Tom Roper upon arrival in Dawson City after paddling the Yukon River. (Sara Tomlinson photo)

Tom Roper upon arrival in Dawson City after paddling the Yukon River. (Sara Tomlinson photo)

Part II: An adventure paddling the Yukon River

The culmination of Tom Roper and Sara Tomlinson’s Yukon adventure

Continued from On the Ropes in the Dec. 16 edition of The Interior News.

Having relocated our camp from the historical Fort Selkirk to the paddlers’ site, we were greeted by the camp host, Mr. Trudeau, an interesting guy who had worked in the Bulkley Valley as a logger for the Hobenshields.

He had scored a job rebuilding the Fort site. There were also three paddlers, one Austrian, canoeing alone on his fourth Yukon trip and an American couple from Seattle.

The next day was raining quite hard so we were able to get to know each other a bit better as we waited out the weather in a common cabin with a wood stove. Almost got too comfortable and forgot about our journey.

That afternoon, though, the rain stopped and we pushed on. The summer days are long up north and we were able to cover some pretty good ground (actually water). The river is moving along at a good clip and you are always studying the water for the best channel and where to take out for the evening camp. By the end of each day my eyes were tired out.

We did not see the Austrian again but did run into the American couple at a strange place downstream. The sign said ‘CAFE ” and it was hanging on a tree somewhere around where the settlement of Stewart had been.

Most of that community has been washed away from the many floods over the years. The cafe was along a side channel and the buildings looked as if they had been around for quite a while.

We beached the canoe and there were our American friends, Jo and Joe. It was fun to run into someone you know and we exchanged stories from our previous two days. Seems the night before a bear had turned up in their camp and attempted to get into their bear barrel food containers.

There were several punctures but the barrels had done their job.

Next, we got our order in and it seemed the owners of the cafe were a bit bushed with a take it or leave it attitude. Even when Sara attempted to pet the dog, it tried to bite her.The old gal cook was frying the hamburgers with a smoke in her mouth and the half inch of ash dropped into the pan. Oh well, it’s hard to complain when you are lost somewhere along the Yukon River.

Back on the river we split up with our new friends and promised to catch up again in Dawson City. They had left their vehicle in Carmacks and needed a ride. Could we drive them? For sure, see you later.

The next couple of days were pretty special for us with the only incident occurring when the White River entered the Yukon. We ran aground, spun around and struggled to get free.

Fortunately, we did and avoided capsizing. The water is too cold and fast to be falling in. Each night we found special sites to set up camp, get a fire going and just enjoy the solitude. Each morning we woke up and thanked our lucky stars the canoe was still there.

We developed a love affair with that boat and always were hoping a bear or a moose would not step into it in the middle of the night.

We did see a barge plying the waters, hauling for the miners that had gold claims on every creek. That barge could save our bacon if necessary but we wanted to complete the run on our own power.

The last day was another 50 kilometres with a serious storm pulling up behind us. Sara was driving hard in the bow and wanted side mirrors to see if the sternman was really paddling or just running rudder.

Finally, we heard something, trucks. We were closing in on the finish line. There was Dawson and a feeling of elation and accomplishment settled over us as we paddled past the confluence of the Klondike.

We had done it, one of our epic-to-us trips and doable for most if you like that kind of fun.

Our American friends arrived later that evening and we all celebrated with a great Greek dinner and a bit of wine.

Then on to the last leg of the journey, heading home.