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Yukon Journey postponed due to Covid-19
Well, friends, it’s official. We’re postponing the Yukon Journey.
Today, May 20th, was the day I was to begin driving to the Yukon Territory.
I hope to try and get back up to the north country that I so love in the summer of 2021. Having said that, I know that even this extension is only a tentative date. I will go north when I can…or, more importantly, whenever it is next safe for the river communities again.
I could attempt a solo paddle as soon as the border is opened (and likely before, given business exemptions). With a 16-foot Nova Craft canoe, I could load and haul all of the food and supplies I would need to paddle the entire river without stopping in a single village.
But that’s not the point of the Yukon Journey. Our focus in 2018 was supporting first responders, and we met and interviewed some amazing people as a result. Our focus for 2020 was to be on the educational aspects of the trip, tele-connecting with school children throughout North America and beyond. As part of that emphasis, we were going to visit the villages and their schools en route.
During this pandemic, however, it is not possible to do so. Most of the small river communities in Alaska have closed to outsiders in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus. It is understandable that they do so. Most villages do not have access to health care they need, and the virus could devastate their communities – and especially the elders who live there.
I reside in a central Wisconsin community with outstanding clinic and hospital facilities, and a world-class medical research foundation as well. As a result, my possibilities for treatment are much greater than for many and people in my community also share information that they have learned. One such item was a map of U.S. locations that could be ravaged by Covid-19. The interior of Alaska — specifically following the entire Yukon River corridor — was marked as being in grave danger.
We do not want to take any chance of contributing to that. And so we will postpone the Yukon Journey till the summer of 2021, or whenever it is safe for all of us to paddle there again.
Am I upset by this? Absolutely. When I think about what I wanted this summer to be, it’s heartbreaking. Add in all of the money already spent on specific paddling and photo/video gear for this year’s trip, as well as all of the time and effort developing the educational program, and it’s downright depressing. But ultimately I know it’s the right thing to do. And to date, my family and friends are healthy, and that makes me lucky. I know there are many who are grieving the loss of loved ones right now, and my heart goes out to them.
I’d like to thank my fellow paddlers and friends for all of their support and interest over the past several years. I’d also like to thank the Yukon Journey’s many sponsors and suggest that you consider these companies when looking at new purchases of paddling and camping gear. They make the best products in the world, and I’m proud to be connected with them.
So I will re-set the countdown timer on the home page of our website (yukonjourney.org) and hope that everyone who reads this has a safe and healthy year. I have a few tentative plans (or should I say “hopes”) for interesting events closer to home this fall and winter, and will share those in the near future. In the meantime, please take good care. We’ll see you downriver…