Sunday, 9 July 2017

On the Yukon River

Karen had asked me if I would like to go for a paddle on the Yukon River on Monday evening. I said yes, so she started a round of phone calls to various friends in order to make a decent sized party. Also, this would allow a "two car" paddle though we could have done it with her Subaru and my Ford Focus.
 I set off to spend the day in downtown Whitehorse. I was approaching the intersection with the Alaska Highway when a coyote ambled across the road.
It stared at me then sauntered off.

In Whitehorse, I parked the car at one end of the River Front and moseyed along taking in the sights. One important stop was at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre. The Kwanlin Dün are the First Nation on whose land Whitehorse sits. If I understand correctly, it was built using funds provided by the Umbrella Final Agreement signed in 1992 between various First Nations in the Yukon and various levels of government from the Federal on down. Partly because of Canada 150, it was hosting the building of four boats built in four different traditional styles. These were dugout, birch bark canoe, kayak and moosehide boat. The latter, I would argue, is the least well known of the four, yet is actually quite simple. The construction technique is to build a wooden frame work and cover it with moosehides sewn together and sealed with pine tar. This is very like the Irish curraghs that St-Brendan and cohorts may have used to cross the Atlantic back before the Norse.
 There was an already mostly completed dugout in the lobby of the Centre which a carver was using to plan his next move on the sternpost at least for the sake of a cameraman making a documentary. I gather the woodcarver might have been Maori.
 The boats were being built outside the Centre as the processes are somewhat messy. Note the wood shavings above. Some of the processes are also smelly, not just the smell of freshly carved confiers but also that of raw moosehide. One man was carefully scraping a wet moose hide on a stand to reduce the skin to the desired thickness. It was a smelly business.
 Somewhere in town, I came across an adventure touring motorcycle from El Salvador of all places!

I visited the McBride Museum where I saw a pair of stuffed moose, one of them was an albino! Among the stuffed animals was a muskrat. As I was looked at its mingy tail, I realised that I now knew what animal I had seen on my first big bike trip in Canada.  As the animal some nine years earlier had a substantial tail, it must have been an otter!!! Much more fun than a muskrat.
 I also saw the famous Log Skyscraper.
 I also got on the Klondike II paddle steamer. Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed on the upper decks.
 At the Beringia Centre, I learned about the environment in the Yukon back some 25,000 to 40,000 years ago when man hunted mammals such as mammoths and giant beavers in these parts. I got to try out an atl-atl, a device for hurling spears with greater force. I was surprised at how small the spears were. The target range was inhabitated by rabbits and arctic ground squirrels who weren't terribly worried.

I returned to Karen's at around 5 PM, to get ready for our paddle. She had rounded up a couple of friends at one of whom's house we were to assemble. I don't remember her name, but she lived further out from Whitehorse on a property that had a large dog run as well as a population of domestic fowl (chickens and geese) that had the run of the lawn.
A little before we left, I was asked to help corral the fowl into their pen. With the help of Karen's other friend (male), we got the birds into their home. There was a question as to whether we had got them all, but it seems we did.
 We drove up the Yukon driver a certain distance before stopping to stash Karen's Subaru at the end location and driving further upstream to where we got Karen canoe and the kayaks of the other two off the roof of the truck. Then it was a case of "off like a herd of tortoises" as we loaded bits of gear and supper into our watercrafts. It was only during this process that Karen asked me if I knew anything about canoeing!  Thankfully I did, though I ceded her the rear seat.
So off we went down the Yukon. Until the powerful river I had seen at Whitehorse, the section Karen had chosen had only barely noticeable current. We paddle past the lodges of bank beavers and saw several of their inhabitants. Karen's friends, like her, were employed by various branches of the Yukon Government's natural resources department, ministry or whatever it is called. They were not in the "mining" department but rather the "anti-mining" departments intent on preserving the land, wildlife, water, etc., and thus might be considered in the left-wing of the government, or possibly just the "sensible" part of the administration. They rather resented what they perceived as the "excessive" rights of gold miners to dig up a claim and leave nought be tailings and ponds, particularly as the royalties seem to have not been increased since the early 1900s and stand at the munificent sum of approximately 70 cents per ounce.  That is 70 cents, not 70 dollars or 70 percent. It seems ridiculous to me.
Around nine o'clock, we stopped and tied the kayaks alongside the canoe for some underway replenishment, i.e. supper. This consisted of a baroque combination of whatever everyone had brought. I don't remember what everything was, but it did include cold black been chili in a flour tortilla with fresh spinach, beer brewed in the Yukon and curried munchies!

Oh, and sushi. This last one struck me as a comment on the evolution of society as I had seen and read a lot about the building of the Alaska Highway in the McBride Museum. I wondered aloud what those men and women would have thought of us eating such very Japanese food!
 I must confess, I got a little lost in their shop talk about what they were doing in this or that bit of the Yukon, particularly as I hadn't put up a map of the Yukon on my wall at home prior to leaving in order to get acquainted with the geography.
 It says something about Yukoners that they thought little of having a long evening canoe trip on a weekday. Thankfully, the rain held off until we were off the river and were busy loading the vehicles. Also, we got a nice rainbow out of it.

1 comment:

Margo and Chris said...

Lovely outing! By now you must be a veritable sourdough.