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Helicopter Rescue In The Yukon

Shannon and Liz

My daughter and I on the Big Salmon River.


Helicopter landing on the Big Salmon River.

On August 11th, 2013 my fifteen year old daughter Shannon and I boarded a plane bound for Whitehorse in the Yukon.  This was to be the trip of a lifetime – a ten day canoe trip covering over 300 km (185 miles) with eight other people on the Big Salmon River.  On Day Five of the trip we had to be air-lifted by helicopter off the river.  This was not the trip we thought it would be.  Many valuable lessons were learned along the way.   Here are just some of the most significant ones:

Do Your Homework and Come Prepared

I’m a good researcher and most always do my homework.  This includes the work required in planning and getting ready for a successful, adventure vacation.  I thought I was ready for this trip.  What I did not anticipate, however, was that others were not.  This trip required good technical canoe skills – the river had lots of currents, twists and turns, as well as many dead trees and rocks that needed to be avoided.  It also required a strong level of physical fitness – there was lots of paddling, as well as heavy gear that needed to be carried in and out of each canoe each day (back packs, food and water).  Some people were not able to participate fully and by Day Two (and Day Two was a really tough day with two very challenging portages) they already wanted to go home.  This was not the trip for them.  Lesson Learned:  For the best trip possible, everyone needs to know what to expect and to come fully prepared and ready.  The trip must be the right fit for each and every individual, in order for the trip to be the right fit for all.            

Adjust & Adapt

From Day One this trip was not what I thought it would be and each day brought a new surprise.  My challenge was to adjust and adapt.  Some moments I handled better than others, but for the most part, I did my best to accept things as they were and to appreciate the good, like meeting new people, spending time with my daughter and taking in the incredible beauty of the Yukon.  Lesson Learned:  Life doesn’t always turn out as planned.  Adapt, adjust and see the good where you can.

I Like “Fast”!

I have a lot of energy.  I like to push myself physically and move quickly.  This is what feels best and most natural to me.  I walk quickly, I drive fast and in a canoe, I like to paddle hard and keep up a strong pace.   Not everyone likes to move this way.   I know that there are times when I need to slow down and be more patient and understanding of the differing needs of others (I’m working on this!).  I also know, however, that for many endeavors, including future trips, I travel life best with those most similar to me – those who share my need for speed and the desire to push the limits.  Lesson Learned:  It often feels best to travel through life with those who travel like you.      

It’s Okay To Call It Quits

On Day Five of our trip, one of the canoes hit a log and capsized.  No one was hurt, but the canoe was carried down river and got caught in a strong current underneath another log in the river.  We could not get it out.  At this point we had to decide whether some of us would continue on down the river or all of us would call it a day.  I asked my daughter what she wanted to do.  My daughter said that she’d had enough.  She just wanted to go home.  The trip wasn’t fun anymore.  We made the decision to end the trip and take the helicopter out with everyone else.  Lesson Learned:  Sometimes, when things are not going well, the best thing you can do is call it a day.   Some things are just not meant to be.

The Wonderful Humanity of People

While traveling on the Big Salmon River we met two young men from Austria who were very fit.  We met them at the first portage and again when one of our canoes overturned.  They went out of their way to assist us.  They went above and beyond the call of duty!  They were amazing! 

After we were picked up by helicopter (it took 3 trips to get all of us and our gear), we were dropped at the nearest campground that had car access.  We had to camp there for two days before a van was available to pick us up.  During those two days I met a couple who were camping close to where my daughter and I pitched our tent.  On the second night they invited me to sit with them at their campfire and to share in some good conversation and a glass of wine.  The next morning they came to me and said that if my daughter and I were not able to change our flights and head home earlier, they would be happy to have us stay in their home, which was just outside of Whitehorse, until it was time for us to leave as originally planned.  This was an amazing and most generous invitation!  Lesson Learned:  People have the capacity for incredible kindness and generosity.  Do your best to be such a person.  Be truly grateful for those who extend their kindness and generosity to you. 

The Greatest Gift of All… Nine Days!!!

On this trip I got to spend nine whole days with my daughter Shannon, side by side, morning until night.  It was a gift that money can’t buy.  We were awesome travel buddies.  We talked a lot.  We laughed a lot.  We even cried (but not a lot!).  We camped and canoed so well together.  We experienced and learned so much as a team.  Lesson Learned:  Sharing dedicated time with the people in our lives that matter most is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and each other.  Dedicate time to the people that matter most to you. 


2 Responses to "Helicopter Rescue In The Yukon"

  1. Reply Barbara Scott Posted on August 27, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Great post. I have missed your posts. Glad to know that you were busy with life and getting closer to your daughter even though the trip went bust. You will likely remember this trip more than any other for both reasons.

    • Reply Liz Pearson Posted on August 27, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Barbara. I hope to be on a much more regular posting schedule as we head into the Fall.

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