Postcards: Yukon Microadventures

The summer days here in the Yukon are wonderfully long, and the midnight sun is perfect for going on adventures, for going out and trying something new, something exciting and slightly outside of one’s comfort zone. Equally long is a Yukoner’s summer to-do list, which seems to grow proportionately with the amount of snow accumulating outside during the winter, but unlike the snow, the list doesn’t disappear in the spring. It’s that list we all have of the things we need and want to do during the precious snow-free months. It’s the house projects, the yard projects, the canoe trips, the garden plans, the music festivals, the camping trips and all of the other things that we dream of, all winter long.

Of course, our normal day-to-day responsibilities and duties don’t take a summer vacation, so all those aforementioned things have to get done in the time we can set aside within our normal schedule. And so, inevitably, by the time the leaves start to change colour and the first snowflakes begin to blanket this generous and special land, many of those things will not have been completed, especially the trips and adventures we wanted to go on. It’s hard to find big chunks of time to take a trip into the backcountry or to go somewhere new and explore. And now, with soaring fuel prices, for many it isn’t feasible in the same way as it was before. Adventure often entails a significant commitment of time and money—and often some expensive new gear. What if it didn’t have to be like that? What if there was a way to scatter mini adventures throughout your Yukon summer and fit them into the little pockets of time we can all find in our lives?

Alastair Humphreys, a British author and adventurer, is well versed in big adventures after having cycled around the world for four years. However, he’s also a big proponent of microadventures. Microadventures, as he explains in his book Microadventures: Local Discoveries, Great Escapes, are “close to home, cheap, simple, short and 100 per cent guaranteed to refresh your life,” and all you need is “an open mind, bags of enthusiasm and bundles of curiosity.”

Remember, as a child, how everything had the potential of becoming an adventure? Pitching a tent in the backyard was just as fun as doing it at a campground, a six-hour drive away. A bike ride around the neighbourhood was thrilling when done with your best friends, no matter if you had cruised around those streets thousands of times before. We’ve gotten so caught up in wanting bigger and better, needing more gear and trying to keep up with trends so much so that we’ve gotten disconnected from that sense of adventure we had as children. Maybe it’s time to change that.

Here are Five Ideas to Get You Going, in the hopes that you’ll add your own microadventure ideas to the list. Adventures don’t have to be long and far away to shift something within us and to reconnect us with a sense of awe in our lives.

1. Get a new perspective

It’s incredibly easy to slide into a routine or a rut and never stray from it. Take an afternoon and turn your routine on its head. If you always walk the same trails around your neighbourhood, dust off your bike and see what it feels like to see them from two wheels. Better yet, invite a friend to join you who’s never been there before. If you usually hike or bike along Miles Canyon and the Yukon River, borrow a canoe or a kayak and experience it from the water (you might be surprised by the new things you’ll see).

2. Forage, and connect with nature’s abundance

Most Yukoners probably know at least a little bit about some of the delicious edible things growing in our boreal forests, but there’s always more to learn. Grab your family or get together with a group of friends and take a day trip somewhere, with the intention of only eating what you can forage or catch. Take along your fishing rods (and fishing licenses), a copy of Beverley Gray’s book, The Boreal Herbal, and one of the many mushroom field guides available at Mac’s Fireweed Books, and see what you can find.

Each season in the Yukon brings with it its own treasures, and you’ll gain a new appreciation for the abundance around us. Spring offers sweet yellow dandelion flowers, tangy spruce tips and tasty morels. Summer brings with it wild strawberries, fireweed and meadow mushrooms. The end of summer and the beginning of autumn is berry time, with raspberries, Saskatoons and blueberries weighing down their branches. And around the time of the first snowfall, deep-red cranberries are at their sweetest. Preferably go with someone who knows their way around a fishing rod, or who has experience mushroom hunting, and you’ll be sure to have a Yukon culinary adventure like no other.

3. Let a friend teach you

Maybe you’ve been wanting to learn how to rock climb or canoe, or maybe you’ve always thought standup paddleboarding (SUP) looked like fun. But classes are expensive, there’s never enough time and another year goes by without you ever trying anything new. One of the many great things about living in the Yukon is that it’s almost guaranteed that within your circle of friends there’s at least one person who has years of experience doing exactly that thing that you’ve wanted to try. Borrow or rent the necessary equipment and ask a friend to teach you the basics. By the end of the day, you’ll at least have a better sense of whether you want to invest in buying your own equipment and whether you enjoyed it enough to spend more time and energy learning more. Return the favour by teaching your friend something that you’re experienced at and that they’re interested in learning.

4. Take a day trip from your doorstep

Many people get discouraged to go on adventures because of all of the preparation that’s needed. So instead of having to load up the car with coolers and bikes and then driving at least an hour to the trailhead, try to simplify things. Pack a lunch, throw a towel in your backpack, grab your bike and start riding. If you can, try to follow a route you’re not familiar with and aim towards a lake or a river. Ride until midday and cool off with a swim in some nice icy Yukon water. Enjoy your picnic and then get back on your bike and head home. Hopefully you’ll feel recharged and accomplished in the evening.

5. Spend a night under the Midnight Sun

When was the last time you slept outside under the stars? Instead of turning on the TV in the evening and falling asleep on the couch, take your family outside, make a campfire and watch the sunset. Set up a tent in the backyard, for the kids, and if you’re feeling very adventurous, hang up a hammock for yourself. Depending on the month, you might not see very many stars because it won’t get dark enough … but you may see the moon, and if you’re lucky, you may even see a bat or two flying around, or maybe a flying squirrel gliding down to your bird feeder. Be sure to dress warmly and maybe put on some extra bug spray. An added bonus to backyard camping, instead of regular camping, is that in the morning you can just walk back into your house and make your breakfast in the comfort of your own kitchen. Who said adventures couldn’t end with a delicious hot cup of coffee?

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