Sea Kayak on a River
There are a hundred different ways to paddle the Yukon. Since I was solo and wanted to be light and fast, I decided on a sea kayak. Other soloists I met used canoes and did quite well, so its just a matter of preference.
I used a plastic (polymer) 17′ Necky Looksha. It was a great boat. The seat was comfortable and I never once got a hole despite all the rocks I dragged it over. At first I thought it was tippy but I just needed to learn how it handled. It was a little short, however, for my 6′ frame. I wasn’t able to use the rudder as my legs were much longer than the peddles. But I managed. I bought the kayak from Kanoe People in Whitehorse. Speaking of Kanoe People; everyone there was very helpful, both on the phone and in person- even going so far as to pick me up from the airport. The cost of the kayak was about the same as it would have been in the states and I didn’t have to pay to ship it from Colorado. Another advantage of buying from Kanoe People is the store sits directly on the bank of the Yukon! So, get all your supplies and groceries in Whitehorse, head to Kanoe People, drag your boat to the river, AND LAUNCH! Easy.
Kayak touring is like lightweight backpacking- you have very limited room to pack all your stuff. So before you leave home, make sure you have exactly what you need and not a smidgen more. I had to paddle with a backpack strapped to the outside behind me. It worked, although self rescue would have been more difficult.
Lets talk about water purification.
We all know about Giardia- the dreaded “Beaver Fever”.
I used Aquamira which is a two part solution you mix together. It tastes great and kills everything. I boil the water I use for dinner so no Aquamira used there.
Here’s the issue you’re going to have; the Yukon is dirty! Not dirty as in poopy, dirty as in silty. Silt won’t hurt you but dirt in your food isn’t very fun to eat. I used a six liter, MSR dromedary. When I came across clear creek tributaries, I’d stop and fill up my dromedary and water bottles. This gave me enough water for a couple days of silt-free cooking. Easy. On rare occasions you might not find a clear running stream. If this is the case, just boil some silty Yukon water, then let it sit for an hour. The silt will naturally separate from the water. Pour the clean(er) water into a bottle for use later and dump out the silt which now sits at the bottom of the pot. I’ve always been told you can just let the water sit in a pot and it will naturally settle. This is true but it takes days! You need to boil the water, then let it sit! Boiling is the key to make the silt separate!!!
Bears! Oh My!
Camping in bear country can be scary and exhilarating. I prefer to be exhilarated. Plan ahead and you too can be exhilarated!
Canada does not allow the possession of pistols and getting a rifle or shotgun into the country can be a pain. Instead, get bear spray. You can acquire it in Whitehorse at Canadian Tire. Yes, they sell more than just tires! Actually, Canadian Tire is the best outdoor store in Whitehorse! Who knew?! Anyway, you will have to ask for the spray as it is locked behind a glass case. They will ask if you plan to cross the border into Alaska. The answer to this question is ‘NO’ as they won’t sell it to you if you say ‘YES’. By the way, no one in Alaska gives a hoot if your undocumented bear spray sneaks silently across the border.
Bear Barrels. I hate these things. They’re heavy, won’t hold more than seven days of food, and they sure as heck won’t fit in a sea kayak. I’ve used Ursacks before but they are expensive, and I feel like a bear would just squeeze my food out like toothpaste. When I’m traveling alone, or in areas of high concentrations of bears, I don’t cook where I sleep. I’ll stop about 5pm, cook a meal, then head downriver for another hour or so and camp there. In my opinion this is the best advice. Don’t cook where you sleep and keep food smells to a minimum! Bear barrels were designed to keep the bear from getting your food. But then bear gets hungry and decides to eat YOU instead. Wouldn’t it be nice if the bear ate the food instead of you? I sure think so.