Home Adventure Hiking ancestral trails – Indigenous adventure tourism

Hiking ancestral trails – Indigenous adventure tourism

Painting on wood by artist William Kane of the symbol of the Champagne people. © Johan Demarle

Nested between Alaska’s wilderness and the spectacular Northwest Territories, the Yukon, with its countless unnamed summits, is home still to pristine and undisturbed lands.

The Gold Rush, the Chilkoot Trail and the legendary Dawson City are only some of the names that make adventurers around the world dream about travelling to Canada’s North.

Yet those icons don’t represent the true Yukon in its entirety. So why not discover the territory in 14 stories through those who were there when it all started many moons ago?

That’s the idea behind the innovative project that is the Chti’ Jardinier Voyageur. It is a link between you and the 14 Yukon First Nations.

Taye Lake, Canoe trek

Over two days, and only a few hours from Whitehorse, you can take part in an incredible journey through time and into the traditions and ancient territories — home of nature’s true treasures.

Our adventure begins along the famous Alaska Highway with an hour hike into the heart of Kluane National Park. You will be led to the site of a former clay village, telling the story of a busy fishing camp.

A long time ago the salmon swam upstream along the Yukon River into the Mendenhall River and would spawn in Taye Lake.

Harrold Johnson
© Johan Demarle

Harrold Johnson, a member of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation, welcomes us in front of a beautiful crackling campfire as the morning breeze sets in.

The camp is simple but comfortable: the ground of the tent — which will be our shelter for the night — has been covered with spruce branches making for a thick mattress with a delicate perfume.

After a short tour of the camp, some quick introductions, and a taste of bannock — a traditional treat common to the North — everyone gears up for the hike our Indigenous guide has planned.

Going through the small Mendenhall River gives us a refreshing break before heading into the depths of the boreal forest. The region of Taye Lake is home to wild bison, made clear early on while following the trail.

Harrold, leading the group and staying alert to any signs of wildlife, tells us fascinating stories from his childhood about this hidden utopia.

After a good hour of hiking, the trail reaches the tree line and Taye Lake reveals itself in all of its glory, surrounded by hills rolling towards the horizon — only interrupted by wild mountains shooting up to the sky.

All of a sudden, we are struck by the roaring sound of a torrent: a canyon made of giant slabs polished by the water appears in front of us. As we climb up the canyon, the sound of the water grows louder and louder until we reach a majestic waterfall.

We take a well-deserved refreshing break and bask in this natural beauty.

Our trail continues, merging with the migration trail of a bison herd. Our guide fascinates us with tales of how the bison were hunted back in the days and teaches us traditional ways to recognize signs of recent bison activity.

On our way back the sunset lights up the summits with golden tints that are reflected on the lake.

Mendenhall River. © le Chti’ Jardinier voyageur

Back at the camp we’re greeted by a delicious aroma coming from the improvised kitchen. For dinner tonight, ground bison with asparagus and wild cranberries — nothing better to regain some strength!

Harrold tells us not only his personal story but also the story of his ancestors and their legends.

We drift off to sleep with stunning images floating through our minds. Tomorrow, we’ll be canoeing across the lake!

On the lake you can see majestic swans and bald eagles roam free. This moderately difficult hike will stun you with how gorgeous and calm the views of the lake are. While hiking and canoeing you’ll learn a lot about traditional hunting and foraging practices.

This awe-inspiring journey leaves us with a profound feeling of respect and admiration for this culture and land.

Jonathan Alsberghe
Translated to English by Pierre Chauvin Contact Le Chti’ Jardinier Voyageur in Whitehorse, Yukon, at: www.jardiniervoyageur.com or Facebook: Tourisme d’aventure Autochtone.

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