IntoTheWildsFull night never fully descends in June upon Canada’s Far North Yukon Territory. I set off alone to canoe from Quiet Lake near Whitehorse, down the Little Salmon River to the Big Salmon, and then on to the mighty Yukon that flows across Alaska to the sea. In former lives I might have been a Swahili warrior in Africa, a Bedouin on the Sahara, an Eskimo in the Arctic, a Cheyenne brave on the Great Plains… I have traveled by dogsled, horse, ox cart, boat, donkey, camel, on foot, or on bicycle into some of the most remote deserts, mountains, seas, and forests on the planet.

I never feel alone. The Wild Kingdom is well populated.

From Quiet Lake, I plummeted down white water rapids in a narrows on the Little Salmon and surprised a cow moose with her head lowered to drink. I passed almost underneath her nose. I could have touched her with my paddle. Calmly, she watched me, her head following my progress until I rounded the bend out of sight.

A large black boar bear was harvesting grubs from beneath a decayed log on the river bank. I nosed my canoe ashore not ten feet away.

“Br’r Bear, do you mind if I take your picture?”

He didn’t. I think he smiled for his portrait, but I couldn’t be sure.

Young bears are curious animals. Whenever I pitched my tent to sleep, they came to pay their respects. Finally, in order to sleep at all, I repaid their curiosity by shouting and throwing rocks at them to drive them away.

During one of my hikes off the river to explore, I met a porcupine on a narrow game trail. They are near-sighted creatures. I froze motionless until he was only a couple of feet away.


He sprang straight into the air and, with surprising speed and agility, scaled a tree and peered down from a limb to locate the source of his discomfiture. I laughed and moved on.

The Yukon is a mighty river hugged by evergreen forests and snow-capped mountains. On one of the islands I startled a cow moose and her newborn. Mom growled a warning and I politely backed off.

During a sudden storm, I found myself trapped on a one-acre island with a grizzly. The griz took one end of the island, I took the other, and in this manner we rode out the tempest together.

A few afternoons later with the sun bobbing low and red above the western horizon, I pitched camp on a small sandy island overshadowed on the shore by a towering precipice. Suddenly, a pack of timber wolves silhouetted against the late sun began serenading me from the top of the precipice.

I relaxed and stretched out on my back next to the fire to enjoy a concert orchestrated by God’s creatures. Life is always good in the wilds.

Charles W. Sasser is author of more than 60 books and thousands of magazine articles in national magazines. He has traveled to every continent on earth except Anarctica.