camp. At the end of each day, my eyes were tired.

We did not see the Austrian again but met the American couple at a strange place downstream. The sign said “CAFE” and it was hanging on a tree somewhere around where Stewart’s colony was located.

Most of this community has been washed away by numerous floods over the years. The cafe was along a side canal and the buildings looked like they had been there for quite a while.

We ran aground the canoe and there were our American friends, Jo and Joe. It was fun meeting someone you know and we swapped stories from our previous two days. It appears that the night before a bear showed up at their camp and attempted to break into their bear barrel food containers.

There were several punctures but the barrels did their job.

Then we got our order and it seemed like the cafe owners were a bit of a take it or leave it attitude. Even when Sara tried to stroke the dog, he tried to bite her. The old cook was frying the burgers with smoke in her mouth and the half inch of ash fell into the pan. Well, it’s hard to complain when you’re lost somewhere along the Yukon River.

Back on the river, we parted ways with our new friends and promised to meet again in Dawson City. They had left their vehicle in Carmacks and needed to be driven. Could we lead them? Of course, see you later.

The next two days were quite special for us, the only incident being when the White River entered the Yukon. We ran aground, turned around, and struggled to free ourselves.

Fortunately, we did and avoided capsizing. The water is too cold and too fast to fall into it. Each night we found special sites to set up camp, light a fire and enjoy the solitude. Each morning we woke up and thanked our lucky stars that the canoe was still there.

We have developed a love affair with this boat and have always hoped that a bear or moose would not enter it in the middle of the night.

We saw a barge ply the waters, carrying the miners who had gold claims on each stream. This barge could save our bacon if needed, but we wanted to finish the race on our own.

The last day was another 50 kilometers with a big thunderstorm behind us. Sara was driving hard up front and wanted side mirrors to see if the man in the back was really paddling or just steering the rudder.

Finally, we heard something, trucks. We were getting closer to the finish line. There was Dawson and a sense of exhilaration and accomplishment settled over us as we paddled along the Klondike Confluence.

We had made it, one of our epic trips for us and doable for the most part if you like that kind of fun.

Our American friends arrived later that evening and we all celebrated with a great Greek dinner and some wine.

Then at the last stage of the trip, towards the house.


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