One morning before we’d all gotten up, Doug was lying awake in his tent when he heard something moving around beside him. He peeked out and saw a black bear sniffing about. Not wanting to alarm anyone (or the bear) he quietly watched as it made its way around our camp and over to our tent. Just as it reached us I happened to rip out a nice loud fart, startling the bear and causing it to flee for its life. Yup, I've got skills.
On the third day of our trip we spotted some meese on the nearest riverbank. We stayed quiet as we passed and were able to get a nice, close look as they munched on some fresh leafy greens. An awesome encounter, especially for my dad’s very first moose sighting!
As we made our way around one of the many islands along the river, I looked to the right and noticed a black bear near the shore. Wanting to get a closer look, dad and I turned the canoe around and paddled against the current, slowly approaching the bear. Once we got within about 15 feet, the bear made a short charge toward us, tripping over a root and cartwheeling into the river. We quickly put on the brakes, whipped the canoe around and began to flee downstream. After surfacing, the bear swam after us for over ten minutes, until finally it changed course and landed at the end of the island. It proudly stood there watching us for another few minutes, as if telling us “… and don’t come back!!”
After a delicious spaghetti dinner, Chelsea had gathered together the dishes and made her way over a small ridge toward the riverbank. Just as she crested the ridge, she looked out and spotted a big black bear in the middle of the river, swimming toward our camp. Chelsea shouted and the bear looked up in surprise, quickly turning around to make its way back to the other side.
Wanting to take advantage of the rare opportunity to fish in some clear, fresh water, we decided to stop and try our luck at Selwyn Creek, one of the few places we managed to catch something during last year’s trip. After ten minutes without having any luck at the mouth of the creek, we braved the frigid, balls-deep wade upstream and discovered a couple slower-moving, deeper pools packed with grayling. Yay for meat!! (I guess fish counts as meat...)
To Doug’s disappointment, about halfway through the first night he woke up on the hard ground and realized his air mattress had a slow leak. Fortunately, he’d brought along an extra air mattress, just in case. Unfortunately, halfway through the second night he again woke up on the hard ground – the extra mattress also had a leak. I’ve never seen someone so happy to find fresh spruce boughs, his bed for the remainder of the trip.
After consistently rolling three or more Yahtzees per game, Sarah has officially ruined the game for me forever. Anyone want some dice?
Fancy tents, neoprene pants, cameras coming out the wazoo, epic plans to canoe to Gnome, Alaska in under 14 days … but accidentally burning their sleeping bags over the fire while attempting to dry them off. They gave us some delicious stinky Italian cheese, though, which was nice – we gave them some canned salmon and a doobie as our Canadian thanks. =)
After a rainy and miserable morning of paddling, our spirits were lifted when we saw an out of place sign nailed to a tree advertising a bakery a few kilometres ahead at Kirkman Creek. We pulled up to what looked like a hoarder’s haven and were greeted by three friendly dogs. After spending a couple minutes petting the dogs and wondering where this bakery was, a mean woman emerged from one of the shacks and tersely shouted, “DON’T PET THE DOGS!!” Apparently she didn’t want to be responsible for someone being bitten (as if those dogs could scare a mouse away). After enjoying some pie, coffee and a few brief and unpleasant exchanges with the grumpy woman, we hopped back into our canoes and agreed we were more worried about being bitten by the host than her poor dogs.
After paddling until our arms were numb for the first few days on the slower-moving Teslin River, we were content to take a bit of a break and let the current take over. We even had the wind at our backs for a good part of a day on the Yukon River, something we took full advantage of. =)
Even on the wettest of days, within an hour of making camp Doug managed to get a fire going (whether we needed it or not =P).
We weren’t sure how big a deal the rapids would be, and were a bit nervous heading into them. Luckily, they were just the right amount of big – in fact, if they were any bigger we might have tipped! Doug & I went through first and hit the main wave train just left of centre. At one point, a wave popped up from the side and nearly took us out. Shawn & Sarah went through next and seemed to find the bumpiest possible route, completely soaking Sarah and leaving their canoe half-full of water. Chels & Jim went last and, probably learning from their predecessors, avoided the worst of it. Check out the video!
Only revealed to us by the tracks all over our camp the next morning, one night we'd apparently been visited by a very curious moose. Its tracks passed inches from Doug's tent and took it directly through our cooking area. It even knocked over our dishes which we'd left out to try, somehow cracking the best one (the one that was a frisbee). Nothing a little duct tape can't fix!
After navigating the Five Finger Rapids, we rafted up our canoes and shared our survival stories while Shawn bailed out his boat. As we casually floated down the river, we glanced downstream and noticed we were quickly being pulled toward an even bigger set of rapids. Luckily, we noticed with enough time to power our way to the side and safely around them. Apparently, our navigator for the day (who will remain nameless due to respect for Jim, er, him) was on the wrong page of the map! (but I thought there was another Carmacks?!)
Photos from the Trip
- Starting at Johnson’s Crossing, we paddled & floated 368 km along the Teslin River to Hootalinqua, followed by another 416 km through Carmacks along the Yukon River to Dawson City.
- Starting on the Teslin River let us avoid the long paddle down Lake Laberge, also quickly gets you into some pretty pristine wilderness.
- We had hoped to see more wildlife (and fewer people) on the Teslin River, though our luck had us in the middle of a few other groups.
- Current on the Teslin was much slower than we were used to (especially in the beginning), meaning a couple really long & hard days to start us off.
- Campsites along the Teslin are excellent & frequent. Lots of bigger group sites with tables, firepits, etc.
- We used the Teslin River Guidebook by Len Webster, pretty easy to follow (once you figure out the wacky page numbering) & shows lots of options for camping.
- Yukon River Guidebook (by Mike Rourke) is great. Simple, clear hand-drawn maps with plenty of easy to follow detail. We would have bought Mike Rourke’s Teslin River Guide, too, if it hadn’t been sold out! Both books available at Mac’s Fireweed Books and Kanoe People in Whitehorse