When we weighed all the options in Skagway provided by our cruiseline, nothing really grabbed us, so we decided to do our own thing. We rented a car and drove 125 miles north into the Yukon Territory. On the map below, the star is our starting point, and our destination, marked by the arrow, is Whitehorse, the capital of and only sizable city in the 186,272 square miles of the Territory.
The Yukon is the smallest of Canada's three northern territories and fourth Canadian province or territory we have visited. We had previously traveled to British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. Only nine more provinces/territories to go! (I don't know if we'll ever get to Nunavut. Who visits Nunavut? I haven't ever heard of it.)
We went through a border crossing, but we didn't even have to get out of our car:
The landscapes were stunning and everything you would expect in this wild, undeveloped place. The entire territory only has about 37,000 people, which means if they were equally distributed, there would be five square miles per person.
The roads were mostly wide and straight and very well-maintained, which made the miles fly by:
Of particular note is Emerald Lake, obviously named for its stunning jewel-toned waters:
A big draw for Bob was the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. We go to a lot of wildlife preserves, and I always think, "Really? Again?" However, I almost always end up loving them. This one was definitely worth the drive. It was somewhat like a zoo, with animals penned according to species, but the pens were their natural habitat rather than an artificial creation.
We saw lots of mule deer:
I'm afraid we invaded their privacy:
Bambi! Is that YOU?
These are female elk. They have the weirdest body proportions, don't you think?
I had to stop and enjoy the flora in the midst of all the fauna:
I think this is a King Bolete, a very tasty edible mushroom, but I would never venture to eat it without confirmation from an expert:
It was fun to get so close to Bullwinkle:
. . . and Mrs. Bullwinkle:
If you ever feel bad about the size of your nose, think of a moose:
. . . and taupe-y brown Stone sheep:
Both species have very impressive, very heavy horns:
We saw quite a bit of this butting-head action. I was impressed that those curlicue horns didn't get all tangled up:
But there were plenty of others who were content to lie around in the shade:
The younger ones, with horns just beginning to curl, were especially cute:
In the distance we saw a herd of wood bison, a northern subspecies of the American bison:
There were also a few prehistoric-looking musk oxen:
We ran across this very impressive wasp nest that appeared to be uninhabited, but we weren't about to knock on the door to find out if anyone was home:
Arctic ground squirrels were everywhere:
Some appeared to have much better grooming habits than others:
We loved the arctic fox exhibit and felt lucky to catch a glimpse of one, an animal neither of us had ever seen before:
Too bad I didn't get a better picture, but he was pretty shy and quick to disappear:
After visiting the animal preserve, we stopped in Whitehorse, a booming metropolis of 28,000, and had a very good, very chic lunch at the Burnt Toast Cafe. (Such a great name for a restaurant.)
Caribou Crossing is a very small town (under 300 people) located nearby:
. . . and on to our next destination in the exotic, mysterious Inside Passage
Not such a bad life, you know?
As we were driving through the Yukon, we listened to Jack London's well-known and much-loved short novel The Call of the Wild. It takes about 3.5 hours to listen to the whole thing, so it worked well for our drive.
London tells the story of Buck, a half Scottish shepherd and half St. Bernard dog, and his journey into the Yukon during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush as a sled dog under various masters, both evil and good. The books is full of beautiful writing, and the author's love for the main canine character pours from the pages and into the listener's/reader's heart.
This classic was first published in 1903 and has never been out of print since. There are several cinematic adaptations. I'm going to have to find one.
Two Old Women: An Alaskan Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival by Velma Wallace is a story based on an Athabascan legend told among native peoples of the upper Yukon. According the native traditions, elderly members of the tribe who slowed down travel and consumed goods without producing themselves were left behind so that the rest of the tribe could survive on limited resources. Accordingly, two old, complaining women are abandoned in the middle of winter.
The women, devastated a first, decide that "at least we will die trying." They recall long forgotten survival skills as they race against time and weather. Though their achy bodies slow them down, gradually they are able to trap their own food, create shelter, and make new lives for themselves. When the tribe comes back in the spring, they find that the old women they left behind are in better shape than the rest of them. The book ends with this thought: "Within each individual on this large and complicated world, there lives an astounding potential greatness." What a wonderful message.