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CALL OF THE YUKON WILD
 
(2016 - Winter Issue)

Writer: MARK STEVENS



Whitecaps loom dead ahead, hissing at the hull of your canoe as you negotiate the Yukon River current, adrenalin flooding your entire body.

Volcanic rocks rush toward you; they form a narrow canyon overhead. Eddies form, fighting you for control as you dip your paddle into teal-coloured waters.

“Just relax,” yells your guide, piloting his own canoe toward these historic rapids.

You’re plying a stretch of water upstream of Miles Canyon, water plied by thousands of prospectors during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush.

Water plied by author Jack London himself.

“He stayed less than a year but the rest is history,” says the docent at Dawson City’s Jack London Museum. “Make sure you listen wherever you go,” she adds, referencing both his best-known novel and the essential character of this primordial paradise.

“That sound you hear is the Call of the Wild.”

The sound you’re hearing is equally evocative: whispering waters, wind in the jack pines.

Listen to the Call of the Wild.

The Call of the (Yukon) Wild.

ADVENTURE EXPERTS

Enter an aptly named consortium of wilderness tourism companies committed to providing a complete, interactive and seamless adventure experience. Enter a marketing collective called Yukon Wild.

“If you want to truly experience the allure of this special place,” says Yukon Wild Marketing Committee Chair, Kalin Pallett, “we should be your first stop. We offer hiking, canoeing, lodging, fishing and rafting in the summer.” He pauses. “Aurora viewing, dogsledding, snowmobiling and more, come winter.”

Come winter indeed.

SNOWMOBILE TRAILS

Fast forward to a February afternoon.

Snowmobile engines purr, the yellow Polaris 500 right in front of you a stark contrast to a black-and-white vista of trees, slopes and leaden skies.

Now your mechanized parade rises and falls along rollercoaster trails, roaring across Fish Lake, climbing through snow-quilted trees toward Mt. McIntyre.

From here you can see ivory-cloaked mountains marching in a majestic procession to infinity. And then they serve you steaming hot chocolate at the top of the world.

Now your group rides downhill. Now you stop. Your guide points out animal tracks on this combination nature lesson, sightseeing tour and adrenalin rush.

Your thoughtful provider? A Yukon Wild operator.

A HEAVENLY LIGHTSHOW

Now day falls. Whither the night?

Just think Yukon Wild, along with one of its adventure experts, who now picks you up at 10 p.m. to head backcountry for yet one more Yukon must-do.

First you defrost in front of a wood-burning stove in a replica prospector’s tent outside Whitehorse.

Sky is clear, night air crisp as you don toque and venture outside.

You stand in awe at the edge of a vast meadow. Aurora borealis dances high overhead, lime and aqua, lavender, a seductive sky-based saraband. Not by accident do First Nations people call this the “Spirit Dance.”

AN ICONIC ADVENTURE

And now, before you know it, a new day, and a new Yukon Wild adventure.

A pack of dogs in front of their kennels cavort and wrestle with each other, yipping and yapping while you struggle to attach their leads.

Once they’re harnessed your guide offers last-minute tips.

“Never let go of the sled,” she warns, checking the leads. “When you stop always have one foot on the brake.” She grins. “And have fun.”

Now you break for the forest, at seeming breakneck speeds, sled lurching forward with a sudden jerk. Shoulders strain, quads complain, but it’s exhilarating. Now you watch the team ahead disappear into the forest. Now you follow, left, right, up, down. Gentle slopes and hairpin turns.

You are as happy as the dogs, as you experience an iconic Canadian adventure in the very fabric of your muscles.

No surprise there.

A BEVY OF OFFERINGS

“Guest satisfaction is one of our chief priorities,” says Pallett of the 19 companies that form the membership of Yukon Wild, this consortium of licensed adventure experts committed to wilderness stewardship, respect for cultural values and benefitting local communities.

Their offerings range from multi-day backcountry horseback expeditions to fishing, from hiking to a glacier to booking front-row seats for a celestial lightshow, from serious canoe expeditions to dogsledding snowy trails.

Providing both flexibility and variety (you could have watched aurora from a hot tub at one partner property; four different partners offer a variety of the dogsledding experience), they will even arrange airport pickup and accommodation from secluded cabin to yurt in the High Country.

Here, on this frigid late afternoon, light fading fast, sipping your steaming tea before heading back to the High Country base, you rate your satisfaction level as astronomical.

And then you feel it; you sense the sound of infinite primordial silence.

You note another sound: in the dead of winter, on a summer morning in a mirrored lake, on an autumn afternoon on a Kluane slope.

It is siren song, irresistible invitation. It is the Call of the Wild.

The Call of the (Yukon) Wild.

TRAVEL PLANNER

“If you really want the adventure experience up here,” says Yukon Wild Marketing Committee Chair, Kalin Pallett, “our operators can make it happen. Every activity imaginable, pretty well every area of the Yukon.” For operator packages, visit yukonwild.com.

For more information on exploring this pristine paradise, ranging from airlift to add-ons like dining options, log on to travelyukon.com.

 
 
 
 
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