Yukon Ingredients

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost three years since I’ve been back to the land of Robert Service and Jack London. I can still remember my childhood dream of visiting this magnificent land after reading Call of the Wild and White Fang. I even recall shivers running down my spine when I first read Service’s “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” If you’ve never heard of it I urge you to buy the recording of Johnny Cash reciting it (Amazon Music sells it). It’s a classic.

This is now my fifth or sixth visit; I can’t be sure since they have been stirred together in my mind, simmered and baked into a sweet concoction. As a travel photographer I have been many places around this world, but Yukon Territory is a place I keep returning to.

Yukon is a sturdy place, made up of individuals- and I mean individuals- who have learned to take, and mostly appreciate, what nature throws at them. Those who move here and realize that -40F is a bit nastier in the flesh than on the pages of a book, are spit back out to gentler climes. Those who have settled here understand more about life than most of us. They grok “live and let live”. Who are they to judge each other when they all have to face 60 day growing seasons if they are lucky, or burst pipes, frozen engines, and frostbite? Some day I’d like to write vignettes of the individual individuals I’ve met and made fast friends with here. They are a special breed.

I’m here for three weeks and this is what greeted me on my first trek up north from Whitehorse to Dawson City. There is a little lake, Gravel Lake, some 50 kilometers south of that famous Klondike Gold Rush town. I intended to zip past it, but I turned and by divine ordination was treated to this sight. Not a great photo, but what a treat. It was gone in seconds, but I smiled, knowing deep inside that it was nothing short of a welcome mat.

And so, despite a miserable weather forecast, I continued on a little ways on the Dempster Highway to Tombstone Park. I wanted to spend a few days there, but the weather folks were right and it rained almost all day. Photographers have to be patient if they are to be successful, so I waited it out, sitting at a lovely overlook, inhaling the rich aromatics released by the wet plants. Sure enough, the skies parted for an hour or two. I grabbed my gear and scurried around to get this shot of the late sun lighting up Tombstone Valley. I used a polarizer and underexposed 2/3 stop to accentuate the light on the birches.

Thank heavens camera adjustments are by now second nature to this old(er) photographer, because I was soaking in this unfolding spectacle. How precious nature is. I laugh when I hear young people overuse the word ‘awesome’. Let them come here and get a true understanding of the word. Yukoners get it. That’s the soul-filling ingredient that keeps them here.

And in less than an hour it was over. The rains started again, the winds picked up, and the first dusting of snow for the season hit the peaks and in another few minutes was gone.

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