As the shortest day of the year approaches, I’m having a bit of trouble with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I have a therapy light that helps, but hitting the road is what makes my days good. Yesterday, I decided on the spur of the moment to go on an elk hunt (with my cameras), west on the Alaska Highway.
At 9:45, 19 minutes before sunrise, I was heading up our street with the temperature sitting at -13°C (+8°F). It was a dreary morning, but the weather forecast called for some sun at Haines Junction, which I was heading towards.
The landscape in this direction is very different than it is to the south, the direction I normally show you on the blog. Here we have a broad, dry, glacier-carved valley, much of which was burned in a forest fire over 50 years ago and has never re-grown. The Takhini River flows through about the first 40 miles of it.
Some of the dozen or so wild horses that live in the area east of Annie Ned Creek. Wild horses are generally left alone, but this past Spring, 5 horses from further up the highway were captured when they became a danger on the road. All 5 were found to be infected with Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), an incurable infectious disease, and were shot.
Going back 20-odd years, I used to see bison along the highway often. Their population boomed, though, and they became a danger on the highway (I had one memorable close call myself while driving a motorcoach in about 1992), so many were rounded up – some relocated far from the highway, some given to a family to start a bison ranch. This time last year, though, the LaPrairie Bison Ranch shipped all of its bison to Saskatchewan, and ceased operations. Bison can now be hunted by permit, and although the population is growing, they’re rarely seen.
Decisions, decisions. I thought about going down the more dramatic and little-used Kusawa Lake Road, but decided to wait for better weather for that one.
Our first elk (Cervus Elaphus), a herd of about 30 animals, at 10:52, at about Km 1495 near the Mendenhall Subdivision. This is the northern limit of elk range, and although elk do occasionally migrate up from British Columbia, the vast majority of our 300-odd animals in the Yukon are descendants of elk that were imported starting in the 1940s.
Interesting to see 3 bulls together.
Kayla in particular gets very excited when certain wildlife is spotted, and elk are one of the best triggers! 🙂
We saw another large group of elk, then took the side road to the village of Champagne, which offers some good photography subjects in any season. This used to be the Alaska Highway, but a bypass was built a few years ago.
Canyon Creek (a.k.a. the Aishihik River) was the first place where the dogs got to get out for a walk.
The old bridge as seen from the new bridge that takes the Alaska Highway cross the creek/river.
As we neared Haines Junction, the weather got worse instead of better, but the destination and weather are much less important than who you’re travelling with 🙂
It began snowing fairly hard as we entered Haines Junction, but I decided to give it another few minutes before turning around.
The charming little Our Lady of the Way Catholic Church was built in 1954 by Father Morriset, who converted a US Army quonset hut.
At 12:40, a couple of miles west of Haines Junction, I gave up and turned around. Otter Falls Cutoff is my favourite place out this way for lunch – always good food at good prices in a spotlessly-clean building.
This is the second group of elk we saw on the way out – they hadn’t moved.
Monty was greedy with the open window, but you can hear Kayla screaming inside 🙂
One more stop to get a photo of one of the best driveway-markers along the highway. We were home by about 3:30, 10 minutes before sunset.