Monday, April 11, 2011

yukon walkin'

About 10 km outside Whitehorse City Limits. Down there are the 'burbs.

The first time I entered the Yukon, I was walkin'.

I hiked the Chilkoot trail, following the footsteps of the Klondike prospectors up a valley from Skagway, Alaska, and over a steep pass called "The Golden Staircase":

At the top of this climb a small cabin is perched on the ridge. Falling steeply behind you is the United States, and the gentle glacial valley sloping down ahead is Canada and the Yukon. A Canadian Flag flew on the cabin, and a park ranger sat out on the porch whittling a stick. "Welcome to Canada", she smiled, and kept on whittlin'. No ID required on this border crossing.

It was the proudest entry I ever made into this country, and it was love at first sight with the Yukon. At the end of my two-week visit, I flew home to Vancouver and quit my job and moved up here soon after.

Maybe it's because of my means of entry into the Yukon, but one of the biggest attractions of this place to me is the walkin'. Unlike the cliffs and dense rainforest of the West Coast, the mountains are low and worn, and there is very little undergrowth. You can literally head off in a direction and walk straight, for as long as you want. Pick a mountain and walk to it and climb to the top - easy as that.

I also love that there is plenty of wildlife up here. From elk to bison to grizzlies to wolverines to caribou to wolves, coyote, lynx, martens, moose and more. And you see this stuff fairly often (and their tracks n' shit even more often).

Walking up here is like swimming in the ocean down south. You're completely immersed in your surroundings, because you need to be, because there's a whole lot of animal action taking place around you. And, like swimming down south, you're pretty safe if you use some common sense.

Among other things, I'm going to be house- and dog-sitting for the next month on an acreage just north of Whitehorse. The dog owner is an ex-olympic biathlete, so I know the dogs are going to be fit, which means I'm gonna be walkin' - and I can't wait.

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