YMCA Yukon-Ontario exchange program

By: Matthew Campbell, Venturer, Scouts Canada-1st Whitby Group

Group photo the gateway to the Yukon Participants:

Ontario:  Iain Tait, Kevin Larson, Selena Lam, Ryan Mitchell, Karen Mitchell, Brendan Hendel-McCarthy, Siobhan Hendel-McCarthy, Graham Luke, Amanda Luke, Sam Morrison, Matthew Campbell, Amy Caldwell, Andrew Pearce, Scouter Gregory Luke and Scouter Brian Wick .

Yukon:  Dawn Duquette, Justine Usher, Jonathon Usher, Gregory Johnson, Elizabeth Johnson, Mary Allison, Blake Lepine, Rebecca O’Brien, Avon-Lee Ezenauer, Douglas Johnson, Coordinator Marilyn Jensen (all members of the Athapaskan and Inland Tlingit First Nations) and Scouter Kevin Mellis.


The 1st Whitby Venturer Company left for the Yukon on Sunday afternoon at 12:00pm. They arrived in Whitehorse at approx. 5:30pm, because of the 3-hour time difference. After arriving at the airport they were kindly greeted by their host families with First Nations drumming and a sign saying: "welcome to the Yukon". They all headed to their host family’s homes where they would all be housed for the week. After settling in, everyone headed to the home of Marilyn Jensen, Yukon coordinator, for a welcome barbecue. The food was great and included fresh king salmon. The Venturers were then given a package of pamphlets and brochures, telling them all about what there is to do in the Yukon, and how much fun they would be having in the next week. After the barbecue the youth returned to their host families to get to know them better.

Boarding the train to the White Pass On Monday everyone met at Marilyn’s house and took off for the White Pass and Yukon Route Historical Railway. Once the Company arrived, they stopped to have lunch in a fish restaurant downtown. After lunch there was an opportunity to learn about the history of the area and visit local shops downtown. The train was historic and the coaches resembled the original 1898 cars; theirs was named Tutshi (Car 260) after a lake located near the Yukon-BC border. Next they drove to the campground, in Dyea, where they spent the night. Everyone pitched in to collect firewood for a campfire. Half the group set up tents and the others made the fires. Dinner of spaghetti and meat sauce satisfied everyone. The campfire provided some relief from the mosquitoes as they roasted marshmallows until around midnight when it started to get dark.

Tuesday started with hiking on part of the Chilkoot Trail, historical route of the Klondike Gold Rush. Next they visited a hunt camp owned by a family of Tagish (language group) First Nations. Ida, an elder, told stories about the land and origins before they enjoyed a luncheon of fresh lake trout, rice and salads. A group of the Venturers and hosts headed up the sharp mountain slope across the highway to get a better view of the lake.  Then they headed back to Whitehorse, to have dinner with their host families. After dinner they went to the Frantic Follies, Klondike vaudeville style variety show to learn more about the local culture. The show was hilarious.

Elder Dora tells us about the origin of man On Wednesday they headed west along the Alaska Highway to Kluane National Park for more wilderness adventure and First Nations culture.  The group stopped at Kathleen Lake for a day hike and to seek out a campsite. Several took on the challenge to climb a mountain up 1600 ft. in a relatively short (4 km) distance.  Scouter Brian and Marilyn went to check out campsites.  Half the group did well on the hike with Ryan, Graham and Douglas reaching snow levels. The others descended and went swimming in Kathleen Lake.  The group then moved on to Dezadeash Lake campground for a second night outdoors. Once they got to the site, they made a fire and pitched their tents. Then they skipped stones on the beach for about an hour, before preparing dinner of hamburgers. After dinner they got a few large rocks, and heated them up in the fire. These were used to play “hot rocks,” passing the rocks back and forth around the circle. Everyone sat by the fire until about 1:00, when they just became too tired to keep their eyes open.

Amy took a challenge to enjoy the mud, she lost the coins in the puddle as a result. Thursday started with tearing down the campsite, then breakfast. The day’s tour started by visiting a First Nations village called Klukshu Village on the Haines road. There, they got to see a well preserved First Nations salmon village and listened to stories by elder Marge as she talked about her first encounter with White man, how they travelled the area prior to the road being built in 1942, and what family life was like living off the land and the fish. Ron Chambers, a Southern Tutchone First Nations guide and retired Parks Ranger, escorted the group further south to the ghost town of Dalton Post. Their second bear sighting was a grizzly bear cub doing his thing on the road. The first sighting was an adult black bear on the Haines road. Here they walked along a path into the forest, past some bear scat, to a salmon counting and tagging operation. The first fish through the station on the way to spawn was about a metre long and 6 kg. Areas of the river were filled with Sockeye and Pink salmon. The adventure continued further down river to observe the sport fishing area and popular rafting rapids. Next hike was to scale and learn about rock glaciers. They then went to dinner at Haines Junction. On the way back to Whitehorse they stopped off at Pine Lake for a short 30-minute swim. The evening was spent back in Whitehorse relaxing with host families.

On Friday started at the Berengia Centre for a tour around ten 0’clock. In the Berengia Center offered a film about the geological history of the area, a chance to dig for fossils and bones in a simulated archaeological site and to pitch arrows at animal cut outs. After that great tour they went to Miles Canyon for lunch. A hike took the youth to Canyon City (another ghost town), which survived for 3 years during the Klondike Gold Rush. Interpretive signs indicated where the NWMP office, stores, services and a tramway once stood. Dinner was with the host families. Then everyone met at Wolf Creek Campground for an evening of special games and play-acting led by Scouter Kevin Mellis, and of course a campfire with wieners, sausages and marshmallows.

Touring the S.S. Klondike on the shores of the Yukon River Saturday's program started with a tour of the S.S. Klondike. The steamer paddleboat was well restored so they all learned a lot while they were on the tour. Next was last minute shopping and touring of downtown Whitehorse. Everyone met at the McBride Museum, tried panning for gold and learning about the colourful characters of the area including William “Sam” McGee. At 5 o’clock the delegation met at Church of Northern Apostles for a Potlatch style dinner organized by the families and a speech by M.P. Larry Bagnell. The Duquette family offered entertainment with drumming, singing and traditional costume. Dinner included Moose stew, Elk stew, Moose meat balls, Sockeye salmon, trout, Pike, local berries and much more. All of the Toronto guests received bags with various things such as t-shirts, mugs, pens, calculators, etc.

On Sunday everyone met at Takhini Hot Springs for breakfast and a nice long swim in the natural sulfur water. Lunch was at Pizza Hut where the groups were able to start to say good-bye.  They all went to the airport to say their farewells before boarding the plane. The flight to Vancouver was mostly cloudy but they could see some mountains and glaciers. When they arrived at the Vancouver airport, they had to wait about 3 hours for their next plane. The flight to Toronto showed a movie and there was music that the youth could listen to. When they arrived in Toronto they got their luggage and went home with their families.

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