As soon as the ice melts from the local lakes, off we go paddling. Snafu Lake offers coves and bays to explore and lakes beyond beckon the curious determined enough to portage the beaver dams and shallow creeks. It is also a wonderful place for birding. Common loons, all kinds of ducks – mallard, goldeneyes, buffleheads, wigeons and more – all nest here. Osprey nest and fish here. Bald eagles as well. As do mew gulls. More than once we have spotted lynx. Last year a lynx watched us paddle beneath the hill it regally sat on. This year a lynx, its back turned away from us on the water and therefore unaware of us, hunted the edge of a marsh. A black or grizzly bear may be seen ambling a grassy hillside or a porcupine might be found napping among soapberry bushes.
We set off each morning with the intention of paddling long days but in truth we end up spending a lot of time floating on the water, watching birds: a mallard hiding in the weeds with her brood of eleven, yellowlegs “pweer”ing at us. A pair of red-tailed hawks made the ring-necked ducks nervous. An American kestrel harassed a family of gray jays. There was so much commotion, how could we just paddle by. Numerous beaver dams along the river slowed our progress and tested our resolve and minuscule wood frogs beneath our feet made traveling between ponds a challenge.
Agay Mene Territorial Park, just one hundred kilometres south of Whitehorse will soon become the Yukon’s newest territorial park, preserving subalpine forests, wetlands, mountain ranges, several pristine lakes, all of which is critical habitat for wolves, caribou, bear and moose. Scanning a topo map of this new park reveals a labyrinth chain of lakes and towering mountains, an intriguing outdoor playground to explore, Tarfu and Snafu lakes being the two most popular.
But the park isn’t just about paddling. Mount White is an impressive limestone mountain towering over the boreal forest and Little Atlin Lake. Once in the alpine, the summit rolls on and on, beckoning hikers further along the ambling ridgeline.