Friday, May 28, 2010

Yukon Territory, Third Time

We left Skagway, Alaska this morning and re-entered the Yukon Territory for the third time. Crazy geography and political boundaries up here!  This is our last stretch in the YT before we spend more than two straight weeks in Alaska.  We drove only 3 hours to Whitehorse, the largest city in the YT and settled in at a nice campground that is more than a gravel parking lot – it has trees separating each space – lodge pole pines and some deciduous trees we don’t recognize.  We passed the afternoon in and around Whitehorse. 


We spent an hour touring the S. S. Klondike, a 250-foot stern wheel river boat that plied the waters of the Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson City for 26 years until 1955, along with more than 200 other paddle wheelers which provided the only transportation in this area before there were roads. Commercial freight and vacationing passengers were both carried on the Klondike, along with thousands of cords of wood to feed the steam engines with another log every 30 seconds round the clock. The journey took 1 ½ days going downstream, 4 ½ days upstream. 


Later in the afternoon we drove out to Miles Canyon for a trail walk and unexpectedly watched more than a dozen older teenage boys goading each other into jumping off a suspension bridge 50+ feet above the water. We were surprised they were behaving intelligently enough that 4 of the 6 who ultimately jumped wore life vests. The water had to be freezing cold as it is snow melt, and ran swiftly through the canyon with steep walls that made it difficult to clamber back out of the water. Note the young man doing a back flip in the middle of the photo below.


We were not even mildly tempted to engage in such rash behavior, though we have at least two children and one son-in-law who we suspect would do it in a heartbeat. (They’re the ones under age 25, whose brains have not matured to the point they fully understand risk. Hey, this is scientific research, not just parents talking!)

Lastly, an observation: the people here in the northern segments of North America, as we get to know more about them, seem increasingly different to us from folks from the lower 48  in the U.S. in some ways we admire, even if we can’t imagine living their lifestyle.  They’re much more “outdoorsy” and active, appear quite a bit healthier and slimmer (on average), have great sprits of adventure, travel much more than most folks from the U.S., and tend to have jobs/careers that would seem “odd” to lots of folks from the U.S.  Most of the ones we’ve met have jobs with a seasonal component dictated by the harsh winters – logging, fishing and tourism. They seem to work extraordinary hours – 80 to 90 per week – during the 5-to-6-month work season of May through September or October, then work much less or not at all during the other half of the year. They often travel to warmer climates, especially south of the equator, during the winter months, even if only for a month. Exceptions to this lifestyle include government workers and those in the teaching or health professions, or those who run businesses catering to a local population, but these are in the minority. These folks seem much more “connected” to the variables and vagaries of Nature and know how to survive with much less modern, mechanized support than the typical urban dweller in the U.S.   We admire their independent spirits, hard work, and do-it-yourself capabilities.

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