Featured Images by Tristan Kennedy
In the cult 1980s American strip cartoon Calvin and Hobbes, there’s an extended story arc which sees six-year-old Calvin and his best friend, a stuffed tiger who magically comes alive when no-one else is around, attempting to “secede” from their family and run away forever. Their choice of destination? Yukon. It’s a place where, Calvin dreams, they’ll be able to live wild, befriend timber wolves, and never being told to clean their room again.
They never make it, of course. Just twenty minutes from home, the carefully-plotted expedition falls apart when Hobbes mutinously steals ‘the commander hat’, and tries to eat their last sandwich. But having succeeded where they failed, and made it as far as Yukon’s Kluane National Park, it’s easy to see why in Calvin’s mind, and in that of his creator, cartoonist Bill Watterson, this northern Canadian territory represented the ultimate in unbridled freedom.
“About 37,000 people currently call Yukon home – that’s a population roughly one-quarter of the size of Slough’s, living in an area the size of Spain”
From our 1,990m-high vantage point at the top of King’s Throne peak, the visible landscape is almost inconceivably vast. On one side snow-capped peaks jostle for position, each ridge seemingly higher and more jagged than the last. Somewhere out of sight, about 150km away to the west, they join forces and rise to form the 5,959m-high Mount Logan, Canada’s highest mountain.
Beneath us to the north lies Kathleen Lake and the cluster of tents by the beach we’ve climbed up from. Follow the road up from there and you can just about make out Haines Junction (population 613), but beyond that, and to the east, and to the south, there’s… nothing. Just endless miles of virgin, boreal forest, broken only occasionally by a rocky ridgeline, a marshy clearing, or the glacial blue of a meltwater-fed lake.