Paddle and cycle in Canada's North
Title: Toronto Star
By: Crai S.
Date: May 10, 2012
Publication Type: Daily Newspaper
WHITEHORSE, YUKON-The Whitehorse pace is accelerating, and not just when racers paddle, run and pedal across the Yukon. A town that once flowed with the current of the lazy Yukon River, the territory's largest city has witnessed the completion of an internationally recognized cultural centre, a riverside amphitheatre and long-awaited wharf in this year alone. A new restaurant buzzes at nights and even Baked, the Whitehorse version of Seinfeld's diner, now has competition from several other equally sumptuous cafés. Here's a fresh basket of Whitehorse's hottest morsels. Paddle On.
Whitehorse denizens may come for the outdoors and stay for the community, but potlatches never replace paddling. Kayaks and canoes populate the Yukon River like lupine blooms during the yawning summer days. Main Street leads straight onto the $3 million Whitehorse Wharf for an easy put in.
If self-propelled water vessels dot the river, mountain bike frames glisten across the hills and valleys upon one of the most lauded trail systems on the planet. The Contagious Mountain Bike Club organizes rides and races through the boreal forests, hosting events all winter as well. KanoePeople.com. BikeYukon.com
The Music Never Stops
The Yukon has always been music country, there being no better way to entertain oneself while questing for gold or warming by the fire awaiting the Aurora Borealis? In Whitehorse, gone are the days of the flatbed truck stage as the Kluane Mountain Bluegrass Festival ( and many other events) will now reside in the brand spanking new amphitheatre, a 200-seat venue with additional lawn seating that was constructed as part of the wharf project.
Yukoners commute between Whitehorse and Dawson City, 532 kilometers away, the way most of us go on a milk run at the corner store, which may explain why everyone in Whitehorse mentions the legendary Dawson City Musical Festival as an absolute must.
"Whitehorse becomes a ghost town the third weekend in July for good reason," a local legend told me. "You just don't skip the Music Festival. Period." YukonBluegrass.com. DCMF.com
Culture in Bloom
It seems every year a First Nations cultural centre arises, each grander than the last. The Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre's takes its rightful place in this queue of aesthetically marvelous educational centres and showcases.
Designed to fit seamlessly within the Yukon riverscape, the centre contains permanent collections from the Tutchone, Tagish and Tlingit peoples of the Kwanlin Dun Nation as well as rotating exhibits like "Secrets of the Ice," a treasure trove of 220 artifacts used by ancient hunters that have only been unearthed in the past sixteen years. Available for private events, the centre will host "Frozen Pasts," the 3rd International Glacial Archeology Symposium from June 3-8. KwanlindunCulturalCentre.com
Yukon Check Inn
The Inn on the Lake sets the standard for luxury lakefront accommodations here but, like most Whitehorse amenities, this Martha Stewart recognized accommodation and restaurant has company. The Frances Lake Wilderness Lodge slips into the deciduous forest like a canoe paddle cutting through the water. Canoes, kayaks and instruction are available for all guests. Little Atlin Lodge provides an ideal starting point for the two-hour hike summit of White Mountain.
The Northern Lights Resort and Spa offers guests Finnish and infrared saunas, an outdoor Jacuzzi and full massage therapy, perfect for rejuvenating after a long hike or paddle. Sky High Wilderness Ranch invites horse lovers to experience the Yukon for half a day or ten days pack trips. Getting dizzy with options? Travel Yukon's created an excellent website to find the ideal pillow for your head. TravelYukon.com
Dine On Whitehorse
Visitors who assume remote Whitehorse to be outside the current culinary renaissance haven't sampled the baked goods and lunch specials at Baked, Chocolate Claim, Umbellula's Café or Alpine Bakery, the latter with a focus on local, 100 per cent organic ingredients.
Each establishment invites an unhurried morning or will prep a pack lunch to carry onto the trails or river. The new Cork and Bull steakhouse and oyster bar elevates dinner to a new level, though Antoinette's Food Cache and Volare remain local favorites of international and Italian cuisine respectively.
Residents may return to favorites again and again, but you'll discover plenty of choices that spread like a Haeckel Hill picnic blanket across a weeklong visit.
Rush Across the Territory
Long voyages by foot and float have long fuelled the Yukon legend. Today, Yukoners continue to celebrate travels of epic proportions. The Yukon River Trail Marathon starts and finishes in Shipyards Park, challenging runners on a cross country route around Schwatka Chadburn and Chadden lakes, into Miles Canyon and up several hills over full and half marathon distances.
The Yukon River Quest
remains one of the world's great competitive adventures, a 715 km paddling marathon between Whitehorse and Dawson City.
While unfathomable records of less than 48 hours are set annually, many individuals and groups make the sojourn less about time and more about the journey. The Kluane-Chilkat International Bike Relay covers 238 km between Haines Junction and Haines, Alaska.
Recreational and competitive teams and individuals ascend mountain passes and descend into valleys over the course of a single race day.
YukonMarathon.com. YukonRiverQuest.com, Kcibr.org
Crai S. Bower is a freelance writer based in Seattle. His trip was subsidized by Tourism Yukon.
Caption: Illustration: • Hundreds of cyclists from as far away as Denmark pour into Haines Junction every June for the Kluane to Chilkat International Bike Relay between Haines Junction and Haines, Alaska. It's a challenging race, for sure. Crai S. Bower for the Toronto Star