[by Teresa] This month Oolichan Books released The Wind River Variations, a collection of poems by award-winning B.C. writer Brian Brett on his travels on the Yukon’s Wind River. The collection is accompanied by Fritz’s black and white photographs from the Peel River watershed. Our friendship with Brian goes back a decade when we paddled the Wind River together on the Three Rivers Journey. This collaboration has been years in the making, honed over wine and spirited conversation.
Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category
[by Fritz and Teresa] Last week our first book, Yukon – A Wilder Place published by Greystone, hit bookshelves across Canada. This book has been ten years in the making. Back in 2001, we thought it would be “neat” to make a book about a place we felt passionate about. It turned out to be more challenging than we could have imagined. When you pick up a book, or watch a movie, or walk through a gallery, the finished product looks so easy – like it all just fell into place. Making a book has given us a much better appreciation of how hard creators work!
All along we’ve been driven by a question that we posed to ourselves on a winter night a decade ago: what do we find so compelling about the Yukon? For us this journey has been defined very much by our desire to explore Yukon wilderness. Many of our richest life experiences have been in the northern wilds. We also know that we are incredibly fortunate to live in such a place. Vast, wild landscapes like the Yukon are increasingly hard to find. This week, as we celebrated the arrival of our book, the world population reached 7 billion people. We hope this book helps build appreciation for how special, rare and valuable Yukon wilderness truly is.
Let us know your thoughts about our photos and stories. Better yet, we’d love to hear your stories about the Yukon. What is it that YOU find compelling about the Yukon? If you’ve never been to the Yukon, tell us about your “wilder place”. You can share your thoughts here or on our Facebook page.
Our book is available in bookstores across Canada. Here are some other options:
- Canadians outside the Yukon: We are offering a book launch special through our website: Buy online from us before December 31 and receive a signed copy of our book AND a free 2012 Yukon calendar (available to Canadian addresses only). You can also request a personalized book inscription.
- U.S. residents: The book will be launched in the United States in March 2012.
- Overseas: Please contact us directly for a shipping quote.
[by Fritz] If you ever have the opportunity to visit Herschel Island off the Yukon’s north coastline, jump at the chance. The first time I went there I was a 21-year-old university student and I spent a month in a tent all over the island assisting Swedish researcher Anders Angerbjörn on his study of Arctic foxes. I’ve been back several times since, most recently with my friend and colleague Don Reid, a researcher with the Wildlife Conservation Society, who is involved in a study of Arctic food webs and how a changing climate is affecting wildlife populations. Lemmings and voles are key prey for a number of predators on Herschel, and their abundance affects the population dynamics of many wildlife species. I photographed this collared lemming in the tundra meadows of Herschel nibbling on one of its favourite foods, Dryas flowers. They’re important to the food web, and they’re also really cute. Contrary to the myths fabricated by Disney, lemmings don’t commit mass suicide or jump over cliffs. The shorebird is a semi-palmated plover nesting and feeding on the beaches on Herschel.
[by Teresa] Thanksgiving is behind us and Hallowe’en is ahead, and the forecast says a snowstorm is rolling in. I’m reminded of a mid-October blizzard two years ago at the Arctic Circle where I sat at the edge of a river with my friend Phil Timpany watching drowsy grizzly bears plodding up and downstream along the base of Bear Cave Mountain.
Phil – and his partner, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation – runs what may be the most unique bear viewing operation on the continent. Grizzlies congregate here in wintry conditions to feast on a late run of chum salmon before hibernation. Within an hour of arriving by helicopter at North Yukon’s Ni’iinlii Njik (Fishing Branch) Territorial Park, I was seated in the snow on the bank of the Fishing Branch River a few yards from a sow named Boots trailing young-of-the-year triplets. Soon after, Mrs. Tucker presented her one-year-old twins, and Goldie brought around her cocky two-year-old, a stinky teenager that would test our – and his mother’s – boundaries on several occasions. It takes a lot to stun me speechless, but that afternoon I had few words to voice how it felt to be in the company of bears.
Fritz spent a month shooting at Bear Cave Mountain the previous year, so I knew that a confined, quiet routine awaited me: walk to a viewing site, watch bears, return to the cabins for meals and sleep. Imagine my surprise to be awakened at 1am on my very first night by terrific banging and shuffling around my tiny cabin. The building trembled and I sensed that a bear – surely that’s what it was? – had leaned against the wall I was curled next to. The ruckus continued for an hour, and I cursed the last cup of tea I drank before bed. Making a midnight dash to the outhouse clearly wasn’t an option so a spare bottle provided relief.
Turns out a mystery bear paid a visit to camp that night. It was the first time in years one came onto the deck, and this rogue fellow did a bit of redecorating. The clatter was an empty propane tank that he pried loose and batted about like a bowling pin, and we found a few other items scattered among the trees. But Propane Bear never came back. I was thrilled when we were weathered in longer than what was supposed to be a very short stay. When the snow starts to fly, I think about this unruly young grizz playing on the deck as winter took hold. Season’s short and sometimes a young fella just needs to blow off a little steam before hibernation, right?
Update June 4, 2011: This time last year I was preparing to go down the Yukon’s Snake River with writer Leslie Anthony to shoot a story for Canadian Geographic. Our story on how the clash between conservation and exploitation is playing out in the Peel watershed is featured in this month’s (June 2011) issue of the magazine.
[by Fritz] September 27th, 2010: This summer I returned to the Yukon’s Snake River to work on a new story. Last time I was in the Snake it was a very different trip. Seven years ago Teresa and I joined our friends Peter Mather, Marc Champagne and Christine Cleghorn in the upper Snake for ten days of hiking at the beginning of their month-long canoe trip. We’d hike off each morning and they’d paddle a short way downriver to the next camp, and we’d meet up in the early afternoon – all very mellow. They carried our food and unnecessary gear in their canoes to lighten our packs, and they cooked incredible meals that we hikers weren’t used to eating in the backcountry. We loved canoe-supported hiking.
We camped for four days at Reptile Creek at the foot of Painted Mountain. I knew there was a gorgeous photo of the valley from somewhere on that mountain. Each day we’d scramble to a ridge halfway up to wait for magic light. It took three days and lots of trips and waiting, but eventually we got the shot I had envisioned (we made a Peel Watershed poster featuring the Yukon’s Snake River). Late June light is intense, and the bright green leaves on the dwarf birch had just burst open. I shot many beautiful scenes while we were camped at Reptile Creek including the cover of our 2010 calendar.
On this year’s trip, in contrast, I spent many sleepless nights in the tent stressing about the next day’s rapids and wondering what would happen if my Pelican case got crushed against a rock. I’m not a skilled canoeist, and I found it hard not to get anxious thinking about $50,000 worth of gear getting wet. The pace was fast and we stayed just one night at each camp before pushing on, so it was a lot more rushed than I like for landscape photography. Writer Lesley Anthony was in the stern, and he’s a very competent paddler (he was a canoe instructor years ago in Ontario), and we were under the capable guidance of wilderness outfitters Blaine and Mary Walden. Everything went very smoothly and my capsizing fears never materialized. Without question the photography highlight of our trip was the 2-day layover at Mount MacDonald – it’s an extraordinary place.