I’m flying in a light plane over Tombstone National Park in Canada’s Yukon territory headed for the Arctic Circle.
Halfway there, as I’m staring out over the craggy snow capped peaks, the pilot mentions, almost as an afterthought, “We’ll have to land on the Dempster Highway”.
“Don’t worry, it will be fine”, he assures me. “There are signs on the highway warning trucks to look out for planes.”
I’m flying with pilot Dave on a Tintina air special charter flight. My mission? To land at the Arctic Circle for the Solstice, the longest day of the year when it’s never dark.
Seeing my worried face he adds. “There’s always a gap in the traffic and most of them know to look out for planes landing. I’ll just do a couple of circles to make sure there’s no trucks.”
The words of a sage and toothy old Yukoner that I’d met in Dawson City earlier at The infamous Pit Bar, come back to haunt me: ‘Helen Keller says life is nothing, if not a daring adventure”. Those are words to live by in the Yukon and possibly die by.
I should have expected it. I’ve come into The Yukon, into the wild, where anything is possible in a place that seems populated by crazy buccaneers.
I’ve come here because of my obsession with the book Into the Wild. A 1996 non-fiction book written by Jon Krakauer about Christopher McCandless’ journey into and ultimate death in the wilderness, that was made into an impactful movie starring Emile Hirsch.
It’s the same pull that drew McCandless Into The Wild just over the border in Alaska, where the landscape is equally as harsh.
Call of the Wild
Jack London also wrote about it in Call of the Wild. The log cabin where he lived after joining the Klondike Gold rush, in Dawson City, where I’ve just come from.
That wilderness and sense of freedom pulls you in. It’s a feeling of being away from everything. Of being dwarfed by the scale of nature.
All those twitterings, traffic jams, scrambling to make a living just seem to melt into total unimportance when you are faced with the sense of being one with the natural world. And that sense of place and spirit is strangely calming and comforting.
I’m jolted back to reality by the sound of the wheels coming down. “Buckle up” says Dave, “we’re going in.”
The landing goes well – miraculously the trucks make way for us – and half an hour later I’m standing at the signpost marking the Arctic Circle on the Dempster, otherwise known as Yukon Highway 5, the highway that leads through the Arctic Circle from Dawson City to Inuvik.
At this time of year you can be sitting outdoors in full sun at midnight. Come winter time here, it would be pitch black.
That’s when you can hole up in a wilderness tent used by gold prospectors and trappers, warmed by a wood-fired barrel stove, and watch the multi-coloured Aurora Borealis streak across the skies.
Land of the Midnight Sun
Right now though it’s 9pm and still as bright as midday. It will remain full sun here till midnight and then twilight or white light until morning. This is the Land of the Midnight Sun.
I’m close to the Alaskan border on a seemingly endless highway that runs from Dawson to Inuvik. Somewhere in the distance is Old Crow.
I quietly congratulate myself on coming this far – into The Yukon, into the Wild. I’m normally a luxe kind of girl but this is pretty special in a raw natural kind of way. One of those experiences I’m no going to forget for a while.
Looking for more to do in the Yukon?
Sample Yukon delicacies under the midnight sun at the Yukon Culinary Festival in July/August.
The festival features cooking demonstrations, community markets and culinary competitions, including the Bannock vs. Sourdough contest, to promote local food and products.
Activities will include farm tours, food events and cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs Christian Pritchard and Ted Reader.
Arctic fish and fireweed, the territory’s official flower, from which divine jams are created. The region is also famous for its root vegetables, made sweet from their home in the cold soil.
For more ideas on what to see in the Yukon go to Travel Yukon. For more ideas on what to do in Canada see Best of Canada.