by Lindsay Neal –
My first visit to Whitehorse was in July, and I was given the grand tour. I rode along as a passenger in my boyfriend Eli’s office (more commonly known as a floatplane). We flew over a Yukon sunrise, landed on McClusky Lake, soared above the Peel River and the mountains towards the Arctic Circle. We hiked around Fish Lake, walked the Millennium Trail, visited the S.S. Klondike and the MacBride Museum, dined at Klondike Rib & Salmon, roadtripped to Carcross Commons and the Carcross Desert (the world’s smallest desert), crossed the Robert Lowe Bridge, saw the Klondike Follies perform and met some of Eli’s friends and family. In only four days, I was sold on Whitehorse’s charm. Later in the year, Eli accepted a job and asked me if I would come to live with him in Whitehorse. In January.
After 25 years of living in Victoria, I decided to go. I knew I would miss my friends and family but I saw it as a chance to find a new job and live in a new location. I wanted to see the Northern Lights and discover more of Whitehorse, even if it were in the blistering cold, darker days of winter. Oh, and also to live with my boyfriend. Equipped with two suitcases, 300 pairs of wool socks and no source of income, I was ready for the challenge ahead. I boarded the plane sweating, wearing layers of clothing that wouldn’t fit into my suitcases.
“Don’t worry, it’s a different type of cold,” I was warned by anyone who had been to Alberta. When I arrived, the Wilderness City warmly welcomed me with -17°C weather. Every drop in degree since, down to -39, was the coldest I had seen in my life. I learned balaclavas are not the same as baklava, and if you layer enough socks, you can cut off your circulation and still get frozen toes. Produce turns to frozen food quickly if left in your car and boiled water transforms instantly to snow when thrown into the air. This “different type of cold” I had been warned about still feels like the same type of “really cold” to me.
I continue to explore the icy landscapes as far as my amateur winter gear and poor circulation will let me. The hikes have all been breathtaking, literally. The crisp air and small change in altitude put my cardio to shame. From Behind Yukon College on the Trans Canadian Trail, to the backyard neighbourhood paths in Copper Ridge and Hillcrest, the frozen-over Hidden Lakes, the Black Street stairs and beyond the Airport Trail towards Whitehorse Clay Cliffs, the explorer in me has yet to be disappointed.
We road tripped on the Alaska Highway to Haines Junction and hiked across a frozen Kathleen Lake. The Kluane Range peaks were outlined by the vanishing sunlight behind them. Our chilling day on the road ended with a dip in the Takhini Hot Springs. I ran from the warm pools into the snow, and back into the water, to get the full effect.
Whitehorse has kept me on my frozen toes and shown me my first real winter. No matter the temperature, I am excited for the adventures ahead. Determined, I will find the elusive Northern lights, and employment.
Photos by Eli Pasquali.