IT IS -24 degrees, and the sun is trying desperately to fight through the cloud layer
Ok. Salopettes. Heavy-duty jacket. Gloves. Hat. Bunny boots. Sunglasses. Check. Good to go. I put on my snow shoes and walk out of the hut into a chilling wind. I crunch across the snow, and can see my ice-fishing guide Dave from Up North Adventures a distance away on Fish Lake – an appropriate name for the occasion. Located in an alpine valley, high above the Yukon River, and surrounded by a mountain vista, I am pretty much in a pristine wilderness, save for the occasional snowmobile and dog tracks around the edges of the frozen lake. When I say frozen, we are talking about 40 inches of ice. Dave has already used the auger to drill through to the water when I arrive. He sets up a camping chair for me and, once seated, he takes me through the drill. Lower the line until I reach the bottom – about 20ft – and then raise it slightly, gently tweeking the line to encourage the fish to take the bait. An hour later, Dave brings me a welcome cup of tea. I place it safely in the snow, where it cools miraculously quickly. Clearly, I have had no luck in tempting any lake trout, pike or grayling, although they have been teasing me with their nudges and nibbles. Never mind. I give it another hour, and by now I am decidedly cold. I have been facing towards the sun, but still my cheeks are feeling the cold snap. Mind you, it has warmed up to -22 degrees by now. Time for lunch. A splash of chilli from a flask, and a caribou burger. Splendid. We decide to call a halt to my miserable attempt at ice fishing, and instead I swap snowshoes for a helmet and we head off across the lake on a snowmobiles. I follow Dave past the tree-line, over humps and bumps to a high vantage point overlooking Whitehorse. We then head across the lake at breathtaking speed, when Dave stops. “Can you see any houses around here?” he asks. Well, of course I can’t. We are, literally, two dots in a white wilderness. “Right under your feet,” he says. What? Of course, how silly of me. It’s a beaver dam. The tell-tale signs are chunks of wood sticking out of the ice, and gnawed edges. I can clearly see the incisor marks. Crows are feeding on the remains of a carcase as we head back to base, and I take my leave after a superb day. I head to Boreale Ranch, on the road between Whitehorse and Carcross. It was not until I arrived that I realised I knew Marsha and Sylvain. Five years ago when I was last in the Yukon, the couple had been running a mountain bike activity centre outside Whitehorse. They had since moved, buying this stunning property, and today operate as a premier bike touring and accommodation provider. After dinner, we relax in the lounge, and at 2330 hrs we head out back where Sylvan takes me to a prime spot for Aurora viewing. Excitement amounts as glimpes of the Northern Lights start to make a show. The 20-second timer on the camera picks up distinct green streaks, low across the night sky, but there is to be no significant dancing tonight, although there is some distinct movement. I am satisfied, and retire to bed, exhausted, yet elated.