The saying in Yukon is you only truly experience the Yukon when you get out in the wilderness, and those words are accurate beyond belief. From incredible hikes, to a free boat ride, to some refreshing beers and a Sunday afternoon Canadian barbecue… it was a busy, but great weekend!
After a month in Whitehorse, I finally settled into my job, house and general life; and it was time for adventures.
It was Wednesday – hump day – everyone’s favourite day came around and I decided to utilise the never-ending daylight and do a short hike in the Fish Lake area.
I invited my flatmate to join me. After only a 40 minute car journey from Riverdale, we arrived to a beautiful, but mostly frozen, lake.
My flatmate, who was not keen to join on the hike, decided to fish instead.
Meanwhile, I began my ascent on the short and easy hike. Walking along on my first solo hike in Canada – bear spray at the hip – I remembered the advice to make noise to keep bears away. So I decided to sing to myself.
After 20 minutes, I had moderately gone insane, having sung to myself for what felt like forever. I thought, “Do I have to make noise the entire time I hike”? Something steeper would leave me out of breath with all the singing.
Concerned and unsure, I continued making up songs along the way. The hike was beautiful, minus the occasional bird and squirrel cracking twigs, sending bolts of fear through my body.
Out of the tall, green trees, I emerged into the alpine and peeked back to see beautiful snow-capped mountains and the frozen Fish Lake. It was breathtaking.
I continued on to the first summit, where the winds picked up. The winds became so strong at the base of the summit that I had to leave my hiking poles under a rock and somewhat boulder to the summit. It was amazing with 360 degree views of lakes and mountains.
It was short-lived on the summits, for the fear of a gust blowing me off a cliff’s edge was very real, so I descended.
At the base, I joined my flatmate in the failed endeavour of fishing. But I was very good at hooking moss and seaweed!
The Fish Lake hike invigorated my need for more adventure and soon the laptop was out and I was searching what hikes I could do on the weekend. (www.YukonHiking.ca)
Tally Ho Mountain and Annie Lake seemed appealing, so I printed my information and after work on Friday hopped in my van and headed out of Whitehorse.
I drove along the dirt roads trying to focus on diving, but it was incredibly difficult with the scenery. I arrived to a rickety bridge with a sign stating “This road not maintained. Beyond this point travel at own risk.”
Signs like this scare me a little. In my soccer mom Dodge Caravan, I’m promptly reminded I don’t own a truck and dream of the possibilities I could endeavour if I didn’t have to worry I would get stuck in a pothole in the middle of nowhere.
Next to the bridge is a house, so I decide to go ask the locals the conditions and general information. At this beautiful and quirky property I met an amazing couple – Hans and Laurie – and we got to chatting.
I advised them I was going camping and hiking alone – their first question “Do you have a gun?” I think to myself, I truly am in Canada, when the first thing someone asks me isn’t if I have enough food, water, maps – but whether I have a gun.
They advised my that almost everyday they have grizzlies in their yard. I advise them I have bear spray and hiking poles. They laugh and advise me to stop on my way back and let them know if I’m safe or write a note (they have a pencil and paper in their letterbox). I say goodbye and they tell me good luck and if they don’t hear from me in 48 hours, they will come looking for me. It brings me comfort because I’m sure that even though I told people in Whitehorse what I was doing, no one was really listening (or just assumes I will come back).
So at the edge of the last house and civilisation, I cross the rickety bridge and continue on a pretty bumpy dirt, pot-hole-ridden road until my camp area at the base of the trail.
The evening is so quiet. No crickets or birds, no cars, no people. The only sound is a distant rushing of water from the river. It’s peaceful but also unnerving. I’m truly in the wilderness, alone. No cell phone; 8 km from the closest people.
I wake after some broken sleep, but ready to tackle my hike. I follow the trail up the mountain, part of it had been slid out with boulders, but after 4 km, the trail ran impenetrable. With mud slides, snow and without the appropriate equipment, I had to turn back. It was disappointing not making the summit, but the views were still incredible.
I arrive back to my van and wonder what else to do with my day? I drive back along the road to Hans and Laurie’s house to tell them the conditions. Hans advises me to come back in a month and he will take me around another trail – so my next journey back, I will conquer this summit – and experience my first hike with a gun!
I decide to do some fishing before deciding what to do with the rest of my day.
I find the Annie Lake Road and stop by the shore. It’s incredibly beautiful, with sheer mountains diving straight into the lake. I pull out my rod and fish for about an hour, again, catching nothing. Well, nothing except mosquito bites and a minor sunburn!
It’s still morning and I wonder what more I could explore, and pull out my Yukon tourist brochures and decide to drive to Marsh Lake (which I missed on my drive up from down south).
I get to the recreation site and two families are enjoying the extensive beach, as the lake’s water still hasn’t filled to its peak for summer. One family is flying their kites in the incredible winds and the others are playing volleyball. What a beautiful spot to pick for a picnic. At the edge of the water is a picnic table and I decide “What better place to have a lunch break?”
From here, I decide to head back to Whitehorse as a co-worker is having a 40th birthday party. On my drive home, The Rush radio station alerts me that they are having a free boat trial at Schwatka Lake. So I decide to check it out. Signing a waiver, I put on a life jacket and get to go out ripping on Schwatka Lake. I wish I had a boat!
The early evening arrives and I head to Porter Creek – officially the furthest north I’ve been in North America so far! The evening reminds me of home, with families, food, fire pit in the backyard with kids playing. The best part was some jalapeño and cheese stuffed wild game meat balls wrapped in bacon and smoked with barbecue sauce!
I head home to get some sleep, as I had a whole day to fill on Sunday!
Sunday I awoke after a bit of a sleep in and headed towards Mount Sima to do the Valerie Lake/Trans Canada trail. No wind, protected by large green trees. The silence was palpable, with only my footsteps making sounds as lavender butterflies danced around me on the hike.
After the hike, it was time to visit the Winterlong brewery. At 12:30 p.m. I walk in to meet Kevin the bartender. Told I am the first customer of the day (everyone seems to have gone to Haine’s beerfest), I order the Flight Taster and enjoy four little glasses of Winterlong’s brews.
I have a nice chat while enjoying the refreshing drinks, but eventually head on my way back to Whitehorse for the afternoon.
My colleague had given me some wild game that her husband killed last year and the decision was made to have a barbecue. Because nothing sounds more Canadian than a barbecue of moose burgers!
We started the barbecue and enjoyed too many moose burgers in the backyard with a few beers. It was a great way to wind down the weekend.
It’s truly amazing how much you can do in such a short time – the land of the midnight sun gives you plenty of time to see and explore.
My goal now is to summit Tally Ho Mountain and catch a fish this summer in Yukon.
Any recommendations on what to see and do in Whitehorse?