For 9 years now, there is something I’ve been too afraid to do.
But TODAY I did it!
I hiked to the Five Finger Rapids from the roadside park north of Carmacks.
I was driving back from Whitehorse after my annual mammogram this morning and I was tired of thinking about the mysterious day in the future I was going to somehow tackle this hike, knowing I probably was only going to always wish I would but never actually do it, and I decided ENOUGH!! TODAY IS THE DAY!
And it is only a 2 km hike. Why was I so scared you may ask?
Because it is straight down.
Straight down many, many, many flights of stairs.
And the thing about all those stairs… well you guessed it, you have to climb back up.
The hike goes out to the Five Finger Rapids on the Yukon River. And I’ve never done it because I’ve been too afraid of the scene I’d make trying to get my carcass back up all those stairs. Would my heart beat out of my chest? Would my legs collapse? Would I need to crawl? Would it be truly desperately awful and embarrassing and would I be so regretful I ever tried?
So I’d just stop to use the outhouse usually, think about the hike and the stairs, and get back into my truck and keep driving on to Whitehorse (or back).
Yesterday I stopped to assess the situation, but also didn’t do the hike. Last night in my hotel room I Googled the hike to gather more intel, maybe to find a review. Maybe to find some reason I really should never do it. Like obituaries. Heroic rescues. Wooden crosses.
But instead I saw mentions like this:
“Warning: Though it is a manufactured staircase you are still in the wilderness. Carry bear spray on your walk to the rapids.”
“Generally considered a moderately challenging route.”
“Features a viewing platform, 219-step staircase and trail with interpretive panels.”
Over two hundred steps, eh? Can I do that? Is that a lot of steps? Maybe that isn’t that many.
I didn’t have any bear spray on me though, so thought I’d at least clip the Garmin InReach to a belt loop so I could call for a heroic rescue if a bear mangled me (or if the steps did). And I took a bottle of Gatorade I bought earlier at the Dollarama (it was cheaper than a bottle of water!?!)
Whew…. here I go!
There was an elderly couple at the top viewing platform, beside me when I took this picture of my feet. The wife joked with her husband, asking if he was going to walk down. He said hell no! I said, I’m doing it! She said, “Oh my, you’re so brave!” I said I figured going down couldn’t be too bad!
Here is another couple who stopped and watched me start down the first couple of flights! They looked young and fit and they didn’t come down either!
Yes, that is probably fear in my eyes.
Although truthfully, down was pretty easy! Although a couple of stair treads felt loose! I think they were just warped, and not actually loose, but they still made my heart skip a beat!
The views were quite nice and it wasn’t long at all before I was at the bottom of the stairs starting the hike. That was easy!
But NO ONE prepared me for the SECOND SET OF STAIRS! I was so surprised to come around a corner and see a few more flights of stairs that my legs felt wobbly! But I think it was just nerves. I was down those stairs too and back to hiking pretty quickly.
The hike was nice. Some wet spots, one boardwalk, lots of roots.
It wasn’t long before I could hear the raging Yukon River and started to get glimpses between the trees.
Then there was a steeper climb up some rocks.
And then I was at the end of the trail! I had misread the info thinking it was a 2 km long trail each way, but it was just shy of 1 km out to the viewing platform!
This is a pretty historic spot for the Yukon. It was the only real obstacle on the Yukon River north of where Whitehorse is now, for the gold seekers in the Klondike gold rush, and in the years following the gold rush, until they dynamited the biggest rapid out of the way. Before that, they’d have to hook the sternwheelers to a cable to winch the boats when they were heading back upstream.
It is called the Five Finger Rapids because you once had a choice of 5 routes through the islands and rocks. The advice is the one on the right is the way to go (closest to this viewing platform). This past winter one of the obstacles collapsed so it is just 3 or 4 fingers now, technically.
I knew I still had to go back up, but I FACED MY FEARS! I was feeling pretty damn proud of myself!
Time to head back up!
I was back to the surprise series of steps soon enough. Here we go!
Not bad! The steps are organized into runs of about 30 steps at a time. There was a metal railing on one side, but I didn’t even need it.
I can do this!
So I marched right up to the last long run of stairs.
On every platform between the long runs of stairs were interpretive signs.
Which was absolutely perfect so I could pause for a few moments to let my heart rate recover a bit!
And before I knew it, I was at the TOP!
Turns out I am either way fitter these days, or really had nothing to fear at all, or more likely a bit of both. My legs did absolutely fine. It really wasn’t that bad. My watch says it was only about 13 stories of stairs. My cardio needs work and I was sweating a ton but I did it EASILY!! I had absolutely nothing to fear! There weren’t even any hungry bears!
No more fear!!!! And what a nice stop. The exercise really helped make the rest of the drive more enjoyable. (I usually don’t do the 6+ hour drive on back-to-back days, but I had no reason not to this time.)
I realize I didn’t even get a good picture of all the stairs in one shot, so here is one someone posted on Instagram as they were partway down the first stretch: