Guided Discoveries

Have you ever wondered about the names of the plants and wildflowers along the Alaska Highway? With the summer outdoor season just around the corner, a new guide to flora and fauna in this region should provide the answers you’re seeking.

The New B.C.Roadside Naturalist, by prolific nature writers Richard and Sydney Canningswas published in January 2014 by Greystone Books. It is full of inspiration for trips in the Yukon.

“The Alaska Highway is one of my favourite drives,” Sydney Cannings says. “I have driven it several times.”

The Cannings are both biologists. Richard works in British Columbia as a consulting biologist, assessing endangered species and organizing broad scale bird population surveys.

Sydney is a biologist working on endangered species for Environment Canada in Whitehorse.

Their book outlines highway trips even for people who don’t have much time for travelling. The drive from Whitehorse to Kluane National Park, for example, offers beautiful sights along the way, but a reader guided by this book can find plants that otherwise could easily be overlooked.

Tips in the book labelled Rest Stop offer more information about flora and fauna, including many plants that grow only in the Yukon, such as the Yukon Draba.

This flower can be found at the Alsek River Valley Trail, which starts at kilometre 1589 on the way from Haines Junction to Burwash Landing,” Cannings says.

“There are many wildflowers along the Alaska Highway like the blue showy Jacobs Ladder, but also some exotic new road cuts with seed mixes brought from the south,” he adds. “Drivers bring the seeds with them on their cars.”

Another Rest Stop worth a drive is Swan Haven on M’Clintock Bay.

“In April and May there are two kinds of swans resting on the outlet of Marsh Lake. Trumpeter swans arrive in early April and tundra swans in late April, followed by ducks and geese. The swans are waiting for their small breeding lakes to open up,” Cannings explains. “You can also see wolves and coyote who will hunt along the ice edge of Marsh Lake and bald eagles looking for ducks.

The new guide offers more than just knowledge about plants and wildlife. For example, did you know that there actually is not a Yukon time?

The authors explain it in the guide; a few decades ago there was Yukon Time, which was set one hour behind Pacific Time. For practical reasons, this time was amalgamated with Pacific Time and the Yukon’s time slot was given to Alaska.

So, in June when you see the sun set at 11:30 pm in Whitehorse, it’s really only 9:30 p.m. sun time, minus one hour for Daylight Savings and another hour for the old Yukon Time, a time zone that no longer exists.

“There is much more to see in this territory. I would like to write another guide only about the Yukon,” Cannings says.

In the meantime The New B.C. Roadside Naturalist offers a lot to discover in this corner of Canada.

The New B.C. Roadside Naturalist is available at Mac’s Fireweed Books for $22.95

Elke Reinauer is a recent arrival to the Yukon with a keen interest in books.

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