I didn’t know much about the Yukon. But I loved camping, mountains and fresh air. To me, it was an exotic choice, a destination every Canadian should tick off their list. It had been on my mind for a long time, without really knowing why. And so came the time to find out… As my obsession grew, so did my plans. Why only go “visit” this vast territory? Why only go camping? It seemed anything was possible up there.
The Yukon felt like home before I even left home. It felt like the perfect gift to myself before I even had my birthday. And it felt like exactly what I deserved, or needed, for my thirtieth celebration on this planet. So a simple visit and camping became canoe-camping up the Yukon river. It turned into a flight in a tiny sea plane. Then it involved fishing, kayaks and hot springs. And huskies too. It was all there, accessible and beautifully offered to us by the kind souls of the North and Mother Earth herself. The Yukon was welcoming us, with opened skies and endless opportunities.
It was, really, larger than life. But surprisingly it’s not the breathtaking views that left the biggest impact in my heart. Nor the moose, the owls and the wolverine we were so lucky to see. And not even the kindness of everyone in the North, or my first ever twenty-four hour daylight. It was the life I had there, even if only for a few days. It was the peace of mind I found in only worrying about the simple needs: eating, safety and shelter.
It seemed the rest of the world didn’t matter anymore. All we needed was edible food, a safe campsite and the visual confirmation we were making progress up the river. Every day, we were analyzing our detailed map and setting new goals. We were throwing lines to catch fresh fish. We were packing and unpacking our canoe and kayaks. We were inspecting each campground and lunch spot for traces of grizzly bears. We had each other’s backs. We happily set up camp in our new magical spot every night. Happily cooked meals together. Happily watched the sun briefly hide below the horizon. Yes, we had found happiness.
Moreover, we did not need to think of mosquitoes. We did not need to fear the darkness. We did not need to worry about noisy neighbours. Because none of that existed on the Yukon river. We did come across other explorers, of course, but the river was still ours to conquer. We were venturing through nature and history. We were feeling the warmth of the sun and the intrigue of old wrecks. We were amazed by the wilderness and the traces of the gold rush… We were one with our environment. One with the Yukon.
Everyday we were working our bodies and earning the food we took from the planet. Whether we fished it out of the river or carried it with us from Whitehorse. Everyday we practiced patience looking for a safe landing, for a flat and comfortable campsite; patience with each other, and with ourselves. We were experiencing calm and excitement; serenity and adventure.
Every morning we were opening the doors of our tents to the real world. A world filled with beauty, nature and adventure. A world where peace, success and happiness were entirely up to us. We were our own society standards, we had our own expectations, and we had our own dreams. No one else had a say in our choices, our decisions. It was a refreshing kind of freedom. The kind that marks your heart for a very long time. The kind that makes you never forget the Yukon.
And then it makes you wonder what it is that everyone means when they talk of “going back to reality”? Perhaps they don’t know. If they did, they might all come here. To the Yukon, where it is all rightly put into perspective.