Last summer, 10-year-old Maya Cairns-Locke and her family journeyed down the Wind River in the Peel Watershed. Maya wrote this piece not only to remember her incredible trip, but also in support of protecting the region from development. Here is the story of her summer voyage.
This story originally ran in the Fall 2014 (V8I3) edition of Yukon, North of Ordinary.
We were midway through our trip along the Wind River when our posse got rained in and our canoeing adventure was delayed. My sisters, Kennedy and Ava, and I spent at least four hours in our tent playing cards and Battleship, reading, drawing, and giggling. Finally, after what felt like an eternity of waiting, the downpour turned to mist and we were able to leave the tent—mostly because our mom made us. We left the next day in 30-degree weather. That would be the first of dozens of scorching-hot days.
Kennedy, Ava, Peter, my opa, Mary, my mom, and I started our trip in Mayo. From there, we flew to McClusky Lake and portaged to the confluence of the Wind River and McClusky Creek. As soon as we got there, mosquitos ambushed us. About 50 itchy bug bites and five squirts of After Bite later, we were on our way to our next campsite, which we called “The Caribou Lick.” The spot looked like clay cliffs, but is actually a mineral lick that attracts many animals.
The Caribou Lick was no different than the confluence—buggy. Kennedy got heatstroke on the second day and slept for 24 hours, not paying any attention to us. She got cranky when she woke for dinner. Actually, I woke her—and she’s a teenager, so it makes sense she was mad.
The next thing we knew we were on our way to a flood plain, which would be our third camping site. It was the perfect place for hiking and just randomly running around, attempting to catch an old tennis ball we found in a backpack. My sisters and I were mostly fond of the spot for being perfect for a game of Kick the Can. Even though the game meant I had to sit in the bushes for ten minutes straight, I was totally up for it. Peter insisted we play Kick the Kid, but Mom thought that would be hazardous for our health.
The trip was going by quickly, so I decided to slow things down a bit. I really enjoyed the scenery around me: the towering cliffs; ruby-red rocks; mysterious turquoise water; blue, radioactive-looking fish; and especially the awesome designs I found on the rocks. I wrote it all down in a journal. When I was done, I looked at my watch. Five minutes had passed. Things were slowing down already—I was making progress!
Most of our paddling days consisted of Ava and I begging Peter to raft up the canoes again so we could listen to Mom read us another section of To Kill a Mockingbird or so we could just laugh our heads off. During our rafting days we kids would jump out of the boat and fight over the water pistols my opa had found in a cereal box. We’d give each other mud baths and laughed when our bare bums hit the freezing cold water when we slipped trying to go to the bathroom. The days were pretty slow, which was actually really great.
Soon enough, we were pulling up at our last campsite before our final destination: Fort McPherson. My sisters and I spent the day catching frogs and floating down the river until our feet were numb. Before I knew it, I was on the river again for our last day in the marvelous Peel. It seemed like I’d only paddled for two minutes when we pulled up at Fort McPherson. I was sad the trip was over, but at the same time I found myself kissing the ground. And if I turned around and looked back down the river, I could still see those towering cliffs. Y
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