Surprise! Northern Lights in the Yukon
By Wendy James
First stop on our Yukon adventure was Whitehorse by a tiny 40 seater prop plane, arriving at a tiny airport with one baggage carousel in the middle of a pine covered wilderness. Pines and maples undergoing the change from Summer to Autumn in colours of red, gold and green.
Driving into town in our mini-bus you could feel how remote you were, only 8 streets deep and bordered by the Yukon River it was a true slice of Canada. Lunch was half a sandwich – because the bread is 2 inches thick (no way you would need a full one) and something you must try when in Canada, Timbits (doughnut holes)...delish.
We spent 2 nights here, visited the McBride Museum of Yukon History featuring the Gold Rush period, the SS Klondike Paddle Wheeler which could crab walk across sand banks and the Takhini Hot Springs where you can soak away after a mountain bike ride or kayaking down the river (in winter it’s so cold your hair freezes while you’re sitting in it).
The next day was a long drive to Dawson City, it was amazing! Imagine dirt permafrost streets with houses sliding into each other as the land moves like a glacier slowly more and more each year. This was the home to Jack London who wrote White Fang while living there, we visited Sourdough Saloon and had a cheeky sample of the infamous Sour-Toe Cocktail.
After some gold-panning we were back to Whitehorse for a chance at viewing the Northern Lights. As it was September, I really didn’t think we had a chance at seeing anything, but you can’t let any opportunity go by when you’re travelling, you may never be back to try again. We left the hotel on our tour with Arctic Adventures at 10pm to drive about 30 minutes out of town away from the few lights and to really immerse in the outdoors.
We arrived at an open expanse of grass within a ring of pine trees to a hut, bon-fire and all the tea, coffee, biscuits and marshmallows you could eat. Sugar and caffeine kept everyone in good spirits during the next 4 hours of waiting in 2 degrees hoping that we may get to experience one of the most amazing spectacles nature has to offer.
By the time 1am rolled around we were high on sugar, convinced that bears were waiting in the trees ready to eat anyone who wandered away from the fire and solved the problems of the universe – teleportation is the answer to all problems.
Then when we thought all hope was lost, there was a shout from our guides and the heavens were turning green, pink and purple in waves of light all around us. The lights went for as far as the eye could see, continually rolling across the sky in varied shades of colour. Looking up I felt there should have been music with the lights like something from Fantasia, it was awe-inspiring and breath-taking. The show lasted for nearly 20 minutes one of the most amazing sites I’ve ever seen.