Our First Year Living in The Yukon
Updated: Mar 13, 2020
You hear about thousands of young Australians moving to Canada to live & work for a year or so, Scott and I aren’t any different. In 2012, we packed up our whole life and travelled to Toronto on a one-way ticket. At the time, it was the scariest thing we had ever done. We had only been overseas on an Australian P & O Cruise (like EVERY Australian…I know!) to islands off the east coast of Australia.
Don't like to read? Here, watch this video we created
Moving overseas to a country we had never even VISITED was super scary, thrilling and exciting!
We ended up living in Toronto for about 10 months and then decided that the big city life thrill had worn off and we were a little lonely, homesick and ready to go home. Big cities have so many great aspects but when you are from another country, it can be very daunting and hard to make friends. Toronto is such a cool city and the most inclusive place I have ever been.
In 2017, we decided that it was time to pop back over the pacific once again and try out 6 months in a VERY different location to Toronto. We arrived in Whitehorse at the end of November and our new boss was at the airport to collect us. We had secured our job at Inn On The Lake and were planning on working until the spring and then set off on a round-the-country road trip and hopefully pick up work somewhere else in Canada.
Well….. that didn’t go to plan.
After the hectic winter season, we spent the summer trying out everything the Yukon has to offer. Hiking, canoeing, kayaking, camping, bears, moose, pristine lakes….. just to name a few things.
Our first big adventure was driving 8 hours south of Marsh Lake (where we live) to Liard River Hot Springs.
The springs are directly off the side of the Alaska Highway and a enticing tourist attraction for anyone driving by.
Liard Hot Springs are literally a creek in the middle of the Canadian woods and the Provincial Park have built a walkway to.
The beautiful, natural spring water bubbles up out of the ground and the temperatures stick around 42°C - 52 °C (108°F to 126 °F).
Wintertime in Liard Hot Springs is an incredible experience
While you are relaxing in a naturally warm creek, the snow is piled up around the banks and ice is formed on the edge.
There are change rooms at the springs, but they are not heated so getting out of the springs in winter can be a struggle! There is a small lodge across the road from the hot springs, Liard Hot Springs Lodge. They have basic accommodation and a restaurant.
Now, everything wasn't all rainbows & butterflies on our Yukon explorations. After we left Liard Hot Springs, we saw a road that went down to a waterfall, Smith River Falls. Being the inexperienced Australians' that we were (maybe still ARE?!), we decided to drive down this snowy road that had not been plowed but had obvious tracks from previous cars. We were so naive that we thought it had been plowed, we know better now!
We reached about 3/4 of the way down the road and a tree had fallen across the path and we couldn't drive any further forward, this was a reverse only type of situation.
We left the car for a few minutes and walked closer to the falls which were cool, but for what panned out next, was not worth it. We reversed into an area that was straight back from where we were and thought that we would be able to drive out and happy days.
OH WE WERE WRONG, we were so wrong!
Photo for evidence that there was a tree and we aren't just bad drivers!
This is the only photo we have of the situation as this is before we realised that we were going to be stuck for 3 hours, thinking that we would have to kill a deer to survive and create fire with a stone & stick.
The rear wheel drive tyres on the van started spinning on pure ice. We had NOTHING, I mean NOTHING to help us out of this situation. We started pushing, digging up sticks from the frozen ground and putting these under the tyres, we took out rags that we had in the car for some traction.....nothing helped. It came to the point of about an hour in that we thought we would have to walk to the highway to get help from a passing truck driver.
We came up with one last resort which was putting the rubber floor mats under the tyres to get some traction, the only hard part of that was keeping the mats under the tyre and not having them shoot out the back end. This started working, not perfect but we were able to cover some ground (I mean about 1 metre) and get forward enough so that we could reverse back down 2.4 kilometres. The snow ruts in the path were only just as wide as our tyres so this meant that we had to reverse very slow and if we started going out of the ruts, we would be stuck again. This whole process of just trying to get back to the highway took about 3 hours.
We made it and only nearly got divorced once in the process.
It was about 2.5 hours from there to the next town, Watson Lake and we had to stop to get a beer to calm our nerves from that hectic morning. For future reference, don't drive down un-plowed, unfamiliar, un-civilised roads in the winter!!
Kathleen Lake, just outside of Haines Junction is incredibly beautiful. We took on part of the "Kings Throne" strenuous hike up to a peak that looked down right over the lake and surrounding mountains. As soon as you are out of the trees, the view opens up to this spectacular teal coloured lake.
Camping in the 38-site campground was beautiful and secluded.
There are never any showering facilities in government run campgrounds in the Yukon, but gas stations around the territory have great showers. Getting used to using drop toilets is also a (usually) stinky must do!
Emerald Lake is one of the most iconic lakes in the Yukon. It is only about 40 minutes drive from where we live. We visited this lake a lot in the summer as it blows you away even more, each time you go! You can see why in the below panorama picture.
In the Fall (September 9th to be precise), we decided to go one step further and attempt to drive to the Arctic Circle from Whitehorse. It is about a 13-hour drive from where we live so we took a few days off work and started our journey by driving up to Dawson City.
Dawson City was a vital part of the gold rush and the population boomed to 40,000 in the late 1890s. By 1898, the gold rush had ended, and the population plummeted to just 8,000 people. These days, Dawson City has a small population of about 1,300 people. Sounds like a boring ghost town huh? Well, it’s far from anything that’s even remotely related to a ghost town! The town attracts over 60,000 visitors from all over the world during the year and I will tell you why you should visit below!
“Don’t go on the Dempster without a 4WD, plenty of gas and 2 spare tires!”
We putted along onto Tombstone Territorial Park which is about 1.5 hours from Dawson City along the Dempster Highway. We were quiet scared about going up the Dempster Highway as it isn’t paved and we had heard mixed reviews from people, “Oh, you’ll be fine in any car if you have a spare tire” to “Don’t go on the Dempster without a 4WD, plenty of gas and 2 spare tires!”.