BC RVing: White Pass, BC/Alaska border

Cathy is in Ontario visiting her family for a couple of weeks, and I’m going to be on the road in the RV for much of that time. I’d thought about a few destinations, but my head just isn’t into anything lengthy or complicated right now, so I decided that for the first 3 or 4 days, I’d just take the kids down the South Klondike Highway to the White Pass and “boondock” by the side of the road (there are no campgrounds). After that, maybe west to Kluane Lake, but I’d decide when I was finished with the pass.

The weather in Whitehorse was quite awful on Friday, with a heavy cold rain falling for much of the day. I had initially planned on being on the road noonish, but there didn’t seem to be any point. We finally got away at about 5:30 pm.

Southbound traffic was quite heavy, with Yukoners in all manner of vehicle heading for the July 4th celebrations in Skagway the next day. I don’t think I’ve ever been to one, but a lot of people say that it’s great fun.

The rain had stopped by the time we reached the pass, so the dogs and I went for a long walk across the granite near Fraser, and were set up in a large rest area a kilometer north of the BC/Alaska border by 7:40.

Saturday began with a fairly thick fog, as had been forecast. The border station at Skagway is closed from midnight until 07:00, so there had been no traffic all night, but soon after the border opened, the parade of party-bound Yukoners began again.

A foggy morning in the White Pass on the BC/Alaska border

I didn’t have any firm plans for this trip – it was going to be mostly doing whatever came to mind. I drove the 11 km (7 miles) back to Fraser first, with the idea of launching the canoe either at the boat launch there on Bernard Lake, or on Summit Lake which requires a portage of a couple of hundred feet from the highway shoulder.

I decided to go and play with the dogs on the large beach at Summit Creek instead, but on the way back stopped for a few minutes at this little creek beside the highway. I actually did a U-turn and went back to it after seeing the amount of wild flowers along it.

The wild flowers are at their peak right now, and the recent rains have made this an especially good year for them.

Wild flowers in northern BC
The first-ever painted graffiti has appeared in the White Pass over the past few days, at the large Summit Creek parking area. I posted this and a couple of other photos on Facebook and Twitter, with a comment that Olivia, Curtis and Marcus are a special kind of stupid. Within a couple of hours, I’d gotten a private message on Facebook from Olivia’s mother, who was offended that I called her 10-year-old daughter stupid. Her, and I assume the other 2, were on some sort of summer school outing (with chaperones and armed with cans of paint). I’m not done with them yet…

Graffiti in the White Pass, BC

Graffiti update: the story about the graffiti above was picked up by CBC Yukon, prompted a wonderful cartoon by Wyatt in the Yukon News, and generated a great deal of controversy, with a large number of emails and Facebook messages sent my way, many of them nasty. A couple of weeks after I met with a couple of people who work with Yukon Justice in restorative justice, however, the graffiti disappeared. I don’t know for sure who did the cleanup, but it took a great deal of work.

On to more fun things, though. Summit Creek empties into Summit Lake about half-way up the lake, and creates a large fine-sand beach that almost crosses the lake. It’s only stopped by what was at one time a granite island that allows the lake a narrow channel to flow through. There’s no trail to the beach, you have to pick your way through the granite.

Fine sand beach on Summit Lake, BC
I don’t think I’ve ever had such a “joyous celebration of life” dog as Bella. She’s always laughing, always playing, even when she’s by herself, and she loves beaches!

Puppy playing on the beach at Summit Lake, BC
A short video of the dogs playing.

The view south from the top of the granite that blocks the end of the beach.

Summit Lake, BC
After checking out the granite block’s nooks and crannies, it was back to the beach for more exploring. Whenever Monty stops to check anything out, Bella has to know what he found 🙂

Huskies playing on a beach in northern BC
Just after noon, Bella was pooped! It was time to get back to the RV for lunch anyway.

Tired hiking puppy
I had arranged to meet a friend from Haines at the Skagway fast-ferry dock at 3:00 so we could spend some time hiking over the weekend. I sure hadn’t expected a lineup like this at the border! I made it on time, though.

Lineup at the Skagway border crossing
In the summer, losing daylight isn’t much of a consideration for planning hikes, so I suggested that we follow the BC/Alaska border east from the highway summit that afternoon, hopefully to find a border monument that I’d read about. The monument right above the highway is fairly obvious if you look for it.

Canada/USA border monument above the South Klondike Highway north of Skagway, Alaska
Looking down past the “Welcome to Alaska” sign towards Skagway. There are no trails across this unnamed mountain, you just find your own way. This is the way I prefer to hike, as the odds of meeting anyone else are pretty much zero, and that odd preference is what prompted Greg to join me, to see what it’s like.

To say that this country is stunning is an understatement. The broad views are obvious, but it’s really the details of the granite, the water, and the flowers that make it so special.

If not for a chilling breeze, I think we both would have gone for a dip in this wonderful pool. Although they’re not obvious in this photo, there are even steps down into the pool in the foreground. Did the Mayans make it up here? 😀

Pool in the high alpine of northern BC
Looking closely is needed to see some of the flowers.

Tiny flowers
We found it! This is the view to the north, with the South Klondike Highway to the left and Summit Lake above me and the dogs. It was great being able to ask Greg to take photos rather than set up the tripod, which I had brought out of habit.

Canada / USA border monument high above the White Pass
Birds are not seen very often in the White Pass, and especially at even higher altitudes. Seeing this American pipit (Anthus rubescens) was exciting, as it’s a new bird to me (Greg identified him in my Sibley guide back at the RV). He was at the border monument – it’s not a good photo but he didn’t get close and was moving fast.

American pipit (Anthus rubescens)
Here’s an unusual sighting – Arctic lupine (Lupinus arcticus Wats) on the left and Nootka lupine (Lupinus nootkatensis Donn) on the right. The leaves are slightly different in shape, but the main identifier is the hairy leaves (on both sides) on the latter.

Arctic lupine and Nootka lupine in the White Pass of northern BC
Route-finding can be a bit challenging up here, but that’s part of the fun of it.

Tough route finding high above the White Pass
Monty in his glory. It’s time to tell you about him, and why you may see a different tone here every now and then. At 13 years old, Monty is very sick, and is failing quite quickly. He has inoperable nasal cancer, and as we headed out on this trip, I stopped to see our vet – her best guess is that he only has 5-6 months to live. So, to keep a long complicated story very short, my goal is to make every day his best day. Positive energy is hugely important to him, and I try very hard to not have any more bad days.

My husky Monty on the BC/Alaska border

We got back to the motorhome at about 7:30, and had a very pleasant evening, though a short one. We were all tired and went to bed early, with big plans for a Sunday hike or 2.


BC RVing: White Pass, BC/Alaska border — 9 Comments

  1. Murray – the absolute highs and lows I experienced in your post…

    I feel like I know you guys (you two and the furry kids) from all the posts I have enjoyed the past few years…I feel your angst about Monty…your love and energy for him has always come out in your writings. Blessed is he that has a really cool dad!

  2. Beautiful photos, as always. I am so sorry to hear about Monty. He’s a very lucky dog to have you.

  3. ..and the role of receiving from “mans best friend”, has reversed.

    Whilst I obviously don’t know you or Cathy personally it seems to me being an avid follower of your journeys, Monty is in the very right environment, and with the right people to have this diagnosis. Care will rightly be abundant I have no doubt.

  4. Thanks for sharing that. I just love to read your travel stories. My wife is a planner and I’m more of a person that gets up in the morning and do whatever comes to mind like you did on this trip.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing, I still think it was out of this world in February. Monty and Bella are great enjoy them.

  6. So very sorry to hear about Monty. I’ve also enjoyed his jaunts with you over the years. I also agree with you about Olivia and her friends. The calling card they left makes me sick.

  7. Great blog. Please let us know how Olivia’s mom and the rest try to justify their immense stupidity. I saw another pic of this and we are spreading the word that this type of vandalism is the worst.