Note: This is Devon's account of the trip. For a different viewpoint of the same trip and photos have a look at Stephen's version.
I finished my Physics exam at 3:05 and by 3:15 we were off. We packed up at Ben's and set off northwards. Andrew, who had seemed shy on the day Dad had picked up the boys, seemed to abandon this and demonstrate a phenomenon that I will call Undrainable Battery Syndrome (UBS). Wesley pulled out his humungous CD collection and kept us listening to music all the way to Whitehorse and back. We managed the first night to get to Burns Lake, and pulled in late at a KOA (Kampground of America). The Scouts had their tent up and decorated before we had our poles out and we girls realized that there would have to be some improvement on our side if we were to assert feminine supremacy. The "Kampground" had a beautiful bathroom, complete with showers, which we girls used, thinking wistfully that these would be some of the last we would get to use.
We left the Kampground the next morning with some debate over whether or not we should pay. The main office had been closed when we arrived, and we saw no signs of habitation in the morning, but as we were all Canadians we shoved the money under the door. That day we drove and drove. We were all pretty sleepy and Ellen and I kept dozing off, much to Andrew's annoyance. He himself dozed off for all of 15 minutes but denied later that he'd actually been asleep. We stopped in the afternoon at a glacier that came down into a lake. While the main party was content to stay at the top of the long, steep, rocky ridge on the shore of the lake (facing the mighty glacier), Andrew felt compelled to climb, Gollum-like, up and down the bank. He showed, however, no signs of being tired out by this exercise and stayed awake until we got to our next campsite just outside Dease Lake. On the way to Dease Lake, Ellen got bitten in the corner of her eye as we waited outside for a pilot car. It swelled up like a pumpkin (although slightly redder) and did not go down until about the third day into the trip. We also stopped at a restaurant for dinner. This place was recommended to us by our guide, Ben, who was the only adult who had been up north before. The food turned out to be good, but the staff were rather interesting. One guy had extremely unrealistic-looking false teeth which had the entire girls' end of table laughing to the other end's bemusement. The walls were covered with modge-podged puzzles which were made by the new American owner, whom we had actually met at the road delay earlier. There was no door, just a beaded curtain, the woman who took our order looked like she'd need to shave soon, and the clientele kept wandering in and out of the kitchen to say hi to the waitresses. That night we were closer to the Scouts in the tent construction, but we had to fight with our poles, one of which was duct-taped and splinted with a tree branch. Dad promised that he had bought a kit with which to repair it, but he had yet to attempt this, so that we really can not be judged by our performance in this matter until much later in the trip.
I washed my hair in the admittedly cold creek in the morning, much to the amazement of my Ontarian cousins, who turn out to have a low tolerence for cold water. We set off again with Whitehorse finally the day's destination. Our truck had been following Ben for the whole trip, in his green Echo (fondly nicknamed Dory after the scatterbrained Finding Nemo fish because of its tendency to take off at high speed and make sudden, unpredictable course decisions). Our vehicle was getting rather tired of this arrangement simply because it was almost insulting for a 3/4 ton diesel Chev pickup with a tough-looking windshield to be at the mercy of this pint-sized, fuel efficient little Echo which we could have run over without shifting down. Andrew had brought with him a plastic mini license plate which featured the message 2 Fast 4 U. Our convoy stopped at one point to discuss the route, and our crowd noticed that we were positioned so that we would be able to get back onto the highway first. We therefore encouraged Andrew to display this sign right before Dad got back into the vehicle so that we could leave them in a satisfactory cloud of dust and fury. Unfortunately, just as Dad had resumed his seat, and we had flashed our message, Dad decided it was time to let Wesley drive. The Echo burned rubber and flew onto the highway in a cloud of dust. It took Wesley a while to find his way around the gear box, so that by the time we got on the highway, the Echo was no longer in sight. Wesley, however, made up for this by driving as if he were back in Ontario (120 km/hr) and caught the Echo just as the girls mounted their own sign in the back window. We couldn't make it out, and so were forced to move closer. As Wesley got closer and closer to their bumper, you could see the girls' eyes grow bigger as they realized that it was no longer turtle-Ted driving. We could almost hear them as they turned around in panic, telling Ben to drive faster. We arrived in Whitehorse and checked into our hotel around 4:30. The rooms were sauna-like and there was only one fan; it was 40 degrees outside and the heat was on inside. There was one tiny window that opened about an inch. We had the fan on full blast and were just barely surviving by watching the MTV Awards. Unbeknownst to us, Wesley snuck in and put a soaking wet washcloth over our fan in an attempt to cool off the air. What he did was block off all air flow completely so that we almost stopped breathing before we noticed what had happened. Ben and Ted went off to meet Steve and Carol, friends of Ben's who were to accompany us down the river. Dad left me his credit card and told us to feed ourselves. Since the closest eatery was McDonalds we decided that we all felt like McDonalds. The Ontarians were disgusted with us and walked the extra 200 metres to Boston Pizza. Ellen would not go out even with her sunglasses on because her eye had swollen shut and she was embarassed to be seen. Kym, who had been complaining violently about the heat in the room since we got there decided that hot as it was, she couldn't actually leave the room. After dinner we watched Smoke Signals (ask Andrew) and commandeered a little room service boy to do our every bidding. He brought us, in turn, a cot, the last fan in the building (which had two fans on it), toilet paper, and extra towels. He got a glimpse of Kym on his first visit and was very obliging up until his last delivery, when Ben answered the door and took the towels, instead of Kym. We survived that night by using bucketfulls of ice from the ice machine, enjoying the last ice we would have for a week.
We ate breakfast at the restaurant and then went to the Kanoe People HQ. Andrew finally got to buy himself a Fox 40 whistle that he had talked about having forgotton all the way up to the Yukon. I don't believe he ever actually blew it. The Kanoe People had messed up completely, and even though we had confirmed and our name was written on the blackboard, we were told that they had no driver for us. They did have a van, which they obligingly drove out front for us and allowed us to pack. Eventually we got a guy from Quebec with hair reminiscent of the Honeycombe porcupine. We were three to a seat in the sweltering van, which was not good for me because there were only two air vents. Andrew took over one and Kym the other, so that I was forced to keep switching Andrew's to point at me in order to stay alive. This for some reason ticked him off when he would, after 10 minutes or so, realize that I'd done it again without his noticing. We eventually got to Johnson's Crossing where the Honeycombe man took a shine to Ellen as we unloaded the vans and canoes. When she offered to help him carry one down to the water he said in his french accent "Oh, are you what they call a strong woman?" Ellen denies that this means anything, but he also spent 10 minutes talking to her, while the rest of us unloaded. All he said to me was that it was stupid to bring bug spray because after two days I would stink so badly that they wouldn't bite me anymore. We paddled a good 50km that day on slow moving water. When we had gotten to where the camp site should be (according to Steve's GPS computer) we girls started getting grouchy. The intrepid leaders of our expedition were not helpful. They kept leading us into swamps looking for non-existent camp sites, finding rotten cabins, admiring them and then, finding the traffic jam behind them, asking why we had all followed them in. Finally, we found the campsite. Ashley nearly refused to sleep there at all because we had to be within sight of an old miner's grave. The mosquitoes were horrible. We girls went to set up our tent, the pole of which Dad had fixed in Whitehorse. Unfortunately, some unknown person had gotten into the box and cut the string in one of the poles so that when we took it out it fell to pieces on the ground. Dad took it off and fixed it, then he and Andrew kindly set up the tent. Perhaps exhausted by the effort (our tent is a lot bigger than the Scouts'), they failed to notice that the door was wide open. Ellen and Kateri went back and killed all the insect life which had gotten in, leaving a crunchy graveyard on the floor. From that moment on they became obsessed with keeping the door closed. Ben made a little roof out of his big tarp and the poles he had brought along. We got the food up and then I started cutting up smokies for dinner. Kateri grilled them and everyone had dinner (even though it was discovered that Dad had forgotten all the condiments).
Ben was already up and had a fire going when I woke up that morning. Together we went and got the food from where we had put it the night before, on the roof of one of the outbuildings. Dad got up then and the two of them sat down at the water's edge trying to catch something for breakfast. When they didn't I got going on some precooked bacon and some eggs. We had two propane stoves, one Carol's, one Ben's, which were both equally good at burning eggs. I made some toast so that people could sandwich the crispy eggs with the bacon but I never tried to make eggs again. We left fairly late but got into faster water and made good time. Kym and I kept trying to let everyone catch up so that we didn't have to lead the way through unfamiliar water. The other four canoes, however, insisted on going straight into every eddy. The camp we stayed at that night was called Boswell River Landing. It was a nice rocky little beach. Wesley took over a stone oven that had been built out of rocks and grilled up a bunch of steaks. Andrew took offence to a poor little tree just off shore and up to its neck in the flood. He was determined to sink it but was trying to do so with completely inneffectual methods such as chucking rocks at it. I finally had to sink it for him.
In the morning we got Andrew to wake up the remainder of the girls tent by yelling "Hey Victor" in the door (refer to movie Smoke Signals, above). We were all waiting for an arm to reach out and pull him to his death, but he managed to get away from the door quickly. When this tactic failed to stir them, Andrew and I went down to remove some tent poles. This achieved some angry yelling, so I figured they were awake. Dad had a bad day that day. Ben's youngest daughter, Kateri, who sat in the middle of their canoe, kept whipping fish hooks all around Dad's head and whacked him in the back of the head with her paddle several times. Wesley tossed a fish hook into the region of Dad's eye that day, literally seconds after Dad had gotten his sunglasses on. Kym and I didn't fare too well either. The Scouts had gone out of their way to shove us into a log the day before and seemed to have taken an extreme dislike to us. Kym and I were bumping Ted and Ben's canoe. This, for some reason, infuriated the Scouts, who rammed us from behind and pushed us towards shore. There was a brief tussel, during which both canoes moved closer to the shore. At this point accounts start to vary (talk to Wesley) but from my perspective it went thusly. The Scouts were on the inside, but had us sort of broadside in front of them angled towards the shore. I was trying to extricate our canoe from contact with theirs and doing little more than increasing the angle with the shore. Kym gave me several warning calls saying "Devon! We're getting close to shore!" but I still couldn't paddle on the side I wanted to because the Scouts were there, so by the time I got paddling it was too late, and Kym had given up paddling completely so that I had no thrust with which to do a last ditch turn. We ran over a little outcropping of the bank and kept right on going. Now, I don't know how Wesley tells the story, but from my point of view, as rudderman of the Scout canoe, this entire incident was all his fault. It had nothing whatsoever to do with my steering. Or lack thereof. Later that day Kym and I had another unfortunate experience. We tried to stop for lunch in a spot with an eddy just big enough for two very experienced canoes. Kym and I were the third canoe into this eddy. All five canoes lined up side by side and clung together. One by one however the bows let go and got peeled off by the current. The way Kym tells it, Andrew, who was on the inside of us, let go and started paddling. She followed his example and let go herself, starting to paddle. Our bow immediately got swept out into the current. I was still holding on to the Scouts canoe at the back but could see it was no use, so let go. Then Wesley threw out his arm, so I grabbed that; our starboard gunnel nearly took on water so I abandoned that idea. Kym and I were swept down a fair way before I got us turned around. We paddled like crazy and managed to get to shore safely. Dad said later he thought we'd been gone for sure. We camped that night at Mason's Landing. There was a beach and a back eddy about two minutes from the camp. We girls went down here to wash our hair and convinced the Scouts that they should too. Unfortunately for them, the water was not heated to blood temperature as they had been accustomed. It was chilly, but once you got in you could swim around and dunk without dying. Wesley managed to get about one toe wet before running out again shivering. I don't know how he ever managed to get his hair done.
That day we left the Teslin and joined the Yukon, which was azure green instead of muddy brown. By the time we had gone the 1km downstream to our camp, however, it was brown once more. Our first campsite on the Yukon was called Hootalinkua (called Hooliken by all the guys mmmgchTedcough who couldn't pronounce it). It was an old RCMP post which had several abandoned old cabins. There was also a lone canoeist with a yappy little dog already there. We girls dubbed him Leo after a 70's Show character he reminded us of. He was living off of plants and gold mining along the river in his canoe, which he claimed to have salvaged from the dump. He came running along the path with no shirt on as we all lay sprawled in our canoes taking a break. He had something clasped in his hands. Ignoring everyone else he ran straight up to Kym and shoved his cupped hands in her face. "Look what I've got" he said excitedly opening his hands. It was a frog. Kym lept away as did the rest of us. Such was our introduction to Leo. Shortly after this Ben, Ted, and Andrew decided to go fishing. Just before they set off, I managed to steal Andrew's stash of chocolate, gum, and pop right out from under his nose and hide it, much to my and Ashley's satisfaction. It is very hard when you are on a river and there is a short supply of chocolate to see two self controlled Scouts being wise and saving their ration up for later. The fishermen returned and Andrew practically jumped out of the boat to renew the search for his stash. Somehow, we got hold of Kateri's watch, which had a function on it where you could ask questions: "Will this trip ever end?" "No Way". Andrew interrogated it over the whereabouts of his stash, but it pointed the finger firmly and surprisingly consistantly at Ellen, exhonerating Ashley and me completely. The watch did however admit later that it did not like Andrew and had lied to him. It predicted that Ellen would fall on her face the next day, a prediction that came true, and that I would not be watching Lord of the Rings first thing upon my return, another correct prediction. Whether reliable or not, the watch kept us entertained for a while. That evening, to sooth everybody's nerves, I handed out some of my private stock of Pepsi to celebrate the halfway point of the journey.
Andrew woke up the girls' tent in the morning by whistling (not with his Fox 40, but with another he had brought). Kym and Ellen were already awake and heard Andrew coming so that their ears were plugged when the blast went off and were undisturbed for another hour or so. Ashley commented an hour and a half later when she woke up that the whistle had been "kinda loud." Ashley does have a history of being very hard to wake. We once, at a sleepover, had to role her off the couch to rouse her. The day was fairly uneventful. We stopped to see an old paddle boat and waited in the mosquito metropolis for the guys to finish taking pictures. The only other interesting thing was paddling through the smoldering fires that showed up on one bank. They weren't particularly violent, but the smoke followed us for the last two days of our trip. We arrived that night at a campsite called Cyr's Dredge. Cyr and his partner had built a giant sluice here during a gold rush, constructed from, among other things, an old caterpiller motor, much admired by the men in our group. It had apparently cost them $8000 to build, but they managed to get only $2000 worth of flour gold out of it in their first year. The sign said that this was about 72 ounces of gold. Andrew immediately set to work and managed to get at least 72 ounces of gravel out of the river and into his clothes. Being more civilized, we girls set about washing our hair. Kateri did another load of laundry. I should explain that Kateri, sitting in the middle of Ben and Ted's canoe all day, got very bored. She tried to entertain herself by whipping her fishing hook around people's heads and shoving her paddle in once in a while, but this failed to use up her abundant energy. Every campsite, she would do laundry and fill a couple of trees with her stuff. Later that night she would bring her 5 bags of stuff into the tent and organise it. One of Dad's greatest pet peeves on the trip was seeing Kateri at this, filling the mosquito nets that he and Ben had paid $10.00 apiece for used as laundry bags. One of my pet peeves on the trip was having Kateri's stuff be the sixth man in our six man tent. She was always the last one out of the tent because she had so much junk spread through it. That evening we were instructed to be ready to go at a moment's notice in case the fires moved down the bank during the night. As we were cleaning up camp, after Kateri had gone to bed, I looked over to see the typical tree of Kateri's stuff hanging out to dry; ready to go at an hour's notice.
We were visited at breakfast by a crew of German tourists we had met the day before just before we entered the fire zone. They stopped to see the dredge, and their guide stopped to talk. He told us that he and his wife run the guiding business and that as soon as he gets home he will be taking another crew of tourists down the river. He also told us that they had found a guy stranded on the river earlier in their trip. Apparently he had flipped his canoe and then been swept downstream from it. He had then waited on the bank, without trying to find his canoe, for 6 days, until the group came and satellite phoned for a helicopter to take him out. Then the guide asked us what part of the states we were from. We informed him quickly that we were Canadians enjoying our own country. He explained that most of the people he met on the river were Americans and apologized for his assumption. We camped that night at the nicest spot on the river, called Twin Creeks. There was only one creek to be seen but it was a very nice one. We planted the girls' tent right on the edge of the stream, but the Scouts went further, placing theirs on an island formed by a little split in the creek. We later found out that they were all hoping to drown out the noise of the girls' tent by having the stream roar by on either side. By the look of them in the morining it hadn't worked. We got there fairly early so that when Kateri's laundry was done it wasn't even time for bed yet. Andrew was filling the time by making a huge dam in the creek. I donated a few big rocks but retired when I saw that Ashley was taking a more serious interest in the project. When the area above the dam had flooded from ankle to knee level, Andrew and Ashley returned to the campsite to announce that they would break the dam for our enjoyment when we were ready. Ben said that he wouldn't mind having a quick swim/wash in the higher water before they did so. Unfortunately, Ben's presence in the water had the effect of putting just enough pressure on the dam to break it. We heard screams and desperate but innefectual repair attempts, but the dam was lost. I had images of the Scouts' tent being lost too, but the water failed to reach it. Undetered, Ashley and Andrew set to work on another dam just downstream (where most of their materials had been washed anyway). The rest of us lost interest, and went to have lasagna for dinner. We all commented on the two dam builders' absence. In typical Ted fashion, Dad said that Andrew was probably washing Ashley's feet while she brushed her hair. Just then Andrew turned up. "Where is Ash?" he was asked. Unaware of his peril he answered "I don't know, last I saw her, she was brushing her hair." That evening the adults went fishing. Dad managed to catch another small grayling, but having seen a huge one pass up his line earlier, he offended all the other unsuccessful fishermen by throwing it back. With his spare energy, Andrew continued work on a branch/small tree which he had started at the previous campsite. He had carved his name into it and was now contracting out for other additions. This relic has been transported to Dog Creek, and is now displayed in pride of place on the deck. We encourage all pilgrims from Ontario to come and see this precious artifact at any time convenient.
This was a long day, with barely any rafting up. Kym and I had campaigned loudly to just get the 70km day over with instead of doing only a bit that day and then getting up early enough to be at the pick up spot by 9:00am. The Scouts were apparently eager to get back to the docks as well because they led the way for most of the day with Kym and me behind them. I cannot describe the sense of relief I felt as we rounded the last bend and saw on the shore a haven. There were hammocks hanging along the edge of the river, and the sign advertized showers, phones, and food. Once we got all our crew to the dock I demanded that Dad hand over the $3.00 it cost for a shower in these parts so that my hair could be returned to its natural state. Surprisingly he did not object. I guess the frenchman had been right; I did smell bad. After I got out we started unloading the canoes, hauling the stuff up the bank and onto the picnic tables. At this point Ellen, Kateri, Ashley, and for most of the time Kym, disappeared completely. They were to be found each time you went up the trail in the hammok beside it pretending to be asleep. If I had had any energy to spare I would have flipped them (luckily Andrew took care of this for me later when he accidently flipped Ellen for no reason at all). The hardest part was not the boxes but the candy wrappers, socks, mosquito nets full of laundry, shoes and other odds and ends that were scattered throughout the canoes. Then they all had to be identified and put away, the tents put up and the sleeping apparatus laid out. I didn't stay up for any longer than I had to; as soon as my mattress inflated I was asleep. My version of events gets pretty foggy after this. All I remember is waking up hours later when Ellen came in the tent and being scared to death by the discovery of a cold bottle of Pepsi in my sleeping bag which hadn't been there before. Ellen informed me that earlier Andrew and some other co-conspirators who wished to remain nameless had snuck the tent door open and taken a (no doubt) hideous picture of me sleeping with my mouth hanging open. Dad and Ben had gone to town and brought us back a Pepsi apiece. Mine had been chucked at me after the picture was taken to molify any resulting wrath. Luckily for them I rolled over and didn't even remember the incident.
We had called ahead using Ben's satellite phone to ask to be picked up at 9:00 a.m.rather that 2:00.p.m. This was the compromise that we girls struck with our respective fathers so that we could get home by the 30th and still have time to see the Beringia Interpretive Centre and the Signpost Forest. Though the Kanoe People assured us that we would be picked up at this hour, and even though we were ready ahead of time, our ride refused to show up. In fact, we weren't actually on the road until 2:00, as was originally planned. Our driver was apparantly a guy off the street (oddly enough Kanoe People had failed once again to find us a driver) who had just finished a gruelling 48-hour race. He kept swerving dangerously and keeping eye contact with those he was talking to for far longer than was entirely safe. I was asleep for most of this, or at least trying to, sitting beside Andrew who was still completely awake. He kept trying to play cards even though they would innevitably fall off his lap when our driver made a correcting turn. I kept him occupied for a while by getting him to organize his deck into different patterns. (Now put them all in pairs that add up to thirteen, each pair with both colours in it). When that ran out we played Geography into Whitehorse. We picked up our vehicles, got back to the Kanoe People's HQ, loaded all the stuff back into our truck, bid farewell to Carol and Steve, and all (Ben, Kym, Ash, and Kateri all had to come with us to pick up their vehicle). Now you'd think that we would just fall into bed, but we had to go see the giant beaver at the Beringia Interpretive Centre. Luckily it turned out to be pretty interesting, but not nearly as interesting as what we did next. We went to visit some old friends of Dad's, the Nugents. They were very nice and we had a nice time, but the conversation on the way home was deeply disturbing. Let us say only that Dad led with some highly graphic tales of university dating which I think need not be added to this otherwise classic literature. I would just like to offer my apologies to Aunt Helen for having allowed her sons to be exposed to such stories. I can assure you that Dad was thoroughly punished.
Nothing much happened this day except for stopping at the Signpost Forest about half way through the day. We stopped at Fort Liard Provincial Park. Fort Liard was the result of only 6 hours of driving, and none of us girls (especially me) were keen to stop if it meant that we were not going to make it home the next day. The guys insisted, however, because there were hot springs here they wanted to see. They promised that we would make the 10 hour drive home the next day. Ben went off to find a camping spot and failed to return. After about an hour of waiting we got in the truck and went looking for him. He was sitting on a picnic table at a campsite with the Echo parked at the one beside it, saving the only pair of side by side campsites he'd been able to find. For dinner, Wesley made Kraft dinner. He had steadfastly refused, throughout the trip, to eat anything that contained the tetra milk Ben had brought. When it came time to put the milk in the mac and cheese, he was horrified that now, his own creation would require this evil chemical. I presented the tetra milk. He asked for one that wasn't open. If it was to be tetra milk, then at least it would be fresh tetra milk. The hot springs were pretty nice. It was quite a hike to them, but the bottom one was clear and pebbled. We girls had made our lap of the crecent-shaped pool and began to wonder about two things. One was the creepy old guy watching us, and the other was why the guys, who had left before us, were not here. Then we spotted a sign which said that if we hiked up the hill further, we would find another pool. So we clambered back up the boardwalk. Half way up we met a guy who told us that the guys were indeed up at the next pool, but when we arrived, nobody was there. Slightly creeped out we edged forward. As we approached the changerooms they jumped out from behind them, scaring the daylights out of all of us. The one not so nice thing about the sulphur hot springs was that they were, of course, full of sulphur, which not only reacted with Ellen's silver ring, but stank like rotten eggs. I therefore left early to find one of the hand pumps to wash my hair. For this I was ridiculed, but I was glad to know that the next day, the smell in the cab was not contributed to by me.
This was a long day of driving. Dad and Wesley switched fairly regularly, following the green Echo down the highway. I asked Wesley once where we were. "On a road," he answered. I gritted my teeth. Half an hour later, Dad was driving again. "Where are we?" asked Wesley "On a highway," answered Ted. Wesley gritted his teeth. We made it to Williams Lake at about 11:00 at night and unloaded all of Ben's stuff. This meant that we got home at about 1:00, which was technically July 1, but I didn't take this up with Dad. I was just glad to be home and not paddling anymore.