A wildfire evacuation, and driving the Alaska Hwy back home

In my last post, we had all laid down for a late afternoon nap on July 6 at the Snag Junction Campground on the Alaska Highway. After leaving my regular readers hanging in my last post, I apologize for the delay in posting this one. Cathy brought a nasty bug home from Ontario with her, and I’ve caught it – I’m off to the doctor’s this morning.

Bella and Tucker and Molly and I had snuggled up for our nap at 3:30, and were enjoying the last bit of it when all hell broke loose just before 5:00 pm. There was very loud pounding on the RV door. Still half asleep, I threw on a pair of shorts, went to the door and opened it, to be told that we had to leave right away because of a wildfire. I asked where it was and his reply was “It’s right here!”

I leaned out and looked up. OMG!! He said that Beaver Creek was safe, so I fired up the RV, pulled the slides in, secured everything, and pulled out to the campground ring road where I could hook the Tracker up.

Snag wildfire from the Snag Junction Campground on the Alaska Highway
At 5:15, we pulled out onto the Alaska Highway. A helicopter was circling the campground to make sure everyone was out. The next photo shows the view out my windshield at 5:20 as we started toward Beaver Creek.

Snag wildfire from the Snag Junction Campground on the Alaska Highway
5:22

Snag wildfire, Yukon
At 5:25, unsure of whether Beaver Creek actually was the best direction to be driving, I pulled over, took some photos and gave the situation some thought.

Snag wildfire along the Alaska Highway, Yukon

Snag wildfire along the Alaska Highway, Yukon

I decided that the wildfire was very likely to close the highway, and I wanted to be on the Whitehorse side of the fire if that was possible. At 5:31 I came to a garbage bin pullout and turned around. I sat there for a few minutes…

Snag wildfire along the Alaska Highway, Yukon
5:38 – vehicles were still getting through, so I decided to head south.

Snag wildfire along the Alaska Highway, Yukon
5:40 – roadblock! I had a brief conversation with the RCMP officer. A couple of minutes later, he returned and said we had to get out of there as the wildfire was closing in on us and he had to move the roadblock north (back towards Beaver Creek) a few miles.

Snag wildfire roadblock on the Alaska Highway, Yukon
At 51 feet in length, I’m not able to do a U-turn on the highway. It took a few minutes to disconnect the Tracker, get both vehicles turned around, and get pointed north. A helicopter hovered low overhead and I gave the pilot the thumbs up just before pulling away.

Snag wildfire along the Alaska Highway, Yukon
A semi that had been ahead of me, also unable to make a U-turn, backed up past me as I was getting the Tracker unhooked. He would have to back up some 3 miles to the pullout where I turned around.

A semi backing up along the Alaska Highway to escape the Snag wildfire, Yukon
I eventually went around the semi, then waited for him at the pullout to be sure he was okay. As he pulled in, I continued on towards Beaver Creek. When I reached the second roadblock, the RCMP officer was just closing it to move the roadblock right back to Beaver Creek.

Snag wildfire along the Alaska Highway, Yukon
By around 6:20 we were set up at the rest area by the Beaver Creek airport, from where there was a pretty good view of the fire. From what I had seen, I didn’t expect to beΒ going anywhere for a couple of days.

The rest area by the Beaver Creek airport

Snag wildfire along the Alaska Highway as seen from Beaver Creek, Yukon

At 7:30 I unhooked the Tracker and drove back into Beaver Creek to take some photos, and to chat with the Highways guy manning the roadblock. I didn’t expect to get any information, and that was correct – everybody at this point was just guessing. A couple towing an Airstream trailer walked over and suggested that they might go around via the Taylor Highway and Dawson. I said I expected that waiting it out at Beaver Creek would be just as quick and a whole lot cheaper.

Snag wildfire roadblock at Beaver Creek, Yukon
I took a few more photos on the way back to the rest area where the RV was parked. Once one of the largest hotels in the Yukon, the Beaver Creek Westmark was closed in 2013, though rooms are available in a tiny corner of it now, run by the people who own the Beaver Creek RV Park next door.

The mostly-abandoned Beaver Creek Westmark hotel
I was nicely setled in for the night, reading a book, when there was more pounding on the door at 9:30 pm. An RCMP officer said he thought I was heading north but just in case that was wrong, he wanted to let me know that they were going to run a convoy through the fire zone in 10 minutes if I wanted to join. Yes, I did want to join! I got everything slid in, secured, and hooked up again, and was back to the roadblock a couple of minutes before the convoy of about 15 vehicles, from motorcycles to the semi, headed south at 9:45 pm.


I wish I could have gotten some photos as we drove through the fire zone with RCMP escorts front and rear. It was wild, with very thick smoke, and fire on both sides of the highway for a couple of miles.

Every pullout was full of vehicles that had been northbound. It was almost 10:30 pm when I finally found a spot to park for the night, with a broad view across the White River.

RV with a broad view across the White River, Yukon
Wildfires do create some spectacular sunsets. The next photo was shot at 10:32 pm.

Wildfire sunset along the Alaska Highway
The next morning, I was in no hurry to leave. Bella and Tucker were happy playing here, and there was no traffic on the highway. There’s no cell service in that area, so I had no idea what was going on with the fire now. The White River was sure raging due to the recent hot weather.

White River, Yukon
At about 9:30 am, we continued down the Alaska Highway, with the idea that I’d probably go home. I stopped briefly at the Koidern River Lodge, which was operated by Jim and Dorothy Cook until about 2010.

Koidern River Lodge, Yukon - closed in 2010
The former Pine Valley Lodge at Historic Mile 1147 has been bought by the Kluane First Nation to be used as a culture camp, so I stopped and took quite a few photos of its current state.

The former Pine Valley Lodge at Historic Mile 1147 of the Alaska Highway
A friend had recently told me that the Kluane Energy gas station at Burwash Landing was a good choice for fuel, and it was indeed. At $1.429 per liter it was 4 cents cheaper than the Talbot Arm a few miles away in Destruction Bay, but it’s also a 24-hour cardlock instead of having to leave your credit card with an attendant inside as at the the Talbot Arm.

Kluane Energy gas station at Burwash Landing, Yukon

Kluane Energy gas station at Burwash Landing, Yukon

We stopped at the Kluane Lake pullout where we’d just spent 3 nights and played on the beach with the dogs for a bit. The smoke and heat wiped out the former good vibes, though, and I decided to go home.

Before leaving, though, I took Glass Monty down to the beach to shoot a few photos. I gathered up a small bag of fine gravel to take home, with the idea of building a base of it for Glass Monty.

My glass dog at Klane Lake, Yukon
When I arrived at the water with Glass Monty, I was met by about 20 tiny Western tailed Blue butterflies (Cupido amyntula). Their upper wing surfaces are a lovely blue colour, but I wasn’t able to get any photos of that.


We got home at about 6:00 pm – that had been quite an adventure!


A followup – once I got home, I found out that the fire was caused by lightning, pretty much as we laid down for our nap. On July 12th, Yukon Protective Services posted this aerial photo of Snag Junction Campground. When I got evacuated and saw what was bearing down on us, I thought there was no way they could save it. Pretty amazing work.

Snag Junction Campground, saved from a wildfire


Driving the Alaska Highway from Kluane Lake to Snag Junction

Just after 09:00 on July 6, we left the pullout on the Alaska Highway along Kluane Lake where we had spent 3 nights and 2 days. We headed west, with no particular destination in mind, and not really even a good idea of when I’d go back home. In the 29 years I’ve been driving this highway, this was the first time I could stop and go whenever/wherever I wanted. I love my motorhome πŸ™‚

My first stop was at the Thachäl Dhäl (Sheep Mountain) Visitor Centre – I’d heard there had been some changes to the building, and wanted to ask a ranger about a couple of things.

Thachal Dhal (Sheep Mountain) Visitor Centre, Kluane National Park
The centre does get to be a more and more comfortable and useful stop as the years go on. There were a couple of sheep laying down high on the mountain when we were there, but no good viewing.

Thachal Dhal (Sheep Mountain) Visitor Centre, Kluane National Park
Looking up Kluane Lake from the huge pullout at Km 1662.5.

Kluane Lake from Alaska Highway Km 1662.5
I was feeling lazy that morning, and although the kids got breakfast, I didn’t. When we reached Destruction Bay just before 10:00, I had my breakfast at the Talbot Arms.

Destruction Bay
There are still a few campgrounds and rest areas that I don’t have good photos of for my Yukon campground guide, so that was something I wanted to remedy on this drive. The next photo shows the rest area just west of “D Bay”, at Km 1685.1.


I find the glacier-fed creeks and rivers that flow out of Kluane National Park to be very interesting, and the Duke River at Km 1709.5 is one of the most interesting. The old steel-arch bridges used to be a wonderful addition, but in recent years they’ve all been replaced by concrete bridges with no personality.

The Duke River at Km 1709.5 of the Alaska Highway
Because the Alaska Highway runs along the base of mountains here, many of the creeks and rivers look very different looking upstream and downstream from the bridges. We stopped for quite a while at the Duke, and as well as letting Bella and Tucker explore a bit, I took a lot of photos, both from river level and from the bridge. Looking downstream from the bridge, the Duke River has a vast spreading channel (a “braided channel“) that rarely has much water in it. What you see in the next photo is a rather heavy flow.

The Duke River at Km 1709.5 of the Alaska Highway
Looking upstream, the Duke looks very different, quickly narrowing with high cliffs on one side as you climb into the mountains.

The Duke River at Km 1709.5 of the Alaska Highway
I’ve always like the way the highway curves to cross Sakiw Creek at Km 1724.6. I remember when the highway was rebuilt in the mid-1990s, enhancing the curves to reduce the grades on both sides.

Sakiw Creek at Km 1724.6 of the Alaska Highway
The large Kluane River rest area at Km 1726 is a lovely spot.

The Kluane River rest area at Km 1726 of the Alaska Highway
The next photo is a 3-photo panorama of the Kluane River shot from the viewpoint. The Kluane River is one of the wild cards in this country still – it drains Kluane Lake and it’s not clear what the reduced water and flow levels will do in the long term.

The Kluane River from the rest area at Km 1726 of the Alaska Highway
At the bottom of the little valley ahead in the next photo is Quill Creek, and on the right is an abandoned section of the Alaska Highway where a memorial to First Lieutenant Roland Small, who was killed near that spot during construction of the highway, is located.

The Alaska Highway crosses Quill Creek, Yukon
Our next stop was the large rest area above the Donjek River at Km 1755.5.

Donjek River rest area at Km 1755.5 of the Alaska Highway
There is a fairly new memorial at that rest area, honouring James “Jim/Jimmy” Quong:
    For 40 years, Jim worked and lived in Yukon where he will be remembered for his part in the development of the highway bridge system.
    Since May 1942, Jim worked on the Alaska Highway project as a young draughtsman where he designed and oversaw the initial construction of many temporary timber bridges, crucial to the transportation of materials and equipment required for the Alaska Highway project.
    After completion of the military road in 1946, Jim continued to work on the design and construction of 133 permanent bridges to replace the temporary timber bridges. Jim is associated with most bridges throughout the length of the Alaska Highway.
In 1964, Jim joined the Department of Public Works Canada and remained with them as Senior Departmental Representative and Manager of Civil Engineering until his retirement in 1981.
    Throughout his highway career, Jim carried his camera and was able to capture life and work along the highway. Today, his photographs can be viewed in Yukon museums displays.
    Jim Quong passed away in Vancouver in 2003 at the age of 86.


Memorial to James
Dropping down to the Donjek River, at about Km 1760. I had planned to stop there and get some photos, but there was work being done – traffic was one-lane and the pullout at the west end was full of trucks. I had never seen the Donjek with so much water in it, so I was sorry to miss that photo op.

The Alaska Highway just south of the Donjek River, Yukon
The crews at the Donjek Bridge may have been stringing fibre optic cable, because from there on there were crews burying cable at several places.

Burying fibre optic cable along the Alaska Highway in the Yukon
I stopped at the Lake Creek Campground at Km 1791.1 next. I pulled the rig into one of the 13 pull through camp sites (there are 27 sites in total), then went for a long walk with Bella and Tucker.

Lake Creek Campground, Yukon
It’s a very nice campground, but I think it gets used little – I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone mention it.

Lake Creek Campground, Yukon
Lake Creek itself is an interesting, very pretty stream with lots of large sand and gravel beaches along it. The section seen in the next photo was particularly interesting with the water-sorted gravels along the bottom.

Lake Creek, Yukon
We left Lake Creek just after 2:00, thinking that the Snag Junction Campground would be a better spot to explore the area from. In the next photo, the green Km 1796 “milepost” can be seen on the right.

Alaska Highway Km 1796
At Km 1800, another fibre optic cable-laying crew could be seen ahead. The large lake ahead is Pickhandle Lake – there’s a rest area there but it’s quite small and a large 5th-wheel RV left not enough room for me to get turned around, so I didn’t visit it.

Alaska Highway Km 1796
The rest area below is at Km 1840.8 – in my days driving tour bus, I used to stop at that one quite often.

Alaska Highway Km 179
The highway crosses Dry Creek ahead, at Km 1841.8. Until it burned in 1951, the Dry Creek Lodge at what was then Mile 1184 of the highway was an important place. Here, bus passengers would transfer from the Canadian busses operated by the British Yukon Navigation Company to American ones operated by Alaska Coachways.

The Alaska Highway crosses Dry Creek at Km 1841.8
Right at 3:00, we reached the Snag Junction Campground, which has 15 camp sites, 3 of them pull through.

Snag Junction Campground, Yukon
I picked a lovely back-in site overlooking the lake and was soon set up, planning on staying 2 nights. Bella and Tucker and Molly were all ready for an afternoon nap, and we were all sound asleep when all hell broke loose at 5:00! That, of course, is what I’ll tell you about in the next post πŸ™‚

Snag Junction Campground, Yukon


Two days on the beach with the dogs at Kluane Lake, Yukon

My life is rather in chaos this summer for a variety of reasons, and two of my major trips have been cancelled so far. On Thursday, July 4th, though, I finally got away with the motorhome in the early afternoon. I headed west on the Alaska Highway, but with no firm plan as to where I was going or for how long. My first stop turned out to be Kluane Lake, where we stayed for 3 nights and 2 days. I had told a friend that “the healing waters of Kluane” might be what I needed, and that turned out to be exactly the case – it was a wonderful couple of days for all of us.

While we usually go to Congdon Creek Campground, just before 5:00 pm I stopped at the large pullout at Km 1642.1 of the Alaska Highway – because that is Bella and Tucker’s favourite beach. The pullout has no facilities, but lots of almost-level parking and the great but little-used beach goes on for miles.

Kluane Lake, Yukon
Even with heavy cloud, conditions were very good, with the lake pretty much calm and the temperature at 22°C (72°F).

Kluane Lake, Yukon
Within a few minutes, Bella and Tucker and I were all walking in the shallow water along the shore, which in this area is sand and fine gravel.

Walking along the shore of Kluane Lake, Yukon
Tucker loves playing ball on this beach. While playing with him I also played with my camera, and got some shots I liked by setting it to ISO 1250, f20 and 1/400th of a second, and throwing the ball with my left hand while my right did the camera work πŸ™‚

Playing ball with my dog at Kluane Lake, Yukon
Bella plays ball mostly to get Tucker going, and they were soon play-fighting, in and out of the water.

Dogs playing on the beach of Kluane Lake, Yukon
We walked and walked and walked, from the sandy beach out onto the glacial silt of the Slim’s River flats, which varies from hard and dry to very mucky. The flats are still growing a bit, and the beaches along Kluane Lake getting larger, due to the re-routing of the Slim’s River because of the retreat of the Kaskawulsh Glacier.

Walking in the glacial silt mud on Slim's River flats, Kluane Lake, Yukon
By the time I shot the next photo at 7:50 pm, the kids were both filthy and Bella was pooped.

Bella, my shelty/husky cross, tired and filthy at Kluane Lake, Yukon
We stopped for a rest, I enjoyed a beer in the spectacular silence of this vast plain, and just after 8:00 pm, started walking back towards the RV.

Walking on Slim's River flats, Kluane Lake, Yukon
I shot many photos of patterns in the silt.

Slim's River flats, Kluane Lake, Yukon
During our walk we came across tracks of a wolf and 2 caribou. I had my bear spray with me, as this is serious grizzly country.

Caribou tracks on Slim's River flats, Kluane Lake, Yukon
In a sheltered corner where Slims River flats joined the main beach, a bit of vegetation added some interest.

Slims River flats, Kluane Lake, Yukon
This tiny creek washed off a bit of the mud, but when we got back to the sandy beach, I took both dogs into the lake for a bath of sorts. We were back in the motorhome by about 9:00 pm. Days like this are the main reason I removed all the carpeting from the RV and replaced it with vinyl planks – everything is easy to clean now.

Mud and water, Kluane Lake, Yukon
The sky started getting quite interesting, and at 9:45, I went out and took a few photos. Sunset was at 11:31 pm. Not quite “The Midnight Sun”, but pretty close.

Sky at 9:45 pm, Kluane Lake, Yukon
The sky got me out for more photos at 02:45 – this super-wide-angle photo was shot at 10mm.

The sky at 02:45 - Kluane Lake, Yukon
After giving the kids breakfast at 07:00, the dogs and I went for a short walk along the beach…

Kluane Lake, Yukon
…and then I returned to reading for a while. John Steinbeck (1902-1968) would have been an interesting guy to spend an evening with.

Reading Travels With Charlie by John Steinbeck
The weather went sour for a while but by 11:30 it was beautiful again and heating up rapidly. I started by getting a portrait of the RV.

RV parked at Kluane Lake, Yukon
By the early afternoon the temperature had climbed into the high 20s and it was time to get wet. Tucker doesn’t swim, and if I throw the ball too far, I have to retrieve it for him (Bella sometimes does it for me).

Playing ball with my dog at Kluane Lake, Yukon
Bella doesn’t really swim, either, but if I do she will often follow me – just out and back. With her extremely thick coat, she’s then cool for hours.

Swimming with my dogs at Kluane Lake, Yukon
After a good long play, I put Bella and Tucker back in the motorhome and took the kayak out. What a perfect day for it! We don’t see Kluane Lake this calm very often.

Kayaking on Kluane Lake, Yukon
I paddled across to Slim’s River flat and went for a walk there.

Kluane Lake, Yukon
A storm suddenly started moving in from the head of the Slim’s River, and I headed back to the RV.

A storm moving in from the head of the Slim's River, Yukon
With the dogs back on the beach, I was messing with Tucker, throwing his ball into the waves.

Playing ball with my dog at Kluane Lake, Yukon

Playing ball with my dog at Kluane Lake, Yukon

Waves are so amazing – calming, mesmerizing, photographically fascinating.

Waves on Kluane Lake, Yukon
“Hmmm, I wonder who lives in there…” πŸ™‚

My dog Bella fascinated by a culvert along the Alaska HIghway

Friday afternoon wasn’t very pleasant – the temperature hit 31.3°C (88.3°F) in the RV but bugs were making Tucker crazy outside (black dogs often have that problem – they didn’t bother Bella or I).

The light Friday night was wonderful – the next photo of God beams (crepuscular rays is the scientific term) coming over the Kluane Range was shot at 9:58 pm.

God beams coming over the Kluane Range in the Yukon at 10:00 pm
I was on the beach shooting a few times that night as the sky changed – the next photo was shot at 01:13 am.

Sky at at 01:13 am, Kluane Lake, Yukon
Official sunrise was at 4:41, but when I shot the next photo 12 minutes later the sun was still well below the mountains of the Ruby Range.

A colourful dawn at Kluane Lake, Yukon
A broader look at the sky over the Ruby Range, also at 04:53.

A colourful dawn at Kluane Lake, Yukon
What a place to start the day.

RVs parked along the beach at Kluane Lake, Yukon
At 05:35 the sun finally came over the ridge.

A colourful sunrise at Kluane Lake, Yukon
Smoke from over 120 wildfires in Alaska and over 30 in the Yukon was causing an increasing loss of visibility, but is rather interesting photographically even beyond the colourful sunrises and sunsets.

Smokey sky at Kluane Lake, Yukon
I heard some odd noises after breakfast so I opened some drawers and sent out Inspector Molly. She soon gave us the “all clear” – no mice here πŸ™‚

Cat inspecting my RV for mice
With another hot day coming, I decided just after 09:00 to continue west, perhaps right to the Alaska border, 260 km away. I’d just see what caught my interest.

The Alaska Highway along Kluane Lake, Yukon


Hiding in plain sight – the copper mines of Rabbit’s Foot Canyon, Whitehorse

To the west of the city of Whitehorse lies a belt of copper-rich ground about 30 kilometers long. First discovered in 1898 by prospectors who had been headed for the Klondike gold fields, it was mined from then until 1920, and then again from 1967 until 1982. While the larger early mines and the more mines are quite well known, some of the smaller mines have all but vanished – unless you look hard.

About 3 weeks ago, Tim Green posted in my Yukon History and Abandoned Places group: “I found the lost portal of the Anaconda Mine today.” That attracted a lot of interest from members of the group, and Tim offered to take people out on a couple of quite lengthy hiking tours to see what he’d found out about the Anaconda and the Rabbit’s Foot copper mines. On June 30th, I joined him. The 28 photos in this post give a brief look at what we saw during a fascinating 4½ hours.

At 10:30 Sunday morning, 7 of us met Tim on Pine Street in Porter Creek, and soon started walking west into the forest along an old survey line that’s now a well-used trail.


About 15 minutes along the trail, we came to the hole/structure seen in the next photo. None of us could even guess what it was for – the fact that it has a plastic liner indicated that it’s not particularly old, though. This would be the first of many mysteries πŸ™‚

An unknown in-ground structure in Porter Creek, Whitehorse
A few minutes later, we came to this large levelled area. Tim said he’s heard that it was possibly the site of a cistern for supplying water to homes and perhaps other buildings in the area many years ago.

The site of a cistern many years ago
Five minutes later we came to Rabbit’s Foot Canyon, and a small area where many of the poplar trees had burls, some very large. These are caused by the tree undergoing some form of stress – a virus or fungus, or an injury. They’re very popular with woodworkers, but these ones are quite remote to harvest.

Poplar tree with burls at Rabbit's Foot Canyon in Whitehorse
Although I’ve often wondered where the creek that the Porter Creek area is named after runs, I’d never tried to find out. Well there it is below us, running to the right alongside the Alaska Highway through Rabbit’s Foot Canyon.

Porter Creek, the creek, in Whitehorse.
Smoke from nearly 150 wildfires burning in Alaska and the Yukon cut our visibility dramatically. I was surprised at how well used the trail is, and there are other trails intersecting it at many points.

A trail along Rabbit's Foot Canyon in Whitehorse
Continuing along the lip of the canyon, we were stopped by a bald eagle sitting low in a tree ahead of us. An avid photographer scared him away, and we continued on. There were eagles everywhere, though, as there always are around the garbage dump, which is a few hundred meters away on the other side of the canyon. The garbage originally went into 2 copper mine pits, but overflowed them many years ago.

Bald eagle feather along Rabbit's Foot Canyon in Whitehorse
Fifty minutes from the start of our hike, Tim headed off into the forest, up a fairly steep hill. I was wondering what on earth he was doing – when he stopped, it was at this mining claim post from the very early years. He may have dated this one but I wasn’t taking notes as I should have been, unfortunately. I expect this is from the Anaconda claim.

A century-old copper mining claim post
In the next photo is the lost portal of the Anaconda Mine that Tim posted in the group about. I could certainly see why it was lost – it was very hard to spot, and I switched to my 400mm lens to get this photo.

The lost portal of the Anaconda Copper Mine in Whitehorse
From that viewpoint, we dropped down to the Alaska Highway, crossed the highway and walked along it for a few hundred meters…

Hiking along Rabbit's Foot Canyon in Whitehorse

Hiking along the Alaska Highway in Rabbit's Foot Canyon, Whitehorse

… then crossed Porter Creek in a variety of ways and climbed the bank to reach the Anaconda Mine portal.

Crossing Porter Creek in Whitehorse
This is it – it’s mostly collapsed and none of us had a light to see into it. A great deal more research will be needed to figure out the exact purpose of this hole is and how it relates to the rest of the mine. That same comment applies to most of the mining sites we’d see on the Anaconda and Rabbit’s Foot properties, both of which date back to 1898-1899. Only sparse records exist, though, so much will never be known.

The lost portal of the Anaconda Copper Mine in Whitehorse
From the Anaconda we backtracked to the garbage dump access road, walked up it a bit and then headed into the forest. The next photo shows a possible foundation of a small building. We were probably now on the Rabbit’s Foot Mine claim.

Possible foundation of a small building on the Rabbit's Foot Mine claim, Whitehorse
There were now pits and holes everywhere, and even some Cat trenching from much more recent testing of the property, I expect in the 1960s.

Rabbit's Foot Mine claim, Whitehorse
Just before 12:30 we reached the first concrete evidence of a working mine. This was one of the major entrances to the Rabbit’s Foot copper mine, ca. 1900.

Rabbit's Foot copper mine, ca. 1900
To the left of the shaft, you can see some of the green copper ore they were following down.

Rabbit's Foot copper mine, ca. 1900
Above that hole, a substantial log cabin, perhaps the mine manager’s residence.

Log cabin at the Rabbit's Foot copper mine, ca. 1900
Beside the shaft, this hand-cranked windlass would have been connected to a rope or cable, used to bring equipment and ore up from the bottom.

Windlass at the Rabbit's Foot copper mine, ca. 1900
There were actually two shafts side-by side at this location. One of the important questions that may never be answered is how deep are the shafts and how long are any connecting tunnels. Some of the holes we had passed may have been ventilation shafts if the workings were extensive.

Rabbit's Foot copper mine, ca. 1900

Rabbit's Foot copper mine, ca. 1900

We were now due for a lunch break – it was 12:45. Tim led us to the edge of a canyon that I had no idea existed, and Tim said that’s a common reaction. He has a great story about this lost valley being the possible home of a herd of miniature mammoths that has so far escaped detection. Maybe πŸ™‚
Porter Creek flows at the bottom of the valley, and the Alaska Highway is at the foot of it (to the left in this photo).

The valley of miniature mammoths, Whitehorse
After lunch we crossed the Alaska Highway and climbed the steep slope on the side we had begun the day on. Back into the forest, Tim led us to a modern claim or property marker he had located. The beer bottle was placed so he could find it again.

Mining claim stake
Continuing along the trail, we came to a view looking across the highway and up McIntyre Creek. The road to the right leads to Fish Lake, one of the most popular places for aurora photography once the skies get dark at night again.

McIntyre Creek, Whitehorse
Our path led to a section of the original Dawson Overland Trail, and a side trail led to this marshy area. The temperature had climbed to about 30°C (86°F), and we were all very glad to be in the shade of the forest most of the time.


Ah, the intrigue of old trails! I had no idea any of the trail still existed right in the city.

The original Dawson Overland Trail, Whitehorse
All of a sudden at 2:30, we were back in the city, albeit a rather remote part of it. This is Pine Street – we had begun just a few blocks away. But Tim wasn’t finished yet – we crossed over and went down another trail.

Pine Street, Whitehorse
The final site of mining interest was a group of several early mining claim posts. It’s quite remarkable that the climate in the Yukon is so dry, wooden posts are still in fairly good condition after well over a century.

Century-old copper mine claim posts

We got back to our cars almost 4½ hours after starting our exploring. If I hadn’t already made plans, I would have gone out on Tim’s next tour the following weekend, this time taking a GPS and notebook. His passion for these mines is certainly contagious. Even beyond the mining history aspect, to be able to go on a hike like this in the heart of the city certainly substantiates our claim to being The Wilderness City.



By helicopter to Llewellyn Glacier and Lake No Lake, Atlin region

Friends and I have been trying for 4-5 years to get to glacial Lake No Lake by helicopter out of Atlin, but things just never came together – weather or schedules always got in the way. On Saturday, June 29th, though, four friends joined me on a charter I had booked. It was an incredible, mind-boggling experience. The variety of country seen on the circle route to and from the Llewellyn Glacier was so great that it’s taken me 58 photos to give you an idea of what the 2-hour trip was like.

We left my home just before 09:00. From here it’s 161 km to the Atlin airport, so we had a bit of time to stop along the way. Our second short stop was at the ancient terminal moraine of a long-gone glacier. Back in the ’90s when I taught night-school photography courses, this is where I used to take my classes for a final outing. It’s a wonderful place to experiment with both broad vistas and closeups, especially flowers. Mount Minto is in the background of the first photo.

Mount Minto from a glacial moraine along the Atlin Road
With a few minutes still to spare, we detoured into downtown Atlin to experience the spectacular views. In the background of the next photo, the famous “rock glacier” flows down the slopes of Atlin Mountain.

The famous rock glacier flows down the slopes of Atlin Mountain.
I sure love it when things come together photographically just by luck. This is postcard Atlin πŸ™‚

A boat leaves Atlin for a day on Atlin Lake
When we reached the Tundra Helicopters base, our pilot, Jamie Tait, was just cleaning the windows of his Bell 206 LongRanger – he said he’d been out killing bugs with it πŸ™‚ Looking in my pilot’s log book, I see that I first met Jamie on June 18, 1985. I had flown into Atlin with 2 friends in my Cessna, and while exploring Atlin on foot, saw Jamie fuelling up his Cessna 206 float plane. While talking to him, he asked if we’d like to join him for a 2½-hour trip looking for forest fires. Hell yes we would! Jamie is a legend in northern aviation, and I was extremely pleased to be flying with him again.

Jamie Tait cleaning his helicopter at Atlin, BC

As we were getting ready, I realized that I’d forgotten my Garmin inReach, which is very handy for mapping a complex trip like this.

At 11:15, after a safety briefing and getting everyone properly buckled in (the harnesses in the helicopter are much more complicated than your airline seatbelt) we were on our way! For the trip to the glacier, I got the front left seat.

Aerial view of Atlin airport, BC
At Pine Creek, signs of decades of placer gold mining can still be seen.

At Pine Creek near Atlin, signs of decades of placer gold mining can still be seen.
Looking down to a beach along Atlin Lake, through the window at my feet. As beautiful as Atlin Lake is from ground/water level, it’s even more so from the air, where you can see the amazing colours better.

Aerial view of Atlin Lake
Warm Bay – the warm springs are just out of the photo to the upper right. This is one of the must-see destinations near Atlin.

Aerial view of Warm Bay near Atlin, BC
The mouth of the O’Donnel River. We were now leaving the road system behind and heading into some of BC’s finest wilderness.

The mouth of the O'Donnell River, BC.
Looking southwest across Simpson Lake.


Fifteen minutes from Atlin, Jamie said he had an Omnimax moment coming just ahead. He flew low and fast to a ridge and as we passed over it a huge new world opened up, though the increasing wildfire smoke in that direction did obscure it somewhat. The layers in the rock were amazing.


This river, seen seconds after the photo above was shot, isn’t named on any of my resources – it’s a tributary of the Sloko River.

A dramatic tributary of the Sloko River, BC
Awesome flying, right down among the rocks so we could see the details.

In the Sloko Range, BC
We next looped around the wreckage of a US Coast Guard Grumman Albatross that crashed on June 15, 1967, while on a search for a missing aircraft. Three of the 6 people on board were killed. This was a story that I knew well as the result of a hike into the wreckage that 2 friends of mine, Kyle and Sara Cameron, made in 2017. It became a wonderful story when Kyle tracked down 2 sons of one of the victims, Robert Striff, and brought them to the crash site. Alexandra Byers did an excellent story for CBC about it last year, and “Out of the wreckage” can be read online.

Wreckage of a US Coast Guard Grumman Albatross that crashed on June 15, 1967
It’s remarkable how much information you can try to cram into your brain on a flight like this. This lovely little waterfall close to the plane crash is only 21 minutes from Atlin.

Waterfall nar Sloko Lake, BC
Judging by the fact that there are no photos of it online, Sloko Falls is one of the most seldom seen large waterfalls in BC. I guess the fall to be close to 300 feet, and there’s a massive cave behind the wall of water.

Sloko Falls, BC
A couple of miles upriver from Sloko Falls is milky-turquoise Sloko Lake. This is where the Camerons landed their float plane to hike to the Albatross crash.

Milky-turquoise Sloko Lake, BC
The actions of glaciers thousands of years ago have created some unique places, like this meadow-filled hanging valley.


Here’s dramatic proof of how rapidly some of these glaciers are disappearing. For there to be no plants where the glacier used to be, this retreat has probably happened in just the past 20-30 years, and in another 20-30 years that glacier will likely be history.

Dramatic glacier retreat in northern BC
Only 26 minutes from Atlin, we were getting close. The terrain, though there was still a great deal of variety, had the feeling of fairly recent glaciation, rather like the White Pass.


The hiking here would be incredible in many areas, and I started imagining getting dropped off in some of these places like the ones in the next 3 photos, for a few hours or a few days.


Our first view of Lake No Lake, at the right centre, 29 minutes from Atlin.


Closer and closer, my headset was full of exclamations from everyone about the sight.


Here is most of Lake No Lake, which appears and disappears often. The small river fills the valley behind the Tulsequah Glacier until there is enough pressure to break through the glacier, and it drains. It last broke through and drained about 10 days before our arrival.

Lake No Lake, Tulsequah Glacier, BC
Before looking for a place to land, Jamie took us for a loop up and down the glaciers that create Lake No Lake. These are part of the Juneau Icefield, but I’ve looked for a map to see if they have names, with no luck yet. What maps I have found have just confused me, part of the problem being that the ice is disappearing so quickly that what we saw isn’t what most maps will show. The Juneau Icefield has 53 glaciers flowing from it!

Two of the outlet glaciers of the Juneau Icefield
Glaciers fascinate me, both naturally and photographically. To think that a mass of ice can slowly flow down a valley continuously for thousands of years is mind-boggling, and the sculptures and patterns created by that flow and associated stresses are beautiful.

Tulsequah Glacier
The 2 glaciers above join to form the Tulsequah Glacier, seen in the next photo which looks down-glacier. Its meltwaters form the Tulsequah River, which flows into the Taku River. Lake No Lake is immediately to the left of the point where I shot this photo.

Tulsequah Glacier
The most dramatic of the peaks towering over us was the Devil’s Thumb, 2,767 meters high (9,077 feet).


Now it was time to have a good look at the feature we came to see. It had only been 33 minutes since we left Atlin. The spot seen in the next photo is where Lake No Lake drained, then the glacier collapsed and the lake is re-filling again. When it drains, it creates glacial outburst floods, or jökulhlaups, in the Tulsequah River – these floods from Lake No Lake have only been happening for about the past 50 years according to a couple of scientific reports I’ve found, but floods are getting larger in recent years.

Lake No Lake, Tulsequah Glacier, BC
The size of the some of the icebergs is incredible. We were flying below the top of the one in the next photo, which is probably over 100 feet high. With nothing to give a sense of scale (a tree, for example), it’s very difficult to judge either distance or size.

Lake No Lake, Tulsequah Glacier, BC
The colour of some of the ice that came from deep within the glacier was stunning.

Brilliant blue glacial iceberg on Lake No Lake
Although landing down among the icebergs is the coolest experience, Jamie decided the lake was filling too rapidly to do that safely, so we landed above it. The high view was just fine πŸ™‚

Tundra Helicopters Bell 206 LongRanger at Lake No Lake
Between the 5 of us, there were a lot of photos shot from the little knoll we landed on! We really got lucky that the wildfire smoke that affected visibility for the first part of the flight had only minimally gotten into The Hall of the Mountain King.

Above Lake No Lake and Tulsequah Glacier, BC

Above Lake No Lake and Tulsequah Glacier, BC

Above Lake No Lake and Tulsequah Glacier, BC

This photo of me was shot by Xiu-Mei Zhang. I knew her so well from posts on the hiking group we both belong to that it took me a while to realize we hadn’t actually met in person before. I’m using this photo as my Facebook profile photo now.

Murray Lundberg among the peaks over the Juneau Icefield - photo by Xiu-Mei Zhang
What a place to chill. Jamie said we could stay as long as we wanted.

Murray Lundberg among the glaciers of the Juneau Icefield
Rocks and ice – the closeups were as wonderful as the broad views. A few times, we heard ice crashing around us somewhere – icebergs toppling down below, perhaps.

Above Lake No Lake and Tulsequah Glacier, BC
I took a short hike to get this photo of the helicopter with the broad view of the lake, glacier, and peaks. This was shot at 18mm.

Above Lake No Lake and Tulsequah Glacier, BC
After about 45 minutes, everyone had soaked up enough of the experience to satisfy them, and we got ready to depart. We lifted off 50 minutes after arrival. Things happen too quickly to do lens changes, so I had shot with my 24-105mm lens on the way to the lake, and switched to a 10-18 mm for the return trip. I was now in a back seat with Xiu-Mei and long-time friends Diane and Gary, while Karla got the co-pilot’s seat.

Flying over Lake No Lake, BC
We would take a completely different route back to Atlin, but started with another loop among the icebergs and then a low pass up the creek.

Creek feeding Lake No Lake, BC
Watching glaciers disappear is really sad. The Bear Glacier and Salmon Glacier are the ones I’ve literally watched the retreat of over the past 44 years, and I transpose that experience to what is basically a remnant glacier like this one.


Another heli-hiking destination! This is no doubt serious grizzly country but what a place to spend a week. This photo was shot 7 minutes ater leaving Lake No Lake.


Two minutes further along, the terrain was much rougher but those lakes would be worth a fight to get to on foot. At the upper right you can see the trimline, the bare rock that marks the upper limit of the Llewellyn Glacier in the recent past (a few hundred years, I expect).


The next photo shows the Sloko River, but now we’re above Sloko Lake. This section of the river is only about 7 miles long, starting at a glacier, of course.


Eleven minutes from Lake No Lake, we reached the unnamed lake at the foot of the Llewellyn Glacier. The changes here are shocking – on the Google Earth image dated 9/10/2011, this lake doesn’t exist. It is on the Bing Maps image, which I don’t see a date on.

The unnamed lake at the foot of the Llewellyn Glacier.

The unnamed lake at the foot of the Llewellyn Glacier.

In June 2000, a helicopter crashed while filming a Nissan commercial further up the Llewellyn Glacier. The wreckage fell into a crevasse, and it was deemed too dangerous to attempt to recover the bodies. In July 2001, though, a private team was able to recover 3 of the bodies. Recently (I haven’t found an article about it), the glacier’s advance has brought the wreckage to a point where a camera that had belonged to one of the film crew was recovered and its card still had a a video selfie recorded by the owner.

Llewellyn Glacier crevasses
At 1:00 om, 14 minutes from Lake No Lake, we turned away from the power of the Llewellyn Glacier and hopped over a low ridge and then climbed up for a higher view of the peaceful beauty of Atlin Lake. In just a few seconds we had returned to a completely different world.

Atlin Lake, BC
The brilliant colours, the gorgeous beaches with not a person or boat in sight – Atlin Lake is indescribably beautiful. Looking down at one particular complex of small islands and protected coves and beaches, I said aloud that I need a houseboat. Once I got home and started thinking about it a lot, though, it’s a floatplane I need πŸ™‚ – not just for Atlin Lake but for the entire North country. While I can afford to get another plane on wheels, though, floats are a whole different ball game πŸ™

Atlin Lake, BC

Atlin Lake, BC

The next photo was a grab shot as we zoomed past “an island on a lake on an island on a lake”, as Jamie explained it – an island on an unnamed lake on Teresa Island which is on Atlin Lake πŸ™‚

An island on a lake on an island on a lake - Teresa Island near Atlin, BC
At 1:18 we were back over Atlin – this high view was followed by a lower, high-speed pass along the waterfront, then we returned to the airport. We landed 2 hours and 6 minutes after we left.

Aerial view of Atlin, BC
On the drive home, we stopped along Little Atlin Lake, and were greeting by this beautiful large butterfly, a White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis). We have about 91 species of butterflies in the Yukon.

A White Admiral butterfly (Limenitis arthemis) along Little Atlin Lake, BC
The beach we stopped at was in a large shallow bay, and the water was very warm. Wading around there was a wonderful way to end our Atlin Adventure πŸ™‚


The research need to write this blog was the most intensive I’ve had to do in a long time, and even then I just skimmed the surface. Now, though, I know enough that I want to go back! Luckily, I know other people who want to go πŸ™‚



Planes and pilots and the importance of little airports

My regular readers know that I love airplanes. Yesterday, I drove to Carcross to attend a fly-in event sponsored by the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA, Branch 106). Part of the reason I went was to support the Carcross Airport, which regularly gets threatened with closure as a result of the actions of a handful of locals. This post looks at planes, but also at the importance of little airports like the one at Carcross.

The weather forecast wasn’t great for an event like that, but I hoped the ceiling would stay high and dry. The first photo, looking south on the South Klondike Highway, shows Montana Mountain ahead. Carcross sits at the base of that mountain.

Looking south on the South Klondike Highway, with Montana Mountain ahead.
My first look at the fly-in. The construction fence was put up a couple of years ago as a temporary measure to keep people and vehicles off the runway. The Carcross airport (Carcross aerodrome officially) is unmanned and uncontrolled, with maintenance done by the Yukon Department of Highways and Public Works. The single gravel runway is 2,200 feet long x 75 feet wide.

COPA fly-in at the Carcross airport, Yukon
The first thing that caught my attention was this RV towing a helicopter. I met the owner and talked to him for a few minutes. He and his wife are from California and had spent a couple of days in Carcross, exploring the area with the helicopter, a 1999 Robinson R-22. Too rich for my blood, but a wonderful way to explore!

COPA fly-in at the Carcross airport, Yukon
Meeting more people was next – Carcross friends and aviation friends, and friendly pilots and spouses. Aviation is a sport that welcomes everybody, and the barbecue enhanced that – I had a good burger with a drink for $5. Within a few minutes, I had also made my support of the aerodrome official by becoming a member of the Carcross Aerodrome Society

Carcross Aerodrome Society

Small local airports are important, but many are under the sort of pressure the Carcross one is, at least partly because small planes aren’t part of most people’s lives and they don’t understand them. To start with, a common perception is that small planes are rich men’s toys, and they just aren’t. I almost bought another Cessna 172 four years ago, but for a long list of reasons went for a motorhome instead. The motorhome, which still cost less than a nice new pickup, cost almost twice what the Cessna would have.

Having an airport right in town is good for business, particularly tourism. My first stop in the Yukon when I came up in 1985 was at Carcross, and it was the airport’s location that made it a good stop. That was one of the most significant vists in my life, as I fell in love with the place. Without the airport at Carcross, would my reaction to the Yukon have been as strong? I don’t know. If I still had an airplane, though, would the airport have kept me in Carcross when I moved there? Probably.

One of the biggest reasons I decided not to buy the Cessna four years ago is that there are few places to go unless you have floats or an aircraft capable of being equipped with big tires for off-airport use. In the Yukon, other than Carcross, only the Braeburn Lodge and Ross River have airports close to any services. Extending the range a bit, Skagway has an excellent airport for the sort of aerial wandering I used to do. When I had my Cessna in BC, there were dozens of airports to fly to with services – we used to fly to a motel/restaurant in the Okanagan that had its own airport!

Noise is a common complaint about in-town airports, but thousands of people live within earshot of the Whitehorse airport which has jets coming and going several times a day, and nobody complains. The sound level of normal small aircraft is nowhere near as high.

In Carcross, let’s also talk about history. Aviation made Carcross one of the most important communities in the Yukon in the 1920s and ’30s. A book could be written about what went on there – a good indication of that is Bob Cameron’s book “Yukon Wings”, where Carcross appears on 85 pages in the index.

Enough about airports, let’s talk about airplanes πŸ™‚ One of my goals for the day was to get photos of all of the aircraft that attended, for my Yukon Aircraft Photographs page – it’s been neglected for quite a while now. Photos of most of the aircraft that attended this event follow.

First on the line was this 1976 Bellanca 8GCBC Scout, C-GMGJ.

1976 Bellanca 8GCBC Scout, C-GMGJ, at a COPA fly-in at the Carcross airport, Yukon
More aircraft were arriving fairly steadily. The next photo shows 1943 Beech D17S Staggerwing CF-BKQ arriving. I’ve wanted to get a close look at this classic for a very long time.

1943 Beech D17S Staggerwing CF-BKQ at a COPA fly-in at the Carcross airport, Yukon
This is a 2005 Savannah, C-IZZX, a 2-seat “Advanced Ultra-light” built in Italy.

2005 Savannah C-IZZX at a COPA fly-in at the Carcross airport, Yukon
In from Atlin, Tundra Helicopters’ 1980 Bell 206L-1, C-GVIW, made a showy entrance with a low, high-speed pass down the runway before landing πŸ™‚

Tundra Helicopters' 1980 Bell 206L-1, C-GVIW at a COPA fly-in at the Carcross airport, Yukon
Next is a 1954 Piper PA-18-135 Super Cub, C-GMHA. Super Cubs seem to be getting more popular in the Yukon in recent years – with “tundra tires” like this, they can land and take off in some pretty incredible places (runways aren’t needed).

1954 Piper PA-18-135 Super Cub, C-GMHA, at a COPA fly-in at the Carcross airport, Yukon
1968 Cessna 172I, CF-XWE. Keeping aluminum polished like a mirror on a half-century-old aircraft is a labour of love. This model was the first of the 172s to be powered by the extremely dependable Lycoming engines that would make them one of the most successful planes ever built (over 44,000 were built).

1968 Cessna 172I CF-XWE at a COPA fly-in at the Carcross airport, Yukon

1968 Cessna 172I CF-XWE at a COPA fly-in at the Carcross airport, Yukon

I think most airplane fans would agree that the Staggerwing Beech is one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built. It first flew in 1932, and by the time this one was built in 1943, it was often used as an executive aircraft. With a Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-1 “Wasp Junior” radial engine producing a top speed of 212 mph (184 knots, 341 km/h), it was often seen in air races.

1943 Beech D17S Staggerwing CF-BKQ at a COPA fly-in at the Carcross airport, Yukon

1943 Beech D17S Staggerwing CF-BKQ at a COPA fly-in at the Carcross airport, Yukon

Next is a 1950 Piper PA-18 Super Cub, C-FJCM, also set up well for off-runway use.

1950 Piper PA-18 Super Cub C-FJCM at a COPA fly-in at the Carcross airport, Yukon
No fancy electronic panel here – this is the way I learned to fly, with just the instruments you need in the back country.

1950 Piper PA-18 Super Cub C-FJCM at a COPA fly-in at the Carcross airport, Yukon
Next we have a Van’s RV-8 – C-GRVO was built in the Yukon in 2005.

COPA fly-in at the Carcross airport, Yukon
Another Piper Super Cub, C-FLRK is a 1956 PA-18-150 model. I love the “Fat Tire Cowboys” decal on this bush-equipped plane.

1956 PA-18-150 C-FLRK at a COPA fly-in at the Carcross airport, Yukon
This beautiful bird is a Glasair GS-2 Sportsman 2+2, N357JH, built in 2006. With amphibious floats able to land on water or a runway, it carries 2 passengers and 1 large dog in the back πŸ™‚

Glasair GS-2 Sportsman 2+2, N357JH, at a COPA fly-in at the Carcross airport, Yukon
As I was leaving, the Staggerwing did too, so I stayed to watch and listen to that – OMG I love the sound of big round engines!

COPA

COPA fly-in at the Carcross airport, Yukon

And then I left, with an awful itch to get out flying. When I got home I spent some time looking at airplanes for sale, and I’ve now chartered the helicopter you saw above for a glacier trip on Saturday. I expect to be able to show you some amazing photos from that trip πŸ™‚

On the way home, I stopped at the Robinson Roadhouse to have a look at the stabilization work being done. Not a restoration by a long shot, but the important thing to me is that this should keep it standing for a good number of years yet.

The historic Robinson Roadhouse, Yukon

The historic Robinson Roadhouse, Yukon

The historic Robinson Roadhouse, Yukon



A bit of granite therapy – hiking in the White Pass

I had to go to Skagway on Thursday to pick up a couple of packages at the post office, and it was one of those days that developed on the fly. I thought about taking the motorcycle, then maybe my dog with no dogs, then finally invited Bella and Tucker and packed everything I’d need if I decided to go hiking in the White Pass with the dogs. We hit the road just after 10:30.

The new bridge that will carry the South Klondike Highway over the Nares River at Carcross was a very busy place, so I drove up what was once the access road to my cabin and took a few photos from there. I haven’t seen a completion date but the way it’s looking I’d guess sometime in August.

The new bridge that will carry the South Klondike Highway over the Nares River at Carcross

The new bridge that will carry the South Klondike Highway over the Nares River at Carcross

There was hardly a ripple on Windy Arm, so I stopped near the Bove Island viewpoint for a photo. This is a good example of why I never tire of this drive.

Bove Island, South Klondike Highway
There were 4 large cruise ships docked at Skagway, and it was a very busy place. I had to go to the post office 3 times, as it was closed despite a sign that said it was open.

A cruise ship dominates Broadway in Skagway, Alaska

After picking up my packages, I took the kids for a walk to meet people at the Railroad Dock. This is something that’s always fun for all concerned, but this day was a particularly good one. Tucker can be a bit reserved, but he was right into meeting people, and he got a lot of attention – often Bella gets most of it.

We headed north at about 2:00, still without a firm plan to go hiking. I pulled in to the parking area for the International Falls trail, thought about that for a couple of minutes, then went back a couple of hundred meters to the border. Instead of hiking west on a trail, we’d hike east, off-trail. Part of the reason was that I need Bella and Tucker to be leashed to hike the International Falls trail, because of the many cliffs – on the granite to the east they can be free the entire time. At 2:35, we started up.

Parked at Km 24 of the South Klondike Highway, the Canada/USA border
We’d be roughly following the physical border, and would see two of the border monuments. This one, ust installed a few years ago, is just a few meters above the highway.

Canada/USA border monument along the South Klondike Highway
I chose to climb up our usual route, a steep chute of low vegetation with some rocks. The next photo looks south and down to the “Welcome to Alaska” sign – it’s right behind the small bus.

The Welcome to Alaska sign on the South Klondike Highway
This route was a good decision. Mosses and lichens cover much of the granite, and Bella and Tucker were having a ball πŸ™‚

Hiking with dogs in the White Pass
A much higher view of the “Welcome to Alaska” sign.

The Welcome to Alaska sign on the South Klondike Highway
The International Falls trail goes up the right (north) side of that unnamed creek.

The International Falls trail on the South Klondike Highway
As soon as we were out of sight of the highway, I got comfortable – Nude Hiking Day is June 21st, but close enough πŸ™‚ A few minutes later I staged this photo at a spot where I could set the camera up on a rock. I need to buy another tripod – after my last one died, the tripod I upgraded to is just a bit too large for hiking (it doesn’t fit in this daypack).

Hiking with dogs in the White Pass
There are plenty of ponds in the high granite, and the kids took full advantage of them.

Hiking with dogs in the White Pass
The view towards Skagway – the highway is in the centre.

Hiking in the White Pass - the view towards Skagway
The dogs love getting to play in snow in June!

Hiking across snow in the White Pass in June
There are lots of glacial erratics – rocks of all sizes left by melting/retreating glaciers – through the White Pass. This view is to the east.


The view to the north, with the highway and Summit Lake. The mountain on the left is Summit Creek Hill – it’s quite a “hill” πŸ™‚

Summit Creek Hill in the White Pass
The next photo shows my favorite pond up there – so square it almost looks man-made. The smaller of these ponds warm up enough for a dip after a lengthy sunny spell, but we’ve had little sun in the past few weeks.

A pond in the White Pass granite
Some of the bowls that gather a lot of snow over the winter still have plenty of it.

A pond in the White Pass granite
Bella knows that it’s good to stop and smell the flowers occasionally – I try to be like Bella πŸ™‚

Bella knows that it's good to stop and smell the flowers occasionally
Starting back to the car, we returned to border monument #118, seen in the centre of the next photo, looking north again.

Canada/USA border monument #118 in the White Pass
This was the first time I’d seen the new loop at the White Pass summit being used by a train. It was a huge project but sure makes the railway’s Summit Excursions more efficient.

The new loop at White Pass summit for WP&YR trains
Stormy clouds over and among the spectacular peaks to the southeast provided some good photo ops.

Stormy clouds over and among the spectacular peaks of the White Pass
Rather reluctant to leave this wonderful place, I spent some time photographing a few of the little plants that manage to survive through the extremely long winters.


I sure love being able to put a smile like that on my little girl’s face, and the White Pass always accomplishes that. πŸ™‚

My dog Bella in the White Pass
A final dip before dropping back down to the car and starting for home.

My dogs Tucker and Bella in the White Pass
I’ll again end with a map of our route as recorded by my Garmin inReach. It wasn’t a long hike, but it was a very good one. In an hour and 40 minutes, we hiked 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles). We began at an elevation of 3,289 feet, and the highest point we reached was 3,614 feet.

Map of a hike in the White Pass


Hiking to the 1942 Alaska Highway bridge over the Slims River

On June 15th, two friends and three of our dogs joined me for a hike to the ruins of the Campman Bridge, built over the Slims River by the US Army Corps of Engineers during construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942.

The hike began at 1:45 on the access road to the Ä’äy Chù (Slim’s River) East Route. A fairly large parking lot is located at Km 1645.6 of the Alaska Highway, about 2 km from the modern Slims River Bridge. Because of the strong possibility of encountering a grizzly bear, we kept the dogs on leash.

Access road to a Slims River hike, Kluane National Park, Yukon
Within about 10 minutes, the views across the Slims River valley opened up dramatically.

Slims River valley, Kluane National Park, Yukon
There are some ups and downs, but much of the 3-km-long access road (which is the original Alaska Highway) is level.

Access road to a Slims River hike, Kluane National Park, Yukon
At about the 3 km point, there’s a widening of the road so vehicles can turn around, and the Slims River East trail leads off to the left, up Vulcan Creek. We continued walking straight ahead. We could have driven to this point but the point was to go for a walk.

Access road to a Slims River hike, Kluane National Park, Yukon
Although not very distinct in the fine silt, we came upon very fresh grizzly tracks. Not a large bear, but a grizzly nonetheless. We followed them for quite distance.

Grizzly prints along the Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
I was very surprised (and very pleased) to find many butterflies along one stretch of the road. I didn’t see what was attracting them to this particular area of a few hundred meters. Among the 4 or 5 species was this little brown one. Environment Yukon’s Yukon Butterflies brochure hasn’t led me to a positive identification, but I think it may be a Persius Duskywing (Erynnis persius).

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
When we reached the main channel of small and much-braided Vulcan Creek, the kids were happy to get a drink. Rosie is the only dog I recall seeing who lays in a creek to get a drink πŸ™‚

Dohs getting a drink at Vulcan Creek, Kluane National Park, Yukon
Fifty minutes from the start of the road, we were well into the Slims River valley and the views were wide open. The next photo is a 2-photo panorama with the Alaska Highway and the dust storm at Slims River flats to the right.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
Now that we had good sight lines, Tucker, Granite, and Rosie were let off their leashes, and took full advantage of it. They’re all very good at recall.

Slims River valley, Kluane National Park, Yukon
At 2:50 we reached the ruins of the Campman Bridge, which I expect was named after the commander of one of the Corp of Engineers units that built it. This was the first of at least 4 Slims River bridges – it was built here because the natural river channel is much narrower than at the current location a mile or so downriver.

Campman Bridge ruins, Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
Looking across the Slims River to the bridge ruins on the west side. They can be accessed from the Slims River West trail near Sheep Creek. The bridge was a single lane, with 3 or 4 pullouts to allow vehicles to pass.

Campman Bridge ruins, Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
If I remember correctly, the bridge burned in a forest fire in the late 1950s or early ’60s.

Campman Bridge ruins, Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
The view to the east, looking up Vulcan Creek. A lengthy gravel ramp led to the bridge on both sides.

Campman Bridge ruins, Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
To keep the spectacular views and allow the dogs to stay free, we decided to hike down the Slims River back to the Alaska Highway. By staying to the east we should be able ro stay out of the dust storm.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
We didn’t know what to make of this orange stain in a minor channel of Vulcan Creek. Is it natural, or something flowing from the US Army site from 70 years ago? We’d didn’t see it anywhere else so I unfortunately think it’s the latter.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon

I sometimes go for fairly long periods without shooting many detail photos, but the Slims River hike provided lots of subjects. Dried silt in many forms, and plants – it’s fascinating terrain…

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon

The kids were having a ball exploring! πŸ™‚

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
As we got closer to the highway and Kluane Lake, the gradient of the river lessened, and there was more variety along the banks.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
This spring came out of nowhere, and had a good flow of clear water.

Natural spring along the Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
A steep bank forced up into the brush for a few hundred meters but the walking was still easy.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
Whoops! Adam found that piece of ground wasn’t nearly as solid as it looked.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
Sam and I found routes where we didn’t sink into the muck nearly as much πŸ™‚

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
After that, Tucker and I stayed on the high, dry ground for a while.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
We got back to the car at about 4:00. On the drive back to the campground, we stopped at the boat launch to wash off the mud all 6 of us had accumulated.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon
The final image is the route as kept by my Garmin inReach Explorer+.

Slims River, Kluane National Park, Yukon

It had been many years since I’d seen the bridge ruins. This turned to be a great hike.



Four days camping and playing at Kluane Lake, Yukon

My regular readers may have noticed that we haven’t been out in the motorhome much this year. There’s a lot going on, but last Friday we finally got away to Kluane Lake for a much-needed break.

After a few delays (I had initially planned on going out Tuesday), the fur-kids and I left home at about 10:30. Cathy would come out to join us that evening after work. The first photo was shot west of Whitehorse right at Km 1446 of the Alaska Highway (measured from Dawson Creek, BC).

Westbound at Km 1446 of the Alaska Highway
The rest area at Km 1566, just east of Haines Junction, is a common photo stop for me (and dog-walk spot). After a long spell of wet weather, the warm sun was sure welcome!

The rest area at Km 1566, just east of Haines Junction, Yukon

The rest area at Km 1566, just east of Haines Junction, Yukon

I posted the next photo on Facebook with the comment “In a few minutes we’ll have no phone or internet until Monday afternoon. #Yukon quiet…”

The Alaska Highway west of Haines Junction, Yukon
We reached Congdon Creek Campground just after 1:00. I thought we would have no chance of getting one of the lakefront sites, but one of our favourite sites was available and we were soon set up.

Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
After some beach play and a nap, we went back to a beach with fine gravel that would be more fun to play on. The water level of Kluane Lake seems to be still dropping slightly – that gravel bar is new this year.

Kluane Lake, Yukon
That beach was great to walk and play ball on, and we spent an hour or so there.

Walking the dogs on the beach of Kluane Lake, Yukon

Dogs playing ball on the beach of Kluane Lake, Yukon

On the way back to the campground we stopped at another beach where a creek was pouring a lot of silt into the lake.

A creek pouring a lot of silt into Kluane Lake
Tucker enjoyed chasing his ball down the creek πŸ™‚

Dog playing ball in a creek at Kluane Lake, Yukon
That water is as pure as it looks. I wish it was a whole lot warmer, though – I’d sure like to be able to swim in it!

The crystal-clear waters of Kluane Lake, Yukon
Looking west at Km 1662. There was a Trumpeter swan feeding in the lake there, where a growing sandbar is creating a nice sheltered area for them.

Looking west at Km 1662 of the Alaska Highway
A large storm cloud caught my attention as I was about to turn into the campground, and I decided to drive a few miles further to get some photos of it and other clouds forming over the lake to the west.

Storm cloud over the Alaska Highway at Kluane Lake
That extra few miles turned out to get me more than some cloud photos! Cathy and I have been watching these two grizzlies for 3 years now, since about 3 weeks after they were born up Congdon Creek somewhere. This is their first summer without mom, and will probably be their last summer together. It’s been wonderful watching them grow up.

Grizzly bear along Kluane Lake, Yukon

Grizzly bear along Kluane Lake, Yukon

Grizzly bears along Kluane Lake, Yukon

Cathy arrived much later than I’d expected, and then friends from Whitehorse arrived with their 3 dogs, who are pretty much part of our pack. Molly (the cat) likes to pretend that she doesn’t like Rosie, but I think she’s still just making sure Rosie knows who’s boss πŸ™‚


Saturday morning was grooming day for Bella, and when Adam saw the big pile of her wool beside the picnic table, he decided to strip some of Rosie’s. Bella enjoys it – Rosie not so much! πŸ™‚

Grooming time for the dog

Grooming time for the dog

After it was all done, we could have knitted a new dog about Tucker’s size! πŸ™‚

Grooming time for the dogs

Much of the rest of Saturday was taken up by a hike up the Slims River that I’ll tell you about in the next post.

Going by the weather forecast, I had expected Sunday morning to be not very nice, so this view out the RV kitchen window was very welcome.

Congdon Creek Campground
We had some great beach plays with the dogs on Sunday. Well, 4 of the dogs – the fifth one is 17 years old and his play days are pretty much over, though he does get silly occasionally. A dog from the camp site next door joined us for a while, too.

Dogs playing on the beach at Kluane Lake
After our friends departed in the early afternoon, Cathy and I decided to hike the Soldiers Summit trail again. The smell of the wild roses at the trailhead was wonderful!

Soldiers Summit trail - Alaska Highway, Yukon
The wind was very strong and was creating quite a dust storm out on the Slims River flats, but most the the trail is fairly sheltered from the wind.

Dust storm below the Soldiers Summit trail - Alaska Highway, Yukon
We walked past the Soldiers Summit commemorative site, out to the highest point on the old road. Few people go that far, but the views from there are spectacular.

Soldiers Summit trail - Alaska Highway, Yukon
The wind there made staying unpleasant so we quickly retraced our steps.

Soldiers Summit trail - Alaska Highway, Yukon
The next photo shows the commemorative site which is most people’s destination.

Soldiers Summit trail - Alaska Highway, Yukon
Parks Canada’s red chairs – red Adirondack chairs set in particularly quiet and scenic locations all over Canada – provided a perfect location to enjoy the majesty of this place.

Parks Canada red chairs along the Soldiers Summit trail - Alaska Highway, Yukon
Far below us, the dust storm got really wild at times – not a good day to hike out to Fish Heart Island!

Dust storm below the Soldiers Summit trail - Alaska Highway, Yukon
We watched a small band of Dall sheep – 3 ewes and 2 lambs – walk across a slope high above us on Sheep Mountain.

Watching Dall sheep above the Soldiers Summit trail - Alaska Highway, Yukon
We love Kluane Lake. The power of this place is so incredible when you slow down and pay attention.

Soldiers Summit trail - Kluane Lake, Yukon
We made a stop at another beach on the way back to the campground. It was too windy to really spend much time there, but we both got the same feeling about this spot…


We haven’t spread our husky Monty’s ashes yet – the right place and time has just not happened. But I brought “glass Monty” with me on this trip because he loved Kluane Lake, and we’ve now decided that this is where we’ll have that memorial next time we’re out.


Cathy went home Sunday night, but the kids and I stayed at Kluane that night. When it started raining lightly the next morning, we headed home, too.



A quick trip to Skagway – ships, planes, huskies and some rain

I made a quick trip to Skagway last Wednesday, mostly to pick up some shirts I’d ordered. The weather forecast wasn’t great but any drive through the mountains to Skagway is a good drive.

Going through the summit area, the scenery wasn’t as spectacular as it is some days πŸ™‚ – I used to hate doing “fog tours” when I was driving those busses.

Fog tour through the White Pass

My first stop was at the post office. All 3 shirts had been stuffed into my PO box – that saved some time as there was a lineup at the counter.

I then headed down to the docks. There were 3 large cruise ships in, and the highway and town were both busy. Norwegian Bliss was the largest of them – she carries 4,002 passengers at double occupancy, plus 1,700 crew members, and can go a fair bit higher with kids etc. bringing occupancy above 2 per cabin.

The cruise ship Norwegian Bliss at Skagway, Alaska
Celebrity Millennium carries 2,218 passengers at double occupancy plus 1,050 crew members. Cathy and I and 4 friends did an Alaska cruise on “Millie” in June 2012 and we loved the ship.

The cruise ship Celebrity Millennium at Skagway, Alaska
Royal Princess carries 3,560 passengers at double occupancy plus 1,350 crew members. So on the 3 ships there would be 9,780 passengers at double occupancy plus 4,100 crew members. In a town with a population of just over 1,000 people…

The cruise ship Royal Princess at Skagway, Alaska
I saw some action over at the airport, so that was the next stop. This 1980 Cessna T207A Turbo Stationair 8, N1301L, is registered to a numbered corporation in Juneau so I don’t know what it was doing.

1980 Cessna T207A Turbo Stationair 8, N1301L, at Skagway, Alaska
It was actually this 1956 de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Mk 1 Beaver, N2400F, that attracted me to the strip. Operated by Mountain Flying Service in Haines (Paul and Amy Swanstrom), it was probably going for a flightseeing trip to Glacier Bay.

1956 de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Mk 1 Beaver, N2400F, at Skagway, Alaska
As Alaska Seaplanes’ Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, N750KP, landed on a flight from Juneau, the Beaver was taking off.

Skagway airport
A better look at the Grand Caravan as it taxied to the terminal.

Alaska Seaplanes' Cessna 208B Grand Caravan, N750KP, at Skagway
I was soon headed north. Clearing Customs was quick and simple as usual, and a few minutes later I stopped at the Yukon Suspension Bridge to talk to the staff and get a few photos. The company has been offering people who are using “Murray’s Guide” to explore the highway a discount on admission, and I wanted to make sure that they’re still happy with that arrangement – they are πŸ™‚

Yukon Suspension Bridge, South Klondike Highway
As well as the great views from the bridge high above the Tutshi River, there are excellent interpretive displays. I had planned on having lunch there, but the restaurant is now only for the bus tours which bring most of their visitors.

Yukon Suspension Bridge, South Klondike Highway
Driving along Tutshi Lake, I witnessed the most disgraceful driving I’ve ever seen by a Skagway tour van. That dark blue van is STOPPED in the middle of the highway on a blind corner, watching a bear!! I didn’t see a company name. If I find out who it is I’ll be filing a formal complaint. It’s bad enough when tourists do that, but for a commercial operator whose job is to keep people safe, it’s absolutely unacceptable.

Tour van watching a bear north of Skagway.
Continuing on, I made a short stop at Michelle Phillips’ mushing operation, Tutshi Sleddog Tours, just to watch the action. Happy huskies make me smile πŸ™‚

Tutshi Sleddog Tours

Tutshi Sleddog Tours

Part of the fun of seeing the dogs is hearing them! I love husky singing.


On the way south, I had noticed that another piece of the roof of the Venus mill has collapsed, so I stopped to get a few photos, just from the highway. When I posted this photo at the Yukon History and Abandoned Places group, somebody said it would make a good puzzle. So I made a 300-piece puzzle at jigsawplanet.com.

The Yukon's historic Venus silver mine mill
I rarely buy clothes, especially online, but I’ll show you the results of the funny mood I was in a few weeks ago. The next photo shows the amazing shirt that started me off πŸ™‚ I still haven’t got the wrinkles out – I guess it needs to be ironed πŸ™

Murray Lundberg wearing a very colourful shirt
Then, a couple of “statement” tshirts – “Rescued is my favorite breed”…


and “Cameras make me happy, humans make my head hurt” πŸ™‚