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'Top of my bucket list': Royal hugs thrill Yukon moms

Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, made some Carcross, Yukon, moms very happy at at event to honour their children - by offering up hugs.

Prince William and Kate offered up some rare hugs during visit to Carcross

Gwen Wally gets a hug from Prince William at a ceremony on Montana Mountain to honour the Single Tracks to Success program. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

A group of Carcross, Yukon, women have become known for hugs that were seen around the world Wednesday.

They were at an event on Montana Mountain near Carcross to recognize the work of local young people who build mountain bike trails that have become internationally-renowned.

Also present: Prince William and Kate, and a group of British reporters.

From left, Martina Smarch, Lynn Rose Johns and Susan James on Montana Mountain Wednesday waiting for the arrival of the royal party. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Physical contact between members of the British royal family and the public is usually restricted to handshakes. But William and Kate, between them, hugged three moms and one grandmother.

"You just made the top of my bucket list," Gwen Wally told Prince William after getting her hug. Her son Shane is part of the mountain bike trail crew. 

Wally also told the Duke how much she respected his mother, the late Princess Diana, and then paid a similar compliment to Kate.

"You're doing an awesome job, you've got gorgeous babies," Wally said.

The encounter — and the hugs — were later reported by British media

'She's really into all the royal stuff'

Respect and love for Princess Diana was expressed by many at Wednesday's event.

Before the arrival of the royal party on Wednesday, the trail crew's family members reflected on what had led to the visit and how much it meant to them.

Trail builder Dominic Smith-Johns was mostly pleased that his grandmother Susan James would be able to meet Prince William.

"It's pretty cool, cause my grandma really likes the Princess Diana and she's really into all the royal stuff back then," said Smith-Johns.

"Now, their coming here today helps me repay her. Usually every morning she made my lunches, and my mom did too. And they bought all my supplies when I needed it, and my grandma got me this bike — that has actually made this mountain accessible for me — for my birthday," he said.

"I really appreciate that too," Smith-Johns said.

"You're welcome Dominic," James responded, "I'm happy you're enjoying the bike. This is just exciting though, and heartwarming. It's just good all over."

Honouring the trail builders

The trail builders are part of the "Single Track to Success" program, founded in 2005 by Jane Koepke and supported by the Carcross/Tagish First Nation.

Carcross teen McKenzie Harper-Smarch said before Wednesday's royal visit that it would serve to honour the current trail builders and those who came before them.

"I feel pretty good that the royals are coming to see the work we did and fixed up, [with] generations of other people working and us working. Now it's just us to finish, and on and on as long as the trails keep going," Harper-Smarch said.

His mom Martina Smarch said the program has kept McKenzie focussed, when many other young people make unhealthy choices.

"He's my youngest boy, and I'm really proud of him because he could have started hanging out with the wrong crowd," Smarch said.

"He is not a drinker, he's pretty athletic and I'm grateful for these trails," Smarch said.

The members of the Single Tracks to Success program on Montana Mountain were full of anticipation waiting for Kate and Will to arrive. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Steve McLaughlin, whose son Keona is also part of the trail crew, joked with the Prince that he was wearing his best camouflage, to mark the visit — and hunting season.

McLaughlin said the royal visit exposed many Yukoners to a culture they're not familiar with.

"They're [the royals] from another part of the planet. My son served them last night at Kwanlin Dün [Cultural Centre], so he was talking about their accent, and he had a lot of things to say," McLaughlin said.

"They're secured all the time, so they're not like our kids where they can just run and play in these mountains." 

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