Yukon River June 10-14

Having canoe tripped in near-North Ontario wilderness every summer, we were looking forward to a river trip–no portages and the current running our way north from our put-in at Carmacks to Dawson City. A 400+ km trip by water with great intentions of purposeful drifting much of the time.  We’d read up on the river, talked with outfitters and took river training before going in. With our dehydrated dinners and water pump, we prepared to take photos and watch the wild world go by, sterning efficiently and following the Klondyke gold rush trail.

We made it through the Five Finger Rapids then Rinks Rapids then hit the relentless wind.

Many islands and steep banks in the mighty Yukon.
Many islands and steep banks in the mighty Yukon.
Five Finger Rapids from viewing stop on Klondike Highway (taken on our way back to Carmacks).
Five Finger Rapids from viewing stop on Klondike Highway (taken on our way back to Carmacks).

By Saturday we’d only reached a third of the way and decided to leave the river. Wind was twisting and turning our canoe around and we were increasingly terrified of tipping into the freezing water. The longer the wind battled us, the more this became a real possibility. We wore wet suits and had about 10 minutes to get to shore and light an emergency fire to stave off hypothermia. But it’s a big river with high walls of cliffs, hoodoos, and overgrown banks thick with bush.

Karen realized much sooner than I that our emergency plan was not executable. She knew that, although our gear was tied off to float, if we tipped, we’d lose our canoe and gear to the strong current and fierce wind. And with the high water levels, there were few offerings of a safe and unimpeded landing. Bald eagles kept passing over us which I took as a sign to push on and Karen read as a protective warning. She was afraid and I was afraid of her fear. At one point, we found a calm eddy to rest in and eat and think out our options. A single eagle feather floated by me and I lifted it with awe and gratitude into the canoe.

We couldn’t find a place to camp and paddled against the wind and in the long light until 10 pm Friday. We found a small sand-gravel island not much larger than our canoe and tent. Geese and ducks talked through the night entering my dreams like voices of all kinds of people I know and have known. Karen couldn’t sleep. When I woke she told me that her heart was pounding and rested her head on my chest. The wind was shaking the tent walls. As I held her, the eagle feather came into my mind and I realized she was right — we needed to get to safety.

12 thoughts on “Yukon River June 10-14

  1. Margaret June 20, 2015 / 6:35 pm

    Talk about a cliff hanger! Happily we know you’re ok because you’ve posted this blog.

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    • catherinelake June 20, 2015 / 6:41 pm

      Yes –I’ll sell you the rights! we are now in Inuvik but I’ve got a long short story in the river trip. Will post a bit more tonight. Good to see your voice Margaret!

      Like

  2. Walter June 20, 2015 / 11:37 pm

    That was an adventure!! And Well written. If you go to Whitehorse. Would you take a picture Of the Whitehorse Inn? Please, I used to have a Print of the “Whitehorse Inn By moonlight” done by Cornelius Krieghoff Many years ago. I wonder what it looks like Today. If indeed it still Stands. Take care and Enjoy the adventure. Love Your posts. Walter

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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    • catherinelake June 21, 2015 / 7:01 am

      Hi Walter..it is still standing …think its the one with the horse. We’ll try to remember to grab a photo when we swing through

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  3. Clare June 21, 2015 / 10:10 pm

    Wow! That sounds scary. The problem with signs/omens is that they’re hard to interpret. Glad to see you emerged unscathed.

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  4. sirkka and maureen June 22, 2015 / 12:46 am

    thanks to the goddesses that you decided to stop when you had a chance. WE look forward to hearing about your adventures when you come back to the safety of your loving friends. sirkka and maureen.

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  5. Liza Hancock June 22, 2015 / 4:11 pm

    Just reading this my heart filled with love and respect for the both of you
    Keep going strong beautiful womyn
    You both on your adventure
    Lize and patchy pickles poo

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  6. Uncle Paul June 23, 2015 / 11:40 am

    There is a fine line between being BRAVE and FOOL-HARDY. Your salvation was when the eagle-feather woke you up to the forces of nature that can override all preparedness and determination
    Thank you for the lesson in reality and thank goodness your safe. Uncle Paul

    Like

  7. Lori September 12, 2015 / 10:32 pm

    “She was afraid and I was afraid of her fear”. Such a great line!

    Like

    • catherinelake September 12, 2015 / 10:37 pm

      Hey Lori
      So glad to see your comments. The river experience will read better in chronological order. Thanks for logging on.

      Like

      • Lori September 12, 2015 / 11:06 pm

        I thoroughly enjoyed pouring over your blog this afternoon in chronological order (perhaps a little too quickly) and was reminded what a wise woman named Evelyn said….”you can go up to 90 kilometres an hour– but why would you?” This evening I am revisiting and taking time to respond and say thanks for the “ride”.

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      • catherinelake September 13, 2015 / 1:52 am

        How wonderful to share the wonder. Thanks Lori!!

        Like

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