Friday, July 15, 2011

Yukon: Yukon-Charlie National Park

Moss insulation of cabin wall
 Right after the 100-people-Yukon-metropolis-without-immigration-officer Eagle Yukon-Charlie National Park starts. The Park still causes a lot of tension: Several people are still living inside the park on subsistence fishing and although they are allowed to continue to do so, they are not very happy with the Park Rangers. So when we stopped at a fish camp to get out of the rain we were welcomed by a local who immediately told us all the bad stories about park policies. But the guy did not only talk about local politics, he had also a couple of years ago paddled the whole Yukon himself and gave us some interesting information about our upcoming trip. He stayed at the fish camp together with 21 sledge dogs who were all tightly chained up to their tiny little hut - because otherwise he would not be able to control them. Still I found this treatment very cruel - but it is standard practice all along the Yukon and we would see it several times.

Old greenhouse & meat storage
I personally really enjoyed the park, especially because of the various restored huts that are now used as public use cabins. We had a very good guidebook with maps for this section and learnt all the stories about these places and the people who had once lived there. My favorite story is the one about a German immigrant who ran a roadhouse on the Yukon together with his wife. After too much alcohol consumption he became delusional and started having nightmares about the German army invading the Yukon (this is taking place in the 1930s and 40s). Eventually he became so depressed that he decided to shoot himself - but instead of killing himself he just hurt himself badly. He was found by his wife who suffered so badly from rheumatism that she could hardly move - I guess the Yukon climate is not really helpful with this sort of ailment. Despite being in the middle of winter she got her crutches and made her way to the next neighbor who lived several miles away. The neighbor got his sledge dogs out and took the husband to the next settlement to get medical help. Unfortunately, all this proved to be too much for his poor wife and she died of a heart attack the same night. So when her husband came back from hospital he could not find her and would not believe his neighbors that she had died. He set out in a canoe to look for her and drifted down the Yukon River towards the Bering Sea - only to be never seen again. Hey, who needs TV out there when there are all these true stories around....

Public use cabin
The public use cabins turned out to be fantastic. We had lunch in the first one, a hunting hut built and used by a Fairbanks optometrist who later died from the effects of a plane crash. Next came an old subsistence fisher hut that was so inviting that we decided to stay the night. Next day we just made it to Slavens Roadhouse, another public use cabin that turned out to be the Hilton of cabins. It had two stories with 2 rooms on each floor and even had a fully equipped kitchen! Not to mention the rhubarb that was growing in front of the house that ended up in my cooking pot as rhubarb compote... And when we had just finished our Swiss cheese fondue two fellow French paddlers showed up out of the rain - but we still   each had a room for ourselves!
Slaven's Roadhouse

This first evening a torrential downpour started that would last for 24 hours. We just watched the Yukon River in amazement as it swelled more and more and every minute a huge tree trunk came swimming down the raging torrent. We were happy not to be out there and even happier to be in this fantastic hut! In the afternoon a young ranger showed up and told us the Ranger version of local park politics. At least we had a balanced view now!! The second evening ended with another rhubarb compote and a weather improvement - and on day 3 we were able to leave this fantastic place. By the way: According to our guidebook this roadhouse was once  run by a Czech immigrant called Slaven and a Mrs Bissell - an alleged ex-prostitute from Dawson City who was already past her prime. They catered for travellers on the Yukon and the people who worked the nearby gold mine. The guidebook says laconically: "Frank Slaven ran the road house - and Mrs Bissel ran Frank Slaven...." So much on women on the Yukon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You were lucky to be in luxurious comfort during the downpour.
D