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    T r a v e l R e p o r t-S e i t e  3
M e n u e
The Yukon: In the Footsteps of the Gold Rush
After we leave the lake behind at Carcross, the water becomes more shallow and the wind calms down. For the first time, our boat is being carried by a light current, and we forget the strains of the past few days.
  However, the weather keeps showing us that the promising names of bays, mountains and valleys are often meant as a warning. Once, while we are on a large, perfectly placid lake, we are suddenly hit by a strong squall that seems to come out of nowhere, and have to struggle against white-crested waves for a few hundred meters. Then, just as suddenly, everything is calm again. So it is no coincidence that this bay is called Windy Arm. At the end of the lake, we have trouble finding the outlet, and thus the beginning of the Yukon, in the shallows. We get lost between flat sandbanks and when we finally locate an outlet and follow it, we soon discover that we are paddling against the current. After a quick check at the next bridge, we come to the realization that the McClintock River is probably delightful, too, but that this isn't our destination. We're a little frustrated, so we pitch our tent in a nearby meadow and enjoy the evening sun. Unfortunately, we share this idyllic place with a marten and seem to have put our inflatable canoe directly in its path. In the morning, we find prominent teeth-marks on both outer air chambers as a thank you. In other words, nicely deflated. After we have fixed the boat, we finally find the right outlet and follow the Yukon through narrow gorges to Whitehorse, which we reach late at night.
In the old days, paddle steamers used to come as far as Whitehorse, to supply the settlements with food and other goods. Here, a mighty waterfall, which is used to produce electricity today, puts an end to shipping on the Yukon. During the last few years, Whitehorse has become a popular destination for canoists who paddle down the Yukon to Dawson. It's a stretch of 700 kilometers that can easily be covered in 10 days.
  After we have added a fishing rod, a panning tray and 40 kilograms of provisions to our gear, we embark on the next leg of our journey in changeable weather. Thunder and lightning and squalls alternate with gorgeous sunshine and temperatures around 20 degrees Celsius.
In the evening, we are very conscious that it's still relatively early in the year. Luckily, there is plenty of driftwood on the riverbank, and a warm fire is swiftly built.
The further away we get from the snow-capped peaks, the more stable the weather becomes.
The village of Lower Laberge has never seen a road. Yet a rusty pickup truck has been quietly mouldering away in this place for a long time. Here, we take advantage of the good weather and prepare for the fast-flowing stretches. While we are preparing the new fishing rod, we hear a loud snorting coming from the river. We get to the riverbank just as a magnificent black bear is climbing out of the water on the other side. Our presence seems to have disturbed him.
  Further on, we seize the opportunity to pull our first few greyling out of the water. The salmon season hasn't started yet, so we are more than happy with our first catch.
  Some mountain slopes are still black from the fires that raged here last year. The forest floor is free of vegetation, the nutrient-rich soil does the rest and mushrooms are springing up everywhere. They've been picked and put out to dry on long tables in Fort Selkirk. This small ghost town has been turned into a museum, and its church and school invite a visit.  
  Two days later, we pass the spot where the White River feeds into the Yukon. You can already tell by its name that it carries masses of fine sediment from the glaciers in the mountains. Thus, the Yukon's water becomes so murky that it's impossible to fish. The sediment doesn't settle and stays in the water all the way to the Bering Sea, and from now on, we either buy fresh fish from the Indians, or we catch it with our bare hands in the shallows, the way the grizzly bears do.
Since we have time, we take an excursion to the Tozitna River, hoping to catch some fish in its clear waters. On the riverbank, we come across the distinct footprints of Master Bruin in the mud, and round a bend, the remains of salmon litter the pebbled beach.
  In the evening, I go to watch the bears feeding on fish on the beaches. I get a good overview from the steep bank on the other side of the river, and I plant myself there with my camera. Five hours later, a strapping black bear appears and wanders along the beach. Unfortunately, he is on my side of the river. As the beach gets smaller, he climbs the bank and walks into the woods. I swiftly gather my things together and try to recall what to do in case of a bear encounter. When the bear stops about 5 meters away and peers at me from behind a tree, I stand on my camera case. I talk to him and after a short, rather one-sided discussion, the bear does a jump of about 180 degrees and vanishes into the undergrowth. My pulse rate stays above 200 per minute for quite a while, and on my way back to the camp I sing loudly and out of tune to avoid meeting another bear.
The next day, late in the evening, we arrive in Dawson City, the legendary hub of the Gold Rush. Dawson still makes a living from the Gold Rush today, i.e. from the tourists who visit the town. It is easy to forget the time over a beer at Diamond Tooth Gertie's Gambling Casino, especially when they're doing the can-can on stage.
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Last update: 03/14/09
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