A 2,000 mile canoe journey Photographed by: @jaykolsch

The Pull of the North


Journal entries from a three-month, 2,000-mile canoe odyssey from the source on the Yukon to the Bering Sea Story by: Ian Finch

“Some areas are poems of geology, so beautiful they defy words.” As my hands frantically scribbled these words with a half broken pencil, the floatplane violently jolted sideways from the uprush of turbulence. The mountains of British Columbia, set green and fractured below us, harboured the multiple sources of the Yukon River. Today we were in search of a tributary feeding Lake Lindeman and ultimately the vastness of Lake Bennett. 30 minutes later as we circled over the green emerald waters of Lindeman we decided it was too narrow and dangerous to land".

Day 6 – LABERGE OR BUST A mile before Lake Laberge we pulled the canoes to the east shore to explore the remnants of an old wooden bridge structure. We stepped out into sideways rain and powerful westerly winds. We’d heard the horror stories up river of the violent nature of this 50km lake. Everyone had given us old wives tales, routes across and stories of death on this temperamental stretch. The following day, after poor nights sleep in a set of old abandoned cabins our progress was a slow painful grind.

Day 18 – EAGLE – CROSSING THE BORDER As the small historic border city of Eagle approached, we paddled energy depleted, into a small muddy boat landing. Wooden houses with moose antlers lined the banks. Young Athabascan natives shouted loudly from the banks, welcoming us to their community. We couldn’t tell whether they were intoxicated or not. Two fishermen sat, rods high, out over the water. Children played with underweight dogs and toy boats. For our expedition, Eagle was major checkpoint. This was now Alaska, and behind us the vast beauty of Canada had passed. After mooring the canoes we made the call to U.S customs to announce of our waterborne arrival into the U.S.

Day 48 – WALTER, NULATO Today was cold and miserably wet. The 18-mile stretch into Nulato, Alaska had been windy and the waves had beaten us into submission. We were soaked through and ready to land and find somewhere warm to feel human again. As the comforting sound of the canoe coming to a halt on gravel caressed my ears I looked down at my hands, I couldn’t feel my left little finger. Looking up, the sound of a 4 wheeler (quad) rumbled to a halt in front of us. A middle-aged Koyukon native sat smiling at the controls. “You guys look cold.” he said. Introducing himself as Walter, he had returned to Nulato to spend his life fishing where he grew up. Much of his adult life had been spent in Anchorage under the grip of alcohol, drugs and depression. He was back where he belonged, raising a family and carving an honest existence during the cycle of the seasons. Throughout the following days Walter showed us a generosity and friendship I’d never experienced including the closely kept secrets of harvesting, preparing and smoking King Salmon. He walked us through the old cabins and cemetery’s explaining of the history and his connection to these sacred tribal places. The native communities displayed this selfless generosity all along the Yukon River. For me, it showed the power of giving when all you have is time and friendship.

To read more about the Pull of the North please visit: http://www.canoekayak.com/canoe/pull-of-the-north/ Big thanks to our sponsor: @thenorthface #neverstopexploring #adventure #explore #expedition @Backcountry Photography by @jaykolsch www.jaykolsch.com

  • MiraBella93

    B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. the shots, the words, the adventure, the story, the human kindness, I love it 😱💚😊 !

  • Btbf

    Incredible ~

  • db73

    👣here humans you are