by Mara Baudais
To the river’s edge! Drums and voices are growing louder through the frigid night air that is cutting to the bone. We’re marching swiftly along the Highway following the frozen Yukon River to Robert Service Campground outside Whitehorse.
Torches are being held high. Banners and tall effigies depicting both Father Winter and the dragon of Spring are flowing into the night’s festivities as if alive. The sun has now settled into an intense cobalt blue creating a backdrop for the stark black trees lining the hills. I am in awe.
We must be very careful on this pathway, Millennium Trail, which meanders through the campground now lying under ice and snow. Small paper lanterns line the trail which winds like a frozen snake. The lights throw a soft blue glow like tiny crystal caves. I notice that winter has totally erased any sense of the river’s edge. The park and the frozen river flow as one. For these winter months this northern land is hugely expanded to include the frozen waters. Boundaries do not exist. And I love it!
I am amazed at the huge rectangular bonfire already blazing in the parking lot. The procession is now quickly gathering around its warmth. Drums grow intense, more rapid. The large paper effigies representing the travails of the winter soon begin to dance, sway towards the fire, dance away again, and move around the perimeter of the fire. Finally, with great intention, they each drop into the flames. Gone – just like the tribulations of winter! Winter is now officially over! The crowd roars its approval. It truly is a celebration of living safely through another winter in the Yukon.
For the last ten years ‘Burn Away the Winter Blues’ has been a community event in Whitehorse marking the passing of the Yukon’s winter to the spring season. It is an extremely lively event. It celebrates the cycle and continuity of life itself. It speaks of other times and other places where people have gathered to dance around the fire and honor the light that this time of year, the spring equinox brings.
This year ‘Burn Away the Winter Blues’ is being held at Robert Service Campground on March 20th.. Starting at the SS Klondike sternwheeler at the Rotary Park outside Whitehorse, the parade begins at 8:30 pm and follows the Yukon River to the Campground. Treat yourself to a sensory experience of a life-time and join in this unique spring equinox celebration which brings ritual and community together.
If You Go:
TIMES TO GO:
For a unique experience visit Whitehorse, Yukon in the winter. Temperatures will be in the minuses with vibrant blue skies. Winter will offer you a variety of outdoor activities that will expand your mind and challenge your body. Dog sledding, snowshoeing, skiing, snowmobiling, snowboarding, winter camping, observing the Northern Lights, ice fishing are some of the favorite winter activities.
HOW TO GO:
Greyhound Bus provides a very scenic route from Vancouver. It takes just under two days with amazing scenery visiting northern BC towns; about $140 one way; reserved seats are available.
By Air: Air North; just over two hours; unbeatable views of the mountain ranges in winter; round-trip airfare and two nights accommodation $339 between January 8 and May 17th.
Update August 6, 2020: Greyhound bus service is no longer available.
For more information: Travel Yukon – the official Yukon tourism website.
About the author:
Mara writes creative non-fiction, travelogues, personal essays and poetry. These are based on traveling and/or an insightful experience, often associated with traveling or meditation Besides extensively traveling in Europe, she has visited North Africa, Thailand, Israel, Turkey, China, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, post-tsunami Sri Lanka, Guatemala, across Canada by car for 4 months, coastal B.C. and the Yukon. She has recently returned from a six month trip that stretched from Great Britain to the Black Sea. A photographer, artist, teacher and writer Mara Baudais can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
All photographs are by Mara Baudais, copyright 2009.