Driving from Calgary to Whitehorse with the new Jeep

The 3-day drive home with our new Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk was much quicker than I prefer, but it’s always an enjoyable trip.

The total distance from my daughter’s home in Airdrie to mine in Whitehorse was 3,101 km (1,927 mi). Click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.

Calgary-Whitehorse driving map
The day-and-a-half with my daughter and her family was wonderful, even with the “wet blanket” of not feeling well. Andrea always seems to be driving somewhere, so there’s always something new to see. This view of the Calgary skyline is just south of Airdrie. With more time and energy, I’d love to spend a day out shooting fields and tractors.

Calgary skyline and hay field

One of our stops was at Rona. I’d seen a Facebook post by a Whitehorse women desperately looking for some special wood stain that she’d run out of and now couldn’t find. It was in stock at the Airdrie Rona, so I offered to pick it up for her.

This trip turned out to be useful to a friend looking to move back to Whitehorse, too. Teresa was in Red Deer, and I was happy to be able to offer her a ride.

I also got a request to transport a puppy from Fort St. John to Whitehorse, but it turned out to be a very big puppy, and there just wasn’t enough room left in the Jeep when I left Red Deer. The woman really didn’t seem to understand how involved transporting a puppy thousands of kilometers is, so that request may have died anyway.

Year after year after year, the number of homes and related services being built around Calgary is shocking. Where do all these people come from? Most of the housing developments are huge – virtually new towns – like this one, Livingston.

New Livingston community north of Calgary
Sometimes, a handful of acres are developed in the middle of a farm. That usually results in huge home, especially when the location is on a hill with a view of the Rockies, as this one is.

Huge new homes on acreage north of Calgary
When I left Airdrie at 09:00 on Monday, the weather forecast sucked, calling for fog with occasional light snow or freezing rain. Yup, that’d be Jeep weather πŸ™‚

Fog and snow in Airdrie, Alberta
Coming into Red Deer at 10:15. I love the Jeep’s navigation system. When you have a turn coming up, a screen showing the turn approach opens right in front of you, where the speedometer normally lives. My Spot is over on the left side, showing Cathy where I am all the time, and Nanook is still travelling with me.

Navigation system on the 2016 Jeep Cherokee
Teresa was ready to go when I reached her place, and we soon had the Jeep loaded and were on our way. Monday was a flat day, in terms of both landscape and weather. This was the approach to Grande Prairie on Highway 43 just after 5:00 pm. I hadn’t really paid much attention to the approach, and got totally confused trying to find the strip of motels I wanted. I’ve been to Grande Prairie a lot, but very seldom via this route. DOH! πŸ™‚

Once I found the right area, I quickly chose the Stanford Hotel for the overnight – a good-looking property with restaurant and lounge. The room was good value at $110.88 including taxes, but the restaurant was a huge disappointment to both Teresa and I. The manager didn’t charge me for the rubber-chicken pasta dish that I ate part of. I called a nephew who lives in Grande Prairie, and he met us at the lounge for a while. It was the perfect place to meet, so the Stanford got 2 out of 3.

Tuesday started off flat as well, but the weather had started to clear by the time we stopped at Dawson Creek just before noon. I stopped in at Tourism to see my long-time friend Joyce for a few minutes, then got one of the shots I try to take with every vehicle I bring north, at Mile 0.

2016 Jeep Cherokee at Alaska Highway Mile 0
Up around Km 180 at 2:20 pm. There was enough gravel on the road that I cringed every time a semi approached, and whenever possible I moved to the right as far as possible. I really wanted Cathy to see her new car without a cracked windshield at least once. There were lots of small rock hits, but as the miles passed, my luck held.

Alaska Highway at about Km 180
We gained an hour as we continued northwest. West of Fort Nelson, I made a short photo-stop at about Km 550, where the Alaska Highway drops down from Steamboat Mountain to the Tetsa River.

Alaska Highway at about Km 550
Summit Lake, at 5:43 pm. The temperature had been fairly consistent all day again, up and down between -2°C and +2°C (28-36F), even after the sun disappeared behind the mountains.

Summit Lake, Alaska Highway
Just past Summit Lake, with the drop into “The Gorge” just ahead, we met this young bull moose and his girlfriend. He didn’t stand his ground for long πŸ™‚

Bull moose on the Alaska Highway

I had made reservations at the Northern Rockies Lodge at Muncho Lake, but by the time we reached Toad River Lodge I needed some dinner (and eating there is much cheaper than at Muncho).

The dinner stop turned out to be not a very good idea. Cathy and I had seen some comments that the headlights are poor on the Jeep Cherokee, and my summary now is that they’re totally inadequate for Northern driving. There’s a good beam of light down the centreline, but no “ditch light”, which is mandatory here for seeing animals. The short drive from Toad to Muncho was much longer than normal, because I couldn’t safely go much faster than 70 kmh (43 mph). We saw elk twice, but the odds of seeing a lot of wildlife along that stretch is very high.

The rooms at the Northern Rockies Lodge are a bit spendy ($190.97), but the rooms – and the entire lodge – are very nice. We had the breakfast buffet at the lodge Wednesday morning ($18.50 each plus tax and tip), I took this photo from our room at 08:10, and we were soon on our way again.

Our view at the Northern Rockies Lodge, Muncho Lake
The main Muncho Lake viewpoint, at Historic Milepost 463 of the Alaska Highway (now Km 710.1).

I heard Teresa’s camera clicking a lot, but I only stopped for a few photos – this one at 08:36.

Alaska Highway north of Muncho Lake
I almost drove by these sheep – mostly hidden by the concrete – without even noticing them, but then did a U-turn and came back.

Stone sheep (or Stone's sheep), Ovis dalli stonei on the Alaska Highway
There was very little traffic, and after a momentary jaunt onto the highway, the sheep all stayed behind the concrete barrier.

Stone sheep (or Stone's sheep), Ovis dalli stonei on the Alaska Highway
These are Stone sheep (or Stone’s sheep), Ovis dalli stonei. I figured that the lamb probably didn’t want a snuggle, but I sure would have been up for it πŸ™‚

Stone sheep (or Stone's sheep), Ovis dalli stonei on the Alaska Highway
One final portait after spending 9 minutes with the sheep, and it was time to get moving.

Stone sheep (or Stone's sheep), Ovis dalli stonei on the Alaska Highway
A couple of minutes later, we got stopped for a few minutes to wait for a pilot car. Several kilometers of formerly very narrow and winding road in this area is now history. The job of completely tearing up the old road and seeding it is almost finished.

Construction on the Alaska Highway
I stop at Liard Hot Springs less and less often as the years go on. A hot soak might have helped the cold that seemed to be getting worse, but we passed on by anyway – it would be just as likely to make me too tired to reach Whitehorse that night. Just past the hot springs, these bison stopped us a for a couple of minutes. The ones in the middle of the road weren’t moving, so I drove slowly around them.

Bison on the Alaska Highway
Teresa had never seen Smith River Falls, so I made that detour to show her. The road was the roughest I’ve seen it, but it was still worthwhile.

Smith River Falls, Alaska Highway
The hike to the base of the falls is pretty tough since a forest fire burned the network of stairs, but when the weather cooperates, it’s a great hike. I wouldn’t do it on a frosty morning – the very steep slopes would be a challenge!

Smith River Falls, Alaska Highway
The Liard River at 10:15.

The other photo that I pretty much always shoot with the vehicles I bring north – the “Welcome to the Yukon” sign just south of Watson Lake. Teresa took this photo at 11:30.

Swift River Lodge is now gone, one of the many sad stories about Alaska Highway lodges. It was closed in several stages after being unable to comply with new Yukon government regulations. (See this article in the Yukon News)

With the roads gravel-free as we neared Whitehorse, I was really happy that the windshield had made the trip intact. Just before Jake’s Corner, though, a semi spit a rock out of nowhere, and bang! – a little star right in front of the driver πŸ™

We reached Whitehorse just after 4:30. I dropped Teresa off in Porter Creek, spent a while at the car wash, and was home at 5:20, anxious for Cathy to get home to see her new ride πŸ™‚ Her Tracker looks pretty old sitting beside it!

Cathy's new Jeep Cherokee, with her old Tracker

When I turned the Jeep off in my driveway, it had a total of 3,112 km on the odometer (1,934 mi). The computer says that from the time I picked it up at the dealer’s, it had gotten fuel mileage of 10.0 liters per 100 kilometers, or 23.5 miles per gallon. That’s a bit lower than I’d expected, but not bad given the mountains and snow/slush/gravel encountered. That was an excellent break-in run, and I’m very pleased with the Jeep except for the headlights as I mentioned. But it’s extremely comfortable despite the hard ride that’s to be expected with a vehicle built to be a good off-road machine, and the various components of the operating systems are all easy to use. During the trip, I ran into everything from freezing rain, fresh snow, deep slush, and rough ice, to rain and even some warm, dry roads. Even in the worst conditions, traction was excellent thanks to the combination of drivetrain and the Firestone Destination A/T tires. Only once, when I hit a stretch of ice (rough, frozen slush) north of Jasper, did I have actually select the drive option “Snow” – at all other times, “Automatic” did the job.

I took the Jeep to New North Glass first thing Thursday, and they were thankfully able to seal the wildshield rock-star really well.

Cathy has only taken it to work once so far, and she loves it – both the look and the drive. So the summary is that 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk was the right choice for us.

An Early-Winter Drive Down the Icefields Parkway

Normally, driving the Icefields Parkway is the main highlight of a trip to Alberta. Yesterday, not so much. I didn’t sleep well, woke up sick, and an early-winter storm reduced visibility along much of the route.

This was my route – click on the map for an interactive version in a new window.

Icefields Parkway map
I got off to a very early start, but stopped for breakfast, and was driving fairly slowly because of slick roads and the high likelihood of meeting animals, so it was 08:05 when I made a photo-stop at Talbot Lake, just north of Jasper. Just before this, the highway had gotten extremely slippery, but switching the Jeep’s transfer case from “Automatic” to “Snow” took care of that.

Dawn at Talbot Lake, just north of Jasper
I set the GPS at Talbot Lake, for the time to Canmore, where I’d hoped to meet John Rathwell of Searching for Sero, and friends who recently moved there from Whitehorse. Not that I need directions, but… well, I don’t really know why I turn it on πŸ™‚

GPS set near Jasper
Starting down the Icefields Parkway at 08:45. I’d remembered to bring my Parks Canada annual pass, so saved a few bucks there. Two of the 3 cars in front of me turned around when they saw this sign reporting “Poor” driving conditions. But for me, that was 2 thumbs up and “YEAH!!” – it could be a great way to test the Jeep out.

A few minutes later, I stopped at Athabaska Falls. It was really nice to see it without a horde of tourists around. It’s so much easier to feel the power of the place without that sort of distractions.

Athabaska Falls, Alberta
Mine were the first footprints in about 3 inches of fresh snow.

Athabaska Falls, Alberta
Both the road conditions and the visibility varied a lot. Some wet road, some ice, some deep slush. And some breaks in the clouds. All in all, not bad (or “poor”) at all.

Icefields Parkway in early winter
Sometimes great views of the peaks just lasted a few seconds, but there are plenty of pullouts and wide shoulders along the Icefields Parkway. Not that there was any traffic to worry about.

Peaks along the Icefields Parkway in early winter

Peaks along the Icefields Parkway in early winter
Tangle Creek Falls was pretty quiet as the high-country is pretty much all frozen.

Tangle Creek Falls, Icefields Parkway
Approaching the Columbia Icefield at 11:20. I was feeling pretty sick and had stopped for a short nap just before this, so it was a slow trip.

Approaching the Columbia Icefield on the Icefields Parkway
The Columbia Icefields. Things were really quiet at the Icefields Centre, but I was surprised to see a couple of tour buses pulling in.

Columbia Icefields
A few k south of the Columbia Icefields, these signs stopped me. I expected something major, but it turned to be just a pickup off in the ditch. It was on a pretty blind corner, though, so these signs were a good idea.

Accident ahead on the Icefields Parkway
Quite incredible, aren’t they? Conditions had been gradually improving since I passed the Columbia Icefields, and tour buses of all sizes became fairly common.

Peaks along the Icefields Parkway
A rather average sort of view along the Icefields Parkway. I’d like to spend a week along it in a shoulder-season trip.

Icefields Parkway
You quickly run out of exclamatory words and phrases along the Icefields Parkway. Just “wow” or “OMG!!” often suffices πŸ™‚

Just south of Saskatchewan Crossing at 12:10. The temperature ever since I left Jasper had been up and down from -2 to +2 C (28-36°F).

Peaks just south of Saskatchewan Crossing, Icefields Crossing
A couple of minutes later, I met these bicyclists! I got the impression that this storm surprised a lot of people. There were lots of vehicles at trailheads with deep snow on them. Or do people actually go out camping when they know that heavy, wet snow is coming?

bicyclists on the Icefields Parkway in early winter
I decided not to call John when I reached Canmore – I was just too sick. I stopped and got some drugs, had a quick burger, then stopped for another short nap and long phone call with Cathy. This was shot on the Trans Canada (Hwy 1) at 2:00 pm. Shortly after, I turned off into 1A, which always messes up my GPS (JeepyS?) – “no, I know a better route!!”.

Highway 1 east of Canmore, Alberta
It was 11°C (52°F) in Canmore, and stayed there until I reached my daughter’s place in Airdrie. This photo was shot on Highway 22 north on Cochrane. In Aidrie, we visited for a while and then I went to bed.

As I write this on Sunday, I feel much better – 13 hours sleep is my miracle cure. Tomorrow, the 3-day drive home begins, with overnights at Grande Prairie and Muncho Lake.

In Alberta to pick up a new Jeep

Cathy bought her Chevy Tracker new in 2001, and has wanted a new car for a long time. She finally bought a new Jeep online on Tuesday, and I’m now on a week-long wander home with it.

We’ve been all over the map in thinking about what Cathy needs and wants. One of the main criteria is that it has to be able to be towed behind the motorhome on a towbar, and very, very few vehicles can. We settled on a 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, which can be summarized as a luxury off-road-capable SUV. It’s got a full load of the sort of equipment we need for the serious off-road driving we sometimes like to do – skid plates and tow hooks foremost. Cathy really likes this colour, which is called Light Brownstone Pearlcoat, but it’s not a common colour. We only found two Cherokee Trailhawks available with that colour in Alberta (where the best deals are often found), only one of which had the wheels we want.

2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
On Tuesday, we were able to finalize a deal with Big West Dodge in Drayton Valley, about 130 kilometers southwest of Edmonton, and on Wednesday I was on the 4:50 pm Air North flight to Edmonton. It looked like it was going to be a gorgeous evening to fly.

Ready to take off from Whitehorse, Yukon
Climbing out from Whitehorse.

Climbing out from Whitehorse on Air North
At 6:15, about 40 minutes before official sunset, the sun disappeared behind a low cloud layer.

A northern BC sunset from 33,000 feet
Air North goes to Calgary before Edmonton, and combined with losing an hour going east, arrival in Edmonton is at 9:50 pm. But the hotel shuttle was just loading when I walked out of the terminal, and by 10:15 I was in room #202 at the Executive Hotel Alexandra, located in a maze of hotels just a couple of kilometers from the airport.

Executive Hotel Alexandra, Edmonton Airport
I had a great sleep, and was pleased to find the next morning that the breakfast that’s included in the room rate ($109) was a full hot breakfast, not the continental that they advertise. I was in no hurry, so the comfortable and quiet breakfast room was the perfect spot to start the day.

Breakfast at the Executive Hotel Alexandra, Edmonton Airport
I interrupted my breakfast to pop outside for a photo of this wonderful sunrise πŸ™‚

Sunrise at the Executive Hotel Alexandra, Edmonton Airport
I was going to rent a car one-way to Drayton Valley, but Big West Dodge offered to send a shuttle. I asked for a 09:30 pickup, and got a call from the driver 20 minutes before that, saying that he’d arrived. I was ready to go, and was quickly outside the lobby looking for him. It turned out that he was at the other Executive hotel a half-mile away, but by 09:20, Dennis and I were headed southwest.

Big West Dodge shuttle van at the Executive Hotel Alexandra, Edmonton Airport
I had a very pleasant ride with Dennis, and taking delivery of the Jeep was a particularly good experience. Our salesman, Shawn Legeas, spent an hour or so going through the Jeep’s systems with me. The Uconnect screen, looking like an iPad in the middle of the dash, was intimidating at first but I soon found it very easy to use – quite intuitive. While there, I met the owner of the dealership as well as several employees – apparently they don’t get many buyers from Whitehorse πŸ™‚ Shawn and I had a photo taken for his album…

Accepting my 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk at Big West Dodge
… and just after noon, I shot this photo of the Jeep as I was about to leave, to post to Facebook.

My 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk at Big West Dodge
I was really looking forward to this trip! My first stop would be Hinton, to see my son and his family.

My 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
Just before 1:00 pm, with the temperature at -1°C, I could see snow falling ahead on Highway 22, and was soon into it.

Alberta Highway 22 north of Drayton Valley
Even on a nice day, there’s not much to say about Highway 16.

A photo stop east of Edson, at 1:30. Already dirty with less than 200 km on it! πŸ™

My 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
When I saw these flags at Edson, I had to stop for a look.

Flags of Remembrance at Edson, Alberta
“Flags of Remembrance” – very nice. When I posted the photo above on Facebook, a Whitehorse friend, Doug Davidge, commented that his Dad and uncle are among those honoured by this display. An article in the Edson Leader describes the display: “The Flags of Remembrance, a program of Veterans Voices of Canada, commemorates veterans from conflicts that Canadians were involved in, as well as the nation’s ranks of peacekeepers. The 128 flags displayed along the perimeter of Centennial Park from Oct. 1 til Nov. 13 represent the 128,000 Canadians who have been killed or missing in action in war or in peacekeeping ventures from the Boer War to the present. Seventy seven of the flags have been purchased for sponsorship, which includes a commemorative plaque including the details of the person honoured. Cost of sponsoring a flag is $200 and will be available until Nov. 1. Fifty per cent of the proceeds will go to the Edson Legion for its charitable work and the plaques will continue to be installed as they arrive.”

Flags of Remembrance at Edson, Alberta
By the time I got near Hinton at 4:30, the sun had come out, and with the roads drying up, my first stop in Hinton was the car wash. Even though I knew that it would be covered by snow in a few hours πŸ™‚

Being able to see my kids and their families is a huge bonus to buying a car in Alberta. This is our third – my Cadillac CTS, and before that my Subaru Outback, were also bought in Alberta – those ones were bought in Calgary.

As I started working on this post at 07:00, the forecast fairly heavy snow had just begun.

Snowing in Hinton, Alberta
The weather forecast this morning is pretty much what can be expected this time of year. I don’t need to go anywhere today, except for a bit of shopping in Hinton. Tomorrow, I’ll be heading south through Jasper and down the Icefields Parkway.

Weather forecast for Hinton, Alberta

Hiking to The Three Guardsmen Cirque, Haines Highway

The third of my hikes in the Haines Summit area last week was up an old mining road to a glacial cirque directly south of Three Guardsmen Mountain, on Saturday (October 1st).

The day started out poorly, with a mechanical problem. One of the automatic levellers on my motorhome wouldn’t retract. None of the over-ride procedures worked either, so I finally crawled under the rig and removed it. It’s a heavy bugger!

Even with the leveller problem, I still made it down to the pullout at Historic Mile 48, where a buddy from Haines was going to meet me at 10:00. It’s a great place to wait.

RV at Historic Mile 48, Haines Road
The pullout is also a great place to play with Bella and Tucker. Sometimes they played ball with me, sometimes it was Tucker’s “catch me” game – which Bella no longer has any hope of winning. He’s very fast, and very agile.

Playing with dogs along the Haines Highway, BC
When I put the kids inside and walked away to take a few photos before giving up on my buddy and leaving at 11:00, Bella took her usual position in the driver’s seat πŸ™‚

Dog in the driver's seat of my RV
I drove north and parked on the very wide shoulder on the west side of the highway (yes, the wrong side to park on, but the only side with a shoulder) just south of Three Guardsmen Lake. The elevation here, at about Km 91 of the Haines Highway, is 955 meters (3,133 feet). The few trail reports all talk about going through a marshy area to reach the trail, but as I had expected to, I quickly found a “stepping-stone” crossing of the little creek that drains the lake, right at 11:30.

Crossing the creek to get to the Three Guardsmen Cirque trail, Haines Highway, BC

For trail details, I’ve posted the applicable section of topo map 114 P/9 (from aerial photos taken in 1979, 1980).

The place where the old mining road started wasn’t obvious for the first few hundred meters/yards, so I headed for a spot somewhere in the middle of where I expected that it would be, but couldn’t see. The brush between me and that spot, though, was pretty thick. The dogs probably had an even worse time getting through it than I did.

Thick brush on the way to the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail, Haines Highway, BC
At 11:45, the going was still ugly but I felt that we were close to the road/trail.

Thick brush on the way to the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
11:47 – success! The trail had actually been cleared. I found when I got home that a prospecting party led by Gerry Diakow had done this work in 2011 so they could get a 6-wheel Polaris ATV up to the cirque.

Three Guardsmen Mountain trail, Haines Highway, BC
We soon were out of the thick brush and had wonderful views. This was the view to the north, over Three Guardsmen Lake, at 11:54.

Three Guardsmen Lake from the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
11:56 – The Three Guardsmen is an impressive pile of rock! The highest of the 3 peaks, Glave Peak, is 1,928 meters (6,325 feet) high.

Three Guardsmen Mountain / Glave Peak - 1,928 meters (6,325 feet) high
Looking southwest at 11:57, with the Haines Highway below.

The view from the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail, Haines Highway, BC
12:03 – the variety along the trail is wonderful, with spectacular views, and the slopes on both sides often carpeted with heather, lichens, and several varieties of berries.

Three Guardsmen Mountain, Haines Highway, BC
Up, up we go! At 12:10, we were at 1,081 meters (3,547 feet). What a perfect day! There was a slight breeze, but I was soon down to my t-shirt.

At 1,081 meters (3,547 feet) elevation on the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
The kids got a good drink at 12:16. I carry enough water for all of us, though I expected that this trail would have some water along it.

A creek on the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail, Haines Highway, BC
Some large level areas like this one that we reached at 12:20 aren’t visible from the highway.

A large level area along the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail, Haines Highway, BC
Across the valley at 12:32, a good view of the ridge that we hiked on Thursday – the one that I’m calling Tina Creek Ridge. Tina Creek flows down the canyon on the right.

Tina Creek Ridge from the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
The view to the south at 1,200 meters elevation (3,937 feet), at 12:38.

At 1,200 meters (3,937 feet) elevation on the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail, Haines Highway, BC
My only selfie of the hike, at 12:42 πŸ™‚

Murray Lundberg on the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail, Haines Highway, BC
At 12:47, we reached a creek that took some care to get across!

Frozen creek to cross on the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
12:51 – the views just kept getting more and more spectacular.

View from the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
To the right of centre in the next photo is Copper Butte, an old mining area that is on the “must-hike” list for next year. I think I’m going to be spending a lot of time along the Haines Road now that I’ve had a good look at it.

Copper Butte, an old mining area west of the Haines Road in BC
At 1:15, we reached some snow remaining from a little storm a week or so ago.

Fresh snow on the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
The road ahead at 1,300 meters elevation (4,265 feet), at 1:17.

At 1,300 meters (4,265 feet) elevation on the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
This is where we topped out at 1:37, among extensive mining exploration activity in the glacial cirque, at 1,387 meters elevation (4,551 feet). That’s 432 meters (1,418 feet) above the spot where I parked the RV – with lots of photo-stops, it took us 2 hours and 7 minutes to reach this point.

Old mining activity in the Three Guardsmen cirque
Rock from at least one of the contact zones that has been investigated was obvious. Copper was the initial draw here, but the latest (2011) exploration found copper, silver, gold, zinc, and bismuth, and well as small amounts of several other minerals. In 2011, S.G. Diakow called this the “Cold” mineral claim.

Old mining activity in the Three Guardsmen cirque
I think that Bella is looking forward to having her own deep snow at home πŸ™‚

Shelty cross Bella dipping in October snow above the Haines Road, BC
There were roads going much further into the cirque but because of the snow we didn’t go further. I thought about going down the creek that had presented a bit of a problem crossing because of the ice, but decided that the rocks would be too tough on the kids’ feet. At 1:48, we were heading down on a nice soft lichen-covered ridge.

Heading down from the Three Guardsmen cirque
At 1:53, we came to an old mining camp, protected from the wind by a berm about 10 feet high.

An old mining camp in the Three Guardsmen cirque
Among the mining camp ruins were a couple of bed frames, a few drill-core boxes, and lots of lumber from various buildings, tables and such.

An old mining camp in the Three Guardsmen cirque
I very much support responsible mining, but this sort of thing really pisses me off. It’s simply lazy and disrespectful. Many miners – or at least mining companies – are their own worst enemies.

An old fuel barrel below the Three Guardsmen cirque
Scouting out another hike. The access from the highway isn’t clear, but that old road – another mining road, I expect – climbs to (or close to) a communication tower that’s barely visible right on top of the mountain.

An old mining road at Three Guardsmen Lake
2:21 – with more direct light now, the views to the north in particular looked quite different on the way down.

The road down from the Three Guardsmen cirque
On a warm summer day, it would be wonderful to just lay down on some of these slopes for a while and savour this incredible world.

Three Guardsmen Mountain
At 3:00 pm, another look at the first good drinking-creek we stopped at.

Creek below Three Guardsmen Mountain
A telephoto look at one of the many glaciers that form a virtual wall of ice to the south.

Glacier along the Haines Road
At 3:09, Three Guardsmen Lake is ahead, and the motorhome can be seen at the lower left.

Three Guardsmen Lake
Back into the brush at 3:14.

Brushy section of the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
Looking straight up – the third Guardsman is hidden behind the peak on the right, which doesn’t have its own name. The one on the left is the highest one, Glave Peak.

Three Guardsmen Mountain, Haines Highway
Going down, I could follow the road/trail right down to see where the actual start of it is. At 3:21, we reached the bottom, at the northeast corner of a long-abandoned gravel pit. A couple of survey-tape flags mark the start of the trail.

The start of the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
At 3:25, another stepping-stone crossing of the creek that drains Three Guardsmen Lake, and we were soon back at the motorhome.

Within a few minutes, we were on our way towards home, 326 km (203 mi) away. This is looking north towards the Haines Summit, with Clear Creek (the creek we hiked along to reach the Samuel Glacier the day before) in the valley bottom.

The Haines Road south of the summit
The Km 110 milepost can be seen on the right in this photo.

Km 110 milepost, Haines Highway
One last photo, shot at 5:13 on the Alaska Highway with Paint Mountain ahead. This is just east of Haines Junction.

We got home just after 7:00 pm, hugely pleased with the way the final high-country hiking trip of the season had gone. Next… – well, I’m not sure yet, but I’m pretty pumped about getting into kore exploring.

Hiking to the Samuel Glacier (the Chuck Creek Trail)

On Thursday night (September 29th), I had set up camp at the Chuck Creek (Samuel Glacier) trailhead. The large, level, sheltered parking area there would be a perfect base for what I knew would be a long day on the trail.

At 06:55 on Friday morning, the view to the northeast from the door of the motorhome was quite stunning. But it was cold – about -3°C (27°F), so I was in no hurry to start hiking.

Dawn view from the Samuel Glacier trailhead in late Fall
The view to the southeast at 07:28.

Dawn view from the Samuel Glacier trailhead in late Fall
A couple of other campers had joined me late on Thursday night. I shot this just after 08:00. It wasn’t getting any warmer, but I finished off the article I was working on, had breakfast, and started to get ready for the hike.

RVs at the Samuel Glacier trailhead in late Fall
This image from Google Earth shows the basic layout, from the trailhead to the right, to the glacier view where I turned around, to the left. This region is still low-resolution on Google Earth. Click on it to open an interactive map in a new window. For more detail, though it doesn’t show most of the road/trail, see the applicable section of topo map 114 P/10.

Samuel Glacier, BC, on Google Earth

The trail is entirely within Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park, but there are no highly-visible signs noting that, no park rangers, and no fees. This park of almost 1 million hectares of rugged wilderness is fairly new, just having been established on October 15, 1993, and has no services.

We finally hit the trail at about 10:20, with the temperature sitting at about freezing in the shade of Kusawak Mountain, but with no wind. There are 51 photos in this post in an attempt to show you the wide range of conditions along the trail, and each photo caption includes the time I shot the photo. In this case, it was 10:31.

Hiking to the Samuel Glacier (the Chuck Creek Trail)
Although the trail sign calls this the Chuck Creek Trail, by 10:43 we had already climbed above the Chuck Creek drainage. It’s a very short creek – a tributary of Nadahini Creek.

Hiking to the Samuel Glacier
10:49. After the initial few hundred meters/yards of brush along the trail, the trail/road became very good, and the views were wonderful. Brush may not sound like a big deal, but it hides grizzlies, and there are a lot of them in this country. Seeing them, sometimes very close, and sometimes having to use bear-bangers, are common comments about this trail.

Hiking to the Samuel Glacier
10:55 – damn!! This bear was very close to the road, but with the brush I couldn’t be sure exactly where the road was. But… although it looked like he was feeding, he wasn’t moving. I watched and I waited. And then I waited for another couple of minutes. No, it couldn’t be a bear. On we go, with my bear spray in my hand, the trigger guard off.

Bear on the Samuel Glacier trail
Haha – that was my bear! A bare/bear rock in shadow. But it made Tucker very nervous – he barked like hell when he first saw it. He wouldn’t go near it until I started walking around it, and then he was behind me πŸ˜‰

A bear rock on the Samuel Glacier trail
11:01 – yes, this day rated a 10. Nice work indeed, Mother Nature!

Hiking to the Samuel Glacier
At 11:14, it was clear that the mountains directly ahead were the ones in which the Samuel Glacier was still hiding.

Hiking to the Samuel Glacier
11:18 – brush and one of many little creek crossings along the trail. Because of the potential of meeting a bear, Bella and Tucker had been back on-leash for a while. I still often think about our bear attack in Tumbler Ridge in late April – if they had been loose, it could have had a very different result.

Hiking BC's Samuel Glacier Trail
11:21 – it was warming up nicely, but there was still lots of ice around.

Ice along the Samuel Glacier Trail
At 11:22, the largest creek yet took some care to get across without getting wet feet.

Creek crossing on the Samuel Glacier Trail
There’s pretty much a perfect day to be out in the mountains with my very happy little girl.

My Sheltie-cross Bella on the Samuel Glacier Trail
I’d forgotten my tripod at home, but at 11:35, a convenient rock allowed for a selfie. With the bear spray still in my right hand because brushy stretches continued to be fairly common.

Hiker on the Samuel Glacier Trail in BC
11:44 – lots of wet stretches, lots of brush. Pieces of pipe/culvert were starting to show up from the road’s mining days. The kids were often distracted by willow ptarmigan, Arctic ground squirrels, and heaven knows what other creatures.

Pipe along the Samuel Glacier Trail
Just before noon, it was time to get out of my base layer. It was certainly needed that morning, but was far too warm for that now. And while we were stopped anyway, eating a bit of our lunches was in order as well.

Getting changed along the Samuel Glacier Trail
As we got packed up to start hiking again at 12:07, I could see that there was a very long stretch of brush and probably wet road ahead, and decided to take another route to avoid both.

Samuel Glacier Trail
12:35 – the new route was straight up the side of Nadahini Mountain.

Nadahini Mountain, on the Samuel Glacier Trail
12:37 – the view was much better from about 1,400 meters (4,593 feet). The batteries had died on my trail GPS (a Garmin Summit), so I’m just guessing at the altitude I reached. Up in an area where I could see bears for a very long distance, it was great to be able to let Bella and Tucker off their leashes, too – at least most of the time. Every now and then, I leashed them again when there were too many distractions for young dogs to resist.

Above the Samuel Glacier Trail
At 12:47, Bella thought that this creek growing its own popsicles was just the best thing to play with! πŸ™‚

Icy creek above the Samuel Glacier Trail
12:48 – there are several gullies cutting the slopes of Nadahini Mountain and the other unnamed peaks of the Datlasaka Range, and I kept going higher avoid them. This one, though, went too high on the slope to get above, and had pretty reasonable slopes anyway, so I hiked across it.

Gully on the slopes of the Datlasaka Range, BC
The Mineral Lakes off to the south, at 12:53. In the vast valley that I could now see, I saw nothing moving – in particular, no bears and no caribou, both of which I expected to see.

Mineral Lakes, BC
Looking straight up another wash to the unnamed peaks at 12:55.

Hiking on the Datlasaka Range, BC
By 1:10, I had started angling down the slopes, as I could see that there were no bad gullies ahead. This is the view back to the east-southeast, with the Mineral Lakes on the right, and Clear Creek below. Occasionally flashes of light could be seen as sunlight reflected off the windows of vehicles on the Haines Highway towards the left of this photo.

Along the route to the Samuel Glacier, BC
At 1:15, I could see a large very wet area ahead, so stayed above the worst of it. More and more of the Samuel Glacier could be seen as I walked, and my goal was the top of the ridge just to the right of centre in this photo, where I expected that the toe of the glacier would be visible.

Along the route to the Samuel Glacier, BC
1:24 – still angling down and avoiding most of the brush, wet areas, and other obstacles. Below, I could see the guy from the white van at the trailhead heading back, and I was curious as to whether he was on a trail or just going cross-country as I was. I’d not seen any mention of a trail in this area, so I expected he was choosing his own route.

Along the route to the Samuel Glacier, BC
I was quite surprised to find an old Cat track at 1:39. Not surprised since it is an old mining area, but surprised that I’d not seen it mentioned in any trail description, though hikers had obviously been following it, as I did.

Old Cat track on the route to the Samuel Glacier
1:44 – the Cat track was an excellent route, as it avoided the same sort of obstacles that I wanted to avoid. So up and down we wandered across the low ridges.

Old Cat track on the route to the Samuel Glacier
By 1:49, I had left the Cat track as it was veering away from the ridge that was my goal. This odd hummocky slope has me wondering what might have caused it. The Arctic cotton grass – the white dots to the lower right – are usually a good indicator that wet ground is there.

Hummocks on the route to the Samuel Glacier
Looking back at the only cairn I’d seen so far, at 2:00. Built in another area of hummocks near the edge of a large outwash plain, I expected that it marked the best route, especially since I’d first spotted it directly ahead on my route. As it turned out, however, I found a better route a bit higher up on the hike out.

Cairn on the route to the Samuel Glacier
Crossing the outwash plain at 2:04. It’s hard to imagine the volume of water that it took to create this. Wikipedia explains an outwash plain: “…also called a sandur (plural: sandurs), sandr or sandar, is a plain formed of glacial sediments deposited by meltwater outwash at the terminus of a glacier.” A creek at the western side of the outwash was hard to cross in many places without getting wet feet, but a short detour took me to an area where it split into several braids, each of which was easy to cross.

Outwash plain on the route to the Samuel Glacier

Bella and Tucker had been really good about staying with me, partly because they were always in front of me, and if they started off after anything, an immediate correction brought them back. After we crossed the outwash plain, though, they dropped behind me, and Tucker disappeared. I called and called and called, and finally spotted him near the top of a distant ridge to the north, still running hard. He finally responded to my now-frantic calls, but it took a long time for him to get back to me.

At 2:18, I reached the ridge I had been aiming for, and got the view of the Samuel Glacier that I had expected.

Samuel Glacier, BC
A closer look at the Samuel Glacier – actually, the south arm of the glacier. There was obviously so much more to see here, but I was still very upset from Tucker’s side-trip, and was also very conscious that we were no longer The Land of the Midnight Sun. I had a long trek back before the sun went behind the mountains and the world started to go dim.

Samuel Glacier, BC
The main arm of the Samuel Glacier to the north would take a fair hike to see much of, so that wasn’t an option this time.

The main arm of the Samuel Glacier
One more shot looking to the south from the ridge, and 3 minutes after getting there, I started the hike back. I decided to leave Bella free, but Tucker had to be on a leash to keep me sane. Kids!

This is what’s left of the unnamed glacier in the Datlasaka Range that created the large outwash plain. Even the topo map, from aerial photos shot in 1979 and 1980, show it as being much larger.

Unnamed glacier in the Datlasaka Range, BC
2:30 – imagine the forces required to not only split that boulder that Bella is passing, but even to move the top part of it. The natural processes in glacial areas fascinate me.

A large boulder split by Mother Nature
We were soon back on the Cat track, and decided to follow it to the road, and the road all the way back to the trailhead. This photo was shot at 2:57.

At 3:02, we reach the first crossing of Clear Creek. I brought water shoes but had expected larger creek crossings. This was small enough that I just took my boots off and walked across barefoot. A tiny cairn, barely visible to the right of centre in this photo, indicated the start of the trail on the far side of the creek.

Crossing Clear Creek on the hike back from the Samuel Glacier
On the trail – the old mining road – at 3:11.

The trail back from the Samuel Glacier
3:17 – “anybody home?” πŸ™‚

The trail back from the Samuel Glacier
3:18 – now well thawed by the sun, the trail was very muddy, and slippery in places.

The muddy trail back from the Samuel Glacier
3:22 – there was a lot of water seeping from the slope above the trail in many places.

The muddy trail back from the Samuel Glacier
At 3:29 we reached the main crossing of Clear Creek, which was also very easy – easier than I had expected.

Crossing Clear Creek on the trail back from the Samuel Glacier
On one of the truly superb sections of the trail, at 3:45. The Haines Highway cut can be seen on the distant slope.

The trail back from the Samuel Glacier
The distinctively post-glacial landscape at 4:19. Just ahead, I saw a couple of people setting up camp far below the trail. About 15 minutes later, I heard a bang-banger, and 3-4 minutes later, a second one. That’s not good!

The post-glacial landscape along the Samuel Glacier trail
4:31 – Bella hates! anything that sounds like a gunshot, and the bear-bangers made it difficult to keep her with me.

Along the Samuel Glacier trail
At 4:43, with the highway in sight and the trailhead just a few minutes away, I had to bring Bella right back and put her on-leash to keep her safe.

Back home, at 4:55, 6 hours and 35 minutes after leaving. YukonHiking.ca says that the trail is 21 km (13 mi) long, so about 22 the route I took. Bella and Tucker were as tired as I was, and we were all soon in bed. I got up after about 2½ hours, but the kids wanted to stay in bed. I made them get up for dinner, and then they crashed again.

Back at the Samuel Glacier trailhead

I was actually rather disappointed in the Samuel Glacier trail, which often just felt like a slog. I think that as an overnight hike it would be superb, but perhaps even in July when the sun is up for 18 hours or so it would be better. There’s more to see – the main arm of the Samuel Glacier in particular – so I expect that I’ll be back again.

I’m having a hard time right now. My Dad, who took me to places like this as far back as I can remember as a child, died at noon yesterday, nearing his 94th birthday. Finishing this piece has been both cathartic and upsetting, and I’ll have to see how writing about the third hike of this trip goes. And I have a lot that I want to tell you about him now, my friends….

Hiking Tina Creek Ridge on the Haines Highway

I got home Saturday night (October 1st) from the final RV trip of the year, and it started snowing on Monday, so my high-country hiking is also probably over for the year. I spent 3 days in the Haines Summit area, and did 3 excellent hikes – a short one on Tina Creek Ridge, a 7-hour one to the Samuel Glacier, and a 4-hour one to the Three Guardsmen cirque – so I’ve got some catching up to do on the blog.

The weather forecast for Haines as I was getting ready to go Thursday morning was pretty much perfect – sunshine and light winds. I was really pumped about getting a great finish to what has been an amazing season.

Haines AK weather forecast
By 09:40, I was well west of Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway, but the weather was nowhere near as good as I had expected. There was a solid ceiling of dark and threatening skies in the direction I would be heading. The Takhini River bridge at Km 1468.9 is in the dip ahead in the photo.

Alaska Highway west of Whitehorse, Yukon
I usually stop at the rest area at Km 1566, seen ahead on the right. It’s a good place to walk the dogs, but I wanted to get to the summit as quickly as possible this time.

Nearing Haines Junction at 10:56. This is probably one of the most-photographed sections of the Alaska Highway – you come around a corner and wow!

Nearing Haines Junction on the Alaska Highway
A quick photo stop at the Rock Glacier Trail, at Km 202.3 of the Haines Highway, with the sky clearing nicely.

Rock Glacier Trail, Yukon
Dezadeash Lake.

Dezadeash Lake.
The Mule Creek airstrip at Km 115. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an airplane here, but that’s probably a good thing, as it’s here for emergency use when the pass ahead is socked in and can’t be flown safely. These 4,000-foot-long emergency strips around the Yukon and northern BC were built 60-odd years ago to handle aircraft up to a DC-3.

The Mule Creek airstrip at Km 115 of the Haines Highway
Three Guardsmen Mountain, ahead on the right, would be constantly in view for 2 of the 3 hikes I had planned for this trip.

Three Guardsmen Mountain, BC
The start of the first hike is here, at about Km 88.6, just south of Tina Creek. This is 16 km / 10 mi north of the BC/Alaska border. The trail seems to be quite popular and the pullout is quite large, but it doesn’t seem to have a name. I’m calling it the Tina Creek Ridge Trail. It begins on either an old section of highway, or the access road for a long-abandoned pipeline – I’m not sure yet which it is.

Tina Creek Ridge Trail, Haines Highway
It was time for lunch before heading out, so I took Bella and Tucker for a short walk first. This was the view from the dining nook in the RV.

Three Guardsmen Mountain from my RV
After lunch, at 1:10 pm, the kids had a different idea than a hike. It would be a short hike anyway, so okay, just a little one… πŸ™‚

Dogs having an afternoon nap in the RV
At 2:25, we stated walking up the old road. My GPS gave a reading of 923 meters (3,028 feet) at the start of the trail. It actually wasn’t as nice as it looks in the photos – a very strong wind was also very cold, and I was quite heavily dressed, including gloves and toque.

Hiking Tina Creek Ridge on the Haines Highway
Mother Nature does some impressive rock work. The kids were on long leashes until we got higher, where I had a longer view and could see a grizzly if one was around.

Hiking Tina Creek Ridge on the Haines Highway
I soon left the road we started on, and climbed straight up the ridge, but came to another road. This really does have the feel of an old highway alignment. This is the view to the south.

Hiking Tina Creek Ridge on the Haines Highway
We walked along this road for a little way, and you can see that it lines up perfectly with the current highway in the distance.

Hiking Tina Creek Ridge on the Haines Highway
The higher I got, the more impressed I was by this ridge’s potential for longer hikes in the future. This was 40 minutes from leaving the RV.

Hiking Tina Creek Ridge on the Haines Highway
I spent a lot of time just savouring the stunning 360-degree views, while Bella and Tucker explored and played.

Hiking Tina Creek Ridge on the Haines Highway
At the lower right is an old mining claim post. At the upper right, the cirque that we’d be hiking to on Saturday.

Hiking Tina Creek Ridge on the Haines Highway
A small dried-up pond near the top of the ridge. That would be really pretty early in the season. That’s Tucker down in the middle of it.

Hiking Tina Creek Ridge on the Haines Highway
Higher and higher…

Hiking Tina Creek Ridge on the Haines Highway
Another dried-up pond a few meters from the top of the ridge, much larger than the last one.

Hiking Tina Creek Ridge on the Haines Highway
A 3-photo panorama from the top of the ridge, looking to the west at 3:20 pm. This photo can be enlarged by clicking on it. The elevation here is 1,092 meters (3,583 feet).

Hiking Tina Creek Ridge on the Haines Highway
Up top, my feelings about future hikes here was confirmed. You could hike for days to the west and north up in this open country. Because of the nasty wind, though, we didn’t stay long this time.

Hiking Tina Creek Ridge on the Haines Highway
At 4:20, we were driving north again, planning to camp at the Chuck Creek (Samuel Glacier) trailhead for the 2 nights. The large, level, and sheltered parking area there is very popular for camping.

The Haines Highway near the summit
An HDR image of the view to the northwest from the Haines Summit.

The view to the west from the Haines Summit
The view in the rearview mirror wasn’t bad, either!

The Three Guardsmen in the rearview mirror
Set up at the trailhead, ready for Friday’s major Adventure!

RV camping at the Samuel Glacier trailhead

As part of writing this post, because I plan to spend a lot of time over here on the Haines Highway next year, I’ve created a new resource page, Hiking along the Haines Highway, Yukon/BC/Alaska.

Driving the North Klondike Highway, Dawson to Whitehorse

We pulled away from Dawson City just after 2:00 pm on Saturday, September 24th. I wanted to be home in Whitehorse in not much over 24 hours, but there were a few stops I wanted to make along the North Klondike Highway on the way.

Approaching the Dawson airport (CYDA), I noticed a big “X” of flashing lights on the runway. It was closed for resurfacing – meaning grading, as it’s a gravel runway. I decided to stop and have a look at the Klondike River Campground, which I hadn’t seen yet.

The Klondike River Campground is small and feels old. Sites, for a Yukon campground, are small, and the road is narrow, winding, and was heavily pot-holed. Not very big-rig friendly at all. Despite the name, I didn’t see any river access, and the location is rather odd in any case, so I can’t imagine that we’ll ever camp there. It actually doesn’t look like many other people do, either.

Klondike River Campground, Dawson City
I had one detour to make. This is the Dempster Highway, looking north at Km 6. I wanted to see the North Fork Ditch and power plant near here, but the access road was blocked by some hunters who were after a moose in a marsh beside the road.

I didn’t get my dam or ditch up the Dempster, but I did get a damn flat tire. That’s my second flat ever in 40-odd trips on the Dempster. And the tailpipe hangar had broken, so I had some repairs to do – after our afternoon nap πŸ™‚ I got very lucky – the tire went flat once I reached the motorhome, which I had left at the Mile 0 pullout.

A flat tire on the Dempster Highway
At 7:25 pm, I was well down the North Klondike Highway, nearing Moose Creek Campground, where we had camped when northbound, so that would be our home for the night.

The North Klondike Highway north of Moose Creek
Moose Creek Campground really surprised me, because I don’t recall never hearing anybody mention. But everything about it is excellent, even the location for breaking up the Dawson-Whitehorse drive. It has 36 sites, with 4 pull-throughs, and the entire campground is big-rig friendly. I say it often but will say it again: at $12 per night including firewood, the Yukon system has to be the best camping value in North America.

Moose Creek Campground, Yukon
I took site #20 at the back end of the campground again. After couple of long dog walk/plays and then a quiet night (there was only 1 other camper overnighting in the park), we were ready to get back on the road at 08:30.

Tucker is a funny little dude. I stopped at the Stewart Crossing rest area, and he went nuts at the life-size caribou cut-out on the wall of the information building. When I took the photo, he’d quit barking and was just growling at the threat. We’ve got him to stop most of his barking, but he’s always nattering at anything that moves or might move, or is just “out there” in his imagination πŸ™‚

Tucker barking at a caribou painting
The light at Five Finger Rapids was gorgeous, but I just couldn’t muster the energy to climb the 220 steps. And the steps were frosty, for an extra excuse!

Five Finger Rapids, Yukon River
By noon, I had gethomeitis, but wanted to get some photos of the Twin Lakes Campground for a campground resource I’m going to start building. Twin Lakes is probably the furthest one that gets a lot of pressure from Whitehorse weekenders – in the summer, it’s full every weekend. And with good reason – the lakes are beautiful and the campground facilities are excellent. There was only 1 camper there, a Whitehorse woman who had spent 4 nights there with her dog.

Twin Lakes Campground, Yukon
Bella has become quite a water-dog. While she won’t swim very far at all, she loves wading, and Twin Lakes was perfect for it.

Twin Lakes Campground, Yukon

I stopped at a car wash and spent $20 to get the worst of the mud and gravel off the Tracker in particular, and got home at about 3:00 pm. It was a wonderful trip. I’d been sorry to have not made it to Dawson this year, and now that’s taken care of.

Before I even got this post written, I was back on the road. As I finish it, I’m on Day 2 out in the wilderness along the Haines Road, near the summit, for 3 days of chilly high-country hiking.

More Wandering & Exploring around Dawson City

On Friday, September 23rd, I had set up camp at the Yukon River Campground across the river from Dawson City at 4:00 pm. Although closed, the gate was open so no-services camping is allowed. I had a few hours to explore that afternoon and the next morning, and then I’d have to start back towards Whitehorse.

The Yukon River Campground is very nice. It’s the largest one in the territory, with 101 campsites, 22 of them pull-throughs to make things easy for rigs like mine. The two signs at this viewpoint talk about the peregrine falcons that nest on the cliffs opposite. In 1978, only one pair was known to breed on the Yukon River, but a recovery program that started the following year has been incredibly successful, and they’re now fairly commonly seen. When my son and I canoed from Whitehorse to Dawson in 1997, we spent a long time watching a pair of peregrine falcons teaching their young how to hunt shorebirds upriver at Minto.

Peregrine falcon viewing at the Yukon River Campground
I soon disconnected the Tracker from the RV, and just before 5:00 pm were on the ferry across the Yukon River to Dawson City.

On the Yukon River ferry at Dawson City
The first stop on the east side of the river was the top of the Midnight Dome. This is the view looking downriver towards Eagle, Alaska.

The Yukon River from the top of the Midnight Dome at Dawson
Looking up Bonanza Creek into the Klondike goldfields, with a new industrial park being developed along the North Klondike Highway.

Looking up Bonanza Creek into the Klondike goldfields
Back in town, I walked along Front Street to see what was new, then drove back to the ferry. The Moosehide Slide on the mountain is Dawson’s definitive geographic feature.

Front Street in Dawson City
Back at the ferry landing at 6:10. As the river level goes up and down, which is does a lot, the loader adjusts he height of the loading ramp.

The ferry landing at Dawson City, Yukon
From the Midnight Dome, downtown Dawson City was backlit, so not good for photos, so I drove back up the Top of the World Highway a couple of kilometers to a viewpoint with good light.

Dawson City, Yukon, from the Top of the World Highway
Looking up the Klondike River from the same spot.

The Klondike River from the Top of the World Highway
Halfway back down the highway to the campground, I pulled over and walked a block or so to a spot where some of the boats at the Sternwheeler Graveyard can be seen.

A fuel tanker from Fairbanks went by as I was shooting the sternwheelers, so I went down to the ferry landing to watch him load. It just barely fits, and no other vehicles are allowed on the ferry with him.

A fuel tanker driving onto the Yukon River ferry at Dawson
Late that evening, I decided to walk down the bank of the Yukon River to the Sternwheeler Graveyard, to get a plan for flying the drone there on Saturday morning. Along the way, somebody had created a “YUKON” title for their photo album.

Rocks spelling 'YUKON' along the Yukon River
Looking from the stern of 3 of the sternwheelers, back up the river to Dawson.

Sternwheeler Graveyard, Dawson City
The Seattle No. 3. When I first visited the Sternwheeler Graveyard in 1990, you could still go through parts of the boats and some of the wheelhouses still stood – those days are long gone.

Seattle No. 3 at the Sternwheeler Graveyard, Dawson City
On Saturday (September 24th), it was almost noon before the sun hit the sternwheelers so it was worth launching the drone.

Flying a drone at the Sternwheeler Graveyard, Dawson Cit
I’m still getting used to the controls on the drone – a DJI Phantom 3 Professional – but here’s the video I shot. The music I used is “Almost A Year Ago”, by John Deley and the 41 Players.

With that filming feeling good, I packed up, and we were back on the ferry “George Black” just after 1:00 pm. The guy loading vehicles said that they were surprised to see me drive up, that I was probably the last big RV of the year on the Top of the World Highway.

Crossing the Yukon River on the ferry George Black
On the way south, I stopped at the “Welcome to Dawson City” pullout to fly the drone over the gold-dredge tailings. Vast areas of them are being levelled for housing and industrial lots, but I haven’t given up hope that the City will see the light and build a viewing tower with proper interpretation showing how important these piles of gravel are in Dawson City’s history. This drone flight didn’t go well at all. It lost satellite contact, then I had only erratic control of it, and as I got it close to landing, it flew into a tree. It may be damaged – I need to check it out carefully.

A drone view of gold-dredge tailings at Dawson City, Yukon
I had one final stop to make in Dawson, to fuel up at the North 60 commercial cardlock in the Callison industrial area. Just after 2:00 pm, we left Dawson City, probably for the last time until I return with a group in February to watch the Yukon Quest sled dog race.

North 60 commercial cardlock in the Callison Industrial area

With a few more short stops, we were now on our way home. I wanted to get there mid-afternoon on Sunday so could get some cleanup done on the rig and car before meeting Cathy at the airport at at 11:00 pm.

Late-Fall exploring along the Top of the World Highway

Friday, September 23rd, was mostly a day of wandering along the Top of the World Highway back to Dawson City, exploring some side roads along the way.

The world didn’t look the way I had expected it would in the morning. Despite heavy rain, strong, dry winds from the Alaskan interior had dried up everything except a few now-frozen puddles. I started the day off by driving the Tracker back towards Dawson a few k to see what photo ops dawn might present. What a place!

A late Fall dawn along the Top of the World Highway
The land just goes on forever…

A late Fall dawn along the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
I drove back as far as the rest area at Km 86.3 (from Dawson – 18 km from the summit where I camped). The Milepost says that this was a stopping place for the McCormick Transportation Company, which I expect was hauling supplies into the Sixtymile gold district. The colour in this and the next few photos hasn’t been altered – the dawn light up there was absolutely stunning.

Old cabin on the Top of the World Highway
Heading back on the Top of the World Highway to the summit was slow, as there were a lot of photos to shoot πŸ™‚

Fall morning on the Top of the World Highway
Km 96, which is 8 km from the summit.

Fall morning at Km 96 on the Top of the World Highway
Just before Km 100, I encountered by far the largest flock of willow ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus) I’ve ever seen, and they were very vocal. There were about 50 of them on both sides of the road – there are 12 in this photo.

Willow ptarmigan on the Top of the World Highway
They’re beautiful birds, especially in Spring and Fall when they’re changing their plumage.

Willow ptarmigan on the Top of the World Highway
Nearing the summit, a rough mining road led off to the north. A large piece of equipment visible on the ridge caught my interest…

An old mining road on the Top of the World Highway
Now that’s a bloody awesome piece of equipment! A massive self-propelled gold-sluicing machine. I have a vague recollection of seeing a smilar rig somewhere, but can’t imagine where. It could even have been this one, decades ago.

A massive self-propelled gold-sluicing machine off the Top of the World Highway
After checking out the gold machine thoroughly, I had to see more of that road. This country has an amazing network of old mining roads, wandering across the barren ridges and then dropping into valleys of gold.

An old mining road on the Top of the World Highway
This is as far as I went on that road. That’s an all-day exploration ahead, and there are many more just like it.

An old mining road on the Top of the World Highway
Climbing back up the road, I spotted what appeared to be 3 graves high on the slope above! A small brass plate on the one to the left says “‘Bill’ W.E. McMillan, 1923-1987”. A Google search has come up with no information about him. My guess at this point is that the valley below was his mining operation. Are the crosses beside him for his dogs?

Grave of W.E. McMillan above an old mining road on the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
Looking down on the Canada/USA border posts below my camping spot.

Canada/USA border posts on the Top of the World Highway
Time for brunch. “Garcon, a table with a view, please.” Yes, indeed πŸ™‚

Top of the World Highway
Back in 1999 while I was working on the move of the gold dredge that’s now a tourist operation in Skagway, I drove a very rough road up from the dredge site in the Sixtymile district, and ended up where my motorhome was now parked. I decided to have another look along that road before leaving.

An old road from the Top of the World Highway into the Sixtymile gold district
I didn’t get very far down the Sixtymile road. That puddle I’d come through had a bottom of mud that was far too deep to be playing with this late in the season. With my heart in my throat and the transer case in Low Lock, I pounded back through it, and went back to the motorhome.

An old road from the Top of the World Highway into the Sixtymile gold district
Just after 12:30, I had the Tracker hooked up to the motorhome again, had packed everything up, and was headed down to Dawson City.

Leaving the summit of the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
It was a spectacular day to be driving the Top of the World Highway. This was by far the latest I’d been on it.

Late Fall on the Top of the World Highway
By the time I got near Dawson, the Tracker had an impressive load of gravel and mud thrown up from the thawing road by the RV.

Muddy RV toad on the Top of the World Highway
I wasn’t sure where I was going to overnight yet, but decided to drive through the Yukon River Campground, as it had been many years since I’d seen it except in the winter.

Yukon River Campground, Dawson
As soon as I saw this pull-through campsite right on the river, I knew that this was the perfect place to camp.

Yukon River Campground, Dawson

Back in Dawson City with lots more to see during the next 18 hours or so before starting for home!

Forty Mile ghost town and wild weather on the Top of the World Highway

Thursday didn’t go quite as planned, but I finally made it to Forty Mile, and it ended with a truly incredible experience out in the middle of nowhere on the Top of the World Highway. This is another very long post, with 39 photos.

We got off to a fairly early start, and after breakfast and a good walk from our camping spot in downtown Dawson City, were on the ferry across the Yukon River at 09:40, an hour and a half after sunrise. This short crossing is free.

Crossing the Yukon River on the ferry at Dawson
at 10:10, I stopped at the Fortymile rest area, mostly so I could take the drone for a short flight.

Fortymile rest area
A shot from the drone. The video that I also shot needs some editing yet.

Drone view of the Top of the World Highway
Up, up we go – Km 28 from Dawson, at 10:35.

Top of the World Highway, Km 28
The view from near Km 58, just east of the junction of the Top of the World Highway and the Clinton Creek Road (it’s signed as the “Clinton Road”).

Top of the World Highway, Km 58
At 11:55, I was 14.4 km (8.9 mi) down the Clinton Creek Road in the Tracker, in country I’d never been in before and had virtually no information about. It was a safe bet, though, that the motorhome needed to be left up on the Top of the World Highway.

Clinton Creek Road
Ten minutes past noon, at km 23.9 (mile 14.9), the abandoned Clinton Creek asbestos mine came into sight (the whitish spot at the far right). Owned by the Cassiar Asbestos Corporation, it operated from 1967 until 1978. There aren’t actually any mileposts along the Clinton Road, I kept track of the mileages.

Clinton Creek Road, Yukon
At Km 33.3, an informal sign notes the side road to the Forty Mile townsite (at least I expected that that’s what “40 Mile Site” meant). The road up to this point had been very good, but neither road from here on was big-rig friendly.

Road to Forty Mile townsite, Yukon
Km 1.6 of the Forty Mile Road. As you can see, the Fortymile district is exceptionally pretty country.

Km 1.6 of the Forty Mile Road, Yukon
At Km 3.5, the Forty Mile Road ends at the Yukon River. There were several pickups parked here, and there’s an outhouse, a garbage bin, and a couple of interpretive signs at the start of an ATV trail that leads to the townsite, which is part of the Forty Mile, Fort Cudahy and Fort Constantine Historic Site, co-managed by the Yukon and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in governments.

At Km 3.5, the Forty Mile Road ends at the Yukon River.
This aerial photo on the sign hints that it’s a fairly short walk to the townsite (it tured out to be about 15 minutes). I started off with the copy of the 32-page brochure I picked up in Dawson, Forty Mile, Chëdë Dëk (pdf, 1.9 MB), in my pocket (Chëdë Dëk – “river of leaves – is the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in name for the Fortymile River).

Aerial photo of the Forty Mile townsite area
It’s funny to see logs as the approaches to this substantial bridge on the trail – I guess no gravel/dirt was available. A fellow on an ATV stopped here to warn me that my dogs weren’t safe ahead, because a guy building a cabin at Forty Mile had two dogs that are large, aggressive, and loose. I stopped and stewed about that for a while, but decided to continue on.

Bridge on the trail to the Forty Mile townsite
This grave beside the trail isn’t mentioned in the brochure. The cemetery shown in the brochure is far from here, with no direct trail from this point.

Grave at the Forty Mile townsite, Yukon

When I saw a pair of new log cabins being built, I picked Tucker up and carried him, and shortened Bella’s leash, but no dogs came out.

The first of the 12 buildings left in Forty Mile is St. James Anglican church. It was built of round logs in 1895 by Rev. Richard J. Bowen. Some of the logs may have come from the original 1887 Buxton mission. The church was officially closed in 1935, but in the 1970s residents of Clinton Creek used it for occasional weddings, and some restoration work was done during those years.

St. James Anglican church, Forty Mile, Yukon
In 1889, government surveyor William Ogilvie was in Forty Mile, and described it as a rough jumble of buildings taking up an area of about 60 acres. This photo, shot from the opposite side of the Fortymile River, was shot in 1901.

Forty Mile, Yukon, in 1901
Interpretive signage at the site is very good.

 at Forty Mile, Yukon
The size of the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) post was surprising. It was built in 1901, 3 years before the force became the Royal Northwest Mounted Police (RNWMP), but the brochure and signs use that latter name.

Royal Northwest Mounted Police (RNWMP) post at Forty Mile, Yukon
The townsite, much of which is on a bench above the Yukon and Fortymile Rivers, is lovely, and the weather was perfect, with the temperature probably hitting about 15°C (59°F). This is the telegraph station. Built in around 1893, it also served as the post office, and the RCMP post when Corporal Claude Tidd was stationed here in 1939.

Telegraph station at Forty Mile, Yukon
This monument commemorates the found of the Yukon Order of Pioneers (YOOP) at Forty Mile in 1894. The stated purposes of the benevolent organization were “the advancement of the great Yukon Valley, the mutual protection and benefit of its members, to unite members by the strong ties of brotherhood and to prove to the outside world that the Yukon Order of Pioneers are men of truth, honour and integrity.” Initially members were required to have come into the country before 1888. Still in existence, YOOP now requires members to have lived “within the watershed of the Yukon River, and/or the Territorial Boundaries of the Yukon Territory” for at least 20 years.

YOOP monument at Forty Mile, Yukon
The Fortymile River is on the left, the Yukon River on the right, flowing into the distance. This view is from in front of Swanson’s Store.

The Fortymile River and Yukon River at Forty Mile, Yukon
Wallpaper on the walls of the Alaska Commercial Company (the AC Co) warehouse. It was built between 1895 and 1901, and because it needed to be built close to the Fortymile River for business reasons, has been damaged and even moved by floods at least twice.

Alaska Commercial Company (the AC Co) warehouse at Forty Mile, Yukon
Many of the visitors to Forty Mile arrive by canoe, and the small campground for them at the north end of the site is very nice, with fire pits, picnic tables, and outhouses.

Campground at Forty Mile, Yukon
One of the early residents. Jack McQuesten, tried to plough his 4-acre potato and turnip farm using two young moose. The plan wasn’t successful πŸ™‚

Young moose at Forty Mile, Yukon

I only spent about an hour at Forty Mile, but it could easily have been much longer. On the way back to the car, we did get hassled by the cabin-builder’s dogs. I was carrying Tucker again, but they appeared suddenly and scared Bella. Yelling and kicking at the damn things only resulted in a half-hearted call by the owner – one left, but the other followed us at a distance for a long time. If I would have brought my bear spray, I probably would have used it on them. Asshole…

Anyway, it was mostly a very good visit, and I’m very pleased that I finally got there. At 1:50, we were almost back to the Clinton Road.

The Forty Mile Road
Heading north on the Clinton Road, this one-lane bridge crosses the Fortymile River just a couple of hundred meters/yards from the Forty Mile Road junction.

Fortymile River bridge on the Clinton Road
After the bridge, the road narrows substantially, and it becomes hard to imagine that it once served a substantial mine and community. I even wondered if I had somehow missed the road to Clinton Creek.

The road to Clinton Creek, Yukon
I was extremely surprised to come to an active mining area blocking the road as I neared Clinton Creek. This is 8.1 km from the south end of the Fortymile River bridge. I haven’t found out yet who is doing what (Midnight Sun Drilling from Whitehorse is doing the work), but that’s as close to the old mine as I could get.

Mining at Clinton Creek, Yukon
Seen from the effective end of the road, an old adit from the asbestos-mining days can be seen at the upper left.

Mining at Clinton Creek, Yukon
Clinton Creek, back down the road.

Clinton Creek, Yukon
Even if the active mining hadn’t stopped me, this very recent large slide clearly would have if the miners hadn’t re-opened the road.

A slide on the Clinton Creek Road, Yukon
Back at the motorhome at 3:20 pm, it was time to chill and then have a nap before driving another 45 km (28 mi) up the Top of the World Highway to the summit to camp for the night.

As I drove to the summit at 6:30, the weather turned quite nasty, with an icy rain driven by high winds. I thought a few times about cancelling my high-country camp, and developed a Plan B, and then Plans C and D, in my head. Plan D, for very heavy overnight snow, involved winterizing the motorhome and abandoning it until Spring, escaping with whatever we could carry in the Tracker. The Adventures of late-Fall travel in the North! πŸ™‚

I was very surprised to meet another Class A motorhome – at least he was going in a more sensible direction (down!).

Rainy Fall day on the Top of the World Highway
At 6:45, we reached the summit and were soon set up, with wind shaking the rig and whistling through any openings, and with storm after storm passing by and over us. Wild!

Fall rainstorm at the summit of the Top of the World Highway, Yukon

We had dinner, went for a short walk in the rain and wind, then as I was reading at 7:50 pm, the sky started to change to the west. With some clearing that way, a good sunset could be coming. That turned out to be an understatement.

I started taking photos, and the sky to the west kept getting more and more dramatic. The extreme contrasts in light got me to start shooting bursts for later HDR image processing. This HDRI was created from a series I shot at 7:55.

Fall sunset at the summit of the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
Changes in the sky were rapid, and I was shooting almost constantly – this is from a series shot at 7:57. At the extreme right of the photo, the Canada/USA border posts of Little Gold Creek, Yukon, and Poker Creek, Alaska, can be seen. They were set to close for the season 3 days later, on September 25th.

Fall sunset at the summit of the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
I very seldom ever create extreme HDR images, but really like this one from a series shot at 7:59.

At 8:03, I turned around to see if anything else was going on, and OMG, there was a double rainbow!

Fall rainbow at the summit of the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
The Top of the World Highway is an incredible place, and the summit is especially so. As I write this days later, I’m still quite blown away by the experience of this evening. This photo was shot at 8:07.

RV and a Fall rainbow at the summit of the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
Looking back down the Top of the World Highway at 8:10.

Fall rainbow at the summit of the Top of the World Highway, Yukon
By 8:19, when the series that I created the next HDR from was shot, the show was almost over, though I got a few more shots I like.

Fall sunset at the summit of the Top of the World Highway, Yukon

The wild weather continued through the night, with the motorhome rocking and rolling and whistling. In the morning, it was very cold – everything was frozen, but there was no snow. Life was good. Very, very good! We’d do a bit of exploring up top with the Tracker, then drive 104 km (65 mi) back to Dawson.