Friday, June 10, 2011

Yukon: Carmacks

As you can see from this post we have survived our first days of paddling. And actually it has not been too bad.. Let's start with the good things:

The weather  has been ok. It has been a mix of short showers, overcast and cold spells as well as a lot of sunshine. It can actually be quite hot in the sun here and my face is almost sunburnt. The mosquitoes have been behaving so far, too. In the first days we saw almost none - but I had to get out my bugshirt last night eventually. We also make a lot of progress and paddlde up to 80 km per day due to the strong current. And of course the food is great, too - which was to be expected as I am cooking on a petrol stove and a new pot set.

Beach on Lake Laberge
Now the problems: The current is incredibly strong - up to 15 km/h and an average of 12 km/h. This lets us move very fast. We could just sit in the boat without paddling and still do 60 km per day. How will I ever enjoy hiking again where you only average 4 km/h with a lot of effort? The problem starts when you want to steer the boat and beach. The current is so strong that you can only beach doing a U-turn. You first have to turn the boat around and then paddle upstream against the current. Next the person in front of the boat has to jump out and secure the boat. So far we have succeded in the U-turn, but the person jumping out of the boat (which has been me so far)  does not exactly win a prize for grace and elegance. As the campsite are not very obvious from far away all those manouvers have to be very fast, too. So far we have not missed any spot but each beaching causes us a bit of a panic attack. Hopefully things will improve with more practice and slower current.

Cold forest fire
Another unexpected bad surprise has been a huge forest fire. Luckily, the Yukon River stayed open for paddling and by the time we reached the site most of the fires had already gone cold. Still it was depressing to see what huge amount of forest had burnt. We first noticed the fire on Shipyard Island, an island that served as a shipyard for steam wheelers - just as the name suggest. One old steam wheeler is left there and the fire crew was working hard to protect this heritage site by reducing the "fuel". We were told that the fire starts 8 km further downstream and would accompany us for quite a bit. This quite a bit turned out to be more than 30 km - a really depressing sight with smoldering trees everywhere.

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