On Tuesday, August 6th, day 6 of my White Pass RV-based hiking trip, I had a plan to hike to the canyons up Summit Creek. But I started the day off early by driving the Tracker south on the South Klondike Highway at 06:30 to do some low-light shooting of Bridal Veil Falls and then a major update on the new William Moore Bridge which is nearing completion.
At Mile 10.0 of the highway is a particularly nice and accessible waterfall with a large paved parking area. The water is pure enough to drink. Most people call it Bridal Veil Falls, but narrators on the WP&YR railway use that name for a much larger waterfall on the same creek but below the highway. The creek doesn’t seem to have a name. The first photo was shot tripod-mounted at 24mm, ISO 100, f20 and 0.8 of a second. Simulated low-light shooting can be done with a set of ND (neutral density) filters, but mine are for an old lens I had – I need to get a new set or 2 to fit my current lenses.
The next photo was shot tripod-mounted at 35mm, ISO 100, f20 and 0.6 of a second, with a 10-second delay to allow me to get into the photo. The spray was going a long way, and it was cold! A nice invigorating start to the day 🙂
I arrived at the William Moore Bridge project at 07:10 with the idea of compiling a fairly thorough record of its current state. Work began on the new crossing on May 17, 2017, starting with extensive blasting at the south end. It should be open in the next few weeks. It had originally been scheduled to open at the end of August 2018.
The next panoramic photo shows much of the project site. I haven’t found many details about the project yet – the initial proposal call estimated $10-20 million, then there was a budget allocation of $13.4 million.
The new crossing (more of a dam than a bridge, to me) has been constructed with roller-compacted concrete, with a 75-foot-span arched-steel culvert placed over the natural bed of William Moore Creek.
I was surprised to see the rough concrete well above grade, with the final smooth concrete yet to be laid.
One of the sprinklers that slow the concrete curing time down on warm days.
The form on the right appears to be the first of several for the final smooth concrete layer – the rough concrete is very uneven. The final surface will have two 12-foot-wide traffic lanes, with a 6-foot shoulder on each side.
The next photo is a better look at the culvert that left the natural bed of William Moore Creek untouched.
A final overview of the project site, looking downhill this time.
Just a few meters above the project, Mother Nature is completely in charge, presenting this lovely cascade for us to enjoy.
Just after 07:30, I headed back to the motorhome to get the rest of the day organized.
Continuing our RV-based hiking in the White Pass, I had decided to hike to Bryant Lake again on Monday, August 5th. Often called Fraser Lake because it’s located in a side valley right above the Department of Highways camp and Canada Customs post at Fraser, BC, its main features for me are a large sandy beach at the head of the lake, and the small glacier that feeds it. Although I left the dogs at home on my last hike there due some tough rock slides that need to be crossed along way, I decided to bring them this time.
The first photo today is my view of dawn from the motorhome at 05:52, looking north across Summit Lake.
Then a minute later, looking south into Alaska. The South Klondike Highway would be closed for another 2 hours by virtue of the fact that both Canadian and US Customs posts are closed from midnight until 08:00 Yukon time.
The trail begins across the highway from the north end of a huge gravel pullout at Km 35.2 of the highway. We finally started up the trail (which is an old road) at 10:45. The next photo showing the fireweed in Fall colours was shot 5 minutes later.
There are a couple of short fairly steep sections on the first part of the trail, but then you meet another old road that has a more gentle and even grade. At 10:56 we reached the fence that seasonally blocks the trail from motorized use to protect caribou habitat.
Looking back down to the highway, the WP&YR railway to the right of it, and Bernard Lake at 11:01.
By 11:12 we were nearing treeline. As is my usual practise when sightlines are limited, Bella and Tucker were on a double leash, and as usual on this trail, a can of bear spray was in my other hand.
A few meters further along, grizzly scat on the trail. At least a couple of weeks old, I expect, but a good reminder of whose territory you’re entering here.
After seeing the fireweed leaves in Fall colours at the start of the trail, I was surprised (and pleased) to see wonderful blooms up higher.
There’s one creek crossing on the trail. Although some people walk along the water conduit, it has too much of a twist in it for my liking. I quickly realized that the water was too deep for Tucker, so carried him across. I’ve always been very careful to make sure I don’t ask him to do anything that might be beyond his ability, so he trusts me completely.
We reached the foot of the lake at 11:30 and spent a while there, playing on the meadow and in the water a bit. I haven’t found any documentation, or even oral history through my Yukon History & Abandoned Places group yet, but an earthen dam was built about 40 years ago to enlarge the lake, which now supplies water and electricity to the Fraser camp.
This is the really great part of the trail, along the lake, with just a bit of up and down. It sees little use. YukonHiking.ca calls the peak to the left (south) Fraser Peak, and it probably gets more visitors.
I made a comment recently about how good Bella and Tucker are about recall even when in hot pursuit of some poor critter. I may have to take that back. While Tucker eventually came to me in the instance seen in the next photo, Bella would not. I had to pull her away from the pika or whatever it was – she went on leash as punishment, though I suffer as much as she does.
I didn’t keep Bella on leash for very long – she clearly felt bad about making me angry, and stayed close after that. I absolutely love this section of trail. Wonderful trail with nobody else around for miles, spectacular scenery, great sightlines for safety…
At a spot where the water was easy to access, the kids were both quickly down to cool off. The temperature was probably about 22°C/72°F.
The next photo shows the reason I sometimes leave the kids at home – this rock slide is lengthy, and difficult for both of them.
After the big rock slide, there’s a smaller one, but that crossing is quick enough to not be a big deal.
At 12:50, there’s our destination. Just looking at that photo makes me feel good 🙂
Every one of our plants that produces berries seems to be having a very good year.
We walked up the beach towards the north end, where there’s a very large shallow area that warms up fairly well. The small glacier that feeds the lake is less than 2 miles away, though, so the water is still more suitable for dipping than swimming.
Even though this is one of those places where wearing clothes just isn’t logical, I put my shorts on to take some of the photos 🙂
Wandering around the head of the lake, I found one little pool that was loaded with tadpoles. I’ve never seen a frog here, though I’ve seen the occasional one in the White Pass.
Yeah, I love mud. Especially super-fine glacial silt mud. This is seriously good earthing.
I had initially thought about continuing on to the glacier as I had on a 2016 hike, but it’s quite a slog and we were having too much fun on the beach.
This cascade just beyond the north end of the beach provides wonderful background music to enhance a mountain lake experience.
We spent about an hour on the beach, then started back. Bella and Tucker had played pretty hard, and stayed ahead of me but close.
Back at the foot of the lake, 45 minutes after leaving the beach.
Not until you start back down the road from the lake do the peaks surrounding the White Pass really come back into view after a few hours away.
The kids were now back on leash and the bear spray was back in my hand. A friend asked me recently if I worry about bears. No, I don’t worry, but I am bear aware, and prepared.
Just before 3:30, we were a few hundred meters from the car, looking forward to getting back to the motorhome to chill, when…. OH OH! Moose! A 2-year-old, then a cow, then a new calf. The dogs didn’t make a sound (which could have precipitated a charge by the cow). I tried to convince them to leave, but after about minutes gave up. I know a way around, but it’s about 2 miles long. I knew Bella was tired, but there was little choice. By the time we got the car, she was done, and I felt awful.
Here’s the final hike report by the Garmin inReach – 8.7 miles in 5 hours, 24 minutes.
We had a lovely quiet evening in the RV, most clearly shown by Molly, the happiest little RV cat in the world.
The next day, Bella and Tucker would get a rest while I headed up Summit Creek into terrain too rough for them.
The weather during our RV boondocking week was erratic, to say the least. We got everything from fog to heavy rain to glorious hot sun. That’s not at all what the weather forecasts had led me to believe. Yes, shocking 🙂 But on Sunday we had fun with the dogs on the beach, and then a great aurora borealis show.
Sunday morning started off dark, with a thick, low cloud. The first photo was shot at 08:40 as I did a reconnoiter to the south.
Cathy had a terrible night with her neck, and decided to go back to Whitehorse, to the Emergency clinic at the hospital. If not for being able to keep in touch with my Garmin InReach, I would have had to leave, too. Within minutes of her leaving just after noon, her brother texted me on the InReach to say that their mother had fallen and was having xrays done. Shortly after, news arrived that she has a fractured pelvis and elbow. I texted Cathy each time, and when she got to Whitehorse she phoned Mike for more news. What a day. What a summer 🙁
I needed to stay close to the motorhome in case I needed to go home, so the dogs and I spent some time that afternoon wandering the granite around our parking spot, and then went to the beach for some play time.
My berrypicking friend returned from Skagway, and pointed to somebody kiteboarding (kitesurfing) on the lake, so the dogs and I went back up to a low ridge and I shot a bunch of pics. Looks like a lot of fun!
The kids were ready for a good run by mid-afternoon, so I drove a few hundred meters to the north side of the Summit Creek bridge and we walked down to the beach. The company that operates the Alpine Lake Canoe Adventure for cruise ship passengers created a nice route to the beach about 4 years ago.
They’ve added another canoe this year, so it must be working out for them. These 12-person voyageur canoes are paddled or motored at various times. On a day like this, they’d be motoring against the wind, for sure – though I didn’t see them go out this day.
The kids love this beach. Tucker is the first small dog I’ve ever had join my family (18 lbs). I probably wouldn’t have even adopted him if I knew how small he was going to be, but he has turned out to be so perfect in every way. He’s so fast that I’ve had to learn new photography techniques to capture him. He was launching at Bella in the next photo.
Tucker and Bella are such fun to watch – he has infinite enthusiasm and energy and she has a bit less enthusiasm but almost-infinite patience. 🙂
When Bella pooped out, I had a ball to keep Tucker going for a while.
When it was time to leave, Tucker wanted to carry his ball back to the car himself.
The next photo shows part of the trail back to the highway.
When we got back to the RV, my berrypicking friend arrived with a fine load of Mother Nature’s finest products, including these berries that look like blueberries but taste like the cranberries we used to pick in southwestern BC.
The kids and I had a quiet night. As is so often the case in the high country, the evening light was gorgeous. The next photo taken during our final walk was shot at 8:25 pm, looking north to the beach we’d been playing on.
I was well into a good sleep when all of a sudden my eyes popped open just before 03:00. I looked out the south-facing window at the head of the bed, and it took my brain a few seconds to comprehend what I was seeing. Amazingly bright and large aurora arcs! I got my gear together and went out dressed in pyjamas. I hadn’t brought my special aurora shooting lens, and couldn’t get either of my wide-angle lens to focus – they were simply nothing to focus on. So I put the 14mm on Manual Focus and hoped for the best. What I got isn’t very sharp, but captures the idea of what the show was like.
I spent about half an hour out shooting. It was quite a remarkable show, particularly for August 5th.
Things didn’t go the way we had hoped at all for the weekend. Cathy had hurt her neck somehow and was in a great deal of pain, unable to even sleep, much less go for walks. I got out for a bit of wilderness time on Saturday, and we went down to the annual Blues, Brews, & BBQ in Skagway for a couple of hours that night.
By 09:30 (08:30 in Skagway), the first of the cruise ship tour buses were going by. Most would be on day trips to Carcross and Emerald Lake. This was a fairly quiet cruise ship day, with the Coral Princess, Volendam, and Azamara Quest in.
The world fascinates me. Look at the boulder in the next photo, slowly but surely being reduced to sand by Mother Nature. Water gets in the cracks, freezes in the winter, and that expansion expands the cracks until another piece peels off the side of the boulder, joining the other slabs on the right.
The boulder is in our regular dog-walking area – the next photo shows a broader view over Summit Lake.
I decided Saturday afternoon to get out for 2-3 hours, with the Summit Creek canyons the target. There are at least 3 possible routes in, none of them good. I picked the one that starts at the north side of the Summit Creek bridge, just a few hundred meters/yards from where the RV was parked.
The milky, glacier-fed waters of Summit Creek are what gives the lower part of Summit Lake its gorgeous turquoise colour.
This was a very short hike. I had re-injured my Achilles, and that tendon quickly made it abundantly clear that I wasn’t going anywhere.
Returning to the Tracker, I drove down the highway to another possible access route at Km 30.1. From there, one of the higher sections of the dramatic little canyons could be seen.
I didn’t get very far – I could barely walk much less hike over rugged ground. I found a survey marker dated 1989, though. What an odd place for one – I can’t imagine what it’s marking.
A bit further up the highway, I spotted a dyke of basalt (the dark rock in the centre). I’d seen it before but had forgotten about it. Signs of volcanic activity are very unusual in this area.
Not willing to return to the RV just yet, I drove a bit further to get some more photos of Summit Lake. The next photo was shot at Km 30.8.
The next panorama of Summit Lake was created with 3 photos shot at 24mm.
A friend from Whitehorse arrived to go berry picking while I was at Summit Creek. I’m much too lazy to pick berries and make stuff out of them – I’m happy to buy the berry creations of other people.
It’s prime berry season right now, and there are many varieties with healthy crops in the White Pass.
I had been looking forward to attending “Blues, Brews, & BBQ” in Skagway, and Cathy decided that she could handle going even though her neck was still giving her grief. I had tried to get reservations at Pullen Creek RV Park for one night, but they were full. They had space at the other park, Garden City, but to me it’s not worth anything close to the $63 Canadian they charge. It’s a short drive from and back to the RV, anyway. So, we started our visit off at BBQ, with excellent sliders the Skagway Fire Department cooked up.
There were about a dozen vintage vehicles on display, so they were my next focus. This 1970 Chevy El Camino is very nice.
The Jaguar was another of my favourites. I’ve always been a fan of British sports cars and had a couple of Triumphs back in the day – a Spitfire and a GT6. The 2 badges from New Zealand are a nice touch on this Jag, and make me curious about the car’s history.
Riding in the rumble seat of a Model A Ford looked like a pretty awesome way to arrive! 🙂
As well as I thought I knew Skagway, I didn’t know about Seven Pastures and the Dedman Stage. The stage, was built about 4 years ago, is beautiful.
Still photos don’t do music well, so here’s a bit of sound from Crowd Control.
The sound and the vibe were both great, but Cathy was getting really uncomfortable, so we left about 7:30. We sat in the Jeep and listened for a few minutes but that wasn’t working either, so headed back up into the pass to the motorhome.
On August 2nd, our second day boondocking with the RV in the White Pass, I decided to take the dogs for a hike on the International Falls trail, and beyond to a pass overlooking the Chilkoot Trail. We’ve done it a few times, and it’s usually about a 5½-hour round trip.
The trailhead is just a 5-minute drive from the spot near Summit Creek where I park the RV, and a couple of hundred meters north of the Canada-US border. There’s a large parking lot at the trailhead. We started down the trail at 10:20.
Part of the initial drop down from the highway is extremely steep, and about 5 years ago a tour company from Skagway has installed some ropes to assist both getting down and back up.
The creek crossing at the bottom of that first drop varies greatly in depth – it was very shallow this time. We met another couple of hikers there – they were the only people we’d see for almost 4 hours.
Ten minutes from the car, we were at the first waterfall, which is accessed by a side trail that’s easily missed.
The geology along the trail is fascinating in many places. In the next photo, Bella and Tucker are crossing a huge slab of smooth granite.
The dwarf fireweed or river beauty was at its peak, and during the day we would pass vast fields of it.
There are some tributary creeks, each with its own waterfalls. None of these creeks, even the main one, have been named.
Bella rarely passes up an opportunity to get wet, and as a result, International Falls trail is one of her favourites 🙂
In some places there are 2 or 3 trails at varying distances from the creek. I think some new trail has been cut recently to get away from a couple of stretches of what could be considered treacherous cliff exposure. You might notice the can of bear spray in my left hand. I’ve never carried bear spray on this trail, but an attack a week ago that left a dog dead and a couple of people traumatized has me a bit spooked – it happened at the spot on Tutshi Lake that we regularly stop at for walks.
The flow was probably the lowest I’ve seen it yet – this waterfall, perhaps 60 feet high, is very impressive at higher flow levels. We were now 45 minutes from the car.
One of my favourite spots on the trail is a huge area of smooth granite, and as we often do, we spent a long time there this time, photographing and playing in the water. This was 55 minutes from the car. Somewhere in this area, the trail crosses into Alaska – there’s apparently a border monument off the trail, but I’ve never looked very hard for it.
The next photo shows the view from that spot looking east to the highway.
I can have as much photographing a “waterfall” that’s 3 inches high as one that’s 60 feet high 🙂
The depth of the water isn’t a big concern to Bella, either 🙂
Drinking from Mother Nature’s water fountain is much better than from still water, though!
Treeline is reached about an hour and 20 minutes from the car. That’s probably about 50 minutes with no photo or play stops.
Even though there are no more large waterfalls, the higher the trail goes, the more I enjoy it. The temperature was about 20°C, and there were no bugs, but there was a breeze that had a chill to it as we got higher.
By 12:05, (an hour and 45 minutes from the car), the terrain was climbing in large steps, with lots of level and undulating trail. Shallow ponds become quite numerous.
As we climbed, the dwarf fireweed got more and more plentiful, and there was also more regular fireweed.
Bella and Tucker found many crevices that needed to be checked out, and twice they took off in hot pursuit of something. They’re both great at recall, though, even in situations like that.
Two hours from the car, the trail gets less and less distinct, for 2 reasons – far fewer people hike this far, and much of the hiking earlier in the season is across patches of snow. If you lose the trail, though, it doesn’t matter – you can’t get lost in this tight valley. The breeze had gotten chilly enough that I had to put some clothes back on for a while.
Yes, more dwarf fireweed.
I don’t know yet what the yellow flowers were, but they sure brightened up this spot.
A narrow belt of curious rock runs across the valley, broken into narrow slices. Some of it protrudes and is particularly narrow and sharp (almost book pages), which other sections is flat and broader.
If the pond in the next photo would have been easier to get to, that amazing water would have had me in for a dip. It was at the bottom of a cliff, though.
The seedheads of some of the plants are at least as impressive as the flowers.
Nearing the top of the pass, the trail disappears completely, and there are several possible routes up, depending on whether there is snow or not. This notch would have been full of snow into July normally.
There were a few small patches of this bright lichen near the top of the pass, but nowhere else that I saw.
The top of the pass – actually a bit above it – at 1:15, 2 hours and 55 minutes from the car. While this spot often is wide open to the wide, it was sheltered from a south wind this day and was a glorious place to spend time.
The next panorama was created by stitching 3 photos shot at 24mm. The Taiya River and Chilkoot Trail are directly below.
Tucker and Bella spent a long time like this. I wonder what they were thinking. This is not a place to have chatter – it’s a place for serious conversation or none. It pretty much leaves me speechless every time, but I usually only have my dogs to talk to anyway, and they know what I’m thinking.
I shot some glacier detail photos with the heavy 400mm lens I’d carried, but the next one was shot at 105mm.
It’s not common to see these flowers except solitary, but there were lots of them at the top. Beautiful and tough.
At 1:50, we started back down.
We went down a different route than we’d climbed, to visit some of the lakes on the north side of the valley.
Fifteen minutes from the top, this lake seemed like a good spot to enjoy the single beer I often carry on hikes where a congratulatory drink seems appropriate. Rather strangely, it hadn’t occurred to me to have it at the top as I normally do. We also spent some time playing in the water – well, Bella and I did 🙂
Continuing down, at 2:30. Just before I shot the next photo, I saw the first people we’d seen since the couple right at the start.
A few minutes later we met 3 women from the hiking group I belong to, and chatted briefly. I had posted on our Facebook page that I’d be leaving the motorhome at 10:00 if anyone cared to join me. Whether anyone takes me up on such offers doesn’t alter my plans.
I rather expected that Bella would be tiring by 3:10 when I shot the next photo, but no, she was going strong and looking like she was having a ball.
We only made one brief stop on the hike down after the beer-and-play stop. Bella looked like she was on a mission.
This was the area of huge flat granite where we’d made a long stop on the way up. The bubbling water in the centre of the next photo is the top of a high waterfall.
Bella can be seen at the top of the cliff to the left. Shortly after this, she made a couple of errors in picking the trail – now, at 3:40 she was tiring.
Almost the end, right at 4:00 – Bella had one more wade in a creek before the very steep climb back to the car.
The final hike report by my Garmin InReach as we reached the car – a total of 6.5 miles in 5 hours and 49 minutes.
When we got back to the motorhome, we were all due for a nap. Cathy would be joining us at about 7:30, driving up from Whitehorse after getting off work.
Looking back from my final dog walk, with my family back together again.
During that dog-walk at 9:10 pm, the warm light on the far side of the pass was spectacular. My buddy Greg and I canoed and hiked to that valley last year – I’d love to get back, possibly for an overnighter.
I’d been watching for an opportunity to get away for a few days, preferably with some hiking, and on Wednesday, July 31st, a fairly good weather forecast showed up that held potential for a getaway in the White Pass.
I got my shopping done that afternoon, and the next morning, finished packing the motorhome with everything I’d need for a week or so of day-hiking.
I got away with the dogs and cat at about 10:30. Heading south on the South Klondike Highway, I was surprised by the amount of haze – still from wild fires in Alaska and further north in the Yukon, I assume.
The approaches to the new Nares River Bridge at Carcross are being worked on, and there was a short delay with traffic down to one lane.
The skies suddenly turned very dark south of Fraser as we entered the White Pass. I hadn’t expected this.
By 1:00 we were set up at my usual boondocking spot just south of Summit Creek. It’s a gravel pullout that gets few visitors, and has a spectacular 360-degree mountain view.
Once we were settled, I drove down to the area’s biggest man-made attraction, the William Moore Bridge, to see how construction of the new on was coming on. Getting close…
The next photo of Summit Lake makes it look like it was a beautiful day, but it wasn’t. The clouds to the south stopped pretty much right above us, so we were in the shade most of the day, and there was a screaming wind which made being outside not very pleasant.
I spent a bit of time out walking with the dogs, of course. The area where we were parked is great for that, with both spectacular broad views and lots of interesting closeups. I don’t know what this plant is, but the way it spreads across the granite is really cool, and even more so when it sends out these vertical shoots.
Cozy in the RV, I got lots of reading done while the wind howled and rattled.
The highway is effectively closed at night when the border posts close, and after 5:00 pm when the last of the tour buses head back to Skagway, it gets very quiet.
The view of the Sawtooth Range from my south-facing windows, at 5:30.
The view south along the quiet highway a few minutes later.
The wind howled all night, but had abated a bit Friday morning when I shot the next photo of dawn starting to break, at 06:05.
At 06:16, I decided to see what dawn might look like in black-and-white.
Home sweet home in the dawn light.
At 06:33, the sun was climbing and slowly burning off the fog layers.
There’s an initial rush of southbound traffic shortly after the Canadian border opens at 08:00, and a few minutes later the northbound traffic arrives from Skagway. The fuel tanker in the next photo was empty, going to the tank farm in Skagway for fuel to bring to the Yukon.
Inside the motorhome, though, breakfast was at 07:00 and there’s no morning rush after that 🙂
Just before 09:00 we went for a short drive, checking the weather to the south and thinking about what the hike for the day was. I decided that International Falls would be good. It’s too busy for my liking on weekends but should be good on a Friday.
The weather was spectacular on Friday, July 26th, and I planned to get a lot of walking done before Cathy arrived that night, to join us for a motorhome weekend.
Our first walk of the day was towards the Slims River. Tucker always appreciates it when I play ball with him on these walks – the ball doesn’t interest Bella except when it’s to tease him with.
Whenever there’s a stretch of sand, I’m barefoot 🙂
We hadn’t gone very far before meeting this duck and her babies, who paddled out into the lake. I really didn’t want to disturb them so we turned back, and the feathered family immediately returned to the beach.
I could see that there were more birds further along the beach, so I put the dogs in the RV, got my 100-400mm lens, and headed back that way. It was not quite 09:30, and the light hadn’t lost its wonderful glow.
Many of the creeks flowing into Kluane Lake take very circuitous paths for the last few hundred feet when they meet sand and gravel banked up by waves.
Where the beach meets Slims River flats, there’s a remnant of a cancelled Alaska Highway re-routing project from 20-odd years ago. The plan was to move the highway away from a very unstable mountain, by building across a wide almost-dry bay. The project was cancelled, but surveys stakes across the bay could be seen for many years. I wonder if the new lower water levels are causing Highways to re-think that project now.
With my long lens, these gulls weren’t even disturbed from their nap 🙂
Beyond the gulls was a huge raft of surf scoters (?) – perhaps 200 of them.
Happy with my solo outing, I returned to the RV, and the dogs and I spent the rest of the morning on the beach.
After lunch, I decided we should go for a very long walk along the beach – to the north, a direction I’d not yet explored here.
Even when Tucker is a real pain, Bella rarely corrects him – there’s usually a big smile on her face 🙂
Although Bella enjoys water, she doesn’t swim. She will, though, occasionally join me if I go swimming. The water of Kluane is too cold to spend more than a few seconds in it, but I dove in four times and Bella swam out to me three times 🙂
Well that was a surprise! A perfectly normal looking section of fine-gravel beach just turned to mush when I stepped on it. It was only like that for about 20 feet and then it was normal again – very strange. It’s a good thing I was barefoot – I may very well have lost my flipflops in that!
Exploring off the beach a little bit, we came to the remains of an ancient barbed-wire fence. It was for horses I expect, either for a hunting guide or perhaps even during the construction of the highway.
It amazes me that any plants can survive in the areas where the glacial silt alternates between being flooded and being baked dry.
Bella found a great little mud-bottomed pond, and walked around leaving a muddy trail. Well that looked like fun!
Excellent! Good plan, Bella 🙂
Tucker stayed on the side on the pond where he wouldn’t get dirty. Well at least not wet and dirty! 🙂
This little waterfall fed the pond we were playing in.
This heart-shaped rock was only a little over an inch across.
About 4 km from the RV, I could see that Bella was starting to tire so we turned around. The unnamed creek in the next photo is one of many in this area that keep bulldozer operators busy trying to control them.
After an 8-km walk, Yukon Brewing has an appropriate reward. This isn’t my usual beer (their Ice Fog is), but they come up with some excellent small-batch beers during the year.
Sitting in the sunshine, enjoying the vast and the tiny parts of this amazing world.
The legends about bugs in the North aren’t true in this area. During the 3-hour drive from Whitehorse to Kluane Lake, the huge windshield of the motorhome didn’t gather enough bugs to even bother washing it. And whatever this guy is, he was interested in flowers, not me, so we could be neighbours.
Another storm moved in at dinner time, and cooled things off substantially.
Cathy arrived at about 8:00 pm – Tucker’s frantic screaming welcome always makes me feel a little bad that we ever leave her.
Saturday was a chill kid of day. It was cloudy and cool and we went for a short drive to Burwash Landing and then back to Destruction Bay for a good lunch at the Talbot Arm. I noticed that the “in” thing to do this year for those people who find vandalism to be gratifying in some sick way, is to wreck the door latches on rest area outhouses. Some can still be made functional by the use of a stick, some are destroyed. Just wtf…
The sun came out for a little while Saturday afternoon, and I tried to get Bella swimming again – Cathy has never seen her join me. But no, she wouldn’t perform for us, and it was too chilly to try very often 🙂
Sunday was chilly, wet, and windy to varying degrees all day, but that morning I built a campfire with wood I always carry in the motorhome for this purpose. We retreated inside a couple of times when the rain or wind got too heavy, but even in a light rain, the fire was wonderful.
We had been joined on Saturday by a couple of people travelling from Argentina to Alaska in an antique-looking bus. I had seen them at SuperStore in Wednesday, set up to camp there, selling postcards at the front of the bus. I expected to see a website among the signs on the bus, but they don’t seem to have one.
On the beach, Cathy met Carol from Pennsylvania. She’s a member of a Facebook called “Take Brenda Along”, described this way: “My mother Brenda Grace was diagnosed with Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer in September of 2016. She passed away March 2017. Her life long passion was traveling around the United States. She loved to travel and see all the beautiful sites this country has to offer. She was preparing to retire in a few years and travel the country with her husband Steve Grace and dog Jeter in their motorhome. Unfortunately cancer took that dream away from her. As a way to fulfill this dream we are painting rocks and hiding them all along the east coast from Pennsylvania to Florida. If you find one of the rocks please come to this group and post a picture with comment on its location (City, State). You can either leave the rock in the location you found it or even better, Take Brenda Along on your trip then take a picture and comment its new location. We want to see how far Brenda can travel with these rocks around the United States or the World!”
Carol passed on a ladybug rock to us, and Brenda will be travelling with me for a while now.
Cathy had to return to Whitehorse, and left us just after 5:00 on Sunday. An hour later, I shot the next photo of the mountain towering above us.
Right after I shot the photo above, the clouds lifted off Sheep Mountain across the lake for a couple of minutes – just long enough to see that fresh snow had been dropped during the day!
It rained and blew for much of the night. Cozy in bed with 2 dogs and a cat (sort of a Three Dog Night 🙂 ), the sound of the waves and the rain on the roof was very peaceful. On Monday morning, I was quite shocked at both the amount of snow that had fallen overnight, and the low elevation it was at. I saw in my Facebook Memories that this happened a couple of days earlier 5 years ago, so it’s an unusual event but not a rare one.
The plan had been to continue on to Beaver Creek, but the weather now made that questionable. I go out for 2 main reasons – hiking and photography. When the weather makes neither of those particularly enjoyable, I have plenty of projects at home. Just before 10:00, I decided to go to Destruction Bay where I could get cell service and check some weather forecasts.
I spent quite a while at “D Bay,” reading weather forecasts and considering the options. With only 1 day of sun likely in the next 5 or so, I finally decided to call it quits and head home 🙁
I stopped at Sheep Mountain on the way by, to see what was going on with a band of sheep I saw moving fast as we went by an hour before. They were making their way downhill, away from the snow. When I got home, I saw this notice posted on Twitter: “Sheep hunters: Environment Yukon has ordered an emergency closure that prohibits the hunting of all sheep in Game Management Subzone 5-21 between the Slims River (km 1648) and Congdon Creek (km 1666).”
So here we are at home again for a few days. It’s hard to say what will happen next – there won’t be any long trips for a while, but there will be some fun short ones.
I’d been itching to get back on the road but things kept getting in the way – projects at home, wildfires, lousy weather, and on and on. On Wednesday, July 24th, though, things finally lined up to go one direction at least – west to Kluane Lake and hopefully Beaver Creek again, to re-do the trip that got wrecked by the Snag wildfire 3 weeks ago.
I got my shopping and some of the loading of the motorhome done on Wednesday evening, then finished Thursday morning. Just before 11:00, I locked up the house and set the alarm, and headed towards the Alaska Highway.
Once you leave the Whitehorse city limits, the wilderness arrives quickly. By 11:30, homes were few and far between.
At 1:25, Kluane Lake was just ahead.
At 1:30 we reached the pullout at Km 1642.1 where I planned to spend 4 nights. I was very pleased to see no other RVs there yet. I used to always go to Congdon Creek Campground when we came to Kluane, but we’d often drive back here because it’s a much nicer beach, for the dogs especially. I finally decided to just park here.
Well, what the hell! Someone had built a large “Yukon 2019” on the beach in front of the pullout. It was only really clear from an elevation, so I expect it was someone with a drone. They’d gathered up rocks with a truck and then drove it onto the beach to build their graffiti.
I was soon set up for our stay, and then it was beach time for Bella and Tucker. While we were walking and playing, I found this wonderful feather (the photo is edited to show both sides). I didn’t know what sort of bird it was from, but a couple of Facebook posts when I got home Monday afternoon quickly got responses that it was from a Northern flicker or common flicker (Colaptes auratus).
Then I needed to clean up the mess that was defacing my beach. The larger rocks got carried to a rock pile down the beach a bit…
…and some smaller rocks got thrown as far into the lake as I coud get them. Soon, the beach again looked the way Mother Nature intended it to look.
We had a lovely calm afternoon, but around 4:00 a wind started down the valley, and it was soon causing a dust storm on the flats. As usual, the wind barely affected our rather protected beach.
When I shot the next 2 photos at 7:40, a storm towards the far end of the 81-kilometer-long lake (50 miles) was raising some good surf at our end.
I listened to the calming sound of the waves most of the night, but dawn on Friday was lovely. I shot the next photo at 05:40. It was chilly, though – 7°C – and I turned the furnace on for a few minutes.
Ah, I love motorhome mornings. Silence, beauty, the kids all happy and sleeping close by – and coffee 🙂 I actually wrecked the silence for a few minutes by firing up the generator to brew that big pot – usually I just make it with a percolator on the propane stove.
The morning light was wonderful, and around 7:00 I spent a while shooting the infinite patterns and textures around us. In the next photo, Fish Heart Island blends into the slopes of Sheep Mountain, and the Alaska Highway which runs along there is pretty much invisible.
The Slims River Bridge can be seen at the bottom of the next photo.
Shooting at 400mm, the Soldiers Summit historic site can be seen above the Alaska Highway.
An after-breakfast nap is often on the agenda on RV days 🙂
Back on the beach with the kids after their nap, I got some creative shooting done as well as ball-playing.
It’s a Lensball that caught that photo above. I don’t use it a lot, but it is fun sometimes.
Then, I had a busy day planned before Cathy’s arrival Friday night – in the next post, I’ll tell you about our walks.
In my last post, we had all laid down for a late afternoon nap on July 6 at the Snag Junction Campground on the Alaska Highway. After leaving my regular readers hanging in my last post, I apologize for the delay in posting this one. Cathy brought a nasty bug home from Ontario with her, and I’ve caught it – I’m off to the doctor’s this morning.
Bella and Tucker and Molly and I had snuggled up for our nap at 3:30, and were enjoying the last bit of it when all hell broke loose just before 5:00 pm. There was very loud pounding on the RV door. Still half asleep, I threw on a pair of shorts, went to the door and opened it, to be told that we had to leave right away because of a wildfire. I asked where it was and his reply was “It’s right here!”
I leaned out and looked up. OMG!! He said that Beaver Creek was safe, so I fired up the RV, pulled the slides in, secured everything, and pulled out to the campground ring road where I could hook the Tracker up.
At 5:15, we pulled out onto the Alaska Highway. A helicopter was circling the campground to make sure everyone was out. The next photo shows the view out my windshield at 5:20 as we started toward Beaver Creek.
At 5:25, unsure of whether Beaver Creek actually was the best direction to be driving, I pulled over, took some photos and gave the situation some thought.
I decided that the wildfire was very likely to close the highway, and I wanted to be on the Whitehorse side of the fire if that was possible. At 5:31 I came to a garbage bin pullout and turned around. I sat there for a few minutes…
5:38 – vehicles were still getting through, so I decided to head south.
5:40 – roadblock! I had a brief conversation with the RCMP officer. A couple of minutes later, he returned and said we had to get out of there as the wildfire was closing in on us and he had to move the roadblock north (back towards Beaver Creek) a few miles.
At 51 feet in length, I’m not able to do a U-turn on the highway. It took a few minutes to disconnect the Tracker, get both vehicles turned around, and get pointed north. A helicopter hovered low overhead and I gave the pilot the thumbs up just before pulling away.
A semi that had been ahead of me, also unable to make a U-turn, backed up past me as I was getting the Tracker unhooked. He would have to back up some 3 miles to the pullout where I turned around.
I eventually went around the semi, then waited for him at the pullout to be sure he was okay. As he pulled in, I continued on towards Beaver Creek. When I reached the second roadblock, the RCMP officer was just closing it to move the roadblock right back to Beaver Creek.
By around 6:20 we were set up at the rest area by the Beaver Creek airport, from where there was a pretty good view of the fire. From what I had seen, I didn’t expect to be going anywhere for a couple of days.
At 7:30 I unhooked the Tracker and drove back into Beaver Creek to take some photos, and to chat with the Highways guy manning the roadblock. I didn’t expect to get any information, and that was correct – everybody at this point was just guessing. A couple towing an Airstream trailer walked over and suggested that they might go around via the Taylor Highway and Dawson. I said I expected that waiting it out at Beaver Creek would be just as quick and a whole lot cheaper.
I took a few more photos on the way back to the rest area where the RV was parked. Once one of the largest hotels in the Yukon, the Beaver Creek Westmark was closed in 2013, though rooms are available in a tiny corner of it now, run by the people who own the Beaver Creek RV Park next door.
I was nicely setled in for the night, reading a book, when there was more pounding on the door at 9:30 pm. An RCMP officer said he thought I was heading north but just in case that was wrong, he wanted to let me know that they were going to run a convoy through the fire zone in 10 minutes if I wanted to join. Yes, I did want to join! I got everything slid in, secured, and hooked up again, and was back to the roadblock a couple of minutes before the convoy of about 15 vehicles, from motorcycles to the semi, headed south at 9:45 pm.
I wish I could have gotten some photos as we drove through the fire zone with RCMP escorts front and rear. It was wild, with very thick smoke, and fire on both sides of the highway for a couple of miles.
Every pullout was full of vehicles that had been northbound. It was almost 10:30 pm when I finally found a spot to park for the night, with a broad view across the White River.
Wildfires do create some spectacular sunsets. The next photo was shot at 10:32 pm.
The next morning, I was in no hurry to leave. Bella and Tucker were happy playing here, and there was no traffic on the highway. There’s no cell service in that area, so I had no idea what was going on with the fire now. The White River was sure raging due to the recent hot weather.
At about 9:30 am, we continued down the Alaska Highway, with the idea that I’d probably go home. I stopped briefly at the Koidern River Lodge, which was operated by Jim and Dorothy Cook until about 2010.
The former Pine Valley Lodge at Historic Mile 1147 has been bought by the Kluane First Nation to be used as a culture camp, so I stopped and took quite a few photos of its current state.
A friend had recently told me that the Kluane Energy gas station at Burwash Landing was a good choice for fuel, and it was indeed. At $1.429 per liter it was 4 cents cheaper than the Talbot Arm a few miles away in Destruction Bay, but it’s also a 24-hour cardlock instead of having to leave your credit card with an attendant inside as at the Talbot Arm.
We stopped at the Kluane Lake pullout where we’d just spent 3 nights and played on the beach with the dogs for a bit. The smoke and heat wiped out the former good vibes, though, and I decided to go home.
Before leaving, I took Glass Monty down to the beach to shoot a few photos. I gathered up a small bag of fine gravel to take home, with the idea of building a base of it for Glass Monty.
When I arrived at the water with Glass Monty, I was met by about 20 tiny Western tailed Blue butterflies (Cupido amyntula). Their upper wing surfaces are a lovely blue colour, but I wasn’t able to get any photos of that.
We got home at about 6:00 pm – that had been quite an adventure!
A followup – once I got home, I found out that the fire was caused by lightning, pretty much as we laid down for our nap. On July 12th, Yukon Protective Services posted this aerial photo of Snag Junction Campground. When I got evacuated and saw what was bearing down on us, I thought there was no way they could save it. Pretty amazing work.
Just after 09:00 on July 6, we left the pullout on the Alaska Highway along Kluane Lake where we had spent 3 nights and 2 days. We headed west, with no particular destination in mind, and not really even a good idea of when I’d go back home. In the 29 years I’ve been driving this highway, this was the first time I could stop and go whenever/wherever I wanted. I love my motorhome 🙂
My first stop was at the Thachäl Dhäl (Sheep Mountain) Visitor Centre – I’d heard there had been some changes to the building, and wanted to ask a ranger about a couple of things.
The centre does get to be a more and more comfortable and useful stop as the years go on. There were a couple of sheep laying down high on the mountain when we were there, but no good viewing.
I was feeling lazy that morning, and although the kids got breakfast, I didn’t. When we reached Destruction Bay just before 10:00, I had my breakfast at the Talbot Arms.
There are still a few campgrounds and rest areas that I don’t have good photos of for my Yukon campground guide, so that was something I wanted to remedy on this drive. The next photo shows the rest area just west of “D Bay”, at Km 1685.1.
I find the glacier-fed creeks and rivers that flow out of Kluane National Park to be very interesting, and the Duke River at Km 1709.5 is one of the most interesting. The old steel-arch bridges used to be a wonderful addition, but in recent years they’ve all been replaced by concrete bridges with no personality.
Because the Alaska Highway runs along the base of mountains here, many of the creeks and rivers look very different looking upstream and downstream from the bridges. We stopped for quite a while at the Duke, and as well as letting Bella and Tucker explore a bit, I took a lot of photos, both from river level and from the bridge. Looking downstream from the bridge, the Duke River has a vast spreading channel (a “braided channel“) that rarely has much water in it. What you see in the next photo is a rather heavy flow.
Looking upstream, the Duke looks very different, quickly narrowing with high cliffs on one side as you climb into the mountains.
I’ve always like the way the highway curves to cross Sakiw Creek at Km 1724.6. I remember when the highway was rebuilt in the mid-1990s, enhancing the curves to reduce the grades on both sides.
The large Kluane River rest area at Km 1726 is a lovely spot.
The next photo is a 3-photo panorama of the Kluane River shot from the viewpoint. The Kluane River is one of the wild cards in this country still – it drains Kluane Lake and it’s not clear what the reduced water and flow levels will do in the long term.
At the bottom of the little valley ahead in the next photo is Quill Creek, and on the right is an abandoned section of the Alaska Highway where a memorial to First Lieutenant Roland Small, who was killed near that spot during construction of the highway, is located.
Our next stop was the large rest area above the Donjek River at Km 1755.5.
There is a fairly new memorial at that rest area, honouring James “Jim/Jimmy” Quong: For 40 years, Jim worked and lived in Yukon where he will be remembered for his part in the development of the highway bridge system.
Since May 1942, Jim worked on the Alaska Highway project as a young draughtsman where he designed and oversaw the initial construction of many temporary timber bridges, crucial to the transportation of materials and equipment required for the Alaska Highway project.
After completion of the military road in 1946, Jim continued to work on the design and construction of 133 permanent bridges to replace the temporary timber bridges. Jim is associated with most bridges throughout the length of the Alaska Highway.
In 1964, Jim joined the Department of Public Works Canada and remained with them as Senior Departmental Representative and Manager of Civil Engineering until his retirement in 1981.
Throughout his highway career, Jim carried his camera and was able to capture life and work along the highway. Today, his photographs can be viewed in Yukon museums displays.
Jim Quong passed away in Vancouver in 2003 at the age of 86.
Dropping down to the Donjek River, at about Km 1760. I had planned to stop there and get some photos, but there was work being done – traffic was one-lane and the pullout at the west end was full of trucks. I had never seen the Donjek with so much water in it, so I was sorry to miss that photo op.
The crews at the Donjek Bridge may have been stringing fibre optic cable, because from there on there were crews burying cable at several places.
I stopped at the Lake Creek Campground at Km 1791.1 next. I pulled the rig into one of the 13 pull through camp sites (there are 27 sites in total), then went for a long walk with Bella and Tucker.
It’s a very nice campground, but I think it gets used little – I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone mention it.
Lake Creek itself is an interesting, very pretty stream with lots of large sand and gravel beaches along it. The section seen in the next photo was particularly interesting with the water-sorted gravels along the bottom.
We left Lake Creek just after 2:00, thinking that the Snag Junction Campground would be a better spot to explore the area from. In the next photo, the green Km 1796 “milepost” can be seen on the right.
At Km 1800, another fibre optic cable-laying crew could be seen ahead. The large lake ahead is Pickhandle Lake – there’s a rest area there but it’s quite small and a large 5th-wheel RV left not enough room for me to get turned around, so I didn’t visit it.
The rest area below is at Km 1840.8 – in my days driving tour bus, I used to stop at that one quite often.
The highway crosses Dry Creek ahead, at Km 1841.8. Until it burned in 1951, the Dry Creek Lodge at what was then Mile 1184 of the highway was an important place. Here, bus passengers would transfer from the Canadian busses operated by the British Yukon Navigation Company to American ones operated by Alaska Coachways.
Right at 3:00, we reached the Snag Junction Campground, which has 15 camp sites, 3 of them pull through.
I picked a lovely back-in site overlooking the lake and was soon set up, planning on staying 2 nights. Bella and Tucker and Molly were all ready for an afternoon nap, and we were all sound asleep when all hell broke loose at 5:00! That, of course, is what I’ll tell you about in the next post 🙂