Four days on the beach at Qualicum Beach, BC

Our May 3-7 visit to Qualicum Beach, BC, for my eldest sister’s 75th birthday was mostly about family, which I won’t say much about except that it was wonderful.

On Friday, our arrival day, we just went into Qualicum Beach and did some grocery shopping, then went back to our cottage at the Seaview Beach Resort and enjoyed the views and great vibe.

On Saturday, we went to The Shady Rest restaurant on the waterfront in Qualicum Beach for an excellent early-lunch. The beach and the restaurant were both very quiet but I expect this place hops when it warms up.

The Shady Rest restaurant on the waterfront at Qualicum Beach, BC
The birthday celebration began early Saturday afternoon. It was a surprise party, and Val’s reaction was beyond perfect. Nobody said anything when she walked into the banquet room at the Canadian Legion near her home in Bowser, we just let her slowly recognize people. After dinner, we managed to get everyone out back for a group photo. When over 50 people from all over North America, from the Yukon to Ottawa to California, will show up for your birthday, I’d say you’ve led a good life. Most of the people in this photo are descendants of my father and his two wives.

The Lundberg-Courneyea clan at Bowser, BC, in May 2019
Family members had booked all 4 beachfront cottages and a couple of others in the back at the Seaview Beach Resort, and we had a great evening around a campfire.

Family gathered around a campfire at the Seaview Beach Resort at Qualicum Beach, BC
The spectacular sunset was quite a bonus, and we watched one of the first Alaska cruise ships of the season, the Nieuw Amsterdam, sail by.

Sunset on the beach at the Seaview Beach Resort at Qualicum Beach, BC
The next photo shows family members chatting on Sunday morning as most of them prepared to head home. The Seaview, which Cathy had initially found, turned out to be as perfect a place as we could have imagined for an event like this.

Beachfront cottages at the Seaview Beach Resort at Qualicum Beach, BC
Cathy and I just chilled for the rest of Sunday. We’re both very much drawn by the sea, and this location was superb.

The beach at the Seaview Beach Resort at Qualicum Beach, BC

Murray and Cathy on the beach at the Seaview Beach Resort at Qualicum Beach, BC

Each evening, bunnies would come out in front of our cottage.

Rabbits at the Seaview Beach Resort at Qualicum Beach, BC
On Monday morning, a few of us gathered for breakfast, then one of my nieces led us to Little Mountain, a spectacular location near Parksville, just a few miles away. Being a weekday early in the season, we were able to drive up to the tiny parking area at the top – on a summer weekend, it’s quite a hike up. In this next photo is a grandniece I had never met before. This birthday celebration was the largest gathering of the clan ever 🙂

Little Mountain, a spectacular location near Parksville, BC
I love arbutus trees (Arbutus menziesii), and there are lots of them at Little Mountain.

Arbutus tree in BC
The cliffs at Little Mountain have claimed a few lives in accidents and suicides. It was very easy to see why. A fence along the cliff edges was removed because it was found that it would encourage certain people to climb over it, increasing the danger.

Little Mountain, a spectacular location near Parksville, BC
Cathy and I had a 1:00 appointment for a tour of the nearby North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre. It was so awesome that it gets its own post, which will be next.

Cougar at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre near Parksville, BC
From the wildlife centre, we went back to the beach at Qualicum Beach, and spent a while just wandering on the sand.

The beach at Qualicum Beach, BC

The beach at Qualicum Beach, BC

If we were still looking for places other than Whitehorse we might be able to live, Qualicum Beach would be on that list 🙂

The beach at Qualicum Beach, BC
“Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at 05:22” says the next photo’s metadata. I shot a lot of photos of this glorious sunrise that went on and on and on.

Sunrise on the beach at the Seaview Beach Resort at Qualicum Beach, BC
Cathy and I couldn’t figure out the fin she’s watching in the next photo. The cottage manager told us as we were leaving that it was a sea lion lounging on his side.

Mystery fin at Qualicum Beach, BC
One more look around our lovely little cottage just before 10:00, and it was time to make the drive back to Nanaimo for our flight back to the mainland, where we’d spent another night.




From Whitehorse to Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island

On May 3rd, Cathy and I flew and drove to Qualicum Beach to attend a surprise party for my eldest sister’s 75th birthday. It was a wonderful 6-day trip – this is the first of 4 fairly brief (well, brief for me 🙂 ) blog posts about it.

We were on the 07:00 Air North flight out of Whitehorse to start the trip. It was uneventful, with clouds most of the way, even descending into Vancouver – I only shot 3 photos, in the Tweedsmuir Park area.

Flying from Whitehorse to Vancouver
The Harbour Air shuttle from the main terminal at YVR to the South Terminal arrived very quickly, and we soon had our boarding passes for the 20-minute flight to Nanaimo harbour. This was flying the way it used to be – great service, no security, no long waits…

Harbour Air boarding passes
A couple of minutes before 11:00, we were out on the Fraser River in a DHC-6 de Havilland Twin Otter, which seats up to 19 passengers…

Taxiing on the Fraser River in a Harbour Air float plane
Right at our scheduled 11:00 departure time, we lifted off the water. It was wonderful getting this new perspective on getting across the Strait of Georgia – all my previous crossings had been by ferry.

Leaving Vancouver by Harbour Air float plane
At low tide, the islands in the foreground are connected – Mudge Island on the right, and Link Island on the left. In the distance is little Round Island, and Vancouver Island.

Aerial view of Link Island and Mudge Island
Dodd Narrows, at the west end of Mudge Island, can be a challenging transit.

Aerial view of Dodd Narrows, at the west end of Mudge Island
This is the Nanaimo Forest Products operation, including the Harmac Pulp Mill at the far side of the property.

Harmac Pulp Mill, Nanaimo - aerial view
The Nanaimo River estuary is a log booming area as well as a vibrant ecosystem. In June 2017 we had a good look at it when we spent 2 nights at the Living Forest Oceanside Campground, which overlooks it.

Aerial view of the Nanaimo River estuary
This is the cruise ship port at Nanaimo. They did a great job on it but it has pretty much failed. Dad and I docked there while we were on a cruise on the Norwegian Sun in 2013, but large ships were already giving up on Nanaimo because of passenger complaints that there’s nothing to do there. This year, only 3 small ships are visiting – the Azamara Quest, Silver Explorer, and Silver Muse.

Aerial view of the cruise ship port at Nanaimo, BC
Downtown Nanaimo, 19 minutes after lifting off the water at Vancouver. In the foreground are 3 new coastal spill response boats. Built in Singapore for Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, they just arrived in late February. Unfortunately, they were built to support the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which has been cancelled. So here the 300-tonne vessels – which cost $5.8-million each – sit for the foreseeable future.

Coastal spill response boats at Nanaimo, BC

We had booked a Budget rental car through Harbour Air. We called Budget from a direct-line phone in the Harbour Air office, and a shuttle driver showed up very quickly to take us a mile or so to their office.

By about 1:00, we had made the easy 52-km drive to Seaview Beach Resort in Qualicum Beach, and were settled in to a lovely little beachfront cottage for a 4-night stay. The final photo shows the view from our cottage.

Seaview Beach Resort in Qualicum Beach, BC


Hiking to the Yukon’s historic Venus silver mine

A couple of weeks ago (April 30th), I was working around the house doing various projects. Every time I went outside the sun got warmer and warmer, and I finally decided that I needed to get out hiking and soak up more of those rays. The Venus mine was the destination of choice, and just before noon, I was on my way south.

At 1:40 I was parked at the trailhead, near Km 82 of the South Klondike Highway. The first photo is looking north. Starting up the old road, I noted that there was a new chain and lock on the gate. Interesting…

The trail to the Yukon's historic Venus silver mine
The road has seen some traffic recently, and I wondered if I might meet someone up ahead. It’s a nice hike, with a reasonable grade and spectacular views across Windy Arm of Tagish Lake.

The trail to the Yukon's historic Venus silver mine
The next photo is looking north, but looking back down the road after making a switchback. The land sticking out into the lake is the delta of Pooley Creek.

The trail to the Yukon's historic Venus silver mine
The view to the south, again looking back down the road after making another switchback. The Yukon/BC border goes across Windy Arm just this side of the curve in the lake.

The trail to the Yukon's historic Venus silver mine
Less than 20 minutes into the hike, the destination, the 1906 working of the Venus silver mine, could be seen directly ahead, though there was a lot of vertical to come.

The trail to the Yukon's historic Venus silver mine

My plan was to hike to the mine on my usual route, which is pretty much vertical, then come down via the road/trail that a friend and I had hiked last July.

From the 1970s mine manager’s office, the 1906 workings can be seen above, marked by the arrow. My unmarked vertical route starts just north of this building, the only one remaining on the property.

The trail to the Yukon's historic Venus silver mine
The rock outcropping to the left is my landmark to start climbing, first scrambling up from the mine road, going across the slope to this outcropping, then straight up just past it.

The route to the Yukon's historic Venus silver mine
The straight-up route eventually intersects a trail from 1905-1906, and it leads across the slope to the mine.

The trail to the Yukon's historic Venus silver mine
In photos the trail is barely visible, and caution is needed while on unstable rock. Below the trail in the next photo, the collapsed bunkhouse/cookhouse can be seen.

The trail to the Yukon's historic Venus silver mine
The collapsed bunkhouse/cookhouse, and a tower for the aerial tramway that connected the mine to the mill that still stands on the shore of Windy Arm.

The collapsed bunkhouse/cookhouse at the Venus mine
The final 50 feet or so up to the mine entrance is quite treacherous, over pieces of steel and century-old wood. This is not a place for kids or dogs. The building in the next photo was the blacksmith shop. I reached the mine at 3:05, an hour and 25 minutes after leaving the car.

The Yukon's historic Venus silver mine
While the adit looks solid as far as you can see, I’ve never gone in more than 50-60 feet. Having worked underground at Granduc copper, I have great respect for such places.

The 1906 adit of the Venus mine
Ore cars were run out on this trestle, dumped into two storage bins below, and from there the ore went into the buckets on the aerial tramway.

The 1906 workings of the Venus mine
The next photo is a good overall view of the workings, looking south. There used to be a rail line from the mine to where I was standing, but it has slid down the slope in recent years.

The 1906 workings of the Venus mine
If you fell here, I don’t know if you could stop yourself from sliding on that extremely steep slope of mine waste. The mill can be seen on the lakeshore near the upper centre.

Talus slope at the 1906 workings of the Venus mine
Remains of an ancient shovel. It’s about the only artifact left – 25 years ago, there were lots of tools and pieces of equipment laying around.

Remains of an ancient shovel at the Yukon's historic Venus silver mine
I explored around the mine for half an hour then started down. What a stunning place!

The trail from the Venus mine
Rockhounding around all of the Montana Mountain mines is quite good. This bed of quartz crystals is a beauty.

A bed of quartz crystals near the Venus mine
It only took 20 minutes to get back down to the 1970s Venus workings. A lot of cleanup was done here about a decade ago, but a lot of stuff was piled up but not hauled away.

Crap steel at the Venus mine
The main adit was sealed but is now open a bit. A monitor for little brown bats was at the mouth of it for a while in recent years.

he main adit at the Venus silver mine
I got back to the car at 4:10 – 2½ hours in total. From there, it’s not easy to get down to the lakeshore, but I wanted some new photos of the mill from that angle, and the ice intrigued me. Some rock scrambling and bushwhacking got me there.

The mill of the Venus mine
In the spring, the ice turns into long slender “candles” – I threw some rocks to break pieces off.

Candle ice on Windy Arm, Yukon
It was much too cold to go swimming, of course, but ahhhhh that water felt good!

Skinnydipping near the ice of Windy Arm in the spring
I had to go in to get some candle ice to show you.

The trail to the Yukon's historic Venus silver mine
Candle ice is made up of candles as long as the ice is thick – so can be several inches long. When breakup happens, the candles sound rather like wind chimes as they bump into each other. I shot a video of it at Carcross 5 years so you can hear the sound – it’s at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASmIsh-q68w.

The trail to the Yukon's historic Venus silver mine

I headed home just after 5:00, very pleased with the way the day had gone. I had planned to have a new edition of my book about the Venus and other mines in the area out about now, but too many things got in the way. Oh well – some day…

On the way home, I stopped at Nares Lake at Carcross. At low water levels like we have now, it looks more like Nares Meadow.

Nares Lake at Carcross is more Nares Meadow at low water levels.


A sunny dog-play day at Dyea, Alaska

When we’re due for a big dog play-day and something a bit different, its hard to beat Dyea, so on April 28th we drove down for the day.

We made a brief stop at Emerald Lake at 10:15 to get a photo as part of my records of when the ice goes off the lake.

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Just south of Log Cabin, I stopped to get another photo – this is the first good view of the peaks surrounding the White Pass.<br />
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Another stop for something resulted in a few photos of this little waterfall along the highway. The frozen teardrops at the bottom were wonderful.

Partly-frozen waterfall in the White Pass
I’ve taken a lot of photos of Summit Lake and the Sawtooth Range from this location over the years.

Summit Lake and the Sawtooth Range on the South Klondike Highway
This valley, shot from the same location, has always intrigued me, but access is quite difficult and I haven’t made an attempt yet. Last year, my friend Greg and I did accomplish the canoe-and-hike into the next valley to the north, though.

An intriguing valley in the White Pass
A couple of people in a hiking group I belong to have asked whether the International Falls trail is hikeable yet, so I stopped to take some photos of it. No, it’ll be Winter there for a few weeks yet.

International Falls trail in late winter
We stopped in Skagway for lunch at the new Skagway Brewing Company building – looks like a gold mine to me 🙂 (and the halibut was excellent as always). Then we made a loop around town to see what’s new this year. The Skagway-Haines fast-cat was out doing some training or testing.

The Skagway-Haines fast-cat
We reached Dyea (“finally!”, said Bella and Tucker, no doubt 🙂 ) just after 1:00. Time to run. These pilings are from the extremely long (almost 2 miles, if I remember correctly) wharf built in 1898.

Wharf pilings at Dyea, Alaska
The breeze was a bit chilly but it still looked like a great day to run quads on the beach.

ATVs on the beach at Dyea, Alaska
While the other pilings are usually visible, these ones are only seen at very low tides.

Wharf pilings at Dyea, Alaska
Bella was calmly exploring, but then saw Tucker crouching to spring at her.

My shelty/husky Bella on the beach at Dyea, Alaska
These two are such fun to watch.

Dogs playing on the beach at Dyea, Alaska
What a guy!

My little dog Tucker playing on the beach at Dyea, Alaska
They played and they played and they played…

Dogs playing on the beach at Dyea, Alaska

Dogs playing on the beach at Dyea, Alaska

Rest time…

Dogs on the beach at Dyea, Alaska
Nope, more play! 🙂

Dogs playing on the beach at Dyea, Alaska
We stayed on the beach for a couple of hours, then started for home, but made a stop at the Taiya River for a few minutes.

Taiya River Bridge at Dyea, Alaska
A final shot of the Taiya River and we continued towards home, with pooped pups ready for a big nap on the way 🙂

Taiya River at Dyea, Alaska

We got home at about 6:30 – as always, it had been a wonderful way to spend a day.



Bald eagle and swans on the Lewes River Trail

I’ve been so busy that I’m now 3 weeks behind on the blog, but there have been some very cool things happening so I’m going to catch up rather than skip a lot.

This post is about 2 hikes on what I’m calling the Lewes River Trail, because it starts at the Lewes River Dam. It’s actually the Yukon River, but historically it was called the Lewes and in some contexts we keep that name. These hikes were on April 25th and 26th. On the first one I had a superb encounter with a bald eagle and some very active swans – partly as a result of those, there are 37 photos in this post. On the second hike there was no bird activity but I hiked out to the end of the trail for the first time.

The first photo was shot at 10:45 on April 25th, from Km 1394 of the Alaska Highway. The destination for this hike was a bald eagle nest I’ve visited before – it was located above the marshy area to the right in the photo, on the north side of the Yukon River.

Yukon River from Km 1394 of the Alaska Highway
At the Yukon River Bridge is a large rest area, which is also the access to the Lewes River Dam.

Yukon River Bridge rest area, Alaska Highway
The Lewes River Dam has a very cool set of hand-operated locks to allow small boats to pass. Sometimes people decide it would be run to run the “rapids” through a gate – and sometimes rescue crews are then called.

Lewes River Dam warning sign
By 11:10, the dogs and I, and my friend Kevin and his dog, were already high above the river on the trail, which begins as an ATV trail at the dam, following the Yukon River downstream towards Whitehorse.

Lewes River Trail, Yukon
Five minutes from there, the trail descended into the very dry poplar, spruce, and pine forest.

Lewes River Trail, Yukon
The trail does some descents and ascents as it takes short-cuts across some very large sweeps of the bench from an ancient Yukon level.

Lewes River Trail, Yukon
The views of the river and distant mountains from most of the trail are wonderful.

Lewes River Trail, Yukon
Some migrating Trumpeter swans approached from the Marsh Lake area, and landed on the river below me.

Trumpeter swan landing on the Yukon River near Whitehorse
All of a sudden at 11:30 there was a bald eagle right in front of me. The branch he was sitting on was low and only 10 feet from the trail.

Bald eagle along the Yukon River near Whitehorse
I switched to my 100-400mm lens and moved closer – he showed no signs that he was bothered by us. When we first saw him, Tucker got excited, but as always, when I told him to be quiet, he did. Bella has always been great about these encounters.

Bald eagle along the Yukon River near Whitehorse
The eagle wasn’t a big surprise – there is often a sentry there, guarding the nearby nest. But there was a problem this time – the nest was gone! I finally realized that it was laying on the ground, probably toppled by a severe wind storm a couple of days before.

Bald eagle along the Yukon River near Whitehorse
In the next photo, he was watching a small plane pass over. He may have been still trying to comprehend what had happened – were the ratty tail feathers a sign of his stress? This photo was shot at 400mm and then cropped, so the equivalent of about 1000mmm.

Bald eagle along the Yukon River near Whitehorse
After spending about 10 minutes with the eagle, we continued on down the trail. There were probably 50-60 swans on the river below us.

Lewes River Trail, Yukon

Trumpeter swans on the Yukon River near Whitehorse

There was enough activity that I switched back to my 100-400mm lens, and was soon rewarded with some flights.

Trumpeter swans flying over the Yukon River near Whitehorse

Trumpeter swans flying over the Yukon River near Whitehorse

Trumpeter swans flying over the Yukon River near Whitehorse

We reached a spot on the trail where erosion of the bank had brought the trail very close to a sheer drop. The way around it involved some bushwhacking over deadfalls and juniper bushes that would be too much for little Tucker, so we headed back.

In the next photo, the bald eagle nest can be seen on the ground. How sad – we could only hope that there were no eggs or chicks yet.

Fallen bald eagle nest along the Yukon River near Whitehorse.

That evening, the dogs and I hiked to the site of Canyon City, which I wrote about in my last post. Later, I talked to someone on Facebook who had been in to the bald eagle nest a few days before, and an eagle was sitting on it. Bad news – I had to go back for another look.

Just after 1:00 the next afternoon, I was back on the rough dirt road leading to the Lewes River Dam. This time, I left Bella an Tucker at home so I could see how far I could get on the trail.

The rough dirt road leading to the Lewes River Dam


The rough dirt road leading to the Lewes River Dam near Whitehorse
The next photo shows the 4×4/ATV trail that leads up to the bench above the dam.

4x4/ATV trail above the Lewes River Dam
The vehicle trail just takes people up to the great views, then there’s a spot to turn around and the hiking trail continues.

4x4 / ATV trail above the Lewes River Dam near Whitehorse
Back into the forest at 1:25.

Lewes River Trail, Yukon
The temperature had dropped to -10°C that morning, and the Prairie crocuses didn’t look too happy about it. They’re tough, though.

Crocuses along the Lewes River Trail, Yukon
The number of trees along the trail that have been freshly cut by beaver is quite amazing.

Beaver-cut trees along the Yukon River near Whitehorse
The next photo better shows just how steep and far it is from those trees to the Yukon River. Busy beavers!

Beaver-cut trees along the Yukon River near Whitehorse
I dropped down to the bald eagle nest for a close look, to see if I could find any sign that it had been in use. I dreaded the thought of finding anything, but I didn’t. If eggs or chicks had been present, there were buried under the hundreds of pounds of sticks and grass that the nest was built with, or cleaned up.

Fallen bald eagle nest along the Yukon River near Whitehorse
Continuing downriver at 1:45.

Lewes River Trail, Yukon
There were lots of crocuses along the trail, but none were in very good condition anymore.

Crocuses along the Lewes River Trail, Yukon
The bad section of trail that stopped us the previous day is just ahead in the next photo. By myself, it was easy to navigate around.

Lewes River Trail, Yukon
At 2:05, a steep trail dropped down to the river, and the trail ahead got very faint – this was obviously as far as most people go.

Lewes River Trail, Yukon
At the bottom of that trail is this nice campsite that looks like it gets a fair bit of use.

Campsite along the Lewes River Trail, Yukon
At these record low water levels, there’s even a nice sandy beach there. There had been no eagle, and even the swans didn’t want me within a kilometer this day – quite a change from the previous day.

Sandy beach along the Yukon River near Whitehorse
I only stayed there for about 15 minutes, then started back towards the car. I noted that a deer had followed me up the trail, though I didn’t see him/her.

Deer tracks on a Yukon hiking trail.
Almost back to the Lewes River Dam and the Yukon River Bridge, right at 3:00. For a short outing (2 hours), this is an exceptionally nice trail.

Lewes River Dam and the Yukon River Bridge
And finally, a map of trail as recorded by my Garmin inReach.

Map of the Lewes River Trail


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Hiking along the Yukon River to Canyon City at Whitehorse

Our hiking group used to do outings on Saturday mostly, but as the group is expanding, so is the variety of times and places. One of the members suggested a few days ago that dinner-time hikes might be nice, so on Thursday, 5 of us with 3 dogs met at 4:30 to hike along the Yukon River to Canyon City and back.

This was actually the second hike of the day for the dogs and I but I’ll tell about about the first one in the next post – that will make sense when I post it 🙂

The Miles Canyon Road is gated at the Alaska Highway in winter, and despite what’s going on this year, it does snow some years, so we walked down to the river from the highway. You can see an interactive map here (opens in a new window).

Walking down Miles Canyon Road at Whitehorse, Yukon
Our first sight of the Yukon River, towards the bottom of the narrowest part of Miles Canyon.

Miles Canyon at Whitehorse, Yukon
At the last curve before you drop down to the small parking lot, the low ridge ahead hides this view…

Yukon River just above Miles Canyon at Whitehorse, Yukon
And on that ridge, some Prairie crocuses were a most welcome sight 🙂

Prairie crocuses at Whitehorse, Yukon
Looking upriver at Miles Canyon.

Miles Canyon at Whitehorse, Yukon
I was very surprised by the very low water level – I saw an article a few days later that the levels are at record lows.

Low water levels in the Yukon River at Whitehorse, Yukon
We chose to take the Lower Canyon City Trail that runs right along the river, for the views. It has lots of ups and downs.

Lower Canyon City Trail along the Yukon River at Whitehorse, Yukon
The trail is busy enough that this was a leashed walk for Bella and Tucker and the other dog, Lucky Marshall.

Lower Canyon City Trail along the Yukon River at Whitehorse, Yukon
What a wonderful way to spend an evening!

Lower Canyon City Trail along the Yukon River at Whitehorse, Yukon

Lower Canyon City Trail along the Yukon River at Whitehorse, Yukon

Once we reached Canyon City at 5:40 pm, it was time for a drink!

Dogs in the Yukon River at Whitehorse, Yukon
Canyon City grew up around the North West Mounted Police post where people headed for the Klondike gold fields had to stop and either prove they were capable of running the rapids ahead, or put everything on one of the two tramways that were built around the rapids.

Historic photo of Canyon City near Whitehorse, Yukon
There’s little at the site now, but interpretive signage and a restored tramway cart give visitors an idea of what the place was like.

Canyon City near Whitehorse, Yukon
Another person with a dog came along, and the 4 dogs all had a great play. I’m always really pleased to see little Tucker get right in with the bigger dogs – he’s certainly had some experiences to make him wary of doing it.

Dogs playing at Whitehorse, Yukon
On the return walk, Sue and I chose to take the upper trail, which is the route of one of the tramways. The next photo is looking back towards Canyon City.

Upper Canyon City Trail at Whitehorse, Yukon
The next photo shows a section of the trail as it drops back down to the Robert Lowe Suspension Bridge that we crossed the river on.

Upper Canyon City Trail at Whitehorse, Yukon
The Robert Lowe Suspension Bridge, and an interpretive sign about the otters and beavers that may be seen.

Robert Lowe Suspension Bridge at Whitehorse, Yukon

We got back to our vehicles just before 7:00, wit everyone agreeing that these dinner-times hikes were a great idea.


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Hiking the Yukon River Trail East at Whitehorse

On Saturday, our hiking group met at Chadburn Lake to hike the Yukon River Trail East, a loop running from Chadburn Lake to Canyon City and back.

By about 11:20, eight people and six dogs were on the trail. The loop actually starts on the Log Trail, which was apparently a woodcutter’s road – wood for the sternwheelers, I expect.

Log Trail at Whitehorse, Yukon
The Log Trail wanders around through the forest but soon opens up to some wonderful views as it loops around on what appears to be a very old river channel bench.

Log Trail at Whitehorse, Yukon
One of Yukoners’ favourite flowers is the first one to appear in the Spring, the Prairie crocus (Pulsatilla patens). It was actually adopted as the Yukon’s official flower in 1954. Unfortunately, Manitoba had also claimed it, so 3 years later, fireweed became our official flower. Anyway, there were lots of crocuses on the dry, south-facing slopes.

Prairie crocus on the Yukon River Trail East at Whitehorse, Yukon
In about 40 minutes, we reached the spectacular views over the Yukon River. It was great to see a voyageur canoe crew out practising for the Yukon River Quest race to Dawson coming up on June 26th.

Yukon River Trail East at Whitehorse, Yukon
That wonderful spot on the trail was cause for a snack break. Kevin immediately became all the dogs’ best friend when his dog-cookies appeared 🙂

Dogs on the Yukon River Trail East at Whitehorse, Yukon
The actual Yukon River Trail East follows the ridge high above the river all the way to the site of Canyon City. It is absolutely superb.

Yukon River Trail East at Whitehorse, Yukon

Yukon River Trail East at Whitehorse, Yukon

Yukon River Trail East at Whitehorse, Yukon

It was a difficult day to dress for. Although the sun was very warm, the actual temperature was only 6°C (43°F) and the wind had a real bite to it.

Yukon River Trail East at Whitehorse, Yukon
Looking down at “the American laundry”, a facility built by the US Army during the Alaska Highway construction. The huge construction base at McRae was right above this location.

Yukon River Trail East at Whitehorse, Yukon
Many of the slopes down to the river are quite steep. We met a few cyclists along the trail.

Yukon River Trail East at Whitehorse, Yukon
Dropping down to Canyon City. During the Klondike Gold Rush, the North West Mounted established a post above the treacherous waters of Miles Canyon, and all boats were stopped there, at what became known as Canyon City, for inspection. Only boats and people who the police felt could get through the canyon safely were allowed to continue – others had to put their gear on one of two wooden tramways that were built around the canyon.

Yukon River Trail East at Whitehorse, Yukon
Bella was the first one into the river, as usual. Caribou soon joined her, but Tucker got his drink with his feet still on the beach – he’s not a big fan of water.

Yukon River Trail East at Whitehorse, Yukon
All the dogs got their turn to get wet 🙂

Yukon River Trail East at Whitehorse, Yukon
There are several trails converging at Canyon City, and this sign helps get hikers and cyclists on the right one. From here, we climbed back up to the Chadburn Lake Road. There, most of the group went left to vehicles that had been parked nearby and shuttled to Chadburn Lake to get the rest of the vehicles. Kevin and I had chosen to walk the extra distance, but probably wouldn’t do it again – walking along the road just isn’t much fun, and Bella’s feet don’t like gravel.

Yukon River Trail East at Whitehorse, Yukon

Kevin and I were back at our vehicles by about 2:00 – it had been an excellent hike.



In an April snowstorm on the Haines Highway with the RV

With my visit to Haines cut a bit short by the combination of a call about a friend in hospital and an approaching storm, I headed towards home at 6:30 Wednesday evening.

With the workers having gone home for the day, there were no delays through the 8 miles of construction on the Haines Highway.

Construction on the Haines Highway
Crossing back into Canada was also quick and simple, and an hour and 10 minutes after leaving Haines I was nearing the summit, with the spectacular peaks mostly hidden in clouds that were starting to drop snow.

April on the Haines Highway
The snow got heavier, and at the summit, strong winds were drifting it across the highway, with very little traffic to break it up.

Snow drifting across the Haines Highway in April
At 8:30 (9:30 Yukon time) I decided to park for the night, feeling that 30 kilometers past the summit would keep me out of the worst of the snow.

RV parked along the snowy Haines Highway
When I woke up at 06:30 Yukon time, it was snowing fairly heavy and strong south winds were rocking the rig. The border would be closed for another hour and a half so there was no traffic.

RV parked along the snowy Haines Highway in April
“No Camping or Overnight Parking”. These signs are so ridiculous. It’s the middle of nowhere and even in the summer there are no campgrounds.

'No Camping or Overnight Parking' along the Haines Highway
At 07:20, an early-bird fuel tanker was the first vehicle to go by.

Fuel tanker on the snowy Haines Highway
After the semi went by I took Bella and Tucker out for another play. Bella in particular loves fresh snow!

Dogs playing along the snowy Haines Highway
At 08:15 I decided to not wait any longer for a snow plow (one had gone by southbound a while after the semi), and asked the kids if they wanted to go home. Tucker’s response was clearly “why would we go home??”

My little dog Tucker in the RV
I carry tire chains for emergencies, but it wasn’t that bad – at least not for someone with as many miles on as I have. Slow and easy is the key…

Driving the snowy Haines Highway in my RV
Within about 50 km, the snow on the Haines Highway was gone, and things looked good as we approached Dezadeash Lake. It started sleeting at Haines Junction, though, confirming the decision to call it quits and go home.

Haines Highway

My friend is out of danger, and now I’m just waiting for the sun to return to head out again – probably in 3 days, on Wednesday.



Exploring Haines, Alaska

Although I had planned for a bit more time, I ended up having 50 hours in Haines this time. I know Haines fairly well and didn’t have any real plans other than visiting with my friend Greg. It would just be a couple of days of wandering/exploring wherever the mood took me.

I arrived just after 6:00 pm on Monday, and parked the motorhome behind my friend’s Hidden Cove Farm Vacation Rental – it’s currently empty while Greg is repainting it. Town is close, and we went to The Lighthouse for dinner that night.

Hidden Cove Farm Vacation Rental in Haines, Alaska
The beach right below Greg’s offers great walking, on a path or the beach itself at low tide, so that’s where we started Tuesday out. This is right where the vast braided Chilkat River empties into the sea – the river bed is about 3 kilometers wide at this point. Here is an interactive map if you’d like to follow along on our Haines exploring.

Chilkat River estuary, Haines, Alaska

Chilkat River estuary, Haines, Alaska

An island intrigued me – it looked like you might be able to walk out to it at low tide depending on which of its many channels the river was using that day.

Island in the Chilkat River estuary, Haines, Alaska

I decided to drive out to the Chilkoot River, which is world famous for its bears. There were no fish running that might bring the bears down, but maybe…

On the way, I stopped at the main Haines viewpoint for people arriving by ferry.

Welcome to Haines, Alaska
Continuing on, looking back to the viewpoint.

Welcome to Haines, Alaska
I was very surprised to see the ferry MV Columbia sailing in. Normally the small MV LeConte is on this run – at 418 feet, the MV Columbia is the largest vessel of the Alaska ferry fleet, and until 2004 was also the fastest. She was designed to carry 499 passengers and has a vehicle capacity of about 133 average vehicles.

Ferry MV Columbia at Haines, Alaska
The Chilkoot River was bear-free, but Bella and Tucker and I went for a good walk through the campground at Chilkoot Lake. I noted that except for a couple of sites it’s not really suitable for larger RVs but is very inexpensive at $15 per night.

Chilkoot Lake - Haines, Alaska
The scenery makes a drive out to the Chilkoot River worthwhile even when there are no bears. Many comments I’ve see in the past couple of years makes me think that the crowds who arrive when the bears are there might make it a less than positive experience. When I was there in early May 2012 it was a very positive experience – one of the many bear photos I shot that day is still the header for this blog.

Haines, Alaska

Haines, Alaska

I stopped for a while hoping to get some photos of the ferry sailing down Lutak Inlet, but eventually gave up and continued on.

Ferry terminal in Lutak Inlet, Haines, Alaska
This spot heading back to town on Lutak Road often stops me. The next photo was shot with my 100-400 mm lens at 188 mm.

Lutak Road at Haines, Alaska
Next, we passed through Haines and drove down the Chilkat Peninsula. The cannery in Letnikof Cove always stops me for a few photos. It’s now the home of Haines Packing, a very successful operation that even has a store in Whitehorse.

Haines Packing cannery at Letnikof Cove near Haines, Alaska
I wasn’t surprised to find the gate closed at Chilkat State Park. It’s a long walk down grades of up to 14% to get the the water, but it was worth it. On the walk down, though, two bald eagles were checking Tucker out for several minutes. He’s about at the limit of what an eagle could carry away, but I kept him close. Once at the water, the Davidson Glacier could be seen across Chilkat Inlet.

Davidson Glacier near Haines, Alaska
The boat launch. The wind was nasty – strong and very cold – so we didn’t stay long.

The boat launch at Chilkat State Park near Haines, Alaska
Despite the very steep grades to reach it, the campground at Chilkat State Park is much nicer than the one at Chilkoot Lake and is much more suitable for larger rigs. It also costs only $15 per night.

The campground at Chilkat State Park near Haines, Alaska
We went back to the RV for an afternoon nap, then after feeding the kids dinner, I went back into town to meet Greg.

Downtown Haines, Alaska
The Haines Brewery was our meeting place. It’s a cozy place with some excellent beers. The Eldred Rock Red ale was my favourite.

Haines Brewery at Haines, Alaska
The prompt to meeting at the brewery was that they’re having a show of Greg’s cartoons. Some of them about tourists I found particularly funny – the one below showing people getting off a Holland America ship dressed in parkas while locals are swimming in the bay is a scene that actually happens 🙂

Greg Podsiki cartoon at Haines, Alaska

Greg Podsiki, cartoonist at Haines, Alaska

A few days ago, I got a note from Gabe Emerson letting me know about his excellent website “Lesser Known and Obscure Railroads of Alaska“. What did I see in the brewery but a pair of rails from the Eldred Rock Lighthouse, used as the base of a table. Gabe has now added the lighthouse to his list 🙂

Rails from the Eldred Rock Lighthouse near Haines, Alaska
After our second dinner at The Lighthouse, we got home to this sunset. Greg said “it never gets old” – I guess not!!

Sunset from the Hidden Cove Farm Vacation Rental at Haines, Alaska

Things went sour Wednesday morning. I got a call that a close friend had been taken to the hospital in Whitehorse, with the problem yet unknown. The weather also changed and it looked like snow in the pass would be likely that night. I decided to leave that evening after dinner at a restaurant Greg wanted me to see, just opening for the season that night.

I wanted to have a good look at all 3 cemeteries in Haines, and that became my project for the day. I began at a small cemetery overlooking the water downtown. It appears to have been used between 1898 and 1909, and 14 graves are visible.

Haines Cemetery, Alaska

Haines Cemetery, Alaska

Next, I went over to the cemetery that is currently in use, the Jones Point Cemetery. Findagrave has it well recorded, listing 478 burials, almost all with photos. The earliest I could find listed was from 1918.

Jones Point Cemetery, Haines, Alaska

Jones Point Cemetery, Haines, Alaska

Some parts of the Jones Point Cemetery are in very poor condition while other parts are very well maintained.

Jones Point Cemetery, Haines, Alaska
Finally I went to the Yendistucky Indian Cemetery across the Haines Highway from the airport. There was only a name and location map at Findagrave so when I got back to the motorhome I added 5 memorials to get things started there. The next day, someone added 19 more memorials, to which I added several more photos. Teamwork 🙂

Yendistucky Indian Cemetery, Haines, Alaska
The earliest burial we have dates to 1888, but my feeling is that this cemetery is both much larger and much older than what is easily seen. I’ve been coming here for many years, and as far back into the bush as I’ve gone, there are vague signs of possible burial sites.

Yendistucky Indian Cemetery, Haines, Alaska

Haines, Alaska

Driving back in to town, I went to Fort William H. Seward, first to see the Fireweed Restaurant where Greg and I would meet later…

Fireweed Restaurant in Haines, Alaska
…and then for a look at the Haines Distillery which was also closed, and a couple of the barracks buildings, one intact and one burned.

Fort William H. Seward, Haines, Alaska
From there I went back to the motorhome, took a few final photos of the view and the vacation rental, then hooked the Tracker up to the RV and prepared to leave.

The view from the Hidden Cove Farm Vacation Rental at Haines, Alaska
I drove back into Haines and parked in the huge lot at the marina, an easy walk to the restaurant. Taking Bella and Tucker for a walk, I came across this lovely memorial, I assume for people whose ashes have been spread here or who have been lost.

Memorial at Haines, Alaska
And finally I took a few photos of the restored Keystone drill to answer a question that had come up the day before in my Yukon History and Abandoned Places group.

Restored Keystone drill at Haines, Alaska

Dinner at the Fireweed was excellent. It had been an excellent trip but at 6:30 I headed north, with no firm idea of where I’d spend the night – just somewhere beyond at least the worst of the snow I expected.



Driving the Haines Highway in Yukon/BC/Alaska

My season opener trip for the RV was intended to be 4 days in Haines, Alaska, and then 4 days at Kluane Lake, Yukon. It didn’t work out that way, but more about that later. At 11:00 on Monday, we headed west – “we” being Bella, Tucker, Molly (the dogs and cat), and me. Cathy would join us at Kluane Lake – or so the plan went.

The intersection of the Alaska Highway and Robert Service Way, the first access to downtown Whitehorse. For us, the next turn would be in Haines, 5 hours away.

The intersection of the Alaska Highway and Robert Service Way, the first access to downtown Whitehorse.
Looking west on the Alaska Highway to the pullout at Km 1454, which used to be called Takhini Crossing. That was where the old Whitehorse to Dawson Overland Trail crossed the Takhini River.

Looking west on the Alaska Highway to the pullout at Km 1454
Our first stop was at the Kathleen Lake viewpoint at Km 226.5 of the Haines Highway, 19.5 km south of Haines Junction. Kathleen Lake is the location of a large Parks Canada campground.

Kathleen Lake viewpoint at Km 226.5 of the Haines Highway
Bella and Tucker were ready for a bit of a romp at the large viewpoint. We hadn’t seen a single vehicle on the Haines Highway yet.

Dogs playing along the Haines Highway
What a start to this trip – that got a 10!

RV at the Kathleen Lake viewpoint at Km 226.5 of the Haines Highway
One of my projects was to record each of the pullouts and rest areas along the highway to improve my Campgrounds & Rest Areas pages. The next photo shows the pullout at Dezadeash Lake, Km 194.

Pullout at Dezadeash Lake, Km 194 of the Haines Highway
The largest rest area on the Haines Highway is the one at Km 162, which has a viewing deck and a monument honouring the designation of the Tatshenshini River as a Canadian Heritage River. I love seeing storms like that one in the distance.

Rest area at Km 162 of the Haines Highway
One of the views from that rest area – nice work, Mother Nature 🙂

Snowy peaks along the Haines Highway
I stopped to take quite a few photos – the scenery is just stunning. Because of the contrast, several of them have been processed as HDR images to post here.

Haines Highway
At Km 144.8 the highway crosses the Blanchard River, see at the far end of the curve before the highway starts climbing the hill. This is a put-in point for rafters on the Blanchard, and sometimes the Tatshenshini River.

The Haines Highway at the Blanchard River bridge
Getting closer to the summit, I was amazed by how little snow there was. In a “normal” year, whatever that means now, that valley would be all white.

Haines Highway
Looking north from a huge pullout at Km 134. We spent a long time at that spectacular spot, with a play, a nap, and another play before continuing south.

Looking north from a huge pullout at Km 134 of the Haines Highway
The next photo is a panorama shot at the north of the two pullouts at the Haines summit.

One of the two pullouts at the Haines summit
Normally there would be hundreds of people, and snowmobile tracks going in every direction at the summit, but there were only 2 vehicles with snowmobile trailers and I could see that they were dodging rocks and brush a lot. Compare this with snowmobiling in mid-April in a good year.

Snowmobile tracks at the Haines Summit
The peak known as The Three Guardsmen is the most dramatic one in the summit area. I’ve hiked to a cirque about 2/3 of the way up it so far – maybe I’ll reach the summit this year 🙂

The Three Guardsmen, Haines Highway
Heading down the hill with a virtual wall of glaciers ahead.

Haines Highway
The Pleasant Camp Canada Customs post.

The Pleasant Camp Canada Customs post on the Haines Highway
The weather forecast had called for increasing clouds and even possible showers in the Chilkat Valley but the sunshine stayed with me.

Haines Highway

Haines Highway

There were a few miles of construction going on, but delays were minimal. I was at my friend Greg’s home just after 6:00 pm, ready to get into some exploring for a couple of days.

Haines Highway