I have always kept scrapbooks of my holidays. The first one I created was when I was five years old, when I cycled with my family from Passau to Vienna. Of course, being only five this book is made up completely of pictures cut from tourist leaflets I collected on the journey. On the last page I had attempted to draw the Lipizzan horses I had seen in Vienna. I would like to think my travel writing (and drawing) has improved since then.

Looking at my numerous scrapbooks scattered around me it is difficult to decide which place I have visited is my favourite. I have rejected some of my earlier writing attempts as I don’t think my memory is good enough to do the place justice. One particular scrapbook from a recent holiday catches my eye. It is the simplest and shortest of them all. It records a field course I went on with my university to learn about the conservation and management of both terrestrial and marine animals. As a keen zoologist I had started the scrapbook off with a list of species I had seen. Elk, bald eagle, beaver, coyote and gross hawk are several examples from my list containing sixty animals.

Driving to Kluane Lake Research Site through the boreal forests of Yukon, Canada, was the most beautiful journey of my life. Imagine a road, stretching as far as the eye could see, there are no cars on the road, no people. You look out the window and there are trees until the horizon. The leaves that dress the trees are more than just green. They contain a mosaic of greens and yellows of every shade, each slightly different from the rest. In front of you lie mountains. No matter how far you drive they never seem to get closer. They stand strong, towering over the landscape. The snow-white peaks touching the few wispy clouds in the bluest sky you will ever see. This is my first experience of Canada.

I do not believe words can explain the sheer beauty of the place, but I will try my best and I hope I can inspire you to one day go yourself. The cabin in which I stayed sat on the shore of Kluane Lake. I have not visited all the lakes in the world but to me Kluane Lake will always be one of the most beautiful. The cold sand, icy blue waters and the magnificent snow-capped mountains rising behind it. One of these mountains include sheep mountain which, as its name suggests, is covered in dall sheep. The lake stretches beyond what I can see and the water laps gently at the sand. Some people skip rocks, causing ripples on the waters surface. There are shrubs growing in the sand, taking advantage of sunlight due to the lack of trees at the beach edge. I only saw the lake during September, but I do wonder if its beauty continues on into other seasons? During summer will the pebbles and sand at the lake edge be warm? How will it look in winter when layer of snow covers the ground? I hope I can return one day to find these answers.

During the first day we walked along the sand looking for animal tracks, finding bear poo, coyote prints and snowshoe hare fur. We hiked nearby mountains, walking by snow covered rivers and small trickling streams. The more we looked the more we saw. A coyote running beside the minibus in the grass, a brown lemming hiding in the mountains, golden eagles soaring across the sky. A snowshoe hare running through the morning dew grass, beavers swimming in a river and the two black bears feeding on the slope of the mountain.

After supper we would sit by the lake watching the sun set and the sky slowly turn black. We would huddle in groups for warmth watching the moon’s reflections ripple on the lake. I can only compare the stars that first night to diamonds. There were more stars than I had ever seen before in my life, more than I ever imagined possible. I made many wishes that night, as shooting stars constantly fell across the night sky. I will not tell you what my wishes were, in case they do not come true. I didn’t think it could get more beautiful… until it did. Swirling colours danced across the sky, as though celebrating their own beauty. Streaks of pink, yellow and green shone against the black background. We ran down the small airstrip next to the research station wanting to get further away from the artificial lights of the buildings. We stood transfixed in the blackness, the northern lights above us the illuminating the sky.

  • Catherine Wilson
  • : I am currently studying Primate Conservation with Oxford Brookes after completing my degree in Zoology with the University of Exeter. It was through my undergraduate degree that I travelled to Canada as part of my course. Since a young age I have loved going on holiday and I now enjoy being able to mix my love for zoology and travelling through studying abroad.
  • : adult_(19_and_over_as_of_31st_december_2019)
  • : This is the first time this story has been published.

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