Dusty highway and evening floatplane flight

80 miles north of Watson Lake, in the Yukon Territory, Lorna, Madaleine and I rattled down the Robert Campbell highway in Madaleine’s van. After three days of driving, only 70 miles of dirt road lay between us and our final driving destination, Finlayson Lake. Dust filtered into the van as we crossed the 60th parallel.

Black spruce tilted like frozen drunks on the roadside. A breeze kicked up trembling aspen leaves, turning up silver undersides. On the far eastern skyline, the Mackenzie Mountains slid past, blue and white in the distance. Patchy 8 p.m. clouds cast evening shadows, and bright purple fireweed lined the road.

We stopped by a group of First Nations people picking blueberries. They asked where we were from. “Must be nice to be out of all that traffic, eh?” One man said.

I squatted down and picked a handful of berries. Tart. Mosquitoes buzzed.

After months of planning, I was excited and anxious to get to Finlayson Lake, where we’d meet our helicopter pilot and fly into the Cirque of the Unclimbables. I felt committed to this adventure, but had no idea what was going to happen. I guess that is what makes adventure, and really, it’s what structures life. You never really know what’s next.

Finally, we saw a plywood sign with ‘Finlayson float access’ spray painted on it. We turned down a steep hill and drove to the lake.  Our pilot, Bob, was sleeping in the back seat of the De Havilland Beaver. Turns out we couldn’t drive to Inconnu Lodge.

We threw our stuff out of the van and into the plane, then I got to sit shotgun for the ten-minute flight. Bob even let me drive the plane for a minute.

The sun was on its slow decline in the western sky, turning the clouds pink and red. We flew over trees throwing long shadows on bogs, the colors crisp in the low light.

We landed on McEvoy Lake, and the whole Inconnu Lodge crew met us at the floatplane dock. Warren gave us the grand tour of his spectacular place and fed us dinner. The heli is busy tomorrow, so we made a plan to fly into the Cirque the next day.


About Emily Stifler

I grew up in Vermont and live in Bozeman, Montana. I love topography: mountains, rocks, weather and people.
This entry was posted in Climbing, Mountains, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

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