June 1979 was the time the idea of driving to the Yukon became reality for me. It has been everything I ever hoped it would be. You’d think all the articles and hype I had read before coming up, all the hunting stories of bear attacks and huge bull moose would have been exaggerated and the reality would have been less than expected. But for me, overall, my entire experience in the Yukon has been one of literal jaw-dropping awe.
Even the northern bit, the Dempster and on to the Arctic ocean is largely ruggedly mountainous, not at all like the rolling tundra I had always pictured. My “mind’s eye” needs a tune up. It seems to always be mistaken, as if it were deliberately lying to me so the reality could shock me more.
And In all the forty years I have known the Yukon, the land itself hasn’t changed at all. I thought that development would destroy the beauty within 20 years, but it has not. In fact, the population today is not much more than it was in 1979.
The one disquieting thing from my perspective is the wild over-run of governmental authority which has taken place, decimating many homes and small businesses in the Yukon. Latest one, a boat-slip in Tagish, shut down because the government owns the land between the dock and the business, and the grandfathering clause expired when the new owner took over the property. Graciously, the Yukon Party Government only reportedly requires $400,000 for the piece of mud in between.
Imagine how soul-satisfying it was for a nineteen year old to spend an evening in the home of a co-worker, the home consisting of a house built of plywood and no more than 8 feet by 12 feet, and containing co-worker, wife, huge dog, daughter, barrel stove and me, the guest who sat listening to the stories pouring from the Czech’s mouth as we sipped cognac and smoked cigars late into the dim Yukon night. Finally a place where i was free to build or do whatever I wanted and be accepted without having to pretend to be something I was not!
Today, a family living in a shipping crate would be totally forbidden and probably evicted from it’s residence for it “own good”. The largest employer in the Yukon today is the dang government which tells you all you really need to know. Even though I decried some of the environmental destruction I saw mining do the Yukon, the destruction of personal freedoms is doing far more damage to my heart and soul today.
And yet, perhaps, its all in the grand plan. One thing which is totally certain in the Yukon is change and change there will most definitely be in the human society we currently inhabit, while the wolves continue to encircle the moose, which lowers its rack, snorts and paws the ground as wolves and moose have done for thousands of years. Nature pays but little attention to the doings of man, and that is my continuing hope for the Yukon. I hope it will always be a place which welcomes the young, awkward types like myself from “outside” and provides them with quality memories for a lifetime, as I’m enjoying even today, though I’m way too young to reminisce just yet!! Whew! that was a close one.