Bear Necessities of Life

Category: Wendy's Wanderings 01 November 2013

An overnight stay in Vancouver results in a barman asking incredulously ‘What on earth will you do in the Yukon for a month?’ I can tell you it is not a place for shoppers as there aren’t many!

How can I describe the Yukon? With a population the size of Sherborne in an area twice the size of the UK, the North West Territories is bordered on the west by Alaska and the south east by British Columbia. Our 1st impressions driving along the Alaska highway to our destination, unromantically named Haines Junction are of a huge majestic landscape covered in autumnal colours ranging from yellow, pink, peach, red thru to greens that against a blue sky do not seem real. Perhaps it is unfair to say it is not for shoppers because if you are into 1st Nations beadwork inspired by missionaries over a century ago, artwork in wood, hides, paint, textile, pottery then it offers inspiration fuelled by the countries seasons, landscape and wildlife.

We set up base off the highway no-one else for miles but with an average of 1 car/lorry passing every 30 minutes all is peaceful. Our host Annette like many who have visited here fell in love with the landscape and stayed. She tells us that over the last week there have been 2 grizzly bears investigating outside the cabin we are about to stay in, my smile fixed, ‘Oh joy’ I can’t say the flimsy lock on the door fills me with confidence! The views towards Kathleen lake in Kluane National Park (at twice the size of Switzerland) fill us with awe, some 1st nations still live a traditional life here not with bows and arrows but quad bikes and rifles.

Our 1st dawn shoot did not work out at Quill Creek until we stumbled across one of the said grizzly bears on the roadside opting for musili and berries. Memories of safaris in Africa come to mind with David grabbing his long lens off the back seat and saying 'Forward, backward, angle differently, no not that way'. All the while I am ready to pull out ASAP if necessary and mumble expletives under my breath at David for his impatience to ‘Get the shot’!

Autumn is rich with over 9 berries to satisfy the bears hunger, but let’s face it, it takes me a long time to pick blackberries this time of year and he must need an awful lot to sustain his hunger…….200,000 to be precise…..a day!! Blimey, I hope he doesn't have to count them too!

Later that evening we explore the surroundings of Kathleen Lake. It's the weekend and lakeside firepit’s are in use by a few people setting up picnics to eat undercover in a park provided covered room.  We are in the middle of nowhere by the lake and they are dressed for dinner in long dresses and bow ties. David and I walk past in outdoor layers with big sacks. I am not sure which of us felt most overdressed!  This is the Yukon, a country of contrasts, visual delights and constant surprises.

That night at 2 am we return to the same spot, the party goers long gone. We return to shoot the milky way in a sky of twinkling stars. I am singing all the while in the pitch black, anxious to keep Mr Grizzly at bay. We spot a shooting star and a meteor. Wow, wow and wow. But what is that unearthly neon green glowing rainbow to our right, could it be a hint of the Northern lights we have heard about? Will we be lucky enough to see them on this trip? My later research found this phenomenum to be called a quiet arc.

We return to bed at 3.30 only to rise again 2hrs later to the same spot for dawn where the sunrise paints the landscape purple and pink, a completely different scene. I suppose it is fair to say the last 30hrs makes us feel so alive, as we experience the ever changing contrasts upon the vast wilderness.

As we are self catering on this trip, my best buy from the only useful Supermarket in the whole of the Yukon in Whitehorse is a salad for 2 at $3.80 with dressing which, needs must, lasted us x3 meals the plastic covering doubling up as a container to transport a cooked frozen chili en route. Due to necessity no food shops locally and only a gas barbi on this leg for cooking, we are getting good at efficiency. It is handy that Canadian portions are so large!! Our host does her weekly shop x2 a week….2 hrs one way. Not a place for a freezer failure then! She puts her food refuse in the freezer too to deter Mr bear from investigating, one has to think laterally here. She offered to stock us up on her weekly shop to Whitehorse, a fish steak arrived as a 30cm long headless salmon……4 days later we were still eating it. It was gorgeous! I think those bear's have the right idea in regards to their cuisine.

Next month I will share with you my ethereal experience of the Northern Lights. Lost Spirits they most certainly are..] 

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David Noton Photography
Clark House
Milborne Port

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