Yukon River Quest - Page 2
Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, Yukon river headwaters.
I’m writing this from a hotel room in Whitehorse, Canada. From my window I can see the
Yukon River where I will spend the next two months or so paddling to the Bering Sea. It
wasn’t easy getting here. I had planned to ship my boat up and then fly to Whitehorse to
meet it. Shipping a kayak to the great north turned out to be nearly impossible, so I
recruited two friends and a rental car for an epic roadtrip.
Whitehorse is 2700 miles from my house and for the last three days, Dave Kraemer, Dick
Howard, and I have been driving hard to get here. Strapping the kayak to a Dodge Charger
for a trip of that length was no easy task, but we managed and set out on the highway.
Two thirds of the journey was through endless flat wheat fields, but near the end of day two
we hit the Canadian Rockies and it was beautiful. From there we delt with an endless
procession of slow moving RV’s , a bear in camp and all manner of wildlife on the twisty
and sometimes unpaved Alaska Highway.
So, here I am in a hotel room in Whitehorse. I’m well fed and there’s a wall between me
and any marauding bears outside. Tomorrow, I set out on my own in the wilderness. I’m
more than a little scared, but I’m looking forward to it. The sun’s still up, but it’s getting late.
It’s time to try and get some sleep. Tomorrow’s going to be a big day.
I didn’t sleep well last night. I was too nervous and the hotel room was too hot. There aren’
t many air conditioners in Whitehorse, but it’s been in the 80’s for a few days now.
After picking up a few last-minute supplies at Walmart, I thanked Dave and Dick for all their
help and set out on the Mighty Yukon. The river was fairly big and fast moving. It was
absolutely beautiful with turquoise colored water and snow capped mountains in the
There were lots of canoes and motor boats out, but it was a beautiful Sunday, so I guess
that was to be expected. My only real complaint would be the amount of garbage on the
banks and floating in the water. It probably has more trash in it than the rivers back in Iowa,
which isn’t something to be proud of, but I’m sure it will taper off as I move away from town.
I paddled 20 miles of river before reaching beautiful Lake Leberge. The lake is about 30
miles long and 5 miles wide with clear blue water and mountains all around. I’ve set up
camp about half way down the lake on a nice gravel bar.
I’m hoping to get a good night’s sleep tonight. It’s not easy to do that here since it never
gets dark, and since I’ll be traveling north for a few hundred miles before the river turns
west and heads for the ocean. I don’t expect to see the stars any time soon.
I’m paddling a Nigel Foster Shadow Kayak. I don’t like it as well as my Romany, but it’s a
respectable boat, and I would miss it too much when I have to give it away at the end of the
river. It’s also been signed by over 2,000 5th graders at the Iowa Children’s Water Festival.
Hopefully, that will make it less attractive to bears. I have a fast boat on a fast river, but I
need to take my time up here. It’s too beautiful to rush through.
Going slow is going to be even harder now that I have a girl I love waiting for me back
home. I thought I didn’t need love, but I guess I do. I love it out here, but I love her too, and I
can’t have both of my loves at the same time. Life can be confusing.
I spent most of the day paddling on Lake Laberge. It was a beautiful lake, and the weather
was perfect, but I’m glad to be back on the river. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to enjoy a big
lake again after all of my near death experiences on the lakes of the Missouri River.
I only saw a few motorboats on the lake today, but still lots of trash on the shores and lots of
trashed campsites. My biggest pet peeve was where people had found a campsite they
really liked and wanted to visit again. Rather than mark it on their maps or GPS, they would
construct a pile of brightly colored trash and often traffic cones so that they would be sure to
find their spot again. Whitehorse needs to learn to leave no trace, because they have a