My Yukon River Trip (as a teenager) & Northern Ontario Guiding Experience Taught Me How, & What Bushcraft/Self Reliance Is (-part2/3)

Miles’s Canyon Yukon

So Joe Glynn and I got into his Row boat. Which we named River Bottom, (and for good reason) this boat looked like it was about to sink. It had only been a couple days since Brian Dickenson and I had arrived in Dawson, so I decided to go back to the spot Brian and I dropped off the rental canoe and thought I’d just (“borrow”) it again while Joe and I went further down River towards Alaska. The Wisconsin Brothers also headed off in the direction the Alaskan border.

this Leg of the Journey would be another 255MILES or 444 KM of canoeing Alaskan wilderness adventures.

I cannot remember how many days it took us to make the boarder crossing into Alaska but I do remember a few events that happened along the way. First was our very first stop on day 1 from Dawson city. (I think we were travelling with the Wisconsin brothers at the time as well). We had all rafted off to one another and were drifting down stream, Joe and I were in the River Bottom, with the now stolen rental canoe tied off to our row boat, (as an escape plan if Joes boat actually did sink) and the Wisconsin brothers tied off to us as well) Joe and I were getting hungry so we all decided it would be a good idea to pull off on the riverbank and make lunch. Well, as soon as we beached old river bottom, we brought her up on the small marble sized pebbles lining the river bank & she sprang her first leak, and was taking on water. We had only maybe gone 20 miles down river from Dawson City. Too far to try and make it back to town. Joe was smart, and had bought some ShoeGoo, ( a product used to attach the sole of shoes back onto the shoe itself when they are coming apart). Essentially it is a fast drying poxy glue.

The river could look overwhelming at times for a couple young lads in a rowboat and or canoe.

As Joe was trying to fix the boat, The Wisconsin brothers and I made some lunch. For this leg of the trip Joe and I stocked the boat with canned goods a bunch of rice, pasta, and other dried foods which we stored in a locked wooden box. Joe thought best to lock the box of foods incase of bears and other wild animals as a deterrent.

Anyway so the food was being made and the boat being fixed and I think this was possibly also the spot that we had all come across a wooden cabin in the woods along the river? Lucky and convenient. These cabins are put up by the parks commission in random areas along the river for people to use at their own risk. There is wood and a fire place, usually an outhouse built nearby and a few old cots that people can use if they are in need of a place of rest for a night or 2. The are also stocked with some cookware for convenience. Well we all decided to stay here the night.

Public use cabin along the Yukon River

Some of us went to collect some firewood and we all were pitching in to do our part to make the area comfortable, and the plan was to let the boat Joe just fixed, have time to dry before we plunged it back in the water to continue our voyage.

We were all having fun exploring the area when a big old bear decided to walk into or beside our desired camp spot for the evening. Which put us all on edge a bit. The bear really was not interested in us at all and just meandered through & swam across this little stream that was about 20ft wide that empties into the Yukon River where our spot just happened to be situated at.

One of Joe Glynn bear pics but not of the actual bear in the story.

There was a fairly significant cliff on the other side of the river for the bear to climb over just to get out of the river, but he just reached up with one paw and pulled his entire body up and over the cliff side and quickly disappeared. All of us decided this was a good time to grab our rifles, and shotguns from our packs, (just incase) the bear decided to return.

Oh and after dinner Joe went back to the boats to lock up the food box again. Lol

Well pretty soon we were all tired and decided to go pick out a bed for the night in our cabin.

Not sure but this might have been the cabin we found

Morning came early, I awoke to a loud screaming noise coming from outside. I look out the window to the cabin to witness Joe running towards the river waving his hands in the air and yelling at the top of his lungs. I jumped out of my bed, threw some clothes grabbed my rifle and went out to see what was going on. I figured for sure that big old bear came back and was rummaging through our food box lol.

To my surprise, when I caught up with Joe, I was shocked to see there were tones of Ravens hanging around and making so much noise. They were all in nearby trees and looking down at my friend and I making a sort of laughing sound.

As I asked Joe what he was so worked up about over a few birds I realized what had happened. All our food that was in the locked box, was spread all over the ground and destroyed. The lock had been picked (we think) by the ravens and they stole all our dried foods. And now they were all sitting in the trees laughing at us.

The Raven is a sacred Bird to First Nation, native, and Inuit people of course, they are extremely intelligent birds. I remember getting so angry that these birds ate and destroyed our food I wanted to start shooting them. I raised my rifle towards one of them and Joe put his hand on mine and lowered my arm. He said to me. “Out here, it is the survival of the fittest, everything will do what they can to survive, and if that means stealing our food then so be it. Besides if we kill one of these birds, and a native is watching? Then we very well may become a bears next meal.

Joe wasn’t wrong. If you kill a Raven, it is looked very down upon in those cultures, and unless you have good reason, life or death, then you may be killed yourself. Well we weren’t starving and still had lots of other things to eat. So we just sat back wondering how in gods name did these birds pick the lock to the food box, and watched as the ravens devoured our rice and pasta’s and other dried goods.

Then we packed up our gear back onto the boats and set off down stream once again. To this day it still baffles me how they got into our food? Infact to remember that time. I even tattooed a raven on my forearm to remind me, “in life keep your friends close, and your Enemies even closer”

My forearm.

Ok so we all headed down river once again. Not too long after we left. For some reason, Joe Or I needed to pull over for something. Not too sure what that was (probably nature was calling) but regardless we pulled over, and once again the River Bottom sprung another leak. This is where I believe the Wisconsin brothers decided they needed to continue on without us as we had no choice but to pull over, fix old river bottom and wait for the ShoeGoo to harden. It wasn’t fair for the Wisconsin boys to go at our pace they had their own trip and adventure to encounter. So we said goodby and watched as they paddled of in the distance until we could no longer see them. Once we answered the call of nature, We fixed old river bottom once again and set off in search of Alaska.

Not long after the brothers had left (probably 4 to 6 hours) and we were back on the river, there was a very strange wave heading upstream as we or it got closer we came to realize just how big the wave was. We had most of our gear out in the open on our boats organizing it and then all of a sudden it was as if we just suddenly went into a small set of rapids.

Pic of Joe traversing some rapids in a canoe some years later on the Yukon River

The canoe that was tied off to old river bottom rocked back and forth violently and a few things happened to fall into the river never to be seen again. We tried to do a quick inventory of gear and I didn’t think too much about what was missing accept one very important document, or several for that matter.

It wouldn’t be for a couple days when we would find out that those freak waves we came across that seemed to head against the current and be going up stream, was caused by an earthquake of significant magnitude down south out of Anchorage.

On the river the repercussion was it caused waves heading up stream.

It was the 4th of July when Joe and I made it to the boarder town of Eagle Alaska. As we neared the town along the river we started hearing gun shots everywhere. We honestly thought the towns people were trying to shoot the stupid Canadians crossing the border via “row boat” ha ha ha. We brought the boats to shore as fast as we could tied them to a couple trees and walked through the woods into town to see what all the commotion was about?

Eagle Alaska

Well, it was the 4th of July of course and the town folk were all celebrating. A festival of activities were happening and the hun shots we heard were guys having a marksman competition by shooting targets set up from the mainland right across the river on the other side. And the competitors were shorting them. Lol. Well when Joe and I saw what was going on we went back to get the boats and bring them into town.

We asked some locals where if anywhere was a good spot to put a couple tents? And someone informed us of a campground on the river but at the far end of town, about a 4 minute canoe paddle away.

Joe and I went to the campground only to be greeted by none other than the? Yup you guessed it, The Wisconsin brothers lol they had made it there a day ahead of us and we were so excited to be meeting up with them again.

Someone I hadn’t talked about yet is a man by the name of “Yaso” he was a Japanese man that came to the Yukon to do the very same thing we were all doing, “getting lost in the Canadian and Alaskan wilderness.

Now Yaso was doing this excursion alone. He started off in Whitehorse, just like the rest of us and I found it funny that almost every day or every other day, right from the time Brian and I left Whitehorse, and on route to Dawson City, on the first Leg of the journey. Yaso Could be found less than a body’s length away from where Brian and I had set up our tents. It was like clockwork.

Brian and I wouldn’t hear anything overnight but almost guaranteed, Yaso would find us, and set up his tent right beside ours. We had no idea what time he would get there, or what time he’d be leaving during the day, because in the mornings Brian and I would quietly pack up and get back on the river so as not to disturb Yaso’s sleep. With the entire Yukon at Yasos fingertips he always decided to set his tent less than an arms length away from either Brian or I. Lol. And we almost never saw him come or go.

I think he did this because he didn’t want to face a bear alone and he felt safety in numbers. We really didn’t mind.

For Yaso it wasn’t the bears that got him, it was a fish wheel, ha ha ha. One day we were all paddling together and we saw a fish wheel placed in the river we told Yaso what it was, we told him it was a devise designed to catch salmon, and so he decided to get closer to see if the trap had any fish in it? Well it did have fish, and it also had a Yaso. he got a little too close that the trap actually caught Yaso and we had to go rescue him out of it. We took Yaso, and one of the fish for a nice meal on the river later that day.

Pic of fish wheel just like the one that caught our friend.

Anyway I am mentioning Yaso because I came across a picture of myself and the Wisconsin brothers “& Yaso on top of

Mount Gordon Lyon

Our camp site in Eagle, and the mountain we hiked across the stream.
Top is left-Jeff Right- Lyman. Bottom- left- Yaso Right- me &Joe took the photo

We all spent the next few days in Eagle Alaska meeting locals having a few drinks & celebrating the 4th of July with all the Americans we met. We also needed to make a plan of action. What or where were we going next? I was now in Alaska on a River and a long way from home, and no way to get there.

One of the locals came down to the campground to let Joe & I know that we needed to go to the post office in town and register with the boarder guard, AKA the pos office clerk. This is when I realized what” I had lost a few days prior on the river in that earthquake.

I guess when we went through the upstream waves I lost all of my ID, and cash. It must have gone overboard. Not realizing this until now that I had no ID to show the boarder guard Joe and I decided we would quietly leave Eagle, and continue down stream to the next town. I don’t think we told anyone that we were leaving. The last thing I wanted to do was get deported from the states for a lost ID.

Ok your right, I certainly wasn’t thinking this through at all ha ha ha.

So Joe and I spent several more days floating down stream stopping for tests when we were tired, and stopping to eat when hungry. Not really a care in the world and just watching all the wildlife happen in their backyard.

Until we hit a small town called Circle Alaska. It had been days since we left the Wisconsin brothers back in Eagle and so Joe and I pulled over in the small town of Circle to have a chat about our plans. We came to realize that there were really no more towns along the river, other than some native villages between where we were and the Bering Sea. And then nothing there for a thousand miles south of that. If we continued along the river we may not make the ocean before winter hits and we would most likely perish in the Alaskan wilderness.

We felt it only fitting that River-bottom had seen its last voyage as well and had sprung her last leak. So we filled the boat with Timbers and set her a flame and sent her down stream to say thank you for the adventure and keeping us sort of afloat. But at the same time making sure no one would ever be able to take her on a crazy adventure like we just did. Lol

Just as we saw the flames go out. Who would show up? Yup, The Wisconsin brothers lol. They too had come to the end of their journey at Circle Alaska. Joe and I said our goodbyes to the brothers and watched as they loaded their gear into a vehicle willing to take them to Anchorage. This would be the last I see the brothers for the next 5 years.

Joe and I had made the decision that we had come to the end of our River Journey as well, and that Circle Alaska is where we would say goodby to one another (for now anyway)

Joe went on to stay in the area and build homes in the town for cash, where I decided it was time to make my way back to Canada and slowly towards home. I was out of cash and had no ID, in another country, nor did I have a clue how, or where I was going to end up? So Joe bought my shotgun and my “stolen” Canoe for a couple hundred dollars to get me started, But that is for another story in itself.

The Wisconsin boys moment before their departure

When I went on this adventure. It was a spare of the moment decision to go to the Yukon to begin with. I never actually thought I’d be able to track down my friend in the middle of the wilderness. That would be like finding a needle in a hay stack. I certainly wasn’t ready to go on a canoe trip that was over 1100 KM and took over a month to complete. And never in a million years did I imagine having a chance to get to see Alaska let alone see it’s interior like the locals do. This was truly an adventure of a life time like no other.

Life long friendships were formed and life lessons learned. It was my introduction to Bush-crafting, & self reliance.

All throughout my life I have taken the skills I started to learn on that Yukon trip, improving on them every time I step foot into the wilderness. I feel I still have a long way to go. But I’m having a good time doing it, trips like this one is what taught me to have perseverance, & push on through whatever life throws your way.

I hope you enjoyed my story of travelling the Yukon River Next up is my time as a northern Ontario fishing guide nearly 20 years later, and yes I’ll write about my travels back home from Alaska one of these days too. It’s also quite the adventure lol.

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