Day 4: Four Seasons in One Day

The Yukon Blind..... Canoeing the 'Big River'
Team "Imtiaz and Howard"
Tue 21 Jun 2011 10:34
Day 4: Four Seasons in One Day
61:45.24N, 134:57.08W

Yesterday we covered a good 60 river kilometres, spending six and a half hours out there in very varied river and weather conditions. Most of the day on the river we were in light rain, and cold conditions, that made it quite challenging. We stopped for a very pleasant lunch at a deserted cabin, still around from the early 1900's mining days. This was right at the confluence with the sizeable Teslin River. Being a bit wet from the constant rain on the river, we were both pretty cold as we climbed back into the canoe to paddle a river that was now twice the size, in volume of water. Within half an hour of paddling we were back up to temperature and full of the joys of being out in this special wilderness.

Further evidence of the old mining days, was the just exposed deck of SS Klondike, a larger steamer that ran aground and sunk in 1936. It was quite special paddling close by. In fact in trying to get too close to it we had a close shave that required us to paddle at a new record rate for a few minutes to avoid us being pushed onto the wreck...all good fun, and helped warm us up!

I saw a beaver in the river, my first bald eagle, majestically perched on the top of a tree at the river edge. Lots of ducks as usual, and a lovely pair of Canadian geese with their weeks old chick.

We decided to overnight on this largish island, which attracted us for its lack of mosquitoes, and great beach camp spot. What a great place it turned out to be, probably also helped by the wonderful change in weather. The sun came out strongly, rare blue sky appeared, and when we went to bed at 11pm our tents were like saunas inside, and thankfully all our gear dry. After the usual richly diverse conversation, spirits were very high, and Imi was talking about how nice it's going to be 'tomorrow'. Having had a wild weather Yukon experience on my 2008 bicycle adventure, and in my 'pessimistic realist' approach, I added: "Don't leave any dry stuff outside, one never knows here, it could rain in the night". Hmmm, around 3 am the pitter patter on my tent roof started, and here I sit 630am and it’s still raining lightly. This is life in the Yukon, one never knows, and should expect to deal with all the seasons, all the time.

I walked around our island and was quite surprised to find fairly new moose and bear tracks, and one dead squirrel!

Amazed at Imi's genuine love and deep appreciation of the outdoors, I was curious to know how, as a person without sight, he experiences this Yukon wilderness, so around the fire last night I asked him.

It became clear, and he agreed that his past sighted visit here helps him a lot experience the environment. The visions and experiences of the past and his sightless, yet rich sensory experience of today, form what he calls a seamless, combined holistic experience that would seem to verge on that of a sighted first time visitor. As he spoke I became clear there was more to it though. Fascinatingly, he said with the sound, smell and 'feel', he can sense the vastness of this wilderness, going on to say that this vastness is a cumulative thing. Each day on the river expands his feeling of vastness, and by day 5 or 6 he expects this feeling to have reached its plateau which represents the true wilderness immensity of the Yukon. I could relate totally to this, and as many would know, it's hard to describe the feeling of the REAL big, wide open outdoors. In the day to day specifics there is little of true and specific special ness, but in their collective there is something truly awesome.

I feel I am falling short in not publishing photos on the blog, but somehow a few photos would devalue the portrayal of this experience of vastness, and remoteness one feels out here. I have experienced this many times before, but this is really the first time on a river, a river of such expansive vastness.

Imi goes on to explain that being out here for him gives him a feeling of antichronism, a feeling where not only time doesn't matter, but a feeling so opposite to normal busy life where often time is central to each day's rush and sometimes drudgery. This situation in the wilderness is such a rarity, that it oddly feels a luxury.

He goes on to explain that in normal city life, blind people lack mobility, and as such find it hard to escape the sounds and busy-ness of suburban life, their choice of environment is very restricted and dependant on others, but out here one is in that escape environment virtually all the time, and there is peace. The ability to move on one’s own in the peace of the outdoors is very special. The sounds and rhythms of the eternity of nature and the outdoors, the wind, waves, flowing water, call of the ducks, etc gives him a sense of exhilaration that takes him away from the exact opposite, contrast superficiality of the ever changing, busy city world.

Finally, sadly he says being in the great outdoors, makes him feel less alienated. Adding that blind people are shut off from much of normal, and often feel like strangers in their own communities, but out here he feels a real oneness with nature, and a huge degree of at home-ness that he never does in his home town...

Following on this theme, in the hours paddling in the rain yesterday, I thought about the canoe race that will start from Whitehorse on the 29th June and finish at Dawson City, taking the same course we are doing. Imi and I have had many debates about competition, belonging, people's motives, and in the past I have competed in many similar events. I honestly concluded that for me I must either compete seriously in the race, or do what I am doing with Imi or alone. My desire to compete has waned as I concluded that competition requires others to reference one’s happiness or triumph, and as such has the potential to be imprisoning or hollow, the real personal triumph for me is dealing with my fears and the aloneness of myself or maybe just one other, eg with Imi. Doing something so special like these 75
kms of the Yukon is not a social event for me, it's as Imi portrayed, a deep spiritual experience only possible without the clutter of others. Anyway, I have moved a long way from those old days, but I can truly see for me the personal value in being able to be at one with oneself in the vastness of the REAL big outdoors like the Yukon.

The rain has now stopped, time for me to cook breakfast, and then we will head out for probably a 7-8 hour day on the river.

Till tomorrow.....Bye!