Gold And Toes From The Yukon

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Pablo Edronkin

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The Yukon is a pretty interesting region not only by the terrific landscape but - of course - because there started the famous gold fever of the nineteenth century. It is known that hundreds of thousands of prospectors and explorers went to the area, but only a few became rich.

The problem was not only the absence of enough valuable material for so many individuals or survival in a sub arctic climate, but where it could be found: when the biggest numbers of prospectors arrived, the gold coming from the more reachable deposits already had been harvested, and most people neither had the equipment nor the knowledge for mining under extreme conditions.

But some things from those days still remain: Today gold is being extracted, albeit with fairly sophisticated equipment, and seldom directly from water stream, but mixed with the soil. There are only very few individuals that are keen on gold panning these days because it is not profitable on a large scale.

If you are planning to go there to seek gold, you should not deceive yourself: While it is relatively easy to find a small nugget, it will not be easy to find a reasonable quantity of the metal, and it is indeed pretty hard work. Having said that, finding gold is not impossible at all, and if you plan well, you will find it.

Of course, the region also offers a lot in terms of extreme sports and adventure travel possibilities: rafting, mountain biking and paragliding are just some choices available, and we recommend you to take a ride in a small aircraft just to see the spectacular landscape.

And as we said, if you plan to go there, while you take a vacation you may also learn something about panning and thus, find your own gold somewhere; you can also dream - and it might just come true - to become rich in the Yukon.

Many among the explorers and gold prospectors that ventured into the Yukon during the gold fever, back in the nineteenth century had absolutely no experience with outdoor activities, and were struck by the cruelty of the extreme, arctic climate that is normal in that region of Canada and Alaska, in the United States.

One of the main survival problems in such regions is the bitter cold that causes frostbite, which can be a very serious issue; however, among all the different parts of a body that could become literally thawed and then undergo gangrene or mummification, the toes are the most innocuous. It happens that those suffering frostbite may actually lose their toes without even realising that something is wrong.

So in order to survive in one piece in such an environment, it is not only important to have adequate gear, but to inspect the body often in order to detect frostbite and act upon it while it is still possible to save the affected tissue.

Some reports indicate that German soldiers during the winter battles in the Russian front, during WWII sometimes felt that some little stone or piece of soil, wood or whatever was in their boots, but when they took off their shoes, they found out that those things were not little stones but the toes that fell off their feet and were rattling inside their footwear. And in all likelihood, this is not just a myth.

In some towns of the Yukon, and in some bars, you can still ask for a drink which became a tradition among gold prospectors that found things as surprising as what the Germans found in Russia: that drink consist in a glass of liquor or whisky and a toe. The bar tender will put an actual human toe inside, and you will have to drink the contents, and the idea - indeed - is not to touch the toe with your lips.

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