Posts Tagged ‘Yukon Territory’

Capturing the spirit of the Wild West

November 28, 2008

Just before posting this year-old (but wonderful!) Where they Went column, Wessel looked up the traveling sisters online. We were shocked and saddened to see that Cynthia Soroos, the sister I interviewed, died on Sept. 29, 2008. From speaking with her and reading comments posted to a remembrance site, it’s clear to see that Cynthia led a full life and inspired others. May her loved ones find peace.

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published Nov. 18, 2007, in the Boston Globe)

This horseback trip is about as close to the American Wild West as you can get — except it was in Canada. While this was published in 2007 BB (before my blog), it’s a classic and one of my all-time favorites.

Cynthia Soroos rides a horse in the Yukon territory

Cynthia Soroos atop her trusty steed during camping trip in Yukon Territory

WHO: Cynthia Soroos, 32, of Cambridge, Mass., and her sister Sarah Soroos, 31, of Seattle.

WHERE: Yukon Territory, Canada.

WHEN: Two weeks in July.

WHY: “We usually go on a trip every year,” Cynthia Soroos said. “We like to do something different and some sort of outdoors or athletic activity. Sometimes you need to be scared and you need adventure.” The year before, they had been on a rafting and hiking trip in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. “This one was my idea. I found it by Googling around. I starting seeing horseback trips, then saw one in the Yukon. There’s where we have to go, I thought. It seemed so remote.”

Cynthia (left) and sister Sarah Soroos on top of a mountain in the Yukon Territory

Cynthia (left) and sister Sarah Soroos on top of a mountain in the Yukon Territory

JUMPING IN: Although neither sister had done much horseback riding, they chose the 13-day trip with Northern Wildlife Safaris over the six-day option. “My thought was, if we took the shorter one, by the time we figured it all out, we’d be finished,” Soroos said. “And the longer one allowed us to take days off. It’s a small outfitter, and we told them we didn’t have a lot of riding experience, but we’re OK with camping, and that was fine.”

Horses Atlan and Arkell are patiently waiting outside the tent.

Horses Atlan and Arkell are patiently waiting outside the tent.

PRIVATE TOUR: “We lucked out that there could have been three other people, but it was just us and the guide,” she said. With three saddle horses, two pack horses, and a dog, they traveled about 18 miles a day over mountain ranges between Whitehorse, the territory’s capital and largest city, and Kluane National Park. “It was very overwhelming in the beginning,” Soroos said. “We were both a little hesitant about what we were getting ourselves into.”

OPEN LAND: “Sometimes there were no trails; we’d go through rivers and bogs, and up and over mountains. Sometimes the grade was really steep and you’re just holding on for dear life.” Soroos wasn’t worried about grizzly bears because “when you have a big enough herd size, the grizzlies won’t attack, and we were a herd,” she said. “We saw some, but they were pretty far away.” They also saw a wolf, two foxes, caribou, and “lots and lots of Dall sheep. We were in mostly open space surrounded by rocky peaks. It was really quite spectacular.”

Horse Cody liked to nuzzle the tent. Throwing grass at him was effective for shooing him away, but he still managed to tear it.

Horse Cody liked to nuzzle the tent. The women would shoo him away, but he still managed to tear it.

RIDE, EAT, SLEEP: The trio would ride, usually at a brisk walking pace, about four or five hours a day before pitching tents for the evening. The women weren’t as sore as they’d expected to be. “Our shoulders hurt, but it was nothing compared to what everyone said it would be,” Soroos said. “We became much better riders by the end.” They would camp and cook their meals over an open fire. The meals started out fresh and went to dried and canned by the end of the trip. “Chris, the guide and owner, knew spots for camping, flat spots that had a water supply and grass for the horses.”

TRUE WILDERNESS: “It didn’t get dark until about 11, and the sunsets, the angle of the sun, were really beautiful. It was just golden and reflected off all the mountains,” Soroos said. “It was unnervingly quiet. It made you feel like you were finally away, away, away. There were no traces of people. That was the coolest.”