Thursday, 3 September 2015

Yukon Tour 1

     It is great to be alive! Once again, I am privileged to be able to enjoy Mother Nature's great bounty. I left Edmonton and drove to Whitehorse in Yukon Territory over the past two and a half days. Tonight and tomorrow I will meet my guests who will be travelling with me through this spectacularly beautiful land.
     On the 2000 kilometer drive north I enjoy many fantastic sights that make a long journey so enjoyable. Once again I am proving that the destination is not the thing so much as the enjoyment of the journey. I miss many opportunities that time and daylight do not allow more perusal but, I enjoy much.
     Just west of Grande Prairie, Alberta, I come upon a field of sunflowers, something I have never seen before. They are beautiful, especially with the late sun shining through brilliant yellow flowers. It will be very soon that this field will be alive with seed loving birds of all descriptions but for now grasshoppers click and scatter from my footsteps.
Sunflower Field west of Grand Prairie
     As I drive the famous Alaska Highway enjoying the scenery, I think of the hundreds of trips that my Dad made up and down this trail in various trucks. From the dusty, muddy, snow covered and often icy track winding around corners, up and down hills and across narrow bridges in the 1950s through the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 1000s; six decades of successfully delivering loads of passengers, freight, fuel and mail. I marvel at the changes this highway has gone through in those years. Look at the lodges and garages, once vital, that are now closed. One of them that he knew well was Summit Lake Lodge, at mile 392, where I worked for a summer in 1970.
Summit Lake Lodge
     It was a happening place back then and I am sad to see it now with broken windows, neglected roofs and smelly, crap covered floors. This place was once someone's pride and dreams. In my mind, I can still hear the juke box crying out the hit song by Doug Kershaw, Diggy Diggy Lie, Diggy Diggy Low, played over and over whenever the waitress got a tip. As I paused, I can hear echos of an old Jake Brake barking as a Canadian Freightways truck rumbled around the corner, thundering past the old shop, chased by a cloud of dust around the lower corner and out of sight and soon, sound. The highway is now paved and straightened, not nearly as challenging as it once was. Today, the trucks are also much more powerful, comfortable and capable of pulling urgent loads of freight to the north country and back.
     I drive through a recent burn where I can still smell freshly burned wood and duff. Several miles burned off, renewing the forest landscape. The whole forest I drove through has, at one time or another, been burned off and rejuvenated into diverse habitat for flora and fauna. It is beautiful now, in a harsh way.
Fresh Forest Burn

     I enjoy seeing caribou, moose and bison along the road in many places. It reminds me to slow down and pay attention to the road, especially at night. Wildlife can be everywhere.

     Autumn has arrived, more brilliant as I travel north. Golden aspen, crimson fireweed, muted in places by furry seeds, dark red shrubbery and the many greens of sunny or shaded coniferous forest lining the mountain sides and river valleys.
Autumn Colors Sept. 3/ 2015

     I pause at the Tlingit village of Teslin on the 70 mile long lake of the same name. Pulled up on the sandy shoreline are two native canoes, not carved from a tree, but rather, made of lighter fiberglass. A carved one sits on display in the nearby boat shed.
      I enjoy talking to the native museum receptionist who is trying her best to celebrate and honor the Tlingit way of life but cannot do so because of the lost salmon run. Over fishing has reduced the numbers of salmon that survive the arduous journey up the Yukon River to their lake where they traditionally had plenty of salmon to preserve. Now they must purchase fish from neighbors near Atlin. I find it sad to see a way of life lost with little hope.
Cow Moose Grazing
I look forward to the next three weeks in this magnificent land. It is so much.

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