I had heard about the waves and wind on the lakes of the southern Yukon Territory. After finishing the Chilkoot, I saw the waves on Bennett while riding back on the train to Skagway to pick up my boat. Whitecaps in blue-green icy waters – feet high, crashing and crashing and crashing. And I am going to head into that with my kayak?
Stick by the shore. Don’t get stuck out in the middle with the wind and the rollers. No mistakes allowed.
. . .
It was raining.
I knew it would be raining.
It was cold too. Even on the train back up to Bennett from Skagway. I wrapped myself up in my red down jacket and stared out the window. The train jerked its way up the tracks through the rain, through the wind. All of my gear, my kayak, my tent, my sleeping bag, my life rested in the cargo box. Compared to the gold miners I had it easy of course. They had to hike 3,000 miles to get all of their things to Lake Bennett. Then they would often have to winter there and build their boats to get to Dawson.
The train ride was lovely. White Pass is stunning. It was great to hear more about the history of the area from the train guide, Ellie. We made it to Lake Bennett and after lunch (thanks, Alexis!!) I went to work hauling my gear from the cargo box down to the lake.
The wind wasn’t bad and the weather was better on that side of the mountains, away from the ocean. It was barely drizzling when I started the work of assembling my boat. Quick work. Get the stern and bow ends of the frame together, put the frame into the skin, attach everything.
I was eager to get going but not yet used to packing up my gear in the boat. Not yet sure what goes best where. Hadn’t mastered that jigsaw puzzle. But I wanted to GO! The weather was safe! The weather was good. So I just threw everything where I could and went. One stroke and then another and another and I lost count.
The breeze was a light tailwind. I stuck to the right shore like glue.
All downhill from here, right? Just 2,000 miles. . . don’t think about that, though! That’s the trick. Just think about today. Live today. Enjoy today.
The wind built in the afternoon but the waves weren’t more than a foot or two high and my Folbot managed them with grace. It rained on and off but there was always a patch of blue sky visible.
I passed an island with a cairn on top of it that caught my eye so I pulled over to explore. Climbed to the highest point and that view . . . snow on jagged peaks and the blue-green water now speckled with white caps. Wow.
I paddled to the BC/ Yukon Border and set up camp right there on the Yukon side. Right by an island with two graves on it. Two miners who fell through the ice one winter were buried there.
The wind gusted and the water looked like charcoal at night.
And this is the Yukon.
The stunning, violent, perfect Yukon.