The day I arrived in the Yukon I saw three Bighorn Sheep, one Black Bear, a team of wild horses, two Moose, a herd of Wood Bison, nine Caribou and a Timber Wolf. If seeing all that wildlife was any indication of the wildlife I’d be exposed to over the course of a year, it was a good one.
There are five things I truly miss about life in the Yukon.
I grew up in Canadian Shield country so exploring the boreal forest was a new experience. I grew to love wild rose bushes, arctic lupine and fireweed. I can remember the magnitude of colours in the forest when autumn set in, and the fresh medicinal scent of the forest when Labrador tea, high and low bush cranberries and rosehips were preparing for winter.
It took awhile to get used to long daylight hours. In the summer, it would never get completely dark, but rather a few hours of dusk in the middle of the night. They don’t call the Yukon the “Land of the Midnight Sun” for nothing. It was amazing to watch nature develop and mature through spring, summer and fall all within three or four months instead of the five or six months I was used to in southern Ontario.
I lived in an area bordering a Kaska Dene First Nations community and there was a wonderful mix of history and culture in Watson Lake. I enjoyed going to local craft shows to see what artisans were creating, and I loved burying my head in books about stories of the gold rush from the local library. I discovered Robert Service and his poetry about the Yukon, and the book Being Caribou – Five Months on Foot with an Arctic Herd by Karsten Heuer. Caribou and life in the north took on a whole new meaning.
Most people would think I’m crazy for saying I miss Yukon’s winter, but it’s true. Winter is my favourite season, and because of that, I was able to withstand the eight months of winter that took hold of the land. The typical daytime high was around -40°C. Around winter solstice there were about four hours of daylight during the middle of the day so I went to work in the dark and I got home in the dark. But, the magic happened during daylight hours with a low sun cascading over the still and frozen land, and at night when the Aurora Borealis danced across the sky.
The thing I miss most about the Yukon is the wildlife. On the west side of Watson Lake, the Rancheria Caribou Herd wintered near the Alaska Highway and on the east side herds of Wood Bison roamed along the highway. So, in either direction, I had a pretty good chance of seeing wildlife. I would always see something whether it was a Black Bear, Moose, lynx, Grizzly Bear, Caribou, bison, Dall Sheep, eagle or fox.
Living in the north has given me a lifetime of stories and memories.
Cobi Sharpe is a photographer and outdoor enthusiast who enjoys canoeing, backcountry camping, and hiking. Her award-winning blog, Waboose Adventures, is about connecting with nature, adventures, and landscape, nature and wildlife photography.