Dog Teams and River Walkers Make the Crossing

It’s that season when Dawsonites don’t quite know what to use to get around. As a case in point, I came out of the General Store the other day to find both a bicycle and a snowmobile parked beside the Old CIBC building across the street.

At this point, given the lack of a bike shop to install the snow tires (we miss you, Tim), the snow machine actually made more sense.

Down the street a ways, tucked in behind the Statue of the Miner, was the first tethered dogteam I’ve seen this year. While I think it’s rather picturesque – quintessentially Northern, even – to find such a sight in town, there was some fuss made on town council last year about the messes parked dog teams leave behind, so I hope everyone who does this remembers to scoop and bag, just like we’re supposed to when we walk our four-legged friends.

What this all means, of course, is that people are crossing the Yukon River again. It’s been a week or so at the time of this writing and the unusual pattern of the freeze-up this year has already given birth to a few rumours.

It’s not true, for instance, that Roger Mendelssohn fell in the river when he first attempted a crossing on foot.

I spoke with Roger that very afternoon and he was as dry as a bone. It wasn’t a real problem, he said, but it wasn’t a fast walk, and it was upstream of where people usually cross.

Nevertheless I had several people tell me the next day that Roger had fallen in while coming across and that he had been in some danger – which would have been true in such cold water had he fallen in.

There’s a flagged trail now, and I’ve seen people and snow machines making their way over and back. No trucks yet, and I expect that it might be awhile, though perhaps it will have happened by the time you are reading this.

After last year’s incident where a snowplow-mounted pickup truck spent a couple of months half-frozen in the ice, the people who blaze trail across the river each year will probably be a little more cautious.

Myself, I don’t have much occasion to go across, and feel a little nervous even after the heavier rigs owned by the Highways Department have turned whatever route seems safest into a two lane highway.

I mused about my own hesitation a few years ago, and came up with this poem, with which I will end this column.


They’re walking on the river now; I hope they don’t fall in.

The temperature is much too cool to take a little swim.

It’s only been two weeks now since they pulled the ferry out,

and less since all that floating ice has ceased to move about.

There’s even been a truck or two, much to my surprise,

bumping o’er the surface of that barely frozen ice.

The folk who live there find it safe; they seem to know the trick.

But you won’t see me on that ice until it’s six feet thick.

I’ll cross it then to visit friends and ’cause I think I oughtta.

In my mind I know it’s safe on rock hard frozen water.

But even then it seems so strange; it sets my heart a-quiver.

It feels so weird to walk or drive where once there was a river.

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