Banks of the Yukon
He was walkin’ in his sleep
On a trail as old as the river
Sleepy Hollow people light
Their lanterns when it’s night
On the banks of the Yukon
Gonna call him in for tea
It’s burnin’ cold outside
His weeping frozen to his face
Ice fog climbs over the bank where there’s woebegone
It can smell a broken heart
From miles and years away
It finds him and wraps him
And licks his whiskey tears away
This blanket of frozen tears, the ghost of river sorrow
Oh his darling, he’s lost without her
The river, took her broken heart last spring
He was walkin’ with no pain
He remembers her lovin’
The smell of her on him is gone
He’ll come in winter to cry the ghost of river sorrow
In his heart he hopes she’ll be there
His darling, if he could hold her once more
He was walkin’ in a dream
Again, lack of parking space on the islands made for peculiar boat landings.
Lori arriving at the confluence of the White River and Yukon River... so far so good. No rapids, no rain.
We climb up to a well known viewing spot to view into the heart of the White River, which incidentally has its' start on the coastal mountains and is very silty from glacial silt. Father upstream the river is joined by the Donjek river which originates from the Donjek Glacier... an area we hiked last summer (Read the account of that expedition here: Hiking the Donjek Route)
Looking into the heart of the White River.
Click to enlarge this 180 degree panoramic view.
There were no rapids or white water and that was a good thing. We were hoping that the folks at Kirkman creek were wrong about the weather and the river.
Well, weather began to go bad and because of the high water, we had a horrendous time trying to find a good camp. The shores were flooded and the islands were flooded or recently covered in water, leaving soft mud in the glacial silt. Terrible conditions.Tent stakes won't hold and the slightest wind pulls them out.
It was our good fortune to find this high bank camp. It was hard to get to as we had to line our boats from the muddy edges of the river through the muddy shore grasses. Every step we sank at least 6 inches. When I first got out, my boot sank several inches into the soft mud and I fell into the river and had to quickly swim to retrieve my boat before it floated away. Lori was laughing and was happy it all turned out OK. She said I looked pretty funny and clumsy. It was a real chore to get to shore.
Once we got up there and began to setup camp it began to sprinkle and the humid air was ripe for mosquitoes. HOLY COW!! The bugs were horrendous. Out came the bug netting. It was too much for Lori as she ate her dinner in the tent. I started a fire in hopes that the smoke would keep the bugs at bay. It was no use.
A few quick pictures, including this nice looking flowery plant and off into the tent I dove.
It rained off and on during the evening and into the night. It was very humid, muggy and buggy. At around 2:30 a.m. Lori woke me up and said I had to see this scene outside the tent.
In my groggy state, I initially thought to myself... Northern lights! But it was just alpenglow from the sun just setting in the horizon making for a fantastic light show.
I wanted to stay out and enjoy it more, perhaps with a cup of cocoa. But the god!@M!! bugs were so wicked, I had to duck back into the tent. I felt cheated and all I had to view was the little 3 inch screen on my camera to remind me of the fleeting beauty we witnessed. The bugs and the humid rain were a big price to pay to see this wonderful show put on by mother nature. Worth it? Heck yes.
You decide whether it was worth it. One doesn't experience something like this very often. Pictures don't do it justice and cannot capture the emotional experience of the moment.
Click this picture to get an enlarged panoramic view.
The next day was just plain nasty. RAIN, more RAIN and HARD RAIN!!
We thought about paddling into the night to reach Dawson and see if we could get a room. By good fortune, there is a wilderness camp about 25 miles before Dawson called "Ancient Voices" that had cabins for rent ($15/person per night) which included a sweat lodge (a sauna) down by the river and a wheel barrow to haul your gear. We jumped on the opportunity to get out of the wet cold rain. The sauna was awesome. The caretakers, from Switzerland, fired up the wood stove which was lined with rocks in a small windowless log cabin. We sat in there bathing by candle light and occasionally stepping out to the river to cool off. It felt good. The wet steaming logs provided a great natural oder that smelled good as well. That night we slept good in the cozy little one room cabin. The next day, was not any better. Rain and more rain. On top of that, the caretakers told us about a missing canoeist. Two guys from the Czech Republic capsized on the Stewart river. They found one of them hanging onto the canoe long after the Stewart River emptied into the Yukon river (he had been in the water for over 5 hrs before being rescued... that is a long time to be in these cold water in the rain). His partner could not be found. This was not a good way to start the day.
However, as the day wore on, the weather got better and after we arrived at Dawson, it quit raining.... Finally. We found that many of the roads, Top of the World Highway to Alaska and the Dempster Hwy above the arctic circle were closed due to flooding and landslides. The locals were all talking about the deluge from the past few days. From my past experience and by local accounts, this was highly unusual. They kept saying that they are waiting for summer to arrive.
Our friend Shawn in Whitehorse, convinced his visiting parents drive our truck out to Dawson. They were fantastic people to meet. We checked into the Midnight Sun Hotel, hoping for a good night's sleep, but it was ladies night and the Karaoke bar was open until 2 a.m. in the morning. We did however make it to the top of the Midnight Dome to enjoy the views. It was bit chilly though... but worth every shiver.
We did catch some midnight sun as it shown down on the Yukon River before turning in around 12:30 a.m.
The next day we took Shawn's parents to a nice breakfast at the Bonanza Hotel and the last person we met before leaving town? You got it. Jurgen! He pulled in the day before and was going to stay a week before continuing his solo journey to the Dalton hwy... over 300 miles away. We wished him luck. What a great guy to meet on journey. He provides hope and inspiration for all of us as we get older.
We left town feeling good about trip. Before leaving town, we did learn that another person was missing on the river as well (A local). It looks like the high and cold water was taking a toll on humanity this year.
I repeat Robert Service's poem here for all to take heed:
This is the law of the Yukon
And ever she make it plain
And ever she make it plain
Send not your foolish and your feeble
Send your strong and your sane
Read about our previous days on the river here:
Our journey wasn't over. Not by a long shot. We still had a long, long drive home. A drive filled with adventure - Bears, Glaciers and Wolves. Read on to see how it all ended.