Saturday, February 11, 2012

Yukon Impressions

Ice Road..... (Yukon Territory, Canada)
It is a journey getting from New York City to Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory.  Not as long of a trip as those who come here from Japan – often for just 3 nights – on a quest to see the Aurora Borealis.   That’s a full day of travel on each end and most come only for the lights and nothing else.

My journey has been more leisurely – 9 hours of flight time broken up by an overnight in Vancouver and another at the Gold Rush Inn in Whitehorse before the hour drive up to the Inn on the Lake at Marsh Lake where we’ve camped out in a two-bedroom apartment for the past 4 nights.  Today (2/8) was to be our last day but Nancy B (aka the B) and I have extended for an additional night so that we can enjoy the food and the great room and have one more chance to see the lights before heading off to the next leg of our journey.

Hanging On (around Marsh Lake,
Yukon Territory, Canada)
There seem to be two ways to see the northern lights here in the Yukon Territory.  One is to hunker down in a town like Whitehorse during the day and then take an excursion out to a cabin (or cabins) in the woods around 9:00 at night, returning to town at 2:00 am.  They make the cabins sound cozy and inviting – hot chocolate and snacks while you wait for the mysterious lights to appear.  Seems anxiety inducing this method of seeing the lights – waiting together in a group hoping they will appear.  And, what if they don’t show up until after you’ve gone back to your hotel – what then? 

The second way is to find someplace like the Inn on the Lake where from some rooms you can see the lights from the warmth of your bed.  Now that is luxury and if the lights don’t appear – which has been the case for three of the four nights we have been here – that is OK because you’ve got the splendor of the wilderness to occupy you outside your door during the day.

Marsh Lake on Ice
(Yukon Territory, Canada)

Carson, who owns the Inn, spotted a diamond in the rough when he brought the shell of a gigantic log cabin some 17 years ago.  It’s an imposing place with spectacular views of – and frontage – on Marsh Lake.  The day we arrived, the Inn was hosting the senior management of the town of Whitehorse on a two-day retreat where they were grappling with how best to meet the needs of the growing Whitehorse population.  Mining is seeing resurgence in this neck of the woods and the economy is booming.  The biggest issue seems to be the housing crunch – there is scant little land to build on in these parts.   Condos are one solution and others are sure to follow.   

Other guests during our sojourn have included two young Canadian couples up from Whitehorse for romantic retreats and a number of Japanese travelers who have come for the lights.  There is a trio of Guatemalan women ensconced in a cabin nearby who are here for ten days and I am sitting in the great room with a Japanese woman who started her journey around the world in October and whose next stop is Seoul, Korea.  They’ve all come to enjoy the warmth of the Inn and in search of the elusive dancing Aurora.

A snowy walk int he Woods
(Yukon Territory, Canada)
The Aurora is being shy this week – all of the scientific mumbo-jumbo about solar magnetic fields boils down to it’s just being a quiet week here in Whitehorse when it comes to Aurora sightings.   It’s funny that I could have come this far and be “ok” with the paucity of lights but I am.  My days have been filled with photography (snow is VERY hard to photograph), quiet walks, and adventures in dog sledding and later today the B and I are to go ice fishing – hopefully to catch a wild lake trout to be cooked over an open fire.

At night, we’ve been well fed by the Inn staff.  Dinner always includes a wonderful soup, a salad (last night was Meyer Lemon and cucumber in a sesame dressing) followed by a choice of main course.  So far, I’ve feasted on steak, bison stew, fish, and pork ribs.  There is always a dessert.  Lunches are equally yummy – with perhaps the best being a simple grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup.  Can’t beat that for a mid-day snack.

Life here is low-key – a well-stocked library, kayaks for summer lake explorations, and plenty of trails to hike.  Carl, Carina, Arnold, and Christian (the main Inn staff at this writing) are always accommodating – don’t want to snow mobile today, no problem, there is always tomorrow.  I could return here in other, warmer, seasons --- hiking the trails and kayaking on the lake.  Returning to the Inn for a glass of wine as the sun gently sets o’er the distant mountains.  Spring will bring the bears out from their winter hibernation and fall will bring the bright colors of the turning leaves.  And then there will be winter with its long cold nights and the potential for the dancing lights.

I can see passing this way again, yes I can.

View from the Inn (Marsh Lake, Yukon Territory, Canada)

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