A Fall Colours Weekend at Congdon Creek Campground

For our first “no-services” camping weekend with the RV, we chose Congdon Creek Campground on Kluane Lake, and it was perfect, with spectacular scenery and wonderful Fall colours.

I had the rig ready to go when Cathy got home from work Friday night, and stopping for dinner at the Otter Falls Truck Stop instead of cooking at home helped make the getaway quick and stress-free.

As we neared Sheep Mountain at 7:45 pm, I was disappointed to see no Dall sheep on the bare slopes. What a surprise a couple of minutes later to see about 40 of them right beside the highway! I included the bulldozer blade in this photo because it’s one of my favourite artifacts along the highway – it’s only been moved a few feet since it first shows up in a photo dated 1943. The barge dock that it sat beside was destroyed in the last highway re-routing, and I was afraid that it would be trashed then too.
Dall sheep beside the Alaska Highway in the Yukon
That’s a pretty tough trail for a baby! Some of the many lambs were still trying to nurse, but none of the ewes were cooperating.
Dall sheep at Sheep Mountain, Yukon
We reached Congdon Creek Campground (operated by the Yukon Government) a few minutes before 9:00 pm, a half-hour after sunset. All of the 8 waterfront sites were taken, but the 31 forested ones are very nice, too. We were soon set up in site #21 (a very large pull-through site), and had a cozy fire going. The $12 per night camping fee includes unlimited firewood. Congdon Creek was named for Frederick Tennyson Congdon, who was Commissioner of the Yukon in 1903-04.
Evening fire at the Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
The bed is a bit too cozy for the 5 of us, so we made up the couch-bed for Monty and Bella, but no thanks, they liked our bed better. Oh well πŸ™‚
Dogs in bed in the motorhome
The weather forecast was for lots of sunshine for the weekend, but a stiff, cold wind was blowing a lot of cloud around Saturday morning. The first of several long walks was west along the beach – you can walk for miles in either direction. Right beside the campground, we found a large sage-scented meadow that the kids loved!
Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
A gentle head-lock to slow the puppy down for a couple of seconds for a portait in the lovely light.
Cathy and the puppy in the Yukon
Phew – time for a drink in the crystal-clear glacial water.
Kluane Lake, Yukon
We walked up the beach as far as Congdon Creek, which has a broad bed for occasional torrential floods, one of which appeared to have occurred in very recent days.
Congdon Creek, Yukon
Nothing warms my heart more than seeing a smile like that on old Monty’s face. Getting Bella has made a huge difference in his life, and getting out in the motorhome has added even more joy – at 12 years old, he’s still an Adventurer at heart.
Dogs playing at Congdon Creek, Yukon
Bella is pretty much always smiling.
Bella at Kluane Lake, Yukon
Whoohoo! She loves the water, though she moves fast enough that she was doing a good job of levitating over several inches of it here πŸ™‚
Puppy playing in Kluane Lake, Yukon
That ominous cloud bank sat in that spot for the entire weekend. Caused by the wet coastal air, it dissipates when it hits the dry Interior air.
Coastal mountain clouds in the Yukon
I love Kluane Lake! We knew that just having a weekend was going to be a bit frustrating, but we’re still testing a lot of things with the motorhome (both equipment and ideas), and it was well suited to that.
Kluane Lake, Yukon
Some of the Fall colours are quite subtle, but I really liked the pastels at my feet in the meadow.
Subtle Fall colours, Yukon
Congdon Creek really is a lovely park, and gets consistently very positive reviews at sites such as RVParkReviews.com. This large field is between the waterfront and forested sites, and is home to the children’s playground, picnic shelter and firewood shed seen in this photo.
Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
While on a wander around the park, I found a wonderful interpretive trail that goes 500 meters to a raised viewing deck. I didn’t understand why there are no signs pointing it out – you really do have to just luck into it.
Interpretive trail at Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
The viewing deck at the end of the trail. A more faint trail appeared to offer a loop, but we didn’t follow it this time.
Viewing deck at Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
As the noon checkout deadline approached on Saturday, several waterfront sites opened up, so we moved down to #8, the furthest-west one. This is what #21 looked like after we left.
Forest camp site at Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
Having forgotten some grocery items, we set up our chairs on the site and then drove the 16 km (10 miles) to Destruction Bay to stock up. This is Bock’s Creek about halfway along – I really like the dynamic nature of these creeks, always changing.
Bock's Creek, Yukon
Settled in the new site, with the beach 30 meters (100 feet) to the left. While the other waterfront sites are all back-in, this particular site is easy to drive into forward so we had the lake view out the front windows.
Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
This photo may best summarize the point of our new lifestyle. Slow down, smell the roses, and enjoy quiet time with the family. Some 20 years ago, I used to camp along Kluane Lake occasionally and came to love it, but Cathy has never spent quality time here before.
Loving couple on the beach of Kluane Lake, Yukon
Molly loves her new life πŸ™‚
Cat enjoying Kluane Lake, Yukon
Near the base of the cliffs across the lake, a road can be seen. It’s been tantalizing me for 25 years now, and next year, we’re going to go and find it with the Tracker! I’ve heard that it goes some 40 km (25 miles), to a mine site, I think.
4x4 road along Kluane Lake, Yukon
Saturday evening, I took the kids for a long exploratory walk, starting along the beach to the west again. I decided to hike up Congdon Creek. It is said to offer decent gold panning, having gold with few other heavy materials, and some red garnets.
Congdon Creek, Yukon
What I found was quite interesting. The creek is now flowing through a forest that hasn’t been the creek’s route for many, many years. This is where the creek now veers away from its usual bed into the forest. This change appears to have just happened in the past few days.
Congdon Creek, Yukon
Walking up the creek until we reached the Alaska Highway, we then walked a few hundred meters (yards) to the campground entrance.
Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
The campground’s service yard has an enormous amount of firewood still in stock. The amount of beetle-killed spruce forest just to the east a few miles is quite incredible, so there’s no shortage of it available.
Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
Due to bear problems (and possibly to low camper numbers), the campground has been greatly reduced in size (every camping Web site states that it has 81 sites, but there are only 39), and tenting is no longer allowed.
No tenting at Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
The best campsite may be double site #2/3, seen here. It might have been large enough for 2 tents, but there’s certainly not enough space for 2 RVs.
Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
Saturday afternoon, the wind got much stronger, and stayed that way through most of the night.
Waves on Kluane Lake, Yukon
I found a spot shielded from the wind, and fired up the new Cuisinart portable barbecue to grill some pork chops for dinner. It gets great reviews, and I concur.
Cuisinart portable barbecue
This license plate looked good on the Subaru, but it’s even better on the motorhome πŸ™‚
XPLORing the Yukon
Time for dessert, and for Cathy to show me the fine art of cooking her favourite camp dessert, pies! It’s very simple with a pie iron. Put the bread in the iron, add your favourite sweet pie filling, close the pie iron and stick it in the campfire…
Cooking pies over a campfire in the Yukon
… and about 3 minutes later, yuuum! The iron wasn’t level in the fire, so it didn’t cook quite evenly, but hey, we were roughing it πŸ™‚
Cooking pies over a campfire in the Yukon
As darkness closed in, what I at first thought was a swallow arrived to dine on the tiny flies that had been bugging us. I soon realized that it was a Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus). Its speed and size made getting a good photo all but impossible, but I gave it a few tries. He stayed around our camp for almost half an hour – I’d never seen a bat before, so was very pleased to see him. With winter fast approaching, he’ll be migrating to the coast any day now.
Little Brown Bat in the Yukon
Little Brown Bat in the Yukon
Sunrise on Sunday was simply superb – this was shot at 07:30, a couple of minutes after the orange glow had woke me up. I had slept on the couch bed in anticipation of being able to shoot the Northern Lights (the aurora forecast was for a high level of activity), but it was cloudy for most of the night, and the one time I saw stars, there was no aurora.
Sunrise over Kluane Lake, Yukon
Early morning in the campground. There are so many comments one could make about this shot of “a loo with a view” πŸ™‚
Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
Another long, brisk walk with the kids before breakfast.
A beach walk with the dogs at Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
We walked the interpretive trail again, and took the loop. It was then that we realized how large the campground used to be. I was extremely pleased to see the response of the Parks department to bear problems – you don’t get rid of the bears, you completely close/abandon the part of the park (with 42 camp sites) where the bears were finding an important food source, soapberry (Shepherdia canadensis), particularly in the Fall. A 2014 study, though, indicates that I was too optimistic, that dropping numbers of campers was part of the reason (it was online, but the link went dead). This bear-proof storage locker dates from the time when tenting was allowed.
Bear-proof lockers at Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
We left the campground at 11:30, intending to go for a hike at Soldiers Summit and get home in time to relax before getting our heads into the busy week ahead. At 12:10, we started up the Soldiers Summit trail. Ahead in this photo is the original Alaska Highway tote road – the trail, which is the original highway, is nowhere near as steep. You can see many more photos of the trail here.
Soldiers Summit Trail, Yukon
At this point, the Alaska Highway was officially opened on November 20, 1942.
Soldiers Summit Trail, Yukon
Although the wind was still very strong, it was at least too warm to wear a jacket on the trail.
Soldiers Summit Trail, Yukon
My favourite part of the trail is past the dedication spot where most people turn around. While the views from anywhere along the trail are wonderful, just 5 more minutes of walking gets you this spectacular view to Parks Canada’s Tachäl Dhäl (Sheep Mountain) Visitor Centre and up the Slims River. This panorama was created by stitching 2 photos shot at 18mm.
Soldiers Summit Trail, Yukon
Another pair of my favourite artifacts, the foundation for one of the poles from the CanTel telephone system that was installed along the highway, and a section of the Canol pipeline.
CanTel and Canol artifacts along Kluane Lake, Yukon
There were so many spots that I wanted to stop and shoot Fall colours, but I only made a couple of stops, this one at Christmas Creek.
Fall colours at Christmas Creek, Yukon
The Jarvis River is a spot that I often stop at – the photo ops here are often very good.
Fall on the Jarvis River, Yukon

We decided to have an early dinner in Haines Junction at Frosty’s, always guaranteed to serve up a great burger. That made our arrival home very relaxed – 15 minutes to clear most of our stuff out of the motorhome and then just chill. The only one who wasn’t relaxed was Molly – she made it very clear that she wasn’t ready to be back in the house!

Now, we have a very busy week getting ready for what is intended to be our last cruise for many years. Next Sunday, we fly to Vancouver to start that trip…


Comments

A Fall Colours Weekend at Congdon Creek Campground — 12 Comments

  1. Best blog post ever … so much to like, awesome aspens, spectacular scenery, great weather, very happy people and a pie recipe.

  2. Please continue the longer posts. I’ve thought about stopping there in the past but recently we’ve been tent camping. That section of the highway is one of my favorite and I’ve also stopped at the Jarvis River turnout many times. A good reason to stretch out…

  3. Can I second the request to continue the longer posts, I thoroughly enjoy them, and am completely jealous of your adventures.

  4. Wonderful pictures, love the way Monty & Bella interact. Also love your picture of Kluane Lake with the snow on the mountains….wonderful, wonderful. I was at Cottonwood campground three times during my trips to the Yukon, great place also. I’m sure you will ejoy finally taking it easy and enjoying life with Cathy and the “kids”. Don’t stop writing and taking pictures, we love reading and dreaming.
    Maureen

  5. Murray, Could I suggest you limit the posts to about the time it takes to not burn my grilled cheese on toast I was looking forward to……I got so caught up in your narrative, not to mention the photos……and suddenly realised all was not as it should be under the grill.

    Such beautiful colours in your fall !!!!
    John

  6. This is my favorite post ever!! Wow- the colors, the trip, the desitination- they all make my heart ache to be up there!! I love the pies Cathy made too! The photo of the two of you looking out to Kluane Lake and the message that went along with it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, thank you, Murray and Cathy for sharing such a wonderful trip with us and helping me as my heart decides where it wants to be and how I feel about things. Enjoy a nice long autumn and many more road trips!

  7. Hey Murray!
    Love the posts. Helps me enjoy living up here even on days I’m not able to get out myself. I can live vicariously through you guys! And get some more ideas of what to see and do. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  8. The photos just remind me that I have made the right decision on visiting the north next summer. My wife and I both realize it’s a trip of a lifetime, and has been on my bucket list for quite some time. We also have a motorhome, and being as she isn’t much for “roughing it”, I am hoping the amenities of the motorhome will make her feel easier about the journey. Thanks so much for sharing a part of your life.

  9. This is one of my favorite times of the year…great camping, great views and weather you can live with before it turns too hard to winter…nice post. Couple more weeks and its all done for most campers (and campgrounds)…shame about there no longer being ‘tent camping’. Having hard sides changes a lot.