Mother Nature’s Amazing Winter Palette

A weather forecast showing sunshine in Skagway was all the encouragement I needed to hit the road again yesterday – sunshine in Skagway doesn’t happen very often in the winter!

The first photo was shot at 10:14, 15 minutes after sunrise, just north of Carcross, with the temperature at -8°C (+17°F).

Mountain light near Carcross, Yukon
Our first stop was at the “Carcross Desert“, just for a run for the dogs and a bit of photography for me, as the morning light was rather interesting.

The Carcross Desert - Carcross, Yukon
The world is a race track for Monty! πŸ™‚ We believe Monty to be a Seppala Siberian Sleddog – this was a breeding project initiated by Yukoner J. Jeffrey Bragg about 20 years ago. Although the project is dead and the Web site has gone, the link goes to an archived version of Bragg’s very interesting site from 2009. His Web site now summarizes the project’s end: “This naΓ―ve attempt to stay the inevitable processes of time was at first ignored, later imitated and hijacked, and finally abandoned by its founder once he became convinced that the dedication, commitment, energy and loyalty necessary to perpetuate the SSSD vision were not to be found in sufficient measure in postmodern society.” If Monty did indeed come from your line, Jeffrey, nice work!

Monty, a Seppala Siberian Sleddog
It’s hard to believe from this photo that Kayla is 13 years old, which is quite old for a husky. Today she’s suffering for yesterday’s enthusiasm, though – she won’t be moving off her memory-foam bed much, I’m sure. πŸ™

Kayla, a husky / German Shepherd / wolf cross
I was very surprised to find when I reached Carcross that the highway was closed. There was nothing in the weather to suggest that that might be a possibility, so I hadn’t checked However, there were two trucks waiting there, so it seemed like a safe bet that it would be a short closure for avalanche clearing or control, so I did a bit of wandering around town to kill time.

The South Klondike Highway is closed
Mornings like this always bring back fond memories of the 7 years I lived a few hundred yards up Lake Bennett from this spot.

A calm winter morning in Carcross, Yukon
The long-abandoned historic cabins along the Nares River waterfront are slowly crumbling.

Historic cabins along the Nares River waterfront in Carcross, Yukon
The view down Lake Bennett from the viewing deck above the main beach.

Lake Bennett in the winter
I drove up to the gate at Km 98.3 (7 km south of Carcross) knowing that it would still be closed, but I didn’t have any photos of it closed. As it turned out, I had a pleasant conversation there with a couple from Skagway that I had previously only known from email conversations.

The South Klondike Highway is closed
At 11:25, Highways opened the gate and we all continued our journey. I was in no hurry, so I pulled over and let the two trucks by.

The South Klondike Highway re-opens
Beautiful light on Lime Mountain.

Beautiful light on Lime Mountain, Yukon
This 3-minute video shows the highway as I drove through the Venus Mine area, from about Km 87 to Km 82.

The weather was so warm, we got out a lot on this trip (it was still -8°C at this point). I wonder what smell caught both their attentions.

Welcome to the Yukon
Although Tutshi Lake is all frozen over, the thick hoar frost from when there was open water still clings to the north side of the trees, though a wind has knocked it off the south side of most of them.

Hoar frost on trees in northern BC
The view southbound at about Km 49.

The view on the South Klondike Highway in the winter
The view southbound at Km 33.4, now under clear blue skies.

The view on the South Klondike Highway in the winter
The windblown landscape at the same location as the photo above.

The view on the South Klondike Highway in the winter
Looking down on Summit Lake.

Summit Lake - White Pass, BC
A tough little tree growing on a tiny shelf on the granite just north of Skagway.

A good stockpile of fine gravel for sanding the hill up the White Pass is ready at the Highways yard at the bottom of the hill.

Sand for winter use on the South Klondike Highway
I said last week that this WP&YR railway car was going out for rebuilding. I then got an email from a friend who said that it was actually being scrapped, as the steel cars present maintenance problems that the wooden-bodied cars don’t have. However, it appears to have a different future, though I don’t know what yet – the fact that it’s being trucked up the highway is a pretty good indication that it isn’t going far, though – perhaps one of the transportation museums in Whitehorse, Fairbanks or Anchorage.

WP&YR railway passenger car
I picked up my mail, but the weather was far too nice to go home quickly, so we drove over to Dyea, and hiked into the Slide Cemetery, final resting place of many of the men killed in the April 3, 1898 “Palm Sunday Avalanche” on the Chilkoot Trail.

Slide Cemetery - Dyea, Alaska
The headboards in the Slide Cemetery were replaced in the 1970s, but many are illegible and/or badly damaged now. They haven’t been maintained or replaced again largely because the previous work was so poorly done that it really isn’t known anymore who is buried there or exactly where.

Slide Cemetery - Dyea, Alaska
We continued up the Taiya River valley as far as the West Creek bridge, took a few photos of the peaks and then headed back to Skagway to see if some long-overdue parcels had arrived during the day (no luck).

Peaks above the Taiya River valley, Alaska
Evening light over the Taiya estuary, at 2:14pm local, 42 minutes before sunset.

Evening light over the Taiya estuary, at 2:14pm local
The recent deep cold has resulted in extensive ice both on the Taiya River and floating in the channel.

Blocks of ice on the Taiya River, Alaska
The colours were simply superb, and allowed lots of time to enjoy them – this was shot at 2:22.

Evening light over the Taiya estuary, at 2:22pm
Back up in the White Pass at 3:01pm.

Winter evening in the White Pass, Alaska
This is un-filtered, un-Photoshopped – the sky really looked like that at 4:08pm (there’s a one-hour time change between Canada and Alaska). Amazing work, Mother Nature!

Winter evening in the White Pass, British Columbia
I was surprised to see two people and their dogs skiing down a slope above the main rest area in the White Pass. It would be good exercise snowshoeing up that πŸ™‚

Skiing in the White Pass
Looking down on the Thompson River and the railway bridge that crosses it.

Thompson River, BC
This was shot at Km 52 at 4:36pm.

Climbing up the hill from Tutshi Lake, I was surprised to see a moose. I stopped far back and shot this hand-held at at 1/2-second exposure – the camera over-exposed the shot but I left it to keep detail that I couldn’t see with my eyes.

And that was that – from the moose north it was too dark to take any more photos without a tripod.


Mother Nature’s Amazing Winter Palette — 9 Comments

  1. Wonderful pictures as usual Murray!!!! I see by one of your post that both our Dad’s spent time at St.Thomas ( dad taught people how to use bomb sites among other things ) wonder if they ever met?

  2. You do live in a beautiful area! Please tell me how fast you were going on those iced roads. Also, being used to driving in those conditions, do you ever slide?

  3. I drive at whatever speeds I figure will keep me from sliding. On that drive, it was as slow as about 25 mph and as fast as 65 mph, depending on the condition of the particular stretch I was on. Reading the conditions to get it right takes a lot of practice! It surprises most people to hear that the colder it is, the better the roads are – it’s temperatures just below freezing that get the roads icy, as it was in and near Skagway and Dyea that day. Of course it depends on the vehicle, too. My Subaru is much better on the highway than Cathy’s Tracker, and my charter bus handled very differently in the winter than any car!

  4. Ditto on all the kudos above. I can’t say it enough “but great pictures once again”! I too wondered how fast you were actually going. I’ve used a dash cam before and watching the video after always seems like I’m going faster than I was. It’s hard to believe that I used to drive those roads and now I’d be driving like an 80 year old grandma hahaha. Thanks again for posting all the great pics!

  5. was talking about this drive today…and how beautiful it was no matter what the season or weather. thanks again for sharing murray πŸ˜€

  6. All I can say is wow. There are so many beautiful photos there than there is no way I could ever pick a favorite. I’ll say it again….I love your trip reports along with your beautiful photos.

  7. Hi Murray –

    I think we may have seen that same moose yesterday, on our drive home from a cookup at Tutshi Lake! We actually saw two of them, check out the photos on our flickr photo page! It seems that you and your dogs take a lot of the same type of pics that I do! Funny!