An aurora night at Lake Laberge and Fox Lake

Last Friday (September 27th), the aurora forecast was very good so a friend and I headed out, planning on a long night of photography.

We first went to the Lake Laberge Campground, arriving early so we could watch day transition into night. I was very surprised by how many people were camping for the weekend – the last weekend the campground is open for the season.

I shot the first photo right at 9:00 pm. All of the photos in this post were shot with my Canon EOS 7D, with a Rokinon 10mm lens, at f2.8. The first two photos were shot with 5-second exposures and ISO 800.

Dusk at Lake Laberge, Yukon
Our timing was perfect, as the aurora borealis began to appear just 4 minutes later. Some of you may wonder whether “aurora borealis” or “Northern Lights” is the correct term. While “Northern Lights” is an old term that has largely been replaced in common usage, everybody will understand, whichever term you use.

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon
Darkness then came quickly. By 9:20 the aurora was getting larger and brighter. The next photo was shot with a 20-second exposure.

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon
A 30-second exposure captured the next image. To the left, the lights of a distant jet can just be made out as it passed over.

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon
At 9:38 there was still a bit of light in the sky to the west. The large diffuse band of aurora seen above the bright band in this and the next few photos is quite unusual.

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon
The sky was incredibly clear, and the Milky Way was showing up well overhead. This was shot with a 30-second exposure and ISO 3200.

The Milky Way at Lake Laberge, Yukon
When the campers nearest us lit a large fire, and another RVer turned on large outside lights, it was time to leave. Before leaving, I shot a few photos that included the fire – this one at 9:44 pm.

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon
The aurora delayed our departure by a few minutes – the next two photos show the unusual diffuse band of aurora well.

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon

Aurora borealis at Lake Laberge, Yukon

We got to the Fox Lake Campground at about 10:40. There were lots of campers here, too, and a bus full of Japanese tourists. The aurora had gotten quite dull, but my friend had brought some glowsticks and we played with them a bit. I shot the next photo right at 11:00, by which time the aurora had brightened up again.

Northern Lights at Fox Lake, Yukon
It takes a very good aurora display for Fox Lake to be a good shooting location, as that hill on the right blocks any low displays. My friend was shooting from the end of the boat dock.

Aurora borealis at Fox Lake, Yukon
Looking back at the camping area at 11:12. Some of the tourists were using flash to take photos – extremely annoying, and ruined many of my photos.

Aurora borealis at Fox Lake, Yukon
At 11:16 there were some nice rays and reds in the display. You can see a vehicle on the North Klondike Highway in the next photo, too.

Aurora borealis at Fox Lake, Yukon
By about 11:30, my body was giving out. This is one of the ongoing problems I’m having from my injury back on August 7th. I went and sat in the car and watched from there, but a nice flare at 11:40 got me out for some photos that included the tour bus…

Northern Lights at Fox Lake, Yukon
…and some shooting directly up, where some nice corona action was happening.

Aurora borealis at Fox Lake, Yukon
At about 12:30, we started back home. Just after 01:00, though, the aurora was so strong that I pulled over and we got a few shots from the shoulder of the highway.

Aurora borealis on the North Klondike Highway, Yukon

After I dropped my friend off, the aurora went crazy on my drive home. I texted her and she went back out and shot for another hour, but I was done. Although it was a much shorter night than I’d planned, it was still really good.

Cruise ships in Skagway in the 1990s

Seeing the megaships that visit Skagway now, it’s interesting to look back at what the ships looked like 20-30 years ago. I started taking pictures of them in 1990 when I started picking up their passengers for bus tours. To many ship enthusiasts, the 1990s were nearing the end of the time when cruise ships looked liked ships.

First, let’s have a look at the docks at Skagway. The basic configuration now is the same as it was 30 years ago, though the Railroad Dock is now 2,000 feet long, almost 3 times what it was in 1990. The photo below, from Google Earth, was shot on June 21, 2019 – Carnival Legend was at the RRF docking position (the Railroad Dock Fore, closest to town), Viking Orion was at RRA (Railroad Dock Aft, to the south), and Norwegian Jewel was at BRD (Broadway Dock). Google Earth actually has this image dated as June 20, 2019 – my wife, Cathy, thinks it’s quite amusing that I even noticed that the ships were wrong for that date 🙂

Aerial view of Skagway docks in June 2019
On September 12, 1990, Regent Sun was at the Railroad Dock (background) and Island Princess was at the Broadway Dock.

Regent Sun and Island Princess in Skagway on September 12, 1990

Regent Sun was built in 1964 for ZIM Lines of Israel. Named SS Shalom. She ran between Haifa and New York until 1967 when she was sold to German Atlantic Line and became Hanseatic, used for cruises in Europe and North America. In 1973, Hanseatic was sold to Home Lines and was renamed Doric. Homes Lines rebuilt her with a larger after superstructure, and she was then used for cruises to Bermuda and the Caribbean. In 1981 she was sold to Royal Cruise Line, and renamed Royal Odyssey – she was again rebuilt, including her funnel, an expanded topmost deck expanded, and a bulbous bow added below the waterline. She then cruised all over the world. In 1988, Royal Odyssey was sold to Regency Cruises and was renamed Regent Sun. In 1995, Regency Cruises collapsed and all of their ships were seized – Regent Sun was laid up in the Bahamas. Although she was sold and renamed a few more times, she never sailed again. In 2001, as Sun 11, she was sold to Indian shipbreakers, but sank off South Africa while en route to India to be scrapped.

Island Princess began life in 1972 as Island Venture, sailing for Flagship Cruises. In 1974 they sold her to P&O’s Princess Cruises and she was renamed Island Princess. She sailed for them until 1999, when she was sold to Hyundai Merchant Marine of South Korea. They renamed her Hyundai Pungak, and she was used to transport South Korean pilgrims to religious sites in North Korea. For a brief period in 2001–2002 she sailed as Platinum for Fiducia Shipping. She was then sold to Voyages of Discovery, who renamed her Discovery. In 2014 she was taken out of service, and was scrapped in India the following year. In 2003, Princess Cruises launched a new ship named Island Princess.

In July 1991, Regent Sea (foreground) and Costa Daphne were at the Broadway Dock.

In July 1991, Regent Sea and Costa Daphne were at the Broadway Dock at Skagway.

Regent Sea was built in 1957 for the Swedish American Line, and was christened MS Gripsholm. She sailed from Gothenburg to New York as well as being used for some cruises. In 1971, she was rebuilt as a pure cruise ship. In 1975 she was sold to the Karageorgis Lines, who renamed her MS Navarino she sailed Mediterranean routes for them until 1981, when she was damaged in a grounding in Greece. It took nearly 3 years to repair her, then in 1984 she was sold to newly-formed Regency Cruises, who renamed her MS Regent Sea. In 1995, Regency went bankrupt, and Regent Sea was auctioned off to United States American Cruise Line. They began to convert her to a casino ship, but went bankrupt before completion. In early 2001 the ship was sold for scrap, but after being looted by pirates, she sank off South Africa.

Costa Daphne was built in 1955 as a freighter for the Port Line, who named her Port Sydney. In 1972-1974, she was rebuilt as a cruise ship, and had a short life as Akrotiri Express before joining Costa and being renamed Daphne in 1975. She sailed for Costa until 1997. She was subsequently sold and renamed several times – Switzerland (1997–2003); Ocean Monarch (2003–2008), with a brief spell as Hellenic Aid, a hospital ship in Sri Lanka in 2005; and finally Princess Daphne (2008–2014). In 2014, she was scrapped in India.

Also in July 1991, Executive Explorer was at the Ferry Dock.

Cruise ship Executive Explorer at Skagway in 1991

Executive Explorer was built in Washington in 1985 for Glacier Bay Yacht Tours, as an overnight excursion boat. She was taken out of service in 2002, and in 2006 the company went bankrupt. In 2011, the ship was bought by Alaskan Dream Cruises, refurbished for week-long cruises, and relaunched as Alaskan Dream.
On August 27, 1991, Pacific Princess and one of White Pass’ container ships, either the Frank H. Brown or M.V. Klondike were at the Railroad Dock.

Pacific Princess at Skagway in 1991

Pacific Princess was built in 1971 for Flagship Cruises, who named her Sea Venture and operated her for cruises from the United States to Bermuda. In 1975 she was sold to Princess Cruises, who renamed her Pacific Princess. She is often said to be the original “Love Boat” on the very successful TV series of that name. However, although Pacific Princess and Island Princess were the original floating stars of the show which began in 1977, The Love Boat was filmed aboard many Princess ships in destinations around the globe. Princess operated her until 2002, when she was sold to Pullmantur Cruises of Spain, who renamed her Pacific. In 2008 she was seized for an unpaid repair bill, and she was eventually scrapped in 2013-2014.
In September 1991, Royal Viking Sky was at the Broadway Dock.

In September 1991, Royal Viking Sky was at the Broadway Dock in Skagway.

Royal Viking Sky was built for Royal Viking Line in 1972. In 1982 she was lengthened from 177.70 meters to 205.47 meters. In 1991 she joined Norwegian Cruise Line and was renamed Sunward, but was only with them for about a year. Under many owners, she has had 10 different names, but is currently (2019) being operated by Fred Olsen Lines as MV Boudicca.
Also in September 1991, Yorktown Clipper was at the Ferry Dock, and Pacific Princess was at the Railroad Dock.

Yorktown Clipper and Pacific Princess in Skagway in 1991

Yorktown Clipper was built in 1988 for Clipper Cruise Line. In January 2006 she was sold to Cruise West, who renamed her Spirit of Yorktown. Cruise West ceased operations in 2010. Spirit of Yorktown was purchased in 2011 by Travel Dynamics, but in 2014 she was seized for unpaid bills. She is currently (2019) operating on the east coast of the US as Americana.
On September 10, 1991, I caught Dawn Princess approaching the Railroad Dock.

Dawn Princess approaching the Railroad Dock at Skagway in 1991

Dawn Princess had been built for Cunard in 1957 as RMS Sylvania, deigned to carry both cargo and passengers. The last of their 4 Saxonia class ships built for the Trans-Atlantic route, their dimensions (608 feet 3 inches long, 80 feet 4 inches wide) were defined by the Saint Lawrence Seaway, as the ships had to pass through that system of locks and canals to reach Montreal. Cunard sold her in 1968 to Sitmar Line, who re-named her Fairwind. Following a year-long refit, she began sailing Alaska cruises in 1971, with a capacity of 925 passengers and a crew of 330. For a brief period she operated as Sitmar Fairwind, but in 1988, Sitmar was sold to P&O, who re-named her Dawn Princess and transferred her to their Princess Cruises division. She only operated for Princess for 5 years – in 1993 she was sold to V-Ships, who re-named her Albatros. By late 2003 her machinery was worn out, and she was sold so a ship breaker in India, where she was broken up in 2004.
Using the same name for different ships can be confusing. When I posted the photos in this post on my Yukon History & Abandoned Places group, a couple of people said they sailed on the Dawn Princess long after 1993. The next photo, though, shot in 2006, shows the Dawn Princess that was built in 1997 and operated under that name until 2017.

Dawn Princess, 2006
By 2001, ships were getting much larger. Some time that year, Carnival’s Jubilee was at the Railroad Dock.

Jubilee was built for Carnival Cruise Lines in 1993. In 2004, she was sold to P&O Cruises Australia and renamed Pacific Sun, sailing Australia and the South Pacific. In 2012 she was sold to Chinese cruise company HNA Cruises, who renamed her Henna. In 2015 HNA ceased their cruise ship operations, and in 2017, Henna> was scrapped.
One last photo follows, just because Empress of the North was so unique. On September 4, 2006, she and Celebrity Summit were at the Ore Dock.

Cruise ships Empress of the North and Celebrity Summit were at the Ore Dock in Skagway in 2006.

Empress of the North was built in Washington for Majestic America Line in 2002, and sailed Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and Columbia River for them starting in 2003. Majestic America Line ceased operations after the 2008 cruise season, and the Empress of the North was turned over to the government (U.S. Maritime Administration). In 2013, the American Queen Steamboat Company purchased the ship and renamed her American Empress. She is now (2019) sailing the Columbia and Snake Rivers between Astoria, Oregon, and Clarkston, Washington.

Hiking Border Ridge in the White Pass

With a 90-minute hike up Summit Creek having gone well last Tuesday, I decided to give a more challenging hike a try the next day. The area I’ve come to call Border Ridge has no trail and rarely sees hikers. It’s high alpine – a land of bare granite, sparse vegetation, and spectacular views. Perfect for what I wanted.

It was almost noon when I finally parked the Tracker at the Km 24 milepost sign, right at the actual Canada/USA border, and started up. One of the border monuments can be seen in the first photo. To read about the incredible task of surveying the border and placing the original monuments, see The thin line between Alaska and Canada, by Ned Rozell.

The actual Canada/USA border in the White Pass
The access route I use is a very steep rock slide that is mostly covered with heather and other plants, making it dog-friendly. Tucker and Bella love this area, too, and were very excited. The tour buses below are stopped at the “Welcome to Alaska” sign. Just past that point, I saw a beer can, and stuck it in my pack. It had clearly been there for years, as the moss under it was dead. It amazes me that people will leave trash in places like this, but as I was writing this I read an article in the Smithsonian Magazine that said volunteers collected 3 tons of garbage from Mount Everest earlier this year. So people with no respect are everywhere 🙁

Hiking above the Welcome to Alaska sign on the South Klondike Highway
One of things that the dogs and I love about Border Ridge is the amount of water – there are clear snow-melt ponds everywhere, and most of them last all through the short summer. Some like the one in the next photo are in particularly dramatic granite-enclosed locations.

Dramatic pond in the White Pass
Walking north past the first of the high points, at 3,563 feet.

Bella was certain that something was living in the summit cairn (and she was probably right – a pika would be my guess) 🙂

My shelty/husky Bella in the White Pass
One of the places on the ridge that particularly intrigues me is this little pond. Its granite surround is so perfect. This was by far the lowest I’ve seen the water level – perhaps I’ve not seen it this late in the season. When the water is deeper, though, it’s very cold.

A small high-alpine pond in the White Pass
Clouds suddenly moved in, accompanied by a very cold wind, so I had to add a layer. I wonder if an earthquake caused that crack in the granite between me and Tucker. I need to check previous photos, as I don’t recall noticing it before.

Hiking along a crack in the granite in the White Pass
I need to spend some time with an alpine plants identification guide. I’m awful with names, but I do like to know more about them, particularly the berries and other possible edibles. I wonder which ones would make a healthy tea (if any), for example.

Alpine plants in the White Pass

Alpine plants in the White Pass

The next photo shows the same pond, with the summit cairn at the top. The “grain” of the ridge is clear here – it makes navigation interesting, going along and across the many little ridges and finding a way around the many cliffs.

Granite ridges in the White Pass
The view from the north end of Border Ridge, with Summit Lake, and Summit Creek Hill the mountain to the left.

A high view of the White Pass
If you also wonder about such patterns, Google “why does ground dry and crack into patterns?” There are some pretty interesting articles 🙂

Why does ground dry and crack into patterns?
At the northwest corner of the ridge I was able to get a photo of much of the International Falls trail, where we hike regularly. The parking area and trailhead are to the lower right.

High view of the International Falls trail
My next target was border monument #118, marked by the red arrow in the next photo. Fresh snow on the peaks to the left leave no doubt that the end of the season is drawing close.

A distant view of border monument #118 in the White Pass
A closer look at border monument #118, which sits at 3,585 feet according to my inReach. It had now been an hour and 20 minutes since we left the highway.

Border monument #118 in the White Pass
Some details…

Border monument #118 in the White Pass
I was getting tired, so from there we headed back towards the highway, stopping only to take a couple more photos of the Fall changes in vegetation. We got back to the car right at 2:00.

The weather on Wednesday had been somewhat better than forecast, but Thursday morning was chilly and damp, as expected. It had been an excellent trip and I was okay with heading home.

I shot one final photo to show you what trees near the White Pass summit are like. This is one of the healthiest of them, having lucked into a small area with a fairly substantial soil deposit. It’s probably much older than I am, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s over 100 years old.

We headed back to Whitehorse just after 10:30.

A White Pass RV getaway – 3 days of hiking and aurora

I needed a mountain getaway, so last Monday drove the motorhome down to the White Pass for a few days. The weather forecasts called for 3 days of good weather, then rain. Getting out in the mountains and being disconnected were just what I needed.

I left home just before noon on Monday. The Alaska Highway is just ahead in the first photo – Whitehorse is a few kilometers to the left, Adventure to the right 🙂

Fireweed Drive and the Alaska Highway at Mary Lake, Yukon
After getting parked at my usual spot just south of Summit Creek, I continued on to Skagway, where I planned to photograph a couple of ships I didn’t have in my files. But the American Constellation had already left, and the Silver Muse wasn’t in a photo-friendly position, so I got neither. I don’t find Royal Caribbean’s massive Ovation of the Seas very interesting, but that’s her in the next photo, with the Alaska ferry Columbia in front.

Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas at Skagway, Alaska
While I was out on the breakwater trying to get a good angle on the Silver Muse, I got a few photos of the Small Boat Harbor.

Small Boat Harbor at Skagway, Alaska
Back up top, I checked in with Canada Customs, and took a few photos of railcars on the WP&YR train that was there picking up passengers. Steel-bodied car #209, named “Lake Bernard”, was built in 1993 and has a wheelchair lift and seating for 26 people.

I went back to the RV, fed the fur-kids dinner, then on our after-dinner walk, decided that the light was so lovely, the dogs and I should go down to the beach below us on Summit Lake.

One of the lingering problems from my injury 5 weeks ago is an odd disorientation. As many times as I’ve walked the trail down to Summit Lake, I didn’t recognize most of it. That’s a bit unnerving given some of the places I hike.

Walking to Summit Lake in the White Pass
It felt so good to be back on that beach. Bella was in the water immediately, and I’d brought Tucker’s ball so we had a good play. We didn’t stay long – it cooled off dramatically as soon as the sun dropped behind Summit Creek Hill.

Walking on the beach of Summit Lake in the White Pass
I didn’t sleep very well that night. When I was up at 02:30 I noticed a bit of aurora borealis in the sky to the north, so I went out and photographed that for a while. The next photo has the motorhome in it.

Aurora borealis in the White Pass
The display peaked just after 03:00 – the next photo was shot at 03:03.

Aurora borealis in the White Pass
The next image intrigues me – with no change in the camera settings and no change in the aurora, the colour is quite different. The photo above is accurate colour – the one below isn’t. Having other lights in the photo can change the way cameras record the colour of the aurora, but with that not being the case here, I don’t know what did it.

Aurora borealis in the White Pass
My parking spot, seen at 09:00 Tuesday morning from the area where I walk the dogs.

RV boondocking in the White Pass
I spent about 3 hours reading, then heard a train horn so decided to go for a drive up to Fraser to see if any good photo ops presented themselves. A short walk got me the next photo of Summit Lake.

Summit Lake in BC's White Pass
Another White Pass train was loading passengers, but I’d have to go through Customs to get any photos of it.

Fraser, BC, with a WP&YR train
The Customs post at Fraser is a pretty quiet station, with a couple of short rushes during peak touring times.

The Customs post at Fraser, BC
It was a gorgeous day, so I decided to give a real hike a try. Summit Creek would be a good test, with no long or steep climbs. By 1:30 Bella was immersed in her favourite element 🙂

Dogs wading in a smal pond along Summit Creek
The kids were having a ball, and I was doing well.

My dogs on a hike along Summit Creek in the White Pass
It was a slow hike for me, but the Fall colours were coming along nicely so there were plenty of reasons to stop for a minute or two.

Fall colours along Summit Creek in the White Pass
Imagine the forces that can do that to a wall of granite. It’s about 15 feet high.

A wall of granite along Summit Creek in the White Pass
When there’s a dry way to go and a wet way, always choose the wet way, Bella says 🙂

My dogs in a little creek along Summit Creek in the White Pass
We stopped in the lower canyon of Summit Creek. The water level was much lower, and the water much clearer than it had been 5 weeks before.

We were back at the highway in about an hour and a half. It had been a very good hike.

The next photo shows the view to the south from the RV at 5:00 pm, shot at 400mm.

Dramatic peaks in the White Pass
Molly is always happy to have her family back. She loves the RV life 🙂

My cat Molly in the RV
Once the kids were fed, a nice but simple dinner for me – Italian sausage and seasoned rice with a nice bottle of red wine while finished reading “The Mindful Hiker” by Stephen Altschuler.

Simple dinner in the RV
It had been a busy day, and taking my cane on the day’s final dog-walk was a comfort. Taking a walk in my pyjamas – one of the pleasures of boondocking in the middle of nowhere. Also one of the pleasures of not caring what anybody thinks about it 🙂

Taking a walk in my pyjamas
I also did a a bit of photography of berries and Fall colours (and dogs) on that last walk.

Berries and Fall colours in the White Pass
Two days before the full moon, the world was pretty interesting when I woke up at 02:00 so I went out and did some shooting. The full moon overpowers all but the strongest of aurora displays.

Aurora as seen with a full moon in the White Pass
With the Autumn Equinox fast approaching, this is no longer The Land of the Midnight Sun – this photo of the dawn colours was shot at a much more normal 07:04.

Dawn colours in the White Pass
On Wednesday morning I went down for a look at progress on the William Moore Bridge, before the highway opened and work crews arrived. I expect that now that the gully has been filled with rock from the bridge approach construction, this curve will soon be eliminated.

A curve on the South Klondike Highway north of Skagway
While the light was still rather dim, I drove past the bridge and took a few blurred-water shots of Bridal Veil Falls. This one was shot at 0.8 of a second.

Bridal Veil Falls, Skagway
Back to the bridge. They’re down to the finishing now – it looks like paving will happen soon.

William Moore Bridge, South Klondike Highway
A final shot of the bridge construction site. I expect that the next time I go down, that will all be cleaned up.

William Moore Bridge, South Klondike Highway
Driving back to the motorhome, I noticed some low-lying fog in the distance, so continued on for a look, as it often produces some interesting photo ops. I love the colour of the dawn light in the next photo.

Fog at dawn in the White Pass
Dropping down into the shade, the colours were dramatically different.

Fog at dawn in the White Pass

After breakfast I decided to try a much more challenging hike. I’ll tell you about that outing in the next post.

Back to adventures – a drive to Skagway and an aurora night

My healing from the hiking accident is progressing nicely – far better than the doctors led me to believe would be the case. As I write this on Saturday morning, I’m planning to load the motorhome to get away for a few days on Monday. This past Wednesday, though, I took my first “long” drive in almost a month, to Skagway, then had great aurora viewing that night.

On Tuesday evening I did another “test” drive, into Whitehorse. The light was beautiful at Schwatka Lake, and I caught CF-FHZ, a 1950 de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Mk. I Beaver, taxiing. It’s operated by Alpine Aviation.

CF-FHZ is a 1950 de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Mk. I Beaver.
Wednesday began with my usual therapy routine, which includes 20 minutes or so out in the corral, cutting out the willows and pines that I’d allowed to grow over the past 12 years. It’s a good way to get some exercise and sun while connecting with the earth’s healing powers.

Murray cutting out willows

The drive to Whitehorse had gone well so I decided to try Skagway. I had no idea how it might go, so didn’t take the dogs – I expected to have to stop and take a nap or two, and was mentally prepared to even have to make it an overnight trip.

I didn’t get away until after 11:00. The Fall colours were getting good, and I made my first stop at noon for a couple of photos along Windy Arm.

Fall colours on the South Klondike Highway
A few minutes later, I stopped in at Tutshi Sleddog Tours. They were very busy and I couldn’t find Michelle as I’d hoped, but I got a puppy fix, so it was a good stop anyway 🙂

Puppies at Tutshi Sleddog Tours

Puppies at Tutshi Sleddog Tours

This was a very different drive for me – I needed to focus on what I was doing, and only made 3 stops. The third was when I lucked into a WP&YR train returning to Skagway, right at the series of bridges between Miles 7 and 8.

WP&YR train
I have photographs of each of the railway’s 79 passenger cars (and all the other equipment), and with the 400mm lens, got a different angle on a few of the cars here.

WP&YR 'Lake Goat' passenger car
I started my Skagway visit at the viewpoint on the Dyea Road. It was a good spot to get photos of the two megaships in that day, the Norwegian Bliss (seen in the next photo) and Royal Princess. Norwegian Bliss has a capacity of 4,002 passengers (at double occupancy, so can go much higher), with 1,700 crew members. Royal Princess is slightly smaller, with a capacity of 3,560 passengers at double occupancy, and 1,346 crew members.

Norwegian Bliss docked at Skagway
I was amazed by the number of caterpillars crawling around the viewpoint. The Chilkat Valley News from Haines said recently, “While many people call them woolly bears, retired ornithology professor and Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Bob Armstrong said the bumble bee looking caterpillars are called spotted tussock moth caterpillars. Despite their bright, colorful and cuddly appearance, it’s a bad idea to handle them because, like bumble bees, they can sting.”

A spotted tussock moth caterpillar at Skagway
Buying things other than food is rather a novelty for me now. In Skagway I picked up a set of neutral density filters for my camera (for shooting waterfalls primarily), a couple of books to assist on my journey, and a journal that was gifted to me by a friend who made it.

At about 10:00 that night, a member of my Aurora Alert group posted that an aurora display had begun. I looked out but it was weak, and the aurora forecast was just a Level 2, meaning we shouldn’t expect much if anything. But as more reports were posted, I kept an eye on it, and as the display got better, got my camera gear together at about 11:00.

I was too tired to drive to a better location, so just went out into my front yard in my pyjamas and started shooting at 11:15. The neighbour across the street has huge “security” lights that make aurora shooting not very good, but as the aurora spread across the sky, I walked out onto the road (still in my pyjamas 🙂 ), and started shooting the south-eastern sky. The next photo was shot at 11:23.

The aurora borealis at Whitehorse, Yukon
The display rapidly got better and better, and I was shooting constantly. I varied settings a bit as the light intensity changed – the next photo, shot at 11:27, was shot with my Canon EOS 7D and Rokinon 10mm f2.8 lens, at ISO 1000 and 15 seconds.

The aurora borealis at Whitehorse, Yukon
The show peaked at 11:32 (when I shot the next photo), and I had reduced my exposure time to 13 seconds. From there it diminished and faded quite rapidly.

The aurora borealis at Whitehorse, Yukon
The final photo looks to the north again, so shows my neighbour’s lights, but it also shows some great colour in the aurora below the tree line. I would have gotten much better photos if I’d gone for a drive to an open view, but I was really happy to get a show like that to end the day.

The aurora borealis at Whitehorse, Yukon

I’m back – slowly recovering from my hiking injury

I last posted here on Sunday, August 18th. I was home for 2 days after an 8-day stay at Whitehorse General Hospital following a fall during a hike on August 7th. The day following my last post, Cathy and I flew to Vancouver to meet a neurologist at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH).

While I have a ways to go yet before I’ll be out on hiking and motorcycling adventures again, the worst is over. Here’s a brief look at what’s happened to get me to this point.

Between Cathy, Air North, and a wheelchair, we got to Vancouver Monday morning. We had absolutely no idea what to expect at VGH – would we just be in and out for the test(s) I needed, or an overnight stay? I had brought what I’d need to stay overnight.

The taxi ride (a very long one due to an accident on the ramp from the airport) was awful. The movement caused the dizziness that is one of my primary symptoms to bring on bad nausea – I just barely kept my stomach contents where they belonged.

We got off to a very bad start at VGH. Although we had an appointment to meet the neurologist at the Emergency Department, it took about 5 hours to get to see him and 2 neurology students. Then, we were told this would be a multi-day stay to get all the tests done. We decided that Cathy would fly home the next morning, and she got a nice hotel across the street from the hospital. Despite the fact that they had no bed for me, I wasn’t allowed to join her – I spent that stressful night in a hallway in a back corner of Emerg. Late Monday night, a nurse brought me a sleeping mask (eye shades) and earplugs, which helped. I shot the first photo very early Tuesday morning while I was in a very dirty mood.

Murray at Vancouver General Hospital Emergency Department on Aug 20 2019

The neurologist had told me that they’d found nothing to indicate that any serious damage had been done by my fall. But I felt awful, and spinal injuries scare the hell out of me. The “what if” scenarios spinning through my head were never positive 🙁

At about noon on Tuesday (August 20th), I was wheeled on the stretcher to a ward in the Djavad Mowafaghian Neurosciences Unit in the huge Jim Pattison pavillion. A couple of days later, I shot this photo of the elevators that brought people to the unit. In the “small world” department, I worked for Jim Pattison for a dozen or so years back before he became uber-wealthy – he actually used to pop by the Overwaitea Foods warehouse to chat with us occasionally.

Djavad Mowafaghian Neurosciences Unit at VGH
Meals at the Whitehorse hospital had been very good – made from scratch, interesting, and large. At Vancouver, they were none of the above. How’s this for a dismal excuse for breakfast? I hear that’s the norm across BC now 🙁

A dismal breakfast at VGH - Aug 22 2019
On Wednesday, a couple of Physical Therapists came to assess me. We went for a walk, me with a walker, and things went badly. I got so dizzy and weak that they had to take me back to bed with a wheelchair.

Aug 22 2019
Having a wheelchair beside your bed, and a sign above the bed noting you as a fall risk, not to move without a walker or assistant, is very disheartening.

Aug 22 2019

On Thursday, I was determined to work this out, and was up and down the halls a few times with my walker. A nurse came by that evening to say it had been noticed how hard I was working.

That evening, the neurology team also came by and told me that I could go home if my final test on Friday, an electromyography (EMG), showed nothing significant as they expected. They were confident from what they and the other staff members had seen that I could heal at least as well at home. They were worried about how I’d be able to make travel bookings, but I assured them it was no problem. Within minutes of them leaving, I was booked on Air North’s Saturday morning flight home.

On Friday morning, my Physical Therapist graduated me from a walker to a cane. Much better! The tests that day all verified that no serious damage had been done in the fall – the neurology team were still confident that this would work itself out.

My final dinner at VGH – sesame ginger cod. This actually tasted pretty good, though a serving about double that size would have been more reasonable.

Aug 23 2019
On Saturday morning, my niece, Sari, picked me up at VGH, and drove me to the airport. The drive was much better than the taxi ride on Monday had been, but I still got quite nauseous. I had arranged for a wheelchair at YVR, and I had breakfast before Sari wheeled me to the security gate. She had to leave me there. I suppose I could have gotten an Air North rep to help me get to the gate, but I wheeled myself there – it was a very long way. At 10:15, my chauffeur arrived 🙂

Air North at YVR - Aug 24 2019
I normally love flying, but I just wanted this flight to be over. It was cloudy all the way, so there wasn’t even anything to take my mind off the situation.

Coffee on Air North - Aug 24 2019
That afternoon, therapy tool #1, the hot tub, was being readied (we get hot water delivered for it). It occurred to both Cathy and I that getting into it could be a challenge for a while, but it turned out to be easy. I had sunk the tub down into the deck so the rim is the perfect height to sit on and just swing my legs over. And OMG it felt good!

Hot tub being filled - Aug 24 2019
Cathy told me that if I was good and did what the medical team told me to do, she’d make my favourite breakfast, smoked salmon eggs Benedict. I did, and on August 25th she did 🙂

Smoked salmon eggs Benedict - Aug 25 2019
My Facebook post on August 26th: “It occurred to me a couple of hours ago that there are walkers with engines – they’re called lawn mowers. The non-motorized one – the wheelbarrow – was a lot tougher, but I’ve got this. I’ll be back in the mountains soon.”

Lawn mowed - Aug 26 2019
By August 27th, though I was having a quiet day after over-doing it the previous day, I felt almost ready to stop using the cane. The hot tub and home gym, a sunny deck and a trail for forest bathing and earthing were and still are my healing agents.

Aug 27 2019
This awesome shower in the late afternoon of the 27th was just what I needed to finish off the day right. After some pretty dark days, I was rejoicing at where I was.

Aug 27 2019
That night, I even went out and took some photos of the Milky Way (with a satellite crossing in front of it) from the deck.

Milky Way - Aug 27 2019
On August 29th I posted on Facebook: “I’ve seen this quote a few times recently, posted by friends who like themselves, and like being alone. So I made my own image with it. I need to get out onto the land for a few days very soon – perhaps this coming weekend if things continue to progress well. I may not do a lot beyond sitting on the beach, but that’s okay.” That possible getaway didn’t happen.

Aug 27 2019
Healing energy and meditation have been very important for me the past 3 weeks, filling countless hours of my time. In greetings, namaste has no direct translation. Of the meanings I’ve found, the one I use as my meaning is “I bow to the place in you that is love, light, and joy.”

Sept 1 2019

And here we are – Monday, September 2nd. While I’m basically functional, long walks and long drives aren’t possible. We tried to go to Skagway on Saturday but I had to get Cathy to drive after less than an hour. I’m improving slowly (with some setbacks) but my patience, particularly with summer rapidly disappearing, has pretty much worn out. It’s only been 32 days since I fell, and I’m improving far faster than initial conversations led me to believe might happen. During my final talk with one of my neurologists, though, she said that full recovery could take weeks or even months. Too much rest will retard my healing – I need to be active to some degree, and find my balance as to what works and what is too much. In 2 weeks Cathy is going to Europe for a month. It’s impossible to say what shape I’ll be in by then, but I have a great support network if I have problems.

I’m trying to focus on the fact that this could have been (and for a while looked like it was) so much more serious. But sometimes I think I need a new story – “I fell off a cliff – 63 feet it was. I’m lucky to be alive!!” Being this messed up by simply falling on my bum is just stupid. But I have no problem keeping in mind that some day I’ll be able to look back on this as just a bad memory – many people, including several friends of mine, aren’t that positive right now 🙁

Value every day, my friends – you just never know which one will be your last good one.

And value your friends. Their support, and their humour, have been a huge comfort to me over the past weeks.

Hospital gown humour

This will be my last “medical” post – back to having fun shortly 🙂

A final day in the White Pass, and I’m injured

Wednesday, August 7th, was my final day of a week-long RV outing in the White Pass, a week that included lots of hiking and photography. Wednesday was a partial day, though, as I realized that I may have hurt myself in a fall the day before, and drove home.

The day began early as usual – at 05:24, the colours of dawn had begun to light up my world. The first photo, shot from the motorhome, looks north over Summit Lake.

Dawn at Summit Lake in the White Pass
By 05:49, the sky was getting very colourful, and it was looking like we might have another very good day coming.

A colourful dawn at Summit Lake in the White Pass
I wanted to start the day off very early by making a short hike to the first waterfall on the International Falls trail, to do some low-light shooting. I’d been very pleased with the results of the early morning session at Bridal Veil Falls the day before. On the way, I detoured to get a shot of the Welcome to Alaska sign a few hundred meters beyond.

Welcome to Alaska sign on the South Klondike Highway
The next photo shows the start of the International Falls trail, from the highway. I was pretty sore from my fall at Summit Creek the day before, and was a tiny bit dizzy. I thought for a while about whether I should be going down the very steep drop into the valley, finally deciding that I just needed to get moving and work the soreness out.

International Falls trail, South Klondike Highway
I arrived at the first waterfall at 07:10, and the light was near perfect for what I wanted to do. I should have been there a few minutes earlier so the session could last longer, but it was still good.

The first waterfall on the International Falls trail, in the early morning
I only spent 10 minutes shooting, then it starting getting too bright to accomplish these shots. I mentioned at Bridal Veil Falls that these shots can be done with neutral density (ND) filters, and yesterday I ordered another set to fit the lens I use most now, a 24-105mm.

The first waterfall on the International Falls trail, in the early morning
The very steep climb back to the highway, with ropes installed by a tour company in Skagway to help their clients, but with all of us benefitting.

Ropes installed on the very steep first part of the International Falls trail

I’ve been unsure for the last week about how much to tell you (if anything) about what happened from then until today. Some of you have been with me for many years, though, and there may be a long silence after today. Here’s why…

The climb back up to the highway was tough – the soreness from my fall wasn’t working itself out, and the dizziness wasn’t getting better. We had a very quiet day, but by early afternoon I decided that I needed to get home – something wasn’t right.

By the time I got up Thursday morning, I was starting to get numbness in my core (around my tailbone where I’d hit) and tingling beyond that. By that afternoon, I started to feel like I was losing some important bodily functions. I drove into Whitehorse that evening to meet with my Klondike Road Relay race teammates. When I started to drive home, I only got a mile before deciding that I needed to drive to the hospital instead, to get checked out at Emergency.

Though there were a dozen people in the waiting area, within minutes of arriving at Emergency, I had nurses and a doctor assessing me. To keep a long story short, my symptoms got worse, and they worked on me all night. Multiple CT scans and other tests showed nothing definitive. A series of MRIs on Friday morning had the same result. The summary is “spinal trauma,” but there’s nothing definitive enough to treat. I shot the next selfie while waiting for the MRI.

Murray at Whitehorse General Hospital

About 20 hours after arriving at Emergency, I was admitted to Whitehorse General Hospital and moved upstairs to the surgical ward. I posted on Facebook that I didn’t want any visitors at the hospital, and my friends respected that request. In my case, misery does not love company.

People talk with distain about hospital food but I had no complaints. The roast beef dinner shown in the next photo was very good, and large. All the meals are made from scratch, and there’s lots of variety. I’ve certainly paid good money at banquets for lesser quality. Cathy brought a big box of Timbits on Sunday night as my bonus for being good 🙂

Roast beef dinner at Whitehorse General Hospital
The view from my room on Monday morning. I had a bad spell later that day – nurses packed me in heated blankets to get me warm.

By Tuesday my basic body functions had returned and I had stabilized. My doctor was in daily consultation with a neurologist in Vancouver, and I was on the list to be medevaced out, but no beds were available in Vancouver.

On Wednesday morning, I posted on Facebook: “Okay, enough of this being sick shit. Ditch the hospital gown, to start – that’s just bad energy. My doctor, though, is awesome – I’m keeping her.”

Murray at Whitehorse General Hospital

Finally on Thursday night, with no bed in Vancouver yet, I told my doctor that I didn’t need a medevac flight – with assistance, I could do a scheduled flight. That was the key – on Friday evening, I was released from hospital. Cathy and I have reservations on the 07:00 Air North flight Monday morning, to meet the neurologist at the Emergency department at Vancouver General Hospital, to do some further testing. Cathy needs to get a wheelchair for me at the Whitehorse airport and a golf cart at the Vancouver airport to get us to a taxi, as well as possible other assistance.

I can’t say enough about how good Whitehorse General Hospital is. Everybody, from room cleaners to doctors, was wonderful. Although I have no definitive diagnosis yet, it’s certainly not from lack of trying, with all the most modern equipment. And the cost isn’t one of things Cathy and I need to worry about. Everything, including our flights and associated expenses tomorrow, is covered by the health care that all Yukon residents have.

I was in a split room – the other person was a German guy who had crashed his motorcycle on the Dempster Highway. He has broken ribs, a punctured lung, and some other injuries, but from the photos of his BMW, he was lucky to have survived until the rescue helicopter arrived. The only other patient I talked to was a guy from Ontario who had also crashed his BMW motorcycle. His crash was on the Alaska Highway, and he now has a foot full of staples and steel pins. He said only an airbag-type vest saved his life. Boys and their Adventures! One of my nurses said that she never sees multiple women being hurt this way 🙂

It’s now Sunday morning. I’m simply waiting for tomorrow. I can walk as long as I have not too long a span between things to hang onto. I can’t come up the right word for what’s going on – dizzy, spacey, disoriented? I’ve had to cancel all further activities that I’d planned, though – those primarily being the Klondike Road Relay, and a motorcycle trip to Yellowknife with my son that was supposed to begin 6 days from now.

I won’t post anymore about this story on the blog until there’s a resolution to the problem. I hope to be back posting about that, and about Adventures, soon 🙂

Hiking to the canyons of Summit Creek in the White Pass

On Tuesday, August 6th, my main outing was a mostly off-trail hike to the spectacular canyons of Summit Creek. The creek crosses the South Klondike Highway just a few hundred meters from where my motorhome was parked for a week of exploring.

After getting back from an early-morning outing to photograph Bridal Veil Falls and the William Moore Bridge project, I put a pot of coffee on and just sat outside and soaked up the majesty of the White Pass.

RV boondocking in the White Pass of far north BC
I started pulling tufts of loose undercoat from Bella, then decided to give her a proper brushing. Her coat is incredible, and when she’s done some swimming as she has on a couple of hikes during this week, she starts shedding profusely. I hope that the local rodents can use it for a warm winter nest 🙂

Shed wool from my dog
09:30 – time to make a good breakfast for what I expected to be a fairly strenuous hike. The terrain I was going into is rough enough that I was leaving Bella and Tucker in the RV.

Making breakfast in my RV
There are a couple of busy periods on the highway, but even at its busiest, the South Klondike is a pretty quiet road. This North 60 B-train tanker hauling fuel from Skagway into the Yukon came by at 10:10.

North 60 B train tanker hauling fuel from Skagway into the Yukon
Bella hadn’t yet recovered from our difficult ending to the Bryant Lake hike the day before. Instead of going for a walk, she went up onto the ridge, dug a nest, and settled down.

My husky/shelty cross Bella resting in the tundra of the White Pass
Two very different ways of seeing this country – cruise ship passengers in their tour bus zipping by our motorhome parked there for a week.

Tour bus and RV on the South Klondike Highway in the White Pass
At 11:15 I headed out on the hike. I had started up Summit Creek on Saturday, but it 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. This time I was wearing boots to protect it, and tried a different route, on the south side of the creek instead of the north. My motorhome can be seen just left of centre in the next photo.

Starting to hike up Summit Creek in the White Pass
The first challenge was to find a good way across a wide wet area. I plotted one out and dropped down into the mini-valley.

Starting to hike up Summit Creek in the White Pass
Almost all of the normally wet areas (ponds, streams, and marshes) were dry – that made the crossing easy 🙂

Starting to hike up Summit Creek in the White Pass
I don’t know what causes these intriguing bumps – they’re only in one small area about 100 feet square.

Marshy area in the White Pass
I picked a large rock slide as the best way to start up the low ridge to the west, at the north base of Summit Creek Hill. At 11:35, 20 minutes from the RV, I started the short climb.

Climbing a rock slide in the White Pass
The wandering ridge tops are my favourite places to be, and there’s no direct route to the lower canyon where I wanted to start in any case, due to both terrain and vegetation.

Hiking along an open ridge in the White Pass, BC
Mother Nature’s bounty in the White Pass. I don’t yet know what the berries are – I don’t have access to my plant books and can’t find them online. But it’s beautiful in any case. In areas like this, I try hard to only walk on the rocks.

Mother Nature's bounty in the White Pass.

Mother Nature's bounty in the White Pass.

After climbing up, I had follow a creek back down a little way to reach a spot where I could get through very thick evergreens to the left. I shot this a couple of minutes before noon.

Hiking near Summit Creek in the White Pass, northern BC
All of the lower canyon and the first part of the upper canyon can be seen in the next panoramic photo, which looks northwest. Summit Creek flows in at the upper left, makes two right-angle turns then continues along just below the middle of the photo.

Summit Creek in the White Pass, northern BC
My favourite lichen are called British soldiers (Cladonia cristatella). I see them occasionally on my hikes, but I’ve never seen a patch as large and healthy as this one. They’re tiny – a little over an inch high.

British soldiers lichen (Cladonia cristatella) in the White Pass
There are two good routes down into the lower canyon – one at about the middle of the canyon, and one at the upper end. The next photo was shot near the middle one, at 12:20.

The lower canyon of Summit Creek in the White Pass, northern BC
Back up top, looking down the lower canyon. Between the lower canyon and the highway, Summit Creek swings wide and flows through a wet area with lots of willow and other brush that makes hiking along it all but impossible. Part of that area can be seen towards the upper right of the next photo.

The lower canyon of Summit Creek in the White Pass, northern BC
Looking up the lower canyon from the same spot.

The lower canyon of Summit Creek in the White Pass, northern BC

I had a bad fall at the spot where I took the two photos above. My tripod started to fall, and in grabbing it, I twisted and fell backwards, landing on a small boulder with my tailbone. The pain was literally blinding, but after a few minutes recovery and some test movements, I decided I could continue with the hike.

The next photo looks up the upper canyon, which is much more spectacular than the lower canyon. Summit Creek does a 90-degree turn here, and another 90-degree to the left just past the furthest point the photo shows.

The upper canyon of Summit Creek in the White Pass, northern BC
I was extremely surprised to find a little-used trail as I climbed up from the spot where I shot the last photo. The next photo looks down to that spot.

The upper canyon of Summit Creek in the White Pass, northern BC
If you got lost here, you sure wouldn’t starve – the blueberry crop this year is bountiful (as is the case with most berries here).

Blueberries in the White Pass
A panoramic shot of the view back down to Summit Lake and the highway, at 1:20 pm.

A panoramic shot of the view back down to Summit Lake in the White Pass
Here’s the first good look at the upper canyon, processed as an HDRI to bring out details in the deep shadows. If there’s a way down into the canyon, I didn’t see it.

The upper canyon of Summit Creek in the White Pass, northern BC
Right below the spot where I shot the next photo, Summit Creek makes another 90-degree turn. This is at the upper end of the upper canyon.

The upper canyon of Summit Creek in the White Pass, northern BC
I climbed high above the head of the upper canyon (up Summit Creek Hill) to see if I could get a broad view of the canyons and the upper Summit Creek valley.

Climbing the north slope of Summit Creek Hill
Here is where I turned around, at 1:45. From there I could see a trail running up the north side of Summit Creek. It looks like it would be an amazing backpacking trip, though I have no idea where that trail begins. I guess I need to do more exploring there 🙂

The headwaters of Summit Creek in the White Pass of northern BC
On the hike out, I dropped down closer to the canyon lip to get some clearer views. Very impressive! This photo also hints at one of the reasons I turned around – though it was beautiful at Summit Creek, storm clouds were rapidly building to the north.

The upper canyon of Summit Creek in the White Pass, northern BC
This is the start of the upper canyon. This is some wild country – I love it!!

The upper canyon of Summit Creek in the White Pass, northern BC
The trail I had found at the bottom of the upper canyon was fragmented, but was marked with tape at a couple of spots where it was a great aid in getting through tough sections. The next photo is right above the bottom of the upper canyon.

Hiking at Summit Creek in the White Pass, northern BC
Back at the bottom of the upper canyon, at 2:10.

The upper canyon of Summit Creek in the White Pass, northern BC
I stopped down at the creek for a few minutes to rest – my back where I fell was getting pretty sore.

Summit Creek, in the White Pass of northern BC
This appears to be a trail marker that’s been there for a very long time, but there’s no sign of a trail anymore, and I can’t imagine why there would be one in that area.

A very old trail marker near Summit Creek in the White Pass
Although the route I chose to come in on was pretty good, I decided to take a different route out, starting at the creek where I had been just before noon.

Hiking near Summit Creek, in the White Pass of northern BC
And what do you know, I ran into another trail down almost at highway elevation, this one quite well travelled.

Hiking near Summit Creek, in the White Pass of northern BC
At 2:40 I had to change footwear…

Changing from hiking boots to sport sandals
…just to cross one little creek. I was so close to the highway that I didn’t change back again – my Achilles hadn’t given me any problems during the hike.

A creek crossing while hiking near Summit Creek
With a couple of breaks in it, I followed the trail right to the highway. It begins at the southern end of the guardrail at the Summit Creek bridge.

The start of a trail up Summit Creek in the White Pass

I got back to the motorhome right at 3:00 and took Bella and Tucker for a walk. Tucker was enthusiastic but Bella was still out of sorts – there was no hint that she had any physical problem, she just didn’t want to walk with me.

By 5:00, the skies to the north were pretty much promising rain.

A storm moving in to the White Pass.
At 6:35 I could see that it was raining hard just north of Fraser, perhaps 15 miles north of our location.

Rain storm near Fraser, BC
The rain arrived a few minutes later, and when I shot the next photo at 7:10 it was torrential.

Torrential rain on the South Klondike Highway
“Let it rain, let it pour, we don’t care,” said Bella 🙂

We of course had a quiet night, and I hadn’t really made any plans for Wednesday except to do some early-morning low-light waterfall shooting on the International Falls trails.

Bridal Veil Falls, and progress on the new William Moore Bridge

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.

A low-light shot of Bridal Veil Falls north of Skagway, Alaska
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 🙂

A low-light shot of Bridal Veil Falls north of Skagway, Alaska
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.

William Moore Bridge project, South Klondike Highway
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.

William Moore Bridge project, South Klondike Highway
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.

William Moore Bridge project, South Klondike Highway
I was surprised to see the rough concrete well above grade, with the final smooth concrete yet to be laid.

William Moore Bridge project, South Klondike Highway
One of the sprinklers that slow the concrete curing time down on warm days.

William Moore Bridge project, South Klondike Highway
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.

William Moore Bridge project, South Klondike Highway
The next photo is a better look at the culvert that left the natural bed of William Moore Creek untouched.

William Moore Bridge project, South Klondike Highway
A final overview of the project site, looking downhill this time.

William Moore Bridge project, South Klondike Highway
Just a few meters above the project, Mother Nature is completely in charge, presenting this lovely cascade for us to enjoy.

William Moore Creek

Just after 07:30, I headed back to the motorhome to get the rest of the day organized.

Another hike to Bryant Lake, for the sandy beach and glacier

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.

RV along the South Klondike Highway in the White Pass at dawn
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.

The trail to Bryant Lake, BC
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.

The trail to Bryant Lake, BC
Looking back down to the highway, the WP&YR railway to the right of it, and Bernard Lake at 11:01.

The trail to Bryant Lake, BC (a.k.a. Fraser Lake)
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.

The trail to Bryant Lake, BC (a.k.a. Fraser Lake)
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.

Grizzly scat on the trail to Bryant Lake, BC (a.k.a. Fraser Lake)
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.

Fireweed along the trail to Bryant Lake, BC
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.

There's one creek crossing on the trail to Bryant Lake, BC
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.

Bryant Lake, BC
This is the really great part of the trail, along the lake, with just a bit of up and down. It sees little use. calls the peak to the left (south) Fraser Peak, and it probably gets more visitors.

Bryant Lake, BC
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.

My dog Bella after some poor critter at Bryant Lake, BC
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…

The trail along Bryant Lake, BC
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.

My dogs cooling off in Bryant Lake, BC
The next photo shows the reason I sometimes leave the kids at home – this rock slide is lengthy, and difficult for both of them.

Rock slide on the trail to Bryant Lake, BC
After the big rock slide, there’s a smaller one, but that crossing is quick enough to not be a big deal.

Rock slide on the trail to Bryant Lake, BC
At 12:50, there’s our destination. Just looking at that photo makes me feel good 🙂

The head of Bryant Lake, BC
Every one of our plants that produces berries seems to be having a very good year.

Berries along Bryant Lake, BC
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.

The beach at the head of Bryant Lake, BC (a.k.a. Fraser Lake)
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 🙂

The beach at the head of Bryant Lake, BC (a.k.a. Fraser Lake)
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.

Tadpoles at the head of Bryant Lake, BC (a.k.a. Fraser Lake)
Yeah, I love mud. Especially super-fine glacial silt mud. This is seriously good earthing.

Yeah, I love mud. Especially super-fine glacial silt mud.
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.

The glacier at the head of Bryant Lake, BC
This cascade just beyond the north end of the beach provides wonderful background music to enhance a mountain lake experience.

Waterfall at the head of Bryant Lake, BC
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.

The trail along Bryant Lake, BC
Back at the foot of the lake, 45 minutes after leaving the beach.

Bryant Lake, BC (a.k.a. Fraser Lake)
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 road down from Bryant Lake, BC (a.k.a. Fraser Lake)
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.

The road down from Bryant Lake, BC (a.k.a. Fraser Lake)
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.

My cat Molly sleeping on the dash of the RV

The next day, Bella and Tucker would get a rest while I headed up Summit Creek into terrain too rough for them.