Our second night boondocking in the White Pass with the RV was once again warm and silent, and I kept the bedroom windows open to enjoy both.
The dogs got their first walk just before 06:00 on Sunday, and the light was beautiful. It looked like it was going to be a perfect day for the long hike I had planned. Another motorhome, with BC plates, had arrived just after we got back from yesterday’s hike.
I’ve always enjoyed mountain silhouettes fading off into the distance, and a light haze from forest fires in Alaska was giving me many opportunities to photograph them. I’ve shot this scene countless times over the years, but I sure like shooting it from the window beside my breakfast table 🙂
I was going to leave Monty and Bella in the rig while Greg and I hiked to the Inspiration Point Mine, which is far too tough for Monty, and too dangerous for Bella, but at the last minute decided to take them up the International Border Falls (or Boundary Falls) trail a ways to start their day off well. The trail starts at a large pullout just a few hundred yards south from our camping spot, and a couple of vehicles there indicated that some people had camped up the trail overnight. A few minutes before 09:00, with the temperature already over 20°C (68°F), we headed out.
2018 edit: hikers seem to agree that this trail is now called the International Falls trail.
The trail, which is unofficial but well used (at least on weekends), starts with a very steep descent from the highway into this valley, and then a creek crossing. Bella had a problem getting across the creek, which has large rocks on the bottom and was deep enough to almost force her to swim. As soon as she started to have a real problem, Greg immediately reached down and supported her just a bit to get her across. I was extremely happy that Greg was there – that sort of thing is huge in building a confident trail dog.
This is one of my favourite trails anywhere. It’s easy, has great variety, and I love waterfalls!
This is the highest waterfall on the trail – perhaps 50 feet high. A few minutes later, we met the group that had camped up the trail and were heading out, 4 women from Whitehorse.
This trail is tough to turn back on, as it just keeps getting better and better. Although Monty wasn’t showing any sign of tiring yet, I decided that this view would be our highest point, and at 10:20, we started back towards the car.
I shot this video at our highest point on the trail and at the highest waterfall.
It turned out that I had misjudged Monty’s ability. He had a bit of a problem getting up the very steep climb back to the highway, but I was right behind him to give him the little boost he needed. Back at the rig, though, I had to give him a lot of help to get up the RV stairs. I felt awful – I need to get it firmly into my head that superdog of a few weeks ago is gone.
During this morning, though, there had been a distinct change in Bella. She really came into her own, taking the lead and making very good trail choices even when faced with options that took a lot of thought. I was extremely pleased to see that.
I put Monty to bed, we had lunch, and just before noon, Greg and I drove a couple of miles south to the access point for the route to the historic Inspiration Point Mine.
As we neared the summit, a hoary marmot (Marmota caligata) ran across the road! I love marmots, but hadn’t seen one in years. A good omen for the day.
Ten minutes after we had left the motorhome, we were heading up Mine Mountain, climbing a rock cut off the highway and then following a tiny creek. There is no hint that anyone has ever been here before, and it may be a route that only I use. I really like that feeling.
Wild flowers were blooming everywhere there was soil among the granite. The carpet of blooming white heather went on mile after mile, but many other species were showing their best, too, including the lovely but poisonous Northern monkshood (Aconitum delphinifolium DC).
One of the largest of the lakes on the route is in a bowl deep enough to keep snow through much of the summer. Perhaps 200 feet across and up to 20 feet deep, it was a bit too cold for a dip 🙂
We stayed below the microwave tower, going around that summit.
That’s the kind of welcoming committee I like to see! Mine Mountain is the best place to get close to mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) that I’ve ever seen. If they see you coming they’ll move off, but with the complex terrain, it’s common to just suddenly come upon them as happened here. As you can see, they weren’t alarmed, just cautious – it’s possible that they’d never seen a person before.
In the maze of fractures around the summit, I actually made a wrong choice as the final turn to go down to the mine, and instead ended up on a spectacular heather-carpeted ledge with several mountain goats resting on ledges south of us. Disappointed? Not by a long shot! Greg couldn’t believe that I’d packed a couple of still-cold beer up in my pack. What better way to celebrate reaching a spot like this than with an Ice Fog IPA from my friends at Yukon Brewing?
We spent a good hour or so on that ledge, enjoying the warm sun, watching the mountain goats beside us, and the White Pass & Yukon Route trains far below. This train, going uphill on a Summit excursion, has just passed the abandoned cantilever bridge which was the tallest of its kind in the world when it was built in 1901.
Wow, a golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)! I wish that I’d seen him coming – I was just able to grab a couple of shots as he went by. I see bald eagles all the time, but a good sighting of a golden is a special event.
We finally left the ledge at about 4:00 when a cold wind from the south got too strong. I found the right route to the mine, wanting to know where I’d made the error for future reference, then we started back down towards the highway.
We were both tired when we got back to the RV a couple of hours later. The kids had had a lazy day and just woke up when we arrived. After a short walk with them, I heated up some burgers that I’d pre-made, and we had a bit of time to just soak up more of the amazing vista in front of us before I had to take Greg back to the Skagway airport for his 10-minute flight back to Haines.
I was in bed early Sunday night, and up early Monday morning. This was shot at 04:26, 31 minutes before sunrise, as I was walking the kids.
By 05:20, the world was really lighting up! The photo hasn’t been modified in any way – this is what it looked like.
We had a lazy morning, and about 09:30, drove back to Fraser to launch the canoe on Bernard Lake. The American kayak tour company seems to think that they have some special rights to the boat launch, and a Customs officer came over and gave me grief about some micro-regulation (that if it actually exists, is bloody nonsense), but I soon had the kids out on the peaceful lake.
While Monty is an old hand at canoeing, this was Bella’s first experience. After they were in, I walked the canoe along the shore for a few minutes to get her used to the feeling, then stayed still once I got into the boat. Monty is very much Bella’s support in situations she’s not comfortable with, and she cuddled up to him for a few minutes. As you can see, though, it did’t take long for her to see that this could be fun.
I’d never had the canoe on Bernard, so this was the first time I’d seen the mouth of the Thompson River. I was hoping for a sandy beach there to land on, but no such luck. The little Thompson River railway bridge a few hundred yards upstream is one of my favourite places to shoot trains from the highway.
The end of the lake wasn’t much more inviting for a play-day than the river mouth had been, and there’s no useful passage to Summit Lake, which is actually where I wanted to be. The sun was hot, though, and I didn’t want to over-do Bella’s first ride, so I started slowly back to Fraser just before 11:00.
This is the photo that best sums up our Bernard lake experience – 2 very happy pups on a calm, stunningly-beautiful lake 🙂
Nearing Fraser, we met a kayak tour group.
And that was the end of our fabulous White Pass RV adventure – it certainly won’t be the last. We were home by about 2:30, planning to head west on the Alaska Highway to Kluane Lake on Thursday after a short spell of wet weather passes.