In the paper in Whitehorse-The Whitehorse Star
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Expedition REPORT! Grab a snack and some tea and get comfortable...
On June 27th 2011 I, Lina Augaitis and Andrew Dye departed from downtown Whitehorse on the Yukon River at the Peace Rotary Park. Five-and-a half days later we arrived in Dawson City and I was the first to stand up paddleboard (SUP) this distance on the Yukon River.
Board and kayak:
I was on a Starboard K-15 stand up paddleboard carrying two sleeping bags and therma-rest sleeping mats in dry bags and a dry bag of snack and lunch food. The bags were held onto the board by a bike basket bungee net hooked into the bungee rings on either side of the board. I had a surfing leash to attach the board to my ankle. I was paddling with the Methane paddle by Kialoa paddles. My spare paddle was a three piece Werner Nitro.
Andrew carried the rest of our equipment and supplies in a Necky Eskia plastic sea kayak (kindly loaned from Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak)
Stohlquist Drifter PFD
Innov 8 hip pouch which held 2 litres of water (usually filled with nuun electrolytes) and some snacks waterproof Fuji Z33 camera in the hip pouch
I was wearing Ryders sunglasses (Tweaker SL with interchangeable lens) and a hat by Kialoa.
I wore Chaco Z1 Unaweep sandals usually barefoot. Through bad weather and the rapids wore Kokatat Tempest pant with socks and Kokatat Helix dry top.
MEC neoprene paddling shoes
Icebreaker 150 longsleeve top, 150 t-shirt, socks and underwear
MEC merino lightweight 2 longsleeve crew
Patagonia synthetic insulated jacket
Arc'teryx Sidewinder waterproof jacket
Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 Tent
MEC Merlin -3ºC down sleeping bag and MEC Habanero -7ºC synthetic bag
MEC silk sleeping bag liners
MSR Whisperlite stove and stainless-steel pots
MEC, Sealine and Watershed dry bags (various sizes)
MSR dromedary water bag
Katadyn Base Camp water filter
Garmin GPSMap 62s with Ibycus Topo maps
Mike Rourke - Yukon River Marsh Lake to Dawson City Map Book
Rescue and Safety Gear:
2 throw bags
Spare split paddles (kayak and SUP)
Northwater PFD quick release sea link tow-line
"Session saver" surfboard repair putty
Bear bangers and spray
Tips for Preparation and Packing
In preparation for the expedition, I did a lot of research online about the Yukon River. I read blog posts and asked for first hand experiences from other paddlers. I bought a map book by Mike Rourke that was recommended by many: "Yukon River-Marsh Lake to Dawson City".
In terms of packing I read the recommended gear requirements used in the famous Yukon River Quest Race (which uses the same route we used). We also needed to pack according to the limited space we had with a single plastic sea kayak and a SUP. The limited space helped us choose smaller and lighter weight items. We ensured we had enough warm clothes and emergency gear but tried to limit our clothes and gear to the absolute necessary.
First I needed to ensure we could get the right gear. I looked at what we had, what we still needed and how we could get it. I called and emailed folks involved in the industry and associated with water sports. Deep Cove Canoe and Kayak lent us a Necky Eskia kayak and safety gear which we chose as it has plenty of storage space and is very stable. Trident sports lent us a the Starboard K-15 board, chosen for its speed and fittings to carry cargo on the deck. MEC provided us with support for the expedition fund which we used to help purchace a Garmin GPSMap 62s, chosen for its on-screen mapping and expandable memory. Kialoa provided me with a SUP paddle and Werner a three-piece paddle we would carry as a spare. Ryders eyewear provided us with sunglasses. We already owned suitable lightweight camping gear, so we were on our way!
A leisurely canoe trip from Whitehorse to Dawson typically takes two weeks, and the winning teams in the Yukon River Quest take approximately 48 hours. We estimated our trip would take up to 6 days, paddling 10-12 hour days, but stopping to cook and camp each night. The biggest unknown was the time we would take to paddle Lake Laberge due to the lack of flow and potential for winds and bad weather. Once on the river we knew we would have 10-12km/h of current in our favor and less exposure to wind and waves.
We needed to find a way to get ourselves and our gear back to Whitehorse as this was a point-to-point expedition. The timing worked out well as the Yukon River Quest race started two days after we set out, following the same route as us. It was a race I’ve had my eye on for quite some while so knew the website and kept my eye out on the forum. I first emailed outfitters that run trips on the river and found there were possibilities of either getting picked up by an outfitter or to have an outfitter drive our car up to Dawson for us. Both would have worked well for us, but I saw a team racing in the Yukon River Quest who were looking for a car for their support crew to drive from Whitehorse to Dawson City during the time we would be on the river. We met up in Whitehorse, loaned our car, and met it again in Dawson. We were even able to give another pair of paddlers a ride back to Whitehorse, so it worked out perfectly.
Our goal was simple - I wanted to be the first to SUP the entire 700km from Whitehorse to Dawson City. We reached the goal! Having Andrew as a safety and support in the kayak helped me reach this goal. It was nice to have someone there beside me, to help with navigation, with loading and unloading gear, and emotional support. It is a long way, even on a fast-flowing river and mentally it is tough. There are long days and sometimes it feels monotonous. Having someone there to talk to and help keep you focused on your goal was ideal.
There are times when doing a longer expedition that mentally you wonder "Why?". When you reach the end and it all comes together, you fully understand why. It is an amazing feeling to have a dream and a goal and know that you were able to complete it. It takes inner strength, preparation, and organization but it is all worth the effort. The lessons you learn along the way about yourself are irreplaceable. For example I know I am competitive and can push through pain, but I also know that when I am hungry I get moody!
Struggles and Joys
One of our biggest struggles as a couple was our different take on adventure. I have a very competitive spirit and like to do things as fast as I can. Andrew is less competitive and enjoys the present and takes in everything around him. There were moments on the river where these different styles of adventuring caused some friction but we were able to compromise. I pushed to continue further Andrew on days more than he would have liked but also knew there would be some historic things he would enjoy seeing and stopped to take a look at these and let him enjoy them for as long as he liked. There were also times where he just wanted to enjoy time stopped on an island and although it was difficult for me I saw that he was putting himself out there for me and I wanted to do the same for him.
Some specific river struggles were the 30 mile Lake Laberge. It was a long time on non-moving water. On the third day we experienced one full day of rain and I don’t think it stopped raining for 24 hours. It was one of our longer days on the river and we were cold, hungry, and tired. We almost quit right there, but people were so kind and helped us dry out our gear. The sun shined the next day! All of these things perked up our spirits and we were ready to tackle the rest of the river to Dawson City.
Although we encountered struggles, we experienced many moments of JOY. Getting through the rapids, camping on some beautiful remote islands, working together as a team with navigation, gear loading and unloading, and just being in the wild. All of these were exciting and made for a beautiful experience on the Yukon River.
What I learned
Before the expedition I didn’t realize how little knew about the history and the importance of the Yukon River. The river played a pivotal role for transport both for First Nations and the Goldrush era in northern Canada.
I learned how working together you can accomplish so much in half the time and double the fun. It took us 1.5 hours from wake up time to being on the water in the morning. This included take down, coffee, hot breakfast, packing the kayak, and dressing ourselves. We had roles and we each delivered well in our roles and created a good team.
If you follow through with your ideas and dreams they bring happiness and joy to you and those around you.
The people of northern Canada are wonderfully friendly, respectful, and interesting. We met some amazing people that helped us along the way and we are grateful for each and every one of them!
June 27th 2011
Whitehorse to Lake Laberge Narrows
Time paddling: 2pm-10pm
Total distance: 60.3 km
Average Speed: 7.7km/h
We left Whitehorse in shorts and a t-shirt, under blue skies with about 25ºC temperature. Our friends Colleen, David, and Sam watched us leave the shores of the Peace Park in Downtown Whitehorse. As we waved them goodbye on the swift moving waters of the Yukon River we went over everything in our heads to ensure we hadn’t forgotten anything too essential. The water moves quickly from Whitehorse but as we paddled toward Lake Laberge the current slowed significantly. It was fun to watch our speed on the Garmin GPS. We moved past some of the boats doing some last minute training for the Yukon River Quest (we were following the race course from Whitehorse to Dawson City). Once we paddled past the Takhini River, our first confluence of many. The water color changed from clear blue to a faint brown tint. The change in water color is something we will notice passing by confluences throughout our journey on the Yukon River. As we entered Lake Laberge we veered to the right shoulder and remained there for the entirety of the lake. I read about the lake and the possibilities of instant storms and winds. It is a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains. It is miles wide and miles upon miles long. We were blessed with a small tail wind and rain clouds that decided to just skip to the side of us. We decided that it would be best to keep paddling until we couldn’t any longer or the lake acted up on us and forced us to stop. The latter was the case. At about mid point on the lake we received a strong cross wind. It picked up so that with already tired legs I didn’t feel comfortable standing anymore. We headed into the closest bay, set up tent, cooked out first meal (curry in a bag) and lay our heads down feeling like we accomplished a good amount for our first half day out on the water. The Kialoa Methane paddle and the Starboard K-15 board both felt really comfortable for me.
June 28th 2011
Lake Laberge Narrows to little island before the Keno Bend
Time paddling: 7am to 8pm ; total time travelling 11 hours
Total distance: 103km (25km on lake Laberge)
Average Speed: 9.5km/h
We departed Laberge narrows with again a small tail wind, sunny skies and the motivation to reach the river and the current. We stopped for lunch right before the river and made sure our gear was secured. Lunch on the river consisted mostly of some sort of bread product, cheese, peanut butter, and a desert piece with Nutella. YUM! Bungee cords were our friends as they helped keep items secure both on the board and the kayak.
We stopped to explore Shipyard Island past the deserted town of Hootalinqua. The steamboat “Evelyn” was left here and she was ours to explore for an hour. These ships were big and it is difficult to imagine how they made it upstream on the river under steam power!
This section of river is quite narrow and very windy and the landscape consists of many high sand cliffs, especially on the corners. Our goal was to paddle to the Big Eddy Woodcamp but bad weather forced us to stop just short of the Keno Bend, about 5km before our planned camp. The rain came as we set up our tent so we snuck away under our sleeping bags for 2 hours to see if the rain would cease enough for us to cook some dinner. We managed to wake up during a break from the rain but it was short and it once again poured down on us during dinner and through the night. We covered ourselves with our tarp and had a rather unromantic dinner of curry in a bag (again) sitting on top the kayak.
June 29th 2011
Little island before the Keno Bend to Coal Mine Campground
Time paddling: 10am to 8:30pm ; total time travelling 10 hours
Total distance: 133km
Average Speed: 13.2km/h
We didn’t depart until 10am this day despite wanting to make it to the Coal Mine campground which was 133km away. We hoped for a break in the weather but when we realized it may not happen we sucked it up and tore down camp in the rain. Our gear got wet but there was nothing we could do. Luckily with the right clothes (Gore-Tex jackets and Kokatat dry-pants) the rain is not so much a problem while on the river paddling. We paddled through old burned forests, which made for an interesting atmosphere with the dark clouds and somber weather day. The river kept winding around and due to the rain we didn’t take out the video or camera too much this day. We arrived into Coal Mine campground at 8:30pm just in time for veggie burgers, fries, and ice cream. It was wet and it made for a tough day but hot food, good company, and a warm cup of tea helped us regain our spirits.
The campground was busy with support crew for the Yukon River Quest race but we managed to find a spot for our tent and tarp. After setting up camp, Sam (the man driving our car to Dawson City and support crew for team YukOntario) invited us into his cabin for tea and cinnamon buns and the drying of our very wet tent. The visit and the stories he shared with us lifted our spirits and we managed to regain motivation and excitement to continue the long journey to Dawson City.
June 30th 2011
Coal Mine Campground to sandbar island 20km south of Fort Selkirk
Time paddling: 11am to 8:15pm ; total time travelling 9 hours
Total distance: 109km
Average Speed: 12.2 km/h
We slept in, ate a good breakfast, and went into Carmacks to pick up some more snack food for the rest of the trip. By the time we got ourselves organized and suited for the rapids with all our waterproofs on and energized it was 11am but it was still before any of the teams were allowed to leave so we were excited. We had a little crowd of people sending us off from the coal mine campground and back into the wilds of the river. The famous five finger rapids were about 2 hours/40km away from the campground, enough time to think about them a lot and get myself worked up. By the time I was on the rapids I was loving every second of it and wished I was on my feet instead of stable and on my knees. But in reality it would have been a hassle if anything went wrong in the rapids so I was vey pleased that we execute the rapids with ease and no concerns. The board felt very stable, especially down on my knees. All the gear was secured on with a bungee net and another bungee strapped across on top of everything. I made sure all the gear was clipped into something.
The next set of rapids, the rink rapids, were easily avoidable on the far right side of the river. I stayed on my feet and enjoyed the rapids from the right side of the river. We stopped at the Minto boat launch to take a quick break and use the facilities. Here we met some support crews waiting on racers to go by. We chatted with them a little and then pushed off again. The weather was nice but we were getting a little tired.
Having the GPS definitely helped us navigate through the maze of islands that we encountered from here on in. We managed to find camp on a little sandbar island just before Fort Selkirk. We cooked up a dinner of dried veggies and Andrew created a filter stand with the kayak paddles so we could filter our water using the Katadyn Base Camp filter and MSR Dromedary combination. The sandbar islands were great for ease of entry into shore and the lack of significant bugs.
July 1st 2011
Sandbar island 20km south of Fort Selkirk to island just north of Kirkman Creek
Time paddling: 7:30am to 8:15pm
Total distance: 146km
Average Speed: 12.6km/h
After breakfast and an hour of paddling we stopped to explore the deserted town of Fort Selkirk. Here we learned even more about the amazing history of the Gold Rush, the importance of the stern-wheelers to ferry people and goods up and down the river.
On this day we paddled through more mazes of islands. The combination of me with the paper map (Mike Rourke) and Andrew with the GPS was perfect for not getting too lost within the islands. We did meet some folks along the way that were a little flustered and a little lost within the islands. I was glad for our GPS at these times. This was our longest day of paddling so to keep things moving, we took our breaks on the river, rafting up and having snacks or discussing our strategy, or to steal a kiss or two! We tended to only get off the river for a lunch break and if Andrew was in dire needs of a leg stretch
A combination of a long day of paddling, the thought of bad weather fast approaching and an over ambitious ferry glide across the river we hastily picked our worst campsite of the trip, a very buggy one. We had to eat in our tent and hope no bears were sniffing around.
July 2nd 2011
Island just north of Kirkman Creek to island 20km south of Dawson City
Time paddling: 8:30am to 7:15pm ; total time travelling 9 hours
Total distance: 125km
Average Speed: 12.6km/h
Not too long after leaving this day we paddled past our last large confluence with the silty waters of the White River. This confluence also brought many more snags and sandbars. It was important to keep a sharp eye not to run into something on the river. The weather was warm again so I was in shorts and a thing long sleeve shirt, wearing my Chaco sandals with bare feet. Andrew and I enjoyed wearing our Ryders sunglasses on the entire trip. We paddled through many more islands and stopped just short of Dawson City. I wanted to paddle on to Dawson and reach the "finish line" and Andrew (who tends to actually think things through) thought we should stop just short and camp on the river as it was the last evening of the Yukon River Quest and we had heard from many people that accommodations might be full. As we didn’t know when we would finish we had no accommodations booked and would have arrived into Dawson at 9pm and with no accommodations it would not have been the most pleasant ending. We had a little couple confrontation but Andrew’s arguments over took mine and we camped on the river and were to arrive into Dawson for breakfast!
July 3rd 2011
Arrived Dawson City
20km paddling, total time 1.5 hours
Arrived at 9am
We quickly arrived into Dawson as folks in town were heading to the coffee shops to satisfy their daily caffeine needs. We managed to land right in the centre of town at a main park. As I waited for Andrew to find the car many folks from the Yukon River Quest race came up to congratulate me on the expedition. It felt so good to have accomplished this mission of mine and it was nice to be able to share it with others while it was fresh, new, and exciting. Andrew and I got washed and sorted, had breakfast, explored Dawson’s culture, hidden paddlewheeler "graveyard", and nightlife excitements.
Thank you again to our sponsors for their support throughout this exciting journey
Mountain Equipment Co-op
Starboard SUP/Trident Sports
Deep Cove Canoe and Kayaks
live, love, laugh,..DREAM!
Lina Augaitis (The Stand Up Paddler)
Lina is a team rider for Starboard Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP). She is SUP instructor as well as a kayak guide with Deep Cove Canoe and Kayaks. Lina is hoping to become one of the first qualified SUP Instructors through the newly developed Paddle Canada Program. Lina is also a certified Assistant Overnight Guide with SKGABC has her wilderness first aid certificate, current CPR training, and VHF radio certificate. This will be Lina’s second year racing on SUPs. Lina has raced in many multi day adventure races around the globe (including the Queen Charlotte Islands, Blanc Sablon QC, Mexico,
Chile, and Sweden). Lina has also completed two personal kayak expeditions with husband Andrew on the coast of Baja and in the south of Chile.
Andrew Dye (The support kayaker)
Andrew is a whitewater kayak instructor and has been paddling on rivers for over 10 years. Andrew is certified in CPR and basic first aid. Andrew paddles surf skis and sea kayaks in Deep Cove at least once a week throughout the year and has paddled whitewater rivers throughout BC, the UK, and the French Alps. Andrew participates regularly in multi day kayak, ski touring and hiking trips. Andrew is also a member of
SKGABC as he has participated in the guide exchanges.
Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada June 27th to July 3rd (approximate) 2011
Yukon River: Whitehorse to Dawson
Approx 6 days 740km
Nature of trip:
I will Stand Up Paddle Board from Whitehorse to Dawson via the Yukon River. To my knowledge, I will be the first individual to Stand Up Paddle Board this distance on the Yukon River. Andrew will provide kayak safety support.
My dream of paddling down the Yukon River will finally become a reality, in SUP form. In 2010, I pursued the sport of SUP through instructing and racing. My increasing passion for SUP, has driven me to explore different areas and different bodies of water via SUP, leading to the idea to paddle the Yukon river (Whitehorse to Dawson). As far as I can tell, I will be the first to complete this route on a SUP. Through this expedition I hope to enhance my sense of pursuing and reaching my dreams and help others take the first steps to develop, accomplish and relish in their dreams and or passions through my blog, pictures, and stories shared.
The Yukon is full of exciting and undamaged wilderness. Protecting our environment is an important issue in our world today. Throughout and after the expedition, I hope to promote, educate, and cherish the surrounding environment of the Yukon River. Clean water is becoming a prominent issue worldwide. Paddling on such pristine water is another way to appreciate its importance, beauty, and power.
I would also like to promote the sport of SUP. Andrew and I plan to record our journey with photograps and point-of-view video, allowing us to write a blog, and produce a short video capturing the essence of the expedition. Andrew will provide safety support and to help carry gear by kayak.
I aim to motivate others to follow their dreams and passions, and get more people enjoying the outdoors in a variety of capacities. Too many people suffer from symptoms such as overstress, depression, and anxiety, which may lead to other health problems and further complications. I hope that through outdoor recreation people are able to free themselves from fear, let go of their comfort zones, and live the life they want to live without any regrets and full of passion.
I am a teacher and through my work I see that we have youth with unique talents, passions, and dreams. My desire is to reach out to as many youth as possible through role modeling, instruction, discussions, and pursuing goals. Adolescents are blessed with gifts, dreams, and desires, and they should acquire the skills to allow them to develop confidence and have the support of others to help them reach their full potential. The outdoors is just one of many avenues to accomplish this and I will focus on this through the expedition.