Gone Fishing

Many Yukoners live here because they enjoy the active lifestyle, interaction with wilderness, and distance from ties and pencil skirts.

A visiting author from the Toronto area pointed out to me the other day that he found it interesting how manyYukoners, however removed, still seek ways to remove themselves even further.

I’d have to agree. Living in a town such as Dawson City can be oddly busier than big cities, even for those who live off the grid in places such as West Dawson.

Every once in a while we need a vacation. We need to cut ourselves off completely by heading into the bush with a dog team and bottle of Baileys, unreachable by phone or computer, and wash our faces in melted snow from a pot on the woodstove.

This is how we may choose to spend a long weekend— making something comparable to a beer commercial on the deck of a cabin.

The cabin I escaped to for the Easter long weekend is on a trapline located about 45 minutes, plus a 20-minute snowmobile ride, east from Mayo on Mayo Lake. With nothing to trap, (as martin trapping season is November to February, and most other trapping ends in March), there was ice fishing to be done for trout.

Perched between rolling mountains, looking out at the sprawling lake, the cabin is a piece of paradise.

In the mornings the sun glints through the lake-facing windows, beams hitting the coffee cups with Baileyscreamer.

Mid-afternoon, the deck fills with a warming glow for lazy fiddle jams, until the sun slips behind the pine and spruce trees framing the yard.

By evening, a woodstove is crackling in the cabin, making the pot of snow for dishwater pop and hiss.

Ice fishing starts about as soon as the fishers wake up, (although I hear the best time for a bite is at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day, and conversely that you never know when a bite will happen).

Well, I don’t know a thing about ice fishing, minus sipping beers and eating hot dogs while waiting for a bite, so I engaged in other activities, such as dog sledding, snowmobiling and skijoring.

The four dogs—Happy, Scoop, Makko (and ex-Quest dog) and Diesel— were eager to run, lunging and yowling at the end of their chains.

I’d been mushing once before, sort of. When I was a kid my parents took me out with a tour company in Banff. I was in the bag, crossing my fingers I’d live as we crossed narrow bridges, once balancing with one runner off and one runner on the bridge, giving me a closeup of the icy water flowing below.

This time I was behind the dogs, dashing through the forest on a snowmobile-cut path.

I was surprised how much work it was, running uphill with the sled, leaning, yelling, gripping the sled for dear life.

We stopped at the turnaround point. My host for the weekend and path guide for the morning cut the engine on the snowmobile as I planted the snow hook to anchor the sled.

“You’re still there!” she laughed.


I stepped off the runners and took a sip of hot of Baileys and coffee from the Thermos she handed me.

We dropped onto the snowbank along the side of the trail. The dogs were hot. We gave them face-washes with handfuls of snow to cool them down.

Meanwhile, ice fishing was slow— one fisher caught two, another had a bite, and everyone else came up empty-handed, sun-dazed and full of beer.

No fish roast, we had curry for dinner.

I’d also never skijored before. Stepping into the harness, nylon straps between my legs, clicking a plastic buckle across my stomach, a long rope securing my middle to the dog, I felt like a bungie jumper or a parachuter.

“Are you ready? Let’s go, Makko!” I shouted.

Makko pitched forward. I pitched back. Catching my balance, I dug my poles in on either side of my skis and bent my knees.

We flew across the frozen, open expanse of the lake, the dog’s tongue flapping in the wind, me in tow. We passed the dog team in front of us.

There were a couple of crashes, one face-plant, and a bit of confusion on which way to go (apparently Makko has been trained backwards with “gee” meaning right and “haw” meaning left, which I was unaware of for most of our flight— not that it mattered much, though).

A stop for Baileys and coffee at a vacant cabin 10 km down the lake was much welcome.

Back at the cabin, the fishers had abandoned their augers and coolers on the lake and were napping inside.

Grilled marinated moose steaks were not a bad Easter Sunday dinner alternative.

Sun-burned, bruised, exhausted, coming around Crocus Point into Dawson, the town looked different—the snow had melted from the street and left massive pools of mud.

This is why we live in the Yukon. Even coming home is an adventure.

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