The Trek Begins
The Trek Begins
The trek begins.
"We had 3 days to make it from Skagway to Bennett via the Chilkoot Pass. We faced all weather conditions carrying 80-90lbs, with my kit being the heavier due to Sean’s injured knee, travelling through temperate rainforest up into arctic tundra and then back down through the Boreal Forest. The terrain was tough with rocks, vines and roots and we were constantly on the look out for bears and moose (which can be equally dangerous). Our feet were on fire due to the pace we needed to keep to make sure we arrived in time to pull our kayaks off the train. If we missed them then they’d be gone, challenge over!
With 40 minutes to spare before the train arrived, we got into Bennett. The 49 mile hike had kicked our arse before the boat shenanigans had even begun! It was definitely a taste of what was to come.
We offloaded the boats and began to pack. 50m away from us a giant brown bear came into sight. It was a reminder of the dangers we faced but luckily it was too busy feasting on berries this time to be concerned with us. It was great to get in the water and begin. We had a decent breeze behind us and a gentle flowing sea to push us along. That changed after an hour to a strong wind and bigger seas. It was hard to control our 17.5ft long boats in the conditions and we were getting drenched by waves coming from behind. After a few exhausting hours we pulled into an island to camp for the night. After a quick check for bears we inspected the boats. Both had taken on water but Sean’s was considerably more flooded due to his rudder falling off. We temporarily fixed the rudder in place but it didn’t stop the flooding. A first set back, but we kept pushing forward.
The following morning we got up, had breakfast and left the island. Winds were strong and a storm was heading in! Bennett Lake is bigger than the UK’s biggest lake which can make it a nightmare to navigate across. It’s also glacial so if you’re in there for too long you won’t last long. We had to hug the shore for safety as we were getting battered and every hour or so we’d have to go in and empty Sean’s boat then try and fight our way back out into the lake. Just after midday (4 hours of paddling) we made Carcross, a town at the end of the lake where we got a coffee, burger skipped, instead opting for some duct tape to fix Sean’s boat with.
After a break, we set off for Tagish lake through a small channel called Nairn’s River. Once we hit the lake we had big seas again smashing us! This continued for 10 hours as we battled to stay on track with timings. We drove through the weather and passed safely through the Tagish Narrows, stopping at a campsite in Tagish at 2330 that night. Approximately 15 hours of paddling that day through high winds, constant rain and big seas - we were saturated! A very kind old couple from Canada allowed us to sit by their camp fire and fed us hot chocolate and hotdogs after which we pitched our tent in the pouring rain and passed out for the night!
The following morning was clear so we headed off into Marsh Lake, the biggest of the three we had to pass through before the Yukon River began properly. It was like glass and the conditions were sweet for paddling. We stopped after 5 hours on a beach and made coffee and sat in the sun for a bit. We headed out and after 5 hours we reached the Yukon River! Looking up to the skies, we saw bald eagles patrolling the air, an unforgettable sight. Eyes back on the water, the pace quickened as we got into the flow of the river but we still paddled for a further four hours till we found a suitable sand bar where we set up camp, had our evening meal and saw a local beaver cutting about being busy. We settled in for an eventful night. We thought we could hear bears creeping about in the woods surrounding us which is always unsettling, slept with one eye open and a can of bear spray in hand. We got up to discover Sean’s sleeping mat had cracked in the night which made the sound of branches breaking, or bears moving in the woods!!!
After being shaken up by a sleeping mat, we set off for the Whitehorse hydroelectric dam. We had easy flow and great weather for 3 hours then we hit the very quick flow of Miles Canyon which was awesome. Once through the canyon we had to paddle a small lake to the dam. Once at the dam it was a mile portage over land first taking the kit then the boats, so 3 miles and 1.5 hours later we were headed into very fast flowing water! My back end was pushed out as I was going down mini rapids backwards that soon (with wide eyes) got rectified to look behind me and see Sean pushed onto shallows behind me by the rapid flow. The last I saw was Sean trying to shuffle off the ground back into flowing water like a beached whale. All sorted it was a quick 5 minute paddle/drift into Whitehorse for food, repairs and a hotel for the night to recharge!"