Welcome. Here are some tips and tricks to starting out in Whitehorse as a Cheechako (which is the name for being new to the north of 60th parallel).
1. Long summer days and the outdoors
Sunsets at midnight can make it difficult to know when to sleep or even eat and everybody takes full advantage after the short, dark, cold days of the long winter. Rarely are people indoors, so it’s time for you to take up some outdoor adventures. Whether you love exploring the land by hiking, ATV, mountain bike or the water by kayak, stand up paddle, canoe – the Yukon has every opportunity to experience the wilderness. Other alternatives can be enjoying the great many outdoor festivities, such as the various music festivals.
2. Get Connected
One of the first things when you move to a new place is realising your family and friends aren’t here. And unless you have similar people with the same interests at your work or school to connect with, how do you make friends as an adult? I have lived in 12 countries and have found a number of different ways to immerse yourself amongst locals.
The Yukon thrives on Facebook for events. So if you aren’t on Facebook, at least get online to see all the incredible and diverse events that come up. The What’s Up Yukon events guide – found in the printed newspaper and on the website – can help. There are a number of different groups for every type of sport, interest, activity – whether it’s indoors, outdoors, a venue, an event or an organisation.
Going to events is key to meeting people and building your network. Whether it’s music festivals or sports events, every weekend you will have to make a critical choice on what you want to see and where you want to go. Volunteering is a great way to meet people and also a cheap alternative to being a part of many events in the Yukon.
3. Be prepared for the wild
With so many outdoor options, be prepared for the wild – especially if you go out alone into the wilderness. By this statement, I’m talking about wildlife and keeping conflicts down, as well as keeping your impact to the environment minimal. Remember the Yukon is 482,443 km² with only a population of 35,874 – that’s 13.45 km² of wilderness per person! That’s a lot of space. We are outnumbered by wildlife up here and knowing how to identify animal signs and react is vital.
There are lots of organisations that can help you, in particular Parks Canada for keeping safe and respectful in the Yukon’s outdoors. Keep an eye out for Bear Aware workshops and definitely make sure to check out the The Kluane National Park and Reserve Visitor Centre located in the Da Kų Cultural Centre in Haines Junction for an incredible interactive awareness to the Yukon wilderness and wildlife.
4. Summertime madness
Be careful: long days and trying to do everything that’s available can lead to burning out. Take some time to chill out and enjoy yourself. Trying to sleep at midnight with the sun still beaming between your curtains can certainly mess with your head. Eye mask and having a watch to keep track of your sleeping schedule can really help after a few weeks. (If you don’t have blackout curtains, invest now!)
5. Where is everybody?
Summer can often mean an escape for most Yukoners, heading on camping trips around the territory and holidays within Canada or abroad. Oftentimes during the summer only a collection of newbies and visitors can be found and this means that organisations often have slow response times for joining. They can be tough to find because everyone has flown the coop, but try getting to know Yukoners who live here year round for advice. There’s a lot of space to disappear in summer.
6. Cheechako to Sourdough
If you’re from below the 60th parallel, then you’re a Southerner and if you move to the Yukon in springtime, it’s particularly tough for those who have braved the long, cold, dark winters to think you will stick around.
There is a transient population up here and those locals who live here year after year assume you probably won’t be here next year. Up north you have to earn your stripes, and they take time. Don’t be too insulted, it happens to everyone. Having “survived” my first winter in the Yukon, I can say it’s not that bad – and I come from as far south as you can go! However, my accent will most certainly always make me a Cheechako.
7. Plan, plan, plan
Planning things out is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it does help to make sure you don’t miss out. Popular Yukon attractions like the Chilkoot trail and Tombstone can get booked up like hot cakes, or tickets to events can be sold out quickly. The earlier you plan, the more you can do.
8. Join in the community
Without volunteers the Yukon wouldn’t run. So make sure to get involved, whether it’s just for a single event or longer term. Every organisation can use help and it can be a great way to meet new people, learn new skills or experience new places. Check out VolunteerYukon.ca.
9. Yukon Time
When you hear the term “Yukon time”, it basically translates to people in the north being late. It is one of the more frustrating things about the Yukon: no one is on time to anything. I’m not joking. In the summer, you don’t notice as much because the sun is out and the days are long and warm, but in winter it’s a different story.
Everything is done on Yukon time – and that’s when Yukoners get around to doing it. It can be frustrating when you want to organise things, plan or do anything in the Yukon. Things also can get cancelled very quickly, so always have a back up plan.
10. The top things I recommend you do for your first summer here:
- Have a beer at the Winterlong Brewing Company after enjoying a mountain bike ride at Mount Sima
- Eat ribs at Klondike Rib and Salmon
- Visit the The Kluane National Park and Reserve Visitor Centre located in the Da Kų Cultural Centre in Haines Junction
- Volunteer at a music festival. I recommend the Kluane Bluegrass Music Festival
- Hike Caribou Mountain taking in the views of Emerald Lake and enjoy an ice-cream at Carcross
- Enjoy the evening can can show at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Gambling Hall in Dawson City
- Enjoy a swim and the beach at Marsh Lake
- Visit our coastal Alaskan neighbours and enjoy the incredible drives through the White Pass to Skagway and Haines Pass to Haines