Senior Researcher Marilyn Terrell is just back from a trip through the Yukon Territory, and she’s thrilling all of us with stories from her trip. You can read her previous entry about her Yukon adventure here.
The first few times someone on my trip spotted a bald eagle, we all grabbed binoculars and cameras. But after three days of seeing very little birdlife besides bald eagles, trip member Roy dubbed them the “pigeons of the Yukon.”
We’ve seen other species along this Great River Journey from Whitehorse to Dawson. At Lake Lebarge we heard loons on the water and spied fat grouse scratching in the underbrush. Around a bend on the Thirty Mile River we surprised a pair of trumpeter swans who took off, silently, flapping enormous white wings. At Pelly River Ranch, farmer Hugh Bradley pointed out some Yukon turkeys (sandhill cranes) in one of his fields and predicted we’d soon be seeing more. Sure enough, a squadron flew over our cabins next morning, gobbling noisily, heading south.
But we keep pushing north as the days grow shorter, the nights colder, and the yellow poplars along the Yukon River more vivid. The farther north we went the more often we saw bear scat, sometimes tinted pink and studded with seeds from the highbush cranberries, rosehips, and blackcurrants they’re stuffing themselves with these days. We picnicked on a sandbar near the Selwyn River one afternoon (above), and local hunter Brock pointed out the bear and cub tracks alongside the moose and calf tracks. No signs of a scuffle. From the floatplane one day, our guide Telek told us to look for Dall sheep, and pilot Brendan dipped his wings obligingly for a closer look at them scampering blithely along a sheer vertical rockface. I stroked a glossy wolf pelt at Pelly Ranch, the remains of an animal who killed one of the calves. At the edge of a pasture we noticed an arctic fox with a big bushy tail who hadn’t yet changed into his winter white camouflage; it probably stalking Hugh’s precious Rhode Island Red hybrids, which yield such tasty eggs at this farm, which is some 250 miles shy of the Arctic Circle and surely one of the northernmost in Canada.
After dinner last night some of our group took a skiff and went fishing in Coffee Creek (“the first time I’ve been fishing under armed guard,” declared Roy, but our guides take shotguns in case of bears).
- Nat Geo Expeditions
They brought back several hefty specimens of a fish I’ve never seen before. The French voyageurs didn’t recognize them either so they called the fish inconnu (French for “unknown”) and the name stuck. The rest of us jumped in the wood-fired hot tub, counted satellites, shooting stars and what we think was the International Space Station zipping across the Milky Way. When the planet Venus rose it was so bright we could see its reflection in the hot tub water. A chilly rain began so we ran for the cabins, and I fell asleep hoping we’d have fried inconnu for breakfast. We did, and it was delicious.
Photo: Marilyn Terrell