The sun was strong, the sky was blue and it was mid-summer in the Yukon. It was a perfect day to spend by the water.

The idea of lazing around wasn’t really a good fit; everyone was full of that frenzied sort of forever-daylight energy. We wanted to DO something.

“Who do we know with a boat?”

Everyone we knew with a boat was out fishing on it.

“Where can we find a boat?”

Next thing we knew, we found ourselves down at the waterfront looking not at boats, but canoes. We’d decided to do an easy afternoon, a sometimes-paddle, but mainly drift-along trip. We’d be on the water and doing something … perfect!

“Will you need a dry bag?”

“You’ll probably want to take a map.”

Alex McDougall was making sure we had everything we needed and he certainly wasn’t going to send us down the river without the proverbial paddle; in fact, we had three that included a spare “just in case”.

Kanoe People is located on First Avenue, right at the edge of the Yukon River. There’s a small grassy area where you can assemble and organize your stuff. Once you’ve selected your canoe and tried your life jacket on for size, you just push off and go.

Easing into the current, we rested our paddles across our knees and looked around as the fringes of Whitehorse were slowly left behind. The sound of traffic faded away and was replaced by a high-pitched birdcall that turned our heads.

There, on a gravel bar to the left, sat four bald eagles. Three of them sported the white head of the mature “baldie”, but one was still covered in the darker feathers of the immature eagle. They were lined up in a straight row, peering into the water. Who knew which one would see the next fish first?

We took up our paddles and increased our speed as we passed the golf course and entered a narrow stretch with high clay cliffs. Swallows were dipping and swooping, annoyed at our intrusion. We soldiered on.

It takes about three hours to paddle from the put-in to the Takhini River Bridge. Having taken a leisurely noon-hour departure, we were enjoying the best part of the afternoon. We had the sunscreen and water bottles close at hand.

Once or twice, we hauled up on shore to take a couple of scenery pictures or enjoy a bite to eat. There are plenty of easily accessible landing spots.

We sighted a good dozen eagles during the course of the afternoon so we weren’t too surprised when yet another white head appeared some distance in front of us. However, as we moved closer, it became obvious it wasn’t “the same”.

“Is that a bird? It looks pretty big from here.”

“Let’s stop paddling and just drift in.”

Canoes are so very quiet when you need them to be. Without moving or startling anything, we steadily approached the large white head.

“It’s a swan!” came the loud stage whisper. “What’s one swan doing here in July?”

Totally focused on the bird as we gradually came alongside, we’d forgotten entirely about the river, the canoe and the paddles. Ever so gently, we started to spin, the canoe caught by an eddy line. At that very moment the swan decided it had had enough. It started to beat its wings and soared up above us.

And so we named the swan, Eddy.

When we finally arrived at the take-out beside the Takhini River Bridge, our pre-arranged van was waiting. Our driver, known to everyone by only her initials, “M.C.”, greeted us as we bumped ashore. Her gold headscarf sparkled in the sun as she grabbed one end of the canoe.

“How was your day?” she smiled.

We loaded up and headed back to town.

For information on canoe and kayak rentals, transportation arrangements, guided trips, boat rentals and fishing trips, contact Kanoe People at 668-4899 or visit www.kanoepeople.com.