My heart is pounding, my lungs gasping, my legs are burning as I slowly ascend the moderate trail above the Canadian Parks Service visitor center beside the Dempster Highway at Tombstone Park in the Yukon. I was advised by a 20-something, fit looking man that it would take my guests and I about half an hour to reach the top of this trail. What the H... does he know? I was young too, once, and full of hill-climbing vigour and optimism. I still have the optimism.
|It Isn't the top of the World, but it is a Significant Victory|
We are a group of four men, two over 60 one just under and one 40 something. I am the tour leader heading towards Inuvik, N.W.T. and beyond. Our common bond is our love of the wild places and wildlife photography.
We met a few days ago in Whitehorse, Yukon and have a good start on a month long tour of the Yukon Territory, some of British Columbia and ending at Edmonton, Alberta. It is early September and the aspen are brilliantly shrouded in their golden finery and tamarack are beginning their color change. Berry bushes and shrubbery range from brightly crimson to a fine red wine and burgundy colour. It is a great time to visit Yukon; past mosquito and black fly hordes, into bright autumn colours and few tourist clutters.
|Moss and Lignon Berries|
The further north we go, the less leaves are on the shrubbery. Weather is crisp in the morning, sometimes even frosty but has warmed nicely by early afternoon. There is a fresh dusting of snow above treeline to remind us that it could drop down to highway level any day. We hope for a nice spell of Indian summer.
|Begin the Dempster Highway|
This morning, as we begin the Dempster Highway, we decide that a bit of fresh air and exercise will be good for our constitutions after a late night photographing northern lights at Dawson City’s “Midnight Dome.”
We meet two young, Swiss sounding girls coming down the hill. They give us the once-over and cheerfully natter in passing, “15 minutes to go, it is well worth it.” They are being nice to us I’m sure. One half hour later we wheezed and panted to the top.
|The Trail Winds Up and Around|
It is pretty good scenery but our biggest victory is that we made it. We made it to the top and back down without having a heart attack or breaking a hip. With a profound sense of accomplishment and relief, we each savour our own victory. As I follow my shadow down the hill I proclaim to it; “We are men, we can still do fun things!”
|My Shadow Leads|
I bet we enjoyed ourselves more and remember this trail longer than those youngsters who have yet to feel the senses of doubt and fear that we are getting past our prime and will soon be confined to the arm chair in some nursing home with our kids wiping the drool off the corner of our mouths saying. “There, there Dad, you have a good day. I’ll see you next week.”