At the end of March, I set off to travel through snowy Yukon via snowmobile, dogsled and scenic ski plane. If I could dream up the perfect winter adventure, this would be it because what’s more fun than schlopping through feet of white powder in unconventional modes of transportation?
Short answer: nothing.
This would be my very last trip with the old me (read: the old boobs) and if you haven’t heard that I recently had a prophylactic double mastectomy, this is me telling you…again. I can’t think of a better goodbye party than bouncing up and down and all around on snowmobiles, and the Northern Lights even put on a vibrant light show for them! It was special.
After meeting up with fellow blogger and friend Kirsten, our guide Stephen from Travel Yukon and Hannah who founded Curio Trips – a boutique travel design business dedicated to helping any type of traveler book a unique vacay – we all boarded the small plane from Vancouver to Whitehorse circa 10pm. Let the winter escape commence!
Inn for the night: We were so tired from travel the first night, so Bluejay Manner B&B helped us get a great night’s rest as we skipped Northern Lights viewing. Oops. There would be 4 more nights to catch the show, and I needed some beauty sleep. How cute is this Victorian style house?! WANT.
After devouring breakfast, we started the daily fashion ritual of suiting up in gear given to us by Travel Yukon…and THANK GOD because my waterproof pants and layered sweats didn’t cut it with these temps and this wind. Thanks to friend Kirsten for capturing my lovely ensemble.
This day would be my second time snowmobiling through Canada, and I thought I knew what I was doing…the end of the day would prove differently. We set out on Fish Lake with Mark from Up North Adventures, and this snowmobile experience was very different than my first time around in Whistler. It was so incredibly open without any kind of vegetation or coverage since we were moving across a lake. It was an amazingly freeing experience that I’d highly recommend, especially since we stopped after a few hours to make our own fire with hot dogs and hot chocolate to go along. Yeah, that day didn’t suck…
…until I broke my snowmobile. Oops. I think I tore off the entire front axel, or maybe the suspension? I forget, and I’m not well versed in mechanics, but whatever I did, I was leaving a trail of shrapnel in my path until we just flat out stopped moving. This is another formal apology to Up North Adventures. I hope you got that baby working again!
Dinner: If you’re in Whitehorse, do yourself a favor and eat at Antoinette’s. You just simply can’t go wrong with a lil’ Caribbean flavor in the north. Get the pork and crème brûlée. Not the best pairing combo, but kinda the best pairing combo at the same time.
Lodge for the night + Aurora Viewing: Sundog Retreat would forever be where I first viewed the Norther Lights. It had been a long day of exploring, so we got into bed around 10pm, setting alarms for 11:30pm, 2am and 4am. Only after Hannah knocked on the door to show me her first photo, and after Kirsten started bundling up in heavy duty winter gear did I slowly start to get dressed, too. Around midnight I finally made my way outside and into the snow with camera + tripod in tow. It was cold, I was slightly delirious, but the lights were out and about. It was time to get my shit together. To be quite honest, I felt a bit lost. My photography skills have grown immensely after three years of having a camera in my hand almost daily, but this was another beast entirely. To adequately capture the Aurora Borealis was intimidating to say the least. I’d done a lot of reading before night 1, and I’d say it was a great practice round! After two hours of shooting, we turned off the remaining alarms.
I must say, Northern Lights trips are a wee bit exhausting. Not only are you exploring all day but also all night. Waking up at various intervals to search for lights doesn’t exactly make for good sleeping habits, and then when you decide that they’re good enough to shoot, well, prepare yourself to be outside in the cold for a few hours. YAAAWN but OMG was it worth it in the end. To anyone planning a trip like this: mentally prepare yourself for amazingly awesome exhaustion.
In the morning, our tired selves made our way to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. I got to be honest here. I wasn’t exactly thrilled to partake in this activity because to me, it just sounds a bit unexciting. I really love being proved wrong. Bisons, thinhorn sheep, caribou and moose were all out to play!
Wildlife viewing is guaranteed, and with over 700 acres, the animals live a great life here. I had a grand time capturing the arctic foxes, and look how in love these two are. Kisses!
Lodge for the night + Aurora Viewing: Southern Lakes Resort hosted us for the evening, and this was my favorite lodge of the trip. If you have a view, tasty food and a bath, that’s a triple threat in my book and Southern Lakes had all three 😉
The above photo is of Souther Lakes’ signature drink, the Aurora Borealis. It’s green, yellow, and blue. Get it? Ok, good.
Round two of the Northern Lights decided to come out as the sun decided too as well. That’s what you’re seeing behind the mountains – early hours of sunrise. The craziest things I’ve learned from this experience is that 1) the lights are completely random and will come out when they please and 2) what you see with your naked eye is not what your camera sees with long exposures. Those popular Aurora photos you view over and over aren’t exactly the norm in the skies which was hard to grasp and something I never read in my research. There was one 20 second interval that was the coolest light show though. It danced and pulsed in vibrant colors right above us, and we had finally seen what we’d come to see!
EEEKKKKKKK. I remember that sound escaping from my mouth as we walked towards the dogsled team at the base of Southern Lakes Resort. The dogs, the excitement, the scene, the cold and the Iron Will vibes were all too much. The pups couldn’t wait to get going, so we bundled up as MC, the owner of the dogs, gave a quick lesson in how to drive our very own team (insert nervous AF emoji here). It’s hilarious to me that at the very beginning and the very end of the 5ish hour trip, I fell. Hard. Like, physically fell. On the ground, sled going sideways. And BAM. Me plus snow and ice making contact. I couldn’t help but to laugh. I’ve always felt pretty strong and athletic but damn, that day I just couldn’t get it together.
If you could choose between snowmobiling and dog sledding, what would you rather partake in? Dog sledding seems like such an old world sport, and if you feed the dogs well and take care of them, they’ll always bring you back home…unlike my snowmobile. We all know what happened to that.
So I’d go with dog sledding. MC and her dogsled team sold it for me with her authentic vibes and friendly nature. People in the Yukon are just like this – real, laid back, ready to lend a helping hand, and one big happy family. Who doesn’t want to be a part of that?!
Lodge for the night + Aurora Viewing: After traversing Fish Lake and eating lunch on the trail, we finally arrived to Tagish Wilderness Lodge, only accessible by ski plane, dogsled or boat (in the summer). It’s situated in the middle of nowhere, a location that I’ve grown to love. I firmly believe the further you travel into the abyss, the better. The sweet couple who run the lodge said they’d radio us (no service here!) if the lights were on. That radio signal never sounded throughout the night…
After falling asleep to the sound of cracking stove fire in my log cabin (note: the cozy cabins don’t have running water/bathrooms inside as outhouses and the main building are equipped instead), I woke up before the sun. I remember feeling so refreshed at that moment after not having choppy sleep like the three previous nights before it. I guess that’s what happens when the Northern Lights get shut off. Zzzzzzzzz. I put on my winter gear and headed down to the frozen lake for sunrise.
After breakfast, which was a feast due to Hannah’s birthday extravaganza, we packed up and boarded Alpine Aviations‘ bright orange Cessna. This thing was so tiny that I could barely fit myself, my camera, GoPro and iPhone all within my personal space. I’m sure other passengers on my scenic flights get uber annoyed with how I act, constantly moving behind and between my DSLR, GoPro and iPhone lenses, but I can’t help myself. What if I get off that bright orange Cessna and want more photos? What if the majority of them suck, only to come out with a few good ones due to the fact that I took a bajillion? I never want to walk away unhappy. #noregrets
See those two plants on the ground in the photo below? Yeah those aren’t just random bystanders. Those are runway markers 🙂
You know it’s going to be a good time when you came into the wilderness on dogsled and you leave the wilderness via plane. Please tell me about a cooler experience. I’ll wait…
If you ever get the chance to spend a few hours or days in Carcross, do it. It’s funky, quirky, colorful and screams to be discovered.
Lodge for the night + Aurora Viewing: The Inn on the Lake was a beauty with lovely rooms, a spacious deck and scrumptious food. But the real kicker was our Aurora sendoff. Unlike the other light shows, this one had many guest’s in the lodge coming together at about 10pm, the earliest we’d seen them yet! Everyone was still very much awake, happy and enthusiastic to shoot since it was our last night. Who knows when I’d get to see this light show phenomenon again?!
First and foremost, this year marks the 150th anniversary of Canada – lots of events are happening and parks are free!
Download the app My Aurora Forecast for Northern Lights forecasts. A reading of 4,5,6 are best and means the lights are strong.
The Yukon territory is a popular place, especially during the Aurora season. Here are a few more hotels I loved along the way…
Boreale Ranch: This masterpiece started as a summer-only biking company doing day trips to the ranch alongside mountain biking trips. After many successes, they build an amazing ranch complete with a main building and yurts!
Northern Lights Resort and Spa: Owners Ranata and Wolfgang literally provide it all, even helping with Norther Lights photography, and guests can even rent cameras and clothing for cold nights.
MANY thanks to our fearless and informative guide Stephen from Travel Yukon and Hannah from Curio Trips for making the trip possible. If anyone is looking to book a trip around the world but doesn’t know how, has multiple questions or is completely overwhelmed, Hannah is your one stop shop!