Zunoquad 3–Canoeing the Teslin and Yukon Rivers (2)

Day 1

After arriving in town separately on a late-night flight, Andy joined us for breakfast.  Our outfitters, “Up-North Adventures,” ferried us around downtown Whitehorse in a van to shop for gas, groceries and liquor. On the way to the supermarket, the boyish driver told stories of kayaking down class-five rapids in the Andes but assured us that the Teslin-Yukon was quite tame. Back at the shop we posed for a group shot.


Midway on the two hour van ride to our starting point at Johnson’s Crossing, the Alaska Highway bridge near the head of the Teslin river, “His Oiliness” Lionel, the day’s elected leader, realized we’d forgotten to pack the two propane stoves we’d rented and asked the driver if there was any way they could be delivered to us enroute. The rest of the crew displayed their manliness by pooh-poohing that notion and insisting we’d cook on open fires.

In a darkening drizzle we loaded the boats and headed off under the bridge and around a bend away from the highway into what seemed like uncharted territory.  I remembered that Andy had promised to bring a Satellite phone just in case. Even in the dead light, a margin of brilliant green grass lined the banks in front of a moving mosaic of dark spruce and luminous yellow aspen.  The river was wide and the current swept us luxuriously downstream.


After two hours paddle, his oiliness bowed to pressure and called a halt at a fine campsite by the junction with Squanga Creek, only twelve kilometers from the start.  In a flurry of spontaneous activity, men scurried from the boats, hauled drybags and packs up the steep bank, pitched tents, constructed a makeshift table and benches, prepared food, gathered wood, built a cooking fire, and rigged a large tarp over it under the direction of Steve, our proficient tarpmeister. The first dinner consisted of steak, the last fresh meat for a week and quinoa enriched with garlic, onions and carrots. Rum toddies and chocolate around the fire were accompanied by a reading of Robert Service’s “The Spell of the Yukon”:

It’s the great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder,
It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

As we packed all the food and anything attractive like toothpaste into the bear barrels, Andy offered a reality check after consulting the guidebook.  In order to meet the outfitter 300 kilometers down river as planned, we’d have to cover 75 clicks a day, eight hours of paddling at the rate we were going.  Taking into account an hour and a half each of set-up and take-down, there wasn’t much time for activities or exploration or fooling around.  John the next day’s leader who named himself “Gone Fishin” called for 6AM wakeup.


Day 2

To view a complete set of photos for this trip go here.
To view a slideshow of these photos go here.

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