The Yukon… what images does it conjure for you? A dark, desolate, uninhabitable vast interior of Canada – the middle of nowhere and then go further – to the edge of nowhere. That’s where you are, at the end of the road, where all before you are towering snow-capped mountains, glacier lakes and natural wilderness – home of bears, porcupines, mountain goats and moose. Not desolate at all, filled and teeming with salmon rivers, wildflowers and birds. And not dark either – here in June its 24 hours daylight. Imagine sitting outdoors at midnight and enjoying the cool night air in beautiful sunshine!
One of the best things about the Yukon was the people I met. The two main towns of Whitehorse and Dawson City have so small a population it’s like everyone is family. They revel in their stories of the Gold Rush of 1898. Why, there’s still gold to pan at Bonanza Creek! The Can Can at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s Saloon and the house of Robert Service (the famous poet of the Yukon) are restored and preserved in all their glory. Prospectors came from all over the world, in a madness, taking the perilous trail over the Chiloot Pass, negotiating the rapids at Miles Canyon to Whitehorse and then up the Yukon river to arrive at Dawson City. All in a fever to find gold! Many perished on the way, and many did not find it. But I did…there at the Top of the World Highway at the edge of the river – in the silence and splendour of it all and in the friendly hearts of the Yukon people.
It was on this trip that I first read of Robert Service, an Englishman who lived in the Yukon just after the Gold Rush. He wrote poems that described the Klondike Gold Fever – tales of cards and kept women on a backdrop of Northern Lights, cold and dashed hopes. The cremation of Sam McGee is a poem that brings the spirit and atmosphere of The Yukon and The Gold Rush alive.
Sam McGee and the author are caught by Gold Fever and making their way, by dog sled across the frozen wastelands, in search of their fortune.
Sam McGee is from Tennessee in the South, he’s used to warm weather, sunshine and cotton fields. Alaska chills him to the bone, but his Gold Fever spurs him on!
The poem is about a promise made to Sam McGee, a pact between two friends in the eerie wilderness of Alaska!
Read it yourself … you will love it!