Sunday 12 July 2020

Lakes, Rivers & Forest. Stage 3 of my Yukon walk, July 2 - July 12, 1990 .

Pilot Peak

After two days in Whitehorse I set off on one of the longest single stretches without resupply on my Yukon walk, eleven days to the little settlement of Carmacks. The route took me across a land of lakes and rivers and forest. There were mountains but they lay away to the east and west of my route, which went northwards, roughly, across the undulating Yukon Plateau.

There were old abandoned trails in places, in others I bushwhacked, sometimes with great difficulty. Whilst some trails were marked on my maps many weren't and I often had to guess which was the best one to take. There were campsites too, sometimes recently used and sadly strewn with garbage, but I met no-one. I had rivers to ford, sluggish and dark and often thigh-deep, and swanps to wade.

The weather was mixed with heavy rain and hail at times and often a cool breeze. Despite often being in trees there was a great feeling of space. This wilderness was vast. I was well into the walk now and feeling a sense of completeness. This is where I wanted to be. This is what I wanted to be doing.

Campsites were pleasant rather than spectacular. Their joy came from being here. I had brought a tarp as a cooking shelter, the presence of bears meaning it was unwise to cook in or near my tent - I saw fresh grizzly tracks and, once, fresh bear droppings close to camp. Where there were used fire pits I cooked over wood, saving my stove fuel. One of my most memorably camps was in dense black spruce forest on a wet night. I lit a fire in front of the tarp and sat gazing at the flames, relaxed and content.

Despite the often tough terrain, the uncertainty about a route, and the initial heavy load the many rivers and lakes gave a soothing feel to the walk, a gentleness not there in big mountains. This was placid country. There was much wildlife too and I saw beavers, red fox, bald eagles, golden eagles, common loons, goldeneye, red-winged blackbirds, and gray jays. One night I heard wolves howling, a wonderful wild sound. This really was wilderness.

I reached Carmacks on July 12 , checked into the one hotel and had my first proper wash in eleven days. Then it was a day of chores - laundry, mail, resupplying, and, crucially, finding information on the next section which would take me to the abandoned settlement of Fort Selkirk, where I would meet the Youcon Kat river boat with my supplies, and then on through the Kondike to Dawson City.

Previous reports as I relive this trip here and here

I wrote a book about the walk. It’s long out of print but I expect there are second-hand copies around.
Photographic Note: I carried two SLRs, the Nikon F801 and FM2, plus Nikkor 35-70 zoom, Nikkor 24mm and Sigma 70-210 lenses, and a Cullman tripod. Films were Fujichrome 50 and 100 slide ones. The total weight with padded cases was 4kg. To digitise the slides I photographed them on a lightbox with my Sony a6000 with a Sony E 30mm macro lens.

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