There are very few roads in the Yukon, and the vast majority of ground is a mix of permafrost and swampy marsh. Given that, the best time to go seriously into the Yukon wilderness and explore is actually winter. All the rivers, lakes and marshes are frozen solid.
Because the Yukon is so large, and we want to cover some ground, it’s nice to be motorized when exploring – enter snowmobiles.
There isn’t a lot of snow away from the coastal mountains, so we don’t ride “mountain machines” with enormous horsepower and insanely loud exhausts. We ride “trail machines” which are designed to go anywhere and are great for hauling a load over really long distances without burning too much gas. With some careful route finding, and mostly sticking to the valleys to avoid any serious uphill climbs it’s amazing how far and wide we can explore on these machines.
It becomes a game to link together as many rivers and lakes as possible. We race down one lake – sometimes hitting 100 km/h – then carefully pick our way through the lumpy ground in an attempt to find another lake. As long as we stick to the low areas, we know we’ll eventually find another lake or river to motor down.
Racing on the lakes is great fun though we’re always watching for “Overflow” where water rises up through pressure cracks in the ice and sits on the frozen lake, hidden under the snow. It’s impossible to see ahead of time, and when you hit it all you can do is go full throttle and hope it’s not too deep. It’s common to get stuck, which is a real problem when you have to start walking through the water that might be over your boots, and you have to work quickly before the snowmobile freezes in place.
All in all, it’s a fun way to get around, and an awesome way to explore Yukon in the winter.
(All photos in this post taken by Brett)