The Yukon is not the largest of Canada’s Territories. That title goes to Nunavut. It’s is not even one of Canada’s ‘big boys’, ranked ninth in size of the country’s 13 provinces and territories. But extending over 482,443 square kilometres, give or take a few, means The Yukon is plenty big enough for me. So big in fact that I can hardly believe my eyes.
Many catchy slogans have been conjured about this territory. Air North, which flies to some truly extraordinary places, came up with the brilliant “north of ordinary”. After spending an all-too-brief time in this gigantic Territory I fancy adding my own slogan: “Yukon hardly believe it!”
My wonky word play does at least capture my feelings after exploring a minute fraction of this truly stupendous landscape. My travels include more than 1000 kilometres behind the wheel, as well as flights over gigantic ice fields, above snow-clad mountains and over countless lakes, large and small, hidden deep amid vast expanses of pristine boreal forest.
The single most vivid impression, that which truly sparks the most compelling sense of wonder, is the fact that there is almost nobody out there.
The Yukon total population hovers somewhere around 37,000 and most of these territorians live either in or close to the tiny capital of Whitehorse. Which sort of leaves the rest of this amazing wilderness devoid of human habitation.
The grizzly and the black bear, the wolves and wolverines, lynx, moose, caribou, beaver, mountain sheep and myriad other creatures, large and small, essentially have the place all to themselves. Isn’t that fantastic?
I also love the frontier spirit I encounter everywhere. The Yukon inhabitants think of themselves as living a world apart from the rest of Canada and, for them, to venture elsewhere means “going outside”.
The spirit of adventure that I encounter everywhere is epitomised in this amusing child’s note I see pinned to a cork-board at Haines Junction just before I take an amazing scenic flight over the glaciers and mountains of Kluane National Park.
And now, having had the good fortune to meet Into The Arctic artist-adventurer extraordinaire Cory Trepanier while in Whitehorse and watching a presentation of where he’s been and what he’s done, I’m far too embarrassed to consider myself much of a traveller, let alone adventurer.
It also totally re-energises my sense of awe and for that alone I will forever be grateful.