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  1. #16

    Lake Laberge to Five Finger Rapids

    Back on the highway it is a long run up to Dawson. The pavement is good, the road meanders around mountains, over hills and through gentle valleys. The path of the highway is along the eastern slope of the Dawson range of mountains roughly following the path of the Yukon River. Gas stops are between 100 km and 160 km apart, separated by the spectacular scenery showcasing northern wilderness. If your machine fails out here, it is a long walk to civilization unless another vehicle happens to pass by.

    Rounding a gentle curve in the road, I am surprised by a flag lady in the middle of nowhere commanding me to stop and wait for some road construction. I shut my bike off and we have a pleasant conversation about this being her summer job and plans to return to University down south in the fall. In the five minutes I wait for the all clear sign, two vehicles line up behind me. This provides a good indication of traffic frequency along this route.

    About ten minutes north of my first gas stop at Carmacks there is a pullout for the overlook of the Five Finger rapids section of the Yukon River. This was another tricky section for the early gold rushers. Floating down the Yukon on your homemade barge (assuming you made it through Miles Canyon) with the two thousand pounds of food and supplies you hauled up over the Chilkoot trail, you drift around a corner to find you are faced with the choice of floating through one of four channels separated by pillars of rock. Those that had been through this before knew that the broadest channel which seemed like the easiest one to float through was actually the most dangerous. An underwater ledge cause the water to drop two feet which capsized or broke apart many of these handmade barges. Only one narrow channel was deep enough to be safe.

    Once again I am struck by another example in life where sharing your experiences openly with others can help them through a rough spot. Had the knowledgeable locals and experienced Yukoners kept their experiences to themselves, many more ‘«£greenhorn flotillas‘«ō would have been destroyed on their journey down the Yukon. How much better could we do with our mental health journeys if we would more openly share our experiences with others? I am sure the first person to lose his ‘«£outfit‘«ō through the Five Finger Rapids was not ostracized when he shared his experience with the next person to try. Why and how has society decided to allow this stigma to be attached to mental health?
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