I have no shortage of winter projects

Being retired is wonderful. I work as hard as I ever did, but I only take on winter projects that I enjoy. Well, mostly. Toilets and woodstoves still need cleaning πŸ™‚

I’ve just taken on a big new project that you’re going to want to see photos of. Before that starts this afternoon, though, I want to show you what’s been going on the past couple of days.

My project to get my collection digitized will be continuing for years. One of the boxes on the floor behind my desk is full of documents that have been organized and are ready to scan. The other is documents that have been scanned, and are of high enough quality that they’re going back on eBay (where pretty much all of them came from).

Getting documents ready for scanning
The breakfast table right now is my sorting table. The vast majority of that material will be scanned and then will go in the recycling bin. I’ll tell you about the manual in the front in a minute…

Sorting documents for scanning
This is my work station, where I spend several hours every day this time of year. The scanner, an Epson V370 Photo, is getting a lot of use, but will be getting upgraded in the not-too-distant future, as I now need one that can handle large negatives. The big SAD light is on for 20 minutes a day now. With clear skies getting to be more and more rare as the climate changes, dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder becomes more and more important to me. That means vitamins and the light, and getting out as much as is reasonable.

SAD light in my office
The other big project involves driving into Whitehorse. While I was in my comfortable car yesterday, these guys were hard at work at the entrance to my subdivision, making sure that my communications work. Brrr!

NorthwesTel workers up a pole near Whitehorse
It’s been staying fairly mild still, but there are some days like yesterday when the Alaska Highway is just ugly.

A snowy Alaska Highway near Whitehorse
The project lives here, at the Yukon Transportation Museum. Luckily, it lives inside.

Yukon Transportation Museum
This early-1950s Austin A-40 pickup is my project. I’ve offered to finish the restoration of it, to be ready for the Canada Day 2017 parade.

Early-1950s Austin A-40 pickup
It’s a pretty cool little rig. It’s solid, but has been banged around a lot. The mechanical work has been mostly done, but the electrical and body work need a lot of hours.

Early-1950s Austin A-40 pickup
It’s not going to be a show car, and for financial reasons, the interior may not see much more than a cleanup.

Early-1950s Austin A-40 pickup
What a cute little motor! I’m hoping that there’s nothing to do with it other than fix a bad leak from the oil filter that was reported.

Early-1950s Austin A-40 pickup
In the back room, there’s an Austin A-40 panel body as well as spare body and mechanical parts for A-40s.

Early-1950s Austin A-40 panel body
The truck has been on display at the museum, in a partly-restored state. This sign was part of that display. In the 1950s, you could buy a long list of vehicles in Whitehorse, including Ford, Monarch, Chevrolet, GM, International, Chrysler, Renault, Morris, and Austin. The Austin dealership, Tourist Services, was a real “Yukon” business, offering not only cars but a service station, a grocery and meat store, a restaurant, a campground and even a cocktail lounge!

Austin A-40 sign at the Yukon Transportation Museum
An Austin arriving at Skagway in the early 1950s, bound for the Whitehorse dealership.

An Austin arriving at Skagway in the early 1950s

Yesterday was my first long visit with the Austin. I wanted to pick up the manual, and have a thorough look at it so I can develop a work plan for it.

On the way home, I made a quick stop to pick up my mail, and was soon poring through the Austin manual.

I was going to be back to the museum this morning to start work on the Austin, but a call came in yesterday that takes priority for a coupleΒ of days. I’ll let you know about the new addition to my list of winter projects tomorrow, and you’re going to want to see the photos! πŸ™‚

It’s not a Dark Sky Park, it’s just the Yukon

Around the world, light pollution is a concern for many people. For some, it’s an aesthetic issue. Many people today will never see a dark sky, so will never see incredible sights like the Milky Way.

For others, health is the main issue. Artificial light at night can disrupt our circadian rhythm, and the International Dark Sky Association says that “research suggests that artificial light at night can negatively affect human health, increasing risks for obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes, breast cancer and more.” Plants and animals can suffer from similar disorders because of the light that humans have injected into their world. See “5 Species Threatened by Light Pollution” for more information about sea turtles, fireflies, Atlantic salmon, tree frogs, and Monarch butterflies.

Energy Waste

There are also huge energy issues with artificial lighting:

There are huge energy issues with artificial lighting
“Losing the Dark” is a 6½-minute film produced by the International Dark Sky Association. The intro to it summarizes the concerns: “Starry skies are a vanishing treasure because light pollution is washing away our view of the cosmos. It not only threatens astronomy, it disrupts wildlife, and affects human health. The yellow glows over cities and towns β€” seen so clearly from space β€” are testament to the billions spent in wasted energy from lighting up the sky.”

Dark Sky Tourism

It’s hard for those of us who live in places with relatively little artificial light to believe, but Dark Sky tourism is an actual thing. The International Dark Sky Places Program currently lists 69 locations – parks, sanctuaries, reserves, and communities – that have been accepted. There are, of course, lots of places with dark skies around the world that aren’t part of the official program. Those include the territories of northern Canadian, and Alaska.

Dark Sky tourism
As amazing as the Milky Way and even a starry sky in general are, during the winter, many of us in the North want to see more than stars. For anyone wanting to see the aurora borealis – the “Northern Lights” – getting away from any other light sources is really important. Without a dark sky, the colours just aren’t as bright as they could be. Avoiding the full moon is one of the considerations, but getting away from town is huge. A strong aurora display can overpower even some city lights or a full moon, but a lesser display gets washed out.

Aurora borealis south of Whitehorse, Yukon
Although artificial lights of any kind wash out the aurora, I sometimes go looking for traffic, as I did this night up at the Yukon River Bridge on the Alaska Highway. The orange light to the right, however, is the lights of Whitehorse, which is about 25 kilometers (15 miles) away from this spot.

Aurora borealis over the Alaska Highway at the Yukon River

Dark Skies in the Yukon

Driving through or flying over the Yukon, dark skies are the the norm. The Yukon has relatively little artificial outdoor lighting, simply by virtue of there being relatively few people. As of June 30, 2016, there were 37,858 people, of which 29,258 lived in Whitehorse. Most of our communities have street lights.

Lighting up our communities is something that we just do. This is Whitehorse in the photo below. Most people probably think that the lights are installed to keep us safer, but do they? The International Dark Sky Association says that “there is no clear scientific evidence that increased outdoor lighting deters crimes. It may make us feel safer, but has not been shown to make us safer.” A 2015 study in the UK found that streetlights don’t prevent accidents or crime despite the high cost. Researchers looked at data on road traffic collisions and crime in 62 jurisdictions, and found that lighting had no effect, whether the lights were turned off completely, turned off at certain hours, dimmed, or replaced with low-power LED lamps.

Whitehorse, Yukon, on a winter night

In Whitehorse, the increase in city lighting has been dramatic in recent years. Some residents, including me, think that the lighting has reached an absurd level. We have kilometers of streets and highway lit in the middle of nowhere, for no reason. When I drove taxi 25 years ago, we had some winter business taking people to Mountainview Drive, 3-4 miles from the downtown hotels, and sitting by the side of the road watching the aurora. Mountainview and all the roads for miles beyond are all too well lit to allow that now.

At the junction of the Alaska Highway and the road into the Country Residential subdivision I live in, their are 8 sodium-vapor street lights removing the darkness from a long stretch of the highway. Then there’s one more lighting the corner where the street that I live on meets the main road. Then we’d have a dark sky except for the huge sodium-vapor “security light” on one of my neighbour’s property.

The bill for outdoor lighting varies dramatically through the year in the Yukon. With nearly 24 hours of light in mid-summer, lights aren’t on for very long each day. This time of year, on a cloudy day, they can be on for 20 hours or more.

Christmas Lighting

For the first time since 2009, I’m adding to the light pollution in my neighbourhood. I have the lights and inflatable bear on a timer so they’re on from 5-10 pm, but turned them on this morning to take this photo. Putting up lights to make people happy makes Christmas somewhat of a different situation.

My outside Christmas lights

Dark Sky Friendly Lighting

Obviously not all outdoor lighting is bad. Some of the dark sky will be destroyed, but there are ways to mitigate that. The graphic below shows some of the basics, and you can read more about minimizing light pollution and finding dark sky friendly lighting fixtures here.

How to help preserve dark sky

What does the night sky look like where you live?

A quick barely-Winter trip to Skagway

I had to go to Skagway on Thursday (November 10th), and once I was on the road it felt like a very long time since I’d been there. Although I’d spent several days hiking in the White Pass this past summer, I don’t seem to have made it right to the coast since taking the bike down in late August.

On the way down, I was watching for a long string of old WP&YR railcars that have been stored at Carcross for many years, having heard that they were being moved to Skagway. They were at Fraser according to the last report I heard, but the lines were empty there.

The weather has been very mild lately, and there’s also very little snow. It was +6°C (43°F) when I left Whitehorse at about 09:00, and stayed close to that right to the White Pass summit where it had dropped to +1/34 and was snowing lightly.

White Pass summit in mid-November
I made the stop at the Skagway post office that was the reason for my trip, then went on a search for the railcars. I found them at the Railroad Dock. The temperature was back up to 6/43, but it was i>very dark, and raining heavily, so I didn’t get all the photos or even the list of the cars that I was hoping for.

Derelict rail cars at the Railroad Dock in Skagway
Most of the cars are tankers that haven’t been used in many years, but there are also some small flatcars and ballast cars. I expect that they’re going to be broken up for the usable parts – in particular the trucks (the axle/wheel assemblies), as narrow-gauge trucks are nearly impossible to find anymore.

Derelict rail cars at the Railroad Dock in Skagway
A quick stop at the White Pass Shops on the way out of town at 11:20. On May 2, 2017, the first of these locomotives will start taking people up to the summit again.

Locomotives at the White Pass Shops in Skagway
Mixed rain and snow at Mile 14 of the South Klondike Highway, with small avalanches coming down the cliffs. Yuch!

Mixed rain and snow at Mile 14 of the South Klondike Highway
At the 3,292-foot summit, Mile 14.4, the snow was starting to stick and the temperature was -1C, but the road was soon wet again.

Snow at the summit of the South Klondike Highway
Dail Peak, near the BC/Yukon border, was the best place to take a shot to show you how little snow there is yet.

Time to get this posted and get outside. There’s some cold weather coming in a few days (highs around -15C/+5F), and I want to get Christmas lights up on the house, as my daughter is coming for a visit over the holidays πŸ™‚

It’s Office-Work Time: Writing and RV Trip-Planning

Despite what you may think from the inactivity on the blog since I got home from Alberta with Cathy’s new Jeep (which she loves!), I’ve been very busy in the office, though trip planning for next summer is keeping my mind on the road as well. I also spent quite a few hours working on the Yukon election that was held on February 7th and resulted in a dramatic change in government for the territory. Although the candidate I worked for didn’t win in my riding, the party now has a strong majority.

What follows is a list of some of the projects I’ve been working on, researching and writing articles, and starting to plan for next summer’s major (ca. 8-week) RV trip, which will go as far as Vancouver Island.

A few days ago, I got invited to share “Unknown Tourism” with you – it honours some of the animals we’ve lost and are in danger of forgetting, using a set of 6 travel posters that were inspired by those created in the 1930s. Click on the poster below to read it.

Unknown Tourism: Alaska - Go Glacial with the Steller's Sea Cow
I’m back into cleaning up and clearing out my files, and among the pieces I came across were two slim volumes of poetry by Thomas Brooks, who spent 40-odd years in Carcross prior to his death in February 1964. My article on him begins: “Only fragments of the story of Thomas “Tommy” Brooks’ life have been found so far, and much of the information about him that has been published over the years has been found to be inaccurate.” Click on the cover image to read more, including all of his published work.

Thomas Brooks, Ballads of the Northwest
Triggered by receiving 2 bound volumes of The Coachways Thunderbird, “a magazine for and by employees of the Coachways System”, I’ve created a new section at ExploreNorth for bus and motorcoach stories going back, at this point, to the first buses running the Alaska Highway. Again, click on the screenshot below to go to that new section.

Bus & Motorcoach History: Yukon & Northern British Columbia
And finally, I’ve started organizing another 8-week RV trip to start the next season off. This will be almost entirely a BC trip, with Vancouver Island being the main destination. I have a lot of family on the Island, and am planning on 3-4 weeks there. I also, though, want to spend several days each in Tumbler Ridge and Bella Coola, and I’ll be exploring along the Stewart-Cassiar Highway for a week or so. The rest of the summer will be spent in the Yukon primarily, though Alaska, the Northwest Territories, and the Muncho/Summit Lakes section of the Alaska Highway in BC will probably get time as well.

2017 BC/Yukon RV Trip Map

Time to get this posted and get ready to go to Skagway for the first time in a long while!

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.