“It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.”
Robert Service came to Whitehorse from Glasgow, Scotland in 1904–a banker by trade but a poet by heart. His experience in the Yukon was a stark contrast from his urban upbringing and inspired the great lyrical works you will come to love today. When in Dawson City, be sure to visit his log cabin and hear his stories told. But until that day, let us sweep you off your feet with a handful of poetic highlights to inspire your Yukon travels.
“… I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.” Our poet captures the perils of the prospectors in The Spell of The Yukon, and the hard, lonely labour of working-class miners in his smaller ballad “The Song of the Wage-slave.”
When Robert arrived in the Yukon, the initial Klondike Gold Rush was already dying down, but the miners kept forging on. New mines grew and, fortune or not, hundreds of workers flocked to the mines in the area surrounding Mayo and Keno, today known by the name the Silver Trail.
The silver mines may be gone, but you can still trace the dirt tracks to the end of the line at the charmingly eccentric community of Keno City. Unearth a deeper appreciation for the men who earned a livelihood in these hills with a visit to the Keno City Mining Museum to learn about mining antiques that have stood the test of time. You might even meet some mining locals at the town saloon before driving up Signal Hill. Once at the top, you’ll marvel at the “deep deathlike valleys” and see for yourself “…the big husky sun wallow.”
The legendary Robert Service passed away in 1958, but the torch of sharing his beautiful words with a new generation has been passed on to his great granddaughter, Charlotte Service-Longepe. Hear her unique perspective on Robert's legacy in this video, and stay tuned for Charlotte's soon-to-be-released anthology of Robert Service's best works in the near future.
“The Arctic trails have their secret tales that would make your blood run cold…”
Fear not, Yukon winters have far more to offer than the frozen eyelashes and stabbing pains of cold so captivatingly captured in "The Cremation of Sam McGee". For starters, you’ll swoon for our clear blue skies by day and mesmerizing lights by night. And with the right preparation, you can rest in the knowledge that your fate will be nothing like that of poor old Sam McGee.
Follow the legend of our narrator but with a kinder, gentler Yukon winter experience. Cross vast frozen lakes on snowshoes or skis. Discover your inner musher behind your own dogsled team. No need to endure harsh outdoor campouts at “the marge of Lake Lebarge.” Why not try one of Yukon’s many well-equipped cabins or lodges for your idyllic winter getaway instead?
As the night draws in, craft a s’more by a cozy fire as the northern lights come out to play. Later, as you fade into slumber, you may hear the sounds of sled dogs howling at those same lights. Keep your ears attuned. The wild is calling.
“Have you gazed on naked grandeur when there’s nothing else to gaze on…”
“The Call of the Wild” and the “The Remittance Man” speak to the call within us all: “And the wild is calling ... calling … let us go.” Seeping under the skin of the everyday (wo)man, the yearning to get back to nature and answer the call of the Wild is a recurring desire that still rings true for many Yukoners and visitors today: “The dizzy peaks I’ve scaled, the camp-fire’s glow…”
For those ready to answer the call, a good place to start your journey is in Kluane National Park and Reserve. Home to the biggest and mightiest of Yukon’s grand peaks, adventure seekers are rewarded with epic views from the summit of King’s Throne. Or slow your pace at Kathleen Lake and take in the majestic scenery from the peaceful seat of a canoe.
Whichever viewpoint works for you, embrace the Wild and settle into what is the Yukon way. Become your own version of the Remittance Man and find yourself happily “… signed and sealed to nature. Be it so.”
In The Spell of the Yukon, they came for the gold, but stayed for “the freshness, the freedom, the farness.” For wildlife and wilderness seekers, the spell of the Yukon is hard to ignore. So don’t! Experience Yukon’s wild places in their purest form with our fly-in northern national parks, home to arctic foxes and caribou, not to mention freedom and freshness as far as the eye can see. Or drive to the Arctic Circle on the Dempster Highway and keep your eyes peeled for 150 bird species, at home in Tombstone Territorial Park.
With so much space in which to roam, wildlife can be seen all year round across all our regions, “grayling aleap in the river, the bighorn asleep on the hill.” Of course, wild is still wild, so a sighting is never a sure thing. But if you ever have a wildlife encounter of your own, we guarantee, in the words of Robert’s spell, you’ll be “stuck on it all.”
Some tales are long, others are short, and some are more cryptic than others. But almost all capture a captivating insight into human nature. What’s your take on Robert Service’s iconic works? Answer these questions to get your poetic juices flowing.
Many of the poems talk of the trials and tribulations of surviving a Yukon winter. What’s your favourite and least favourite part of winter?
Using the verses as a source of inspiration, what makes winter (in the Yukon or elsewhere) special in your eyes?
Describing the hard work and manual labour of working in the Yukon mines laid the groundwork for “The Song of the Wage-slave.” What’s the hardest job you’ve ever had? In your eyes, is the main message of this verse relatable to those in the workforce today?
“There’s a land—oh, it beckons and beckons, And I want to go back—and I will.” What entices you most about a visit to the Yukon today?