Secret tales from the Arctic trails

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February 23rd 2011
Published: April 11th 2011
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My first views of Whitehorse were glimpses I stole out the airplane window--I was in an aisle seat. We flew into Whitehorse on a winter's afternoon, when the late afternoon sun was bathing the snow-covered mountains in that winter light that is both warm and cold at the same time.

When I think of the Yukon in the winter, I think of Robert Service and "The Creation of Sam McGee:"

There are strange things done
in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights
have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

I also think of the art of Ted Harrison, who called Whitehorse home for many years. Even in the winter, he sees, and paints, extraordinary colours in the Yukon.

It's hard to see the Northern Lights from inside Whitehorse, especially if they're not active. I get text messages about aurora activity, and there was a "storm" the night before I went to Whitehorse, and another one for several days after I left, but nothing while I was there.

I was in Whitehorse for a geology workshop, but in the evenings and on the spare days I had several opportunities to sample the products from the Yukon Brewery. I've been a fan of craft beer for a while, but I'm a full convert now. Not only were there no unpleasant after-effects from indulging for five days, their beer just tastes amazing. Of course the best ones are not bottled for distribution outside of Whitehorse, but I am happy to report that I can get everything they bottle in Calgary.

We happened to be there in the lead-up to Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous, which meant that we caught one night of the "Sourdough Sam" competition. We arrived at the saloon too late for the strip tease, but still caught some of the competition for that night. In fact, as part of the contest, I got a kiss from a leprechaun who ended up winning the Sourdough Sam competition a few days later.

One of the great things about visiting Whitehorse in the winter was the opportunity to check out the cross-country skiing in the area. On one of our spare days we headed out for a few hours to enjoy the spectacular trails and the fresh air. Contrary to what you might expect, Whitehorse was actually warmer than home (if only by two or three degrees C) the entire time I was there!

I loved Whitehorse, and I hope I'll be back there someday, whatever the season.

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