Every week I spend in the Yukon, the more I fall in love with this Northern magical place. I feel lucky to call this place home. This week was spent doing more Yukon Search and Rescue training and volunteering at the Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival.
Wednesday was Yukon Search and Rescue’s monthly meeting and training night. We explored the equipment available and met other members.
As the week progressed to Thursday, the heat wave punched Yukoners in the face with a record 30 degrees in Whitehorse. At work, many were commenting on how hot it was, and being from tropical Queensland, I stated “You don’t know hot.” They laughed and said “We may not know hot; but you don’t know cold.” True.
Friday came along and I drove out to Haines Junction for the music festival. It’s the furthest north I’ve been from Whitehorse.
The drive was hot, but beautiful, and as I approached Haines Junction for the first time, the Kluane mountains were vibrant in the beating sun.
My home for the weekend was the Kluane RV Kampground, which has a number of nestled camp spots with very chill and friendly workers. I met a lady who was also attending the festival, so we decided to split the costs of a pitch by sharing it.
I realized I was already late for my volunteering shift, so I started hauling myself in search of the festival venue. I arrived at the convention centre and thought to myself, “A festival indoors!?” I had been picturing a bunch of hippies sitting in a field listening to music. How wrong I was.
I spent the evening helping out with the ticket office, meeting new people and hearing the music from a distance, while no incidents happened while being a first aid attendant.
The evening remained pretty mellow: after working all day, driving here, then doing a volunteer shift, I was ready for bed.
I awoke after a good night sleep and set off to get breakfast provided for the volunteers – which was pretty amazing food all weekend.
I then decided to check out the Haines Junction tourist office for information on hiking trails. Because staring at those beautiful and challenging-looking mountains makes me want to hike them!
My plan was to hike a few hours on Sunday before heading back to Whitehorse. The tourist office is pretty impressive, with friendly staff and lots of interactive information for the Parks – with a 3D model of the mountains – which is so amazing and helpful!
After speaking with Parks Canada, I wanted to find out if there was any training they give for helping with information and skills development – like dealing with bears. I went to their mini cinema and watched a pretty helpful video that actually showed what to do and how to determine the type of bear you may be dealing with.
By this time it was lunch time, so back to the festival to eat food and then enjoy the shows for Saturday. The first band I went to see was in a church! Yes an actual church. It was a quaint little church with a great set up – old style microphone and all.
The first band I saw was the Moanin’ Mountain Boys. And I was gobsmacked by these three young lads from Whitehorse. It’s the kind of music that resonates in your soul and the lyrics send goosebumps all over your skin. Immediately after they finished I went to buy their CD and find out when and where to see them next!
The festival had so many great performers, but one aspect I loved was the “Showcase.” Anyone could come and perform, in hopes of getting a paid spot at next year’s Bluegrass Festival (the Moanin’ Mountain Boys being the winners from last year).
My favourite in the Showcase – who didn’t win, unfortunately – was Jon Marleau and Maddy James who make up the duo Uphill & Still. They are a Canadian and a Brit who met in New Zealand and have spent the last year busking from East to West and now North of Canada.
James was also a volunteer at the festival and almost everyone was involved in the festival. There was no division between artists and festival goers. Sitting in a jam session and seeing the incredible talent was truly humbling and impressive. I was constantly being asked if I played. My response would be “Nope. I have absolutely no talent whatsoever.” But I figure if you surround yourself with extraordinary people, you can be extraordinary by osmosis.
The evening continued with impressive acts until the festival finished for the evening… but that certainly wasn’t the end of the evening. At the hostel a bonfire and jam session was held with everyone and anyone able to perform while sitting around the fire, having a few drinks. And before you knew it, it was 3 a.m.!
Heading to bed and waking up almost at midday, my plans of hiking slowly dissipated. Instead I decided to go check out some of the lakes and went down to Kathleen Lake for lunch. It was raining, but still incredibly beautiful.
It was early afternoon and being extremely tired and hungover, it was time to head home and back to reality. Listening to my Moanin’ Mountain Boys on the drive home kept the festival spirit alive.
I certainly know what I will be doing next June in Haines Junction! Check out the festival’s website at YukonBluegrass.com.