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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

The Yukon

October 2nd, 2013 · 3 Comments

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En route to Alaska I traveled for four days and nights through an even wilder place, the Yukon Territory of Canada. The Yukon has always symbolized the North for me even more than Alaska does for many people. Alaska is indeed America’s frontier, but the Yukon has even fewer people.

While about 730,000 people live in Alaska nowadays, the population of the Yukon is about 34,000 of which two-thirds live in the capital city, Whitehorse. In land area, the Yukon is about the same size as Spain, where more than 47 million people live.

Just before arriving in the Yukon, I took a short detour to Liard River Hot Springs in the far north of British Columbia. I like hot springs, and birds like them too.

Even though the bird I photographed there is clearly a woodpecker, I had a hard time identifying it. Nothing called a woodpecker that is ever seen wild in northwestern Canada has a red throat. Finally, I realized that while it is a woodpecker we name it something else. If they had asked me, I would have named it a Red-throated Woodpecker.

This Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Spends the Summer in Canada

This Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Spends the Summer in Canada

Click on the picture above to enlarge

I arrived on June 22 in Watson Lake, which with a population of 802 is the third biggest city in the Yukon. My accommodation for the night was the “Air Force Lodge.” Built in February 1942 for U.S. Army Air Corps pilots, the current owner has modernized the rooms. They are spotless and warm, but no bigger than what the pilots had. In fact, my room was about 6 feet by 10 feet, equivalent in size to the room I had when I was a student at the University of W├╝rzburg many years ago.

While my arrival came after the summer solstice, it was the longest day of my life. Here more than 60 degrees north latitude, the sun rose at 4:10 a.m. and didn’t set until 11:03 p.m., making it almost a 19 hour day. The good thing is that I wasn’t tempted to get up before sunrise for photography.

The next day I crossed the Continental Divide, which at 3,200 feet is lower than the lowest point in Colorado. But in my estimation I had arrived in the Northwest. I have a perhaps irrational belief that the West starts at the Continental Divide. The fact that Boulder lies just to the east of it is to my mind the worst thing about my home. Boulder lies at the end of the High Plains, which makes for an easy street layout but little else. Oh, well, no place is perfect.

As I drove further west and north from Watson Lake I began to see more wildlife along the Alaska Highway, including grouse, many bison, and my first two bears of this trip.

A Female Dusky Grouse Spreads Her Wings to Attract My Attention Away from Her Chick

A Female Ruffed Grouse Spreads Her Wings to Attract My Attention Away from Her Chick

Click on the picture above to enlarge
A Bison Takes a Dust Bath

A Bison Takes a Dust Bath

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This Big Black Bear Was More Afraid of Me Than I Was of It (But I Was in my SUV)

This Big Black Bear Was More Afraid of Me Than I Was of It (But I Was in my SUV)

Click on the picture above to enlarge

A couple of hours after seeing this bear, I arrived in Whitehorse. With a population of more than 23,000 people, Whitehorse is the largest city in all of northern Canada. It even feels like a city. While it’s not beautiful, Whitehorse isn’t junky either, which sadly is the case for almost all small settlements in the north that I have seen.

While I was in the territorial capital, I went out to see if I could find any white horses. I failed, and later learned that the city’s name comes from the White Horse Rapids in Miles Canyon on the Yukon River that flows through Whitehorse. Somebody with a better imagination than mine thought that it resembles the mane of a white horse.

During the last two days of my visit to the Yukon, I stayed in a funky little resort. The Burwash Landing Resort is less than a mile from the Alaska Highway at the side of Kluane Lake, which is immediately to the east. Kluane means big fish lake in the local Indian language, and the way to pronounce it is clue-AH-ne. Just to the west is Kluane National Park and Preserve.

This a small, family-owned resort couldn’t be more different than the three-story Ramada Inn that I stayed at the night before in Whitehorse. The elderly gentleman who has run the resort for more than 30 years is so nice, and I was such a pain.

First, I noticed that my room had no way to control the heat. Hot water can circulate through baseboard pipes, just like I have at home. When I asked the owner about heat, he said that the weather was so warm that he didn’t plan on turning it on. Instead, he loaned me an electric heater. Then, as I answered my email, I noticed that my breathing was getting more and more difficult. Earlier, I had seen a cat curled up on a chair in the lobby, and knew that it was the cause of my problem. I found the owner, who was busy watching a ice hockey contest. I told him my problem and suggested that I move to one of the cabins away from the main building. He immediately agreed, and my breathing soon returned to normal.

Kluane National Park and Preserve: The South End of the Lake and the Mountain Range

Kluane National Park and Preserve: The South End of the Lake and the Mountain Range

Click on the picture above to enlarge

The Yukon has a whole lot of water. The rivers and lakes are huge and many. Kluane Lake streches for about 40 miles along the Alaska Highway and is the largest lake in the Yukon. With an area of 150 square miles it is bigger than Utah Lake.


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Posted in: Photography

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 JOHN GOODWYN // Nov 2, 2013 at 10:03 am

    Thanx for sharing David

  • 2 MARGE Gledhill // Nov 2, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    All your pictures are beautiful and I so enjoy seeing
    and reading about them. God Bless and keep up
    the good work.
    Your aarticles about diabetes are great–thanks a

  • 3 David Mendosa // Nov 2, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Dear Marge,

    Thank you for your kind comments on my photo essays and my articles on diabetes!