After the breakup of the river, we returned to Carmacks on May 27th, accompanied by Kevin, Vincent and Sophie, 3 friends that joined us for the first weeks of this part of our trip.
The Yukon river is winding through a majestic landscape, flowing rapidly through rocky gorges, and vast unspoiled boreal forests hosting a rich wildlife. And at the same time haunted by memories of the gold rush of the Klondike.
Every day, we spotted some big game from the river. Either on the shore or on the surrounding hills or mountains. We saw grizzly bears, black bears and cubs, mountain goats and sheep as well as numerous small game and birds.
There is nothing better than drifting down this mighty river deep inside the Yukon and Alaska to truly feel and live the power of the wilderness.
There are a few rapids here and there, but all are safe, easy and fun.
The best way to avoid bear encounters is to camp on islands, which is no problem since there are plenty of them. The shores are naturally used by animals for traveling in search of food or water. Bears are very talented swimmers though...
Just as we did this winter, we were cooking our food on the camp fire. A fire makes one feel safer, gives warmth, and cooks much faster. To leave no long lasting tracks of the camp fire we usually make it on a floodable section of the island also we do not build a ring and always use very little (drift)wood.
On our 19 feet long aluminum canoe we had installed a rowrig, to have more power. The high gunwalls allowed us to be less vulnerable to bad weather and waves caused by wind and rapids.
We have met many good and friendly people in the remote First Nation and YupikEskimo villages of Alaska. It has been a life changing experience in many ways. We had no problems with bears thanks to Nanook, and arrived safely in Emmonak at the mouth of the Yukon river after 42 days and about 3500km on the river.
We had 1 waterproof container filled with food that we bought before leaving on our trip. Our food consisted of rice, pasta's, and mashed potatoes for dinner, plus some herbs, gravy and Parmesan. Cheese, bread, jam, eggs and bacon for breakfast. A mix of dried fruits, nuts, chocolate candies and granola bars for lunch. We had also a variety of teas, coffee and lemonade powder.
Whenever we reached a village we would fill up on groceries and buy ourselves a little treat. We found stores in every village we stopped. some had a surprising amount of stuff, others had very very little food in their store.
From Carmacks to Dawson City, the scenery was stunning. The river was flowing at 15km/h! Once we reached the 'flats' after Circle, Alaska, the river slowed down quite a bit, and was going 2km/h after the pipeline bridge.
First nation and other resident are actively fishing salmon for subsistence and for commercial needs. It is very common to see Fish wheels, used mostly by the Indian first nations.
Fish wheels are made new every year and consist of 2 baskets and 2 'paddles'. The fish wheel moves thanks to the current pushing the paddles. Fish are caught in the basket and go down a slide into a box. The fish are usually dried and smoked.
Getting closer to the Bering strait, people use driftnets for fishing because here the current is not strong and your fish wheel wouldn't turn.
There were villages about every 2 days. We enjoyed lots of hospitality from the Athabaskan First Nation, A quaker family, a missionary camp and the Yupik Eskimos.
In Tanana we were lucky to arrive on a traditional feast weekend. There was a big Potluck dinner, traditional dancing and singing contests, and many other traditional festivities. It was a great experience for us to see these people keep their traditions alive, and to see some traditional rituals!
Canoe, Because we were travelling with our dog, and were spending lots of time on the water, we decided we needed a sturdy canoe that was not too tippy, so we could freely move around without risk of capsizing. We bought a square end 19ft freighter canoe made by Grumman. We attached a custom made rowing attachment to it that we bought online. The canoe was great, it felt like a home on the water. We never had any water come in thanks to the spray rails, and the keel makes it super stable. In the canoe we had installed a rope attached attached at bow and stern, to this rope we attached our gear with carabiners. This way if we would capsize, our gear would stay attached to the boat, and we wouldnt' lose anything.
Gear storage, To protect our gear from the water and eventual capsize, all our gear was stored in waterproof bags and pails. We used the drybags from OR. Also we used waterproof pails from Vieux Campeur (french outdoor store), we had 3 x 68l, 1 x 3.6l and one 6.5l . One Pail contained our sleeping gear, another contained food, and another contained clothing etc. The small pails were used for gps, wallets, bear spray, flares, passports, solar panel etc. Also we had one heavy duty drybag from Vieux Campeur for dogfood. Food and Dogfood had their own pails as it is very important to have your food, dogfood toothpaste etc, FAR from your tent when camping in Bear country!
For the days off and for visiting villages, we had a small backpack with us so we could take our important belongings with us while we'd explore.
Clothing, Since we were canoeing a big river long river, we decided to take drysuits with us, in case we would encounter nasty weather or big rapids (there is one rapid called 'the rapids' on the entire yukon river that can be a challenge, but this depends on the water level). Otherwise, each had 2 pairs of Fast drying pants from Mountain equipment coop, a couple t-shirts, a goretex soft shell and thermal underwear. For raingear we used the old fahioned rubber. We were wearing rubber boots, and had brought along some sneakers for at camp and for visiting.
Sleeping, Ofcourse 'the Mammoth' our North face mountain 25 was part of this journey.
For sleeping bags we both had a down sleeping bag from the brand Pyrenex. The brand Pyrenex is from the Spanish Pyrenees and is made with local high quality duck down. These sleeping bags are over 10 years old, and they are still amazingly good.
In our sleeping bags we use Silk liners from Mountain equipment coop.
We slept on orange Thermarest prolight four season, the 3/4 length version of this matress. They do their job.
Cooking, Drinking, Washing Before leaving on this journey, we stocked up on pastas, mashed potatoes, rice, bread, jam, and all the rest of the food for at least a couple of weeks. Later on we stocked up on the necessary groceries in the villages along the way.
We cooked on fires and therefore took no cookstove. We used a kettle for tea and coffee, a frying pan for eggs and bacon, a normal pot for rice pastas etc, and a small pot for sauces and deserts.
The water of the yukon river is silty, and some villages run their sewer water into it, therefore we decided to use a 20l waterpail to store clean drinking water that we would get from creeks coming in to the river, or that we would get at showerhouses in villages. For cooking we used the river water. Wherever we go, we always have purifying pills with us, but since we're used to drinking bush water, we only use the pills if we don't trust the source.
In most villages along the Yukon river there are Washeterias, here you can do your laundry and have a shower. Otherwise, there is a big river to bathe in! (just stay very close to shore as there are lots of currents and people do drown in this river..)
Electronics, We use a Brunton solaris 12 watt solar panel and a pixo c2 universal charger to charge all our batteries. We used rechargable batteries for our headlights and our Garmin gps and had a spare battery for both our Olympus stylus photo camera and our Canon hv10 HD video camera. On this journey we also took both our Ipods, that we charged on the solar panel.