- The summer-no sweeter was ever;
The sunshiny woods all athrill;
The grayling aleap in the river,
The bighorn asleep on the hill.
The strong life that never knows harness;
The wilds where the caribou call;
The freshness, the freedom, the farness-
O God! how I’m stuck on it all.
“The Spell of the Yukon”
When poet Robert Service penned those words nearly 100 years ago, the population of the Yukon Territory was larger than it is today. Aside from the intrusions of modern technology, the Yukon remains much as it was in Service’s time. And the people, well, they seem to embody the spirit of earlier inhabitants.
Minto Resort is part of a cluster of cabins that makes up Minto Landing on the Yukon River. It includes a cafe that serves lunch to the daily tour buses passing between Whitehorse and Dawson City. I had been told to speak to the woman who runs the resort about leaving our truck there. Minto would be our take-out at the end of a family paddling trip on the Teslin and Yukon Rivers.
“You can leave your truck out back of that cabin,” she said, “but I don’t take no responsibility for what might happen to it.”
“What might happen to it?” I asked.
“I dunno,” she replied. “I just don’t take no responsibility for it.”
As Minto Landing was the only place within miles where we could take out, I had no choice, so I left the truck where I had been told to and walked the dusty mile to Yukon Highway 2, to wait for the Dawson City Express. The old white school bus rolled to a stop, and I could smell unburned diesel fuel as soon as I boarded.
Minutes later, a broken fuel line brought the bus to a halt in the middle of the highway. The weather was warm and the sun was still high, despite the fact that it was almost 8 p.m. Traffic was light, even by northern standards, but eventually a passing trucker stopped to lend a hand. By midnight, I was back in Whitehorse, where my day had begun.
The next afternoon I sat on the banks of the Teslin River at Johnson’s Crossing with my wife, Laura, and our eight-year-old son, Ned, eating one of the large cinnamon rolls that the settlement is famous for. Above us, we could hear the trucks on the Johnson’s Crossing Bridge. In front of us, the Teslin River flowed placidly from nearby Teslin Lake.