The Yukon Flats

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The Yukon Flats have the most varied climate in all of Alaska.  They see temperatures up to 90 in the summer and down to 70 below in the winter.  That’s a 160 degree difference!  Luckily I got to experience the higher end of this temperature spectrum.  It was in the 80s and still as can be as I paddled through the region.

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The flats are an intimidating place to travel through with innumerable islands and sloughs you lose track of the current from time to time and have to remember your geomorphology lessons to try to figure the river out (thanks Dr. Bob!).  Look for cut banks.  The current will be hitting there.  Be patient.  If you lose the current stop and pay attention.  See where your boat is drifting.

I would have loved to have tucked my maps away and just paid attention to where the current was taking me and I might have if it weren’t for one obstacle.  The whirlpool.  There is a whirlpool between Circle and Fort Yukon that can apparently take the better part of the day to get out of if you find yourself within its grasp.  I decided to avoid that one!  And stayed out of the current behind an island opposite from where the spot was marked on my map.  I would be curious to see it someday though.  Maybe from the safety of a boat with a motor.

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My first evening in the flats was so nice, I decided to set up camp early a little ways south of Fort Yukon on a good island with a beach.  A moose came crashing through my camp a couple of hours after I set it up.  I hollered at him as he came towards me so that he’d know I was there.  He ran off into the willows.

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The next morning I paddled into Fort Yukon- one of the larger villages on the river with a population of 600.  I left my kayak in a safe spot and walked into town with my backpack on.  Didn’t make it five steps before a gentleman zooming by on an atv pulled over and asked if I’d like a ride.  Sure I would!  Wow.  You don’t even have to hitch hike in Fort Yukon!

Most everything was closed since it was the 4th of July but I did find a place to fill up on water and was told that the town’s parade would be held that afternoon.  Well.  I wasn’t going to miss that!  I was able to buy myself a cold root beer, find a nice spot of shade and relax while I waited for the event to unfold.

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The parade was a festive lineup of atvs, kids riding on bicycles, a few trucks, the town’s ambulance and fire truck.  Most everything was red white and blue including the kids’ faces which had been painted with stars and stripes.

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Every single person I met eagerly wished me a “Happy Independence Day!”  I spent about four hours there and it was a very pleasant visit.

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The following days in the Yukon Flats took me past the villages of Beaver and Stevens.  One of the most exciting parts of this trip is getting to see the different outposts along the way, meeting the people who live there and finding out more about their lifestyles.

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After the Flats, the Yukon hits the road.  The Dalton Highway.  I lived on that road for a good while when I worked up at Coldfoot and it still kinda feels like home.  There is a camp at the road and I was very happy to walk in and see three familiar faces.  My friends Lacey, David and Brody!!  It’s strange and rather wonderful to suddenly be somewhere you know after so many miles of new terrain. I was able to take a shower, do laundry and enjoy a delicious hot meal at the camp and talk with friends!  After stowing my gear (thanks Brodie, Dorothy and Jeremy!) it was time to head south to Fairbanks to re-supply.  Town.  Can’t say I wasn’t excited.

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