An Early-Fall Motorcycle Ride to Skagway

My motorcycle hasn’t gotten much use this year, as I’ve already spent about 80 days in the motorhome, far from the bike. But yesterday, I put about 350 km (217 mi) on it riding to Skagway and back.

The feel of Fall has been in the air for a couple of weeks now, and Fall colours have begun to arrive in many places.

Fall colours in the Yukon
Every bus, and most rental-car drivers, stop at the “Welcome to the Yukon” sign. The nearest bus is from a brand-new company (there have been a few in recent years) – after 15 years guiding for other people, Raymie Eatough has set up her own operation, Midnight Sun Excursions. My reason for stopping, though, wasn’t to look at the sign or buses, but to have a chat with long-time friend Jacqueline St. Jacques, who sells her handcrafted stone-and-wire jewelry here (and online at

Tour buses at the Welcome to the Yukon sign
An excellent new interpretive sign has been installed near the Welcome sign this year. It describes the Dall sheep and mountain goats that are commonly seen on the slopes directly above that spot.

Interpretive sign about Dall sheep and mountain goats
Another sign change – the “Welcome to British Columbia” sign has been moved to the parking-lot side of the highway to avoid the dangerous situation of having people crossing the highway. Actually, the sign says “Welcome. The Best Place on Earth. British Columbia. Canada”. Speaking of that sort of danger on the highway, what’s with this new fad among Asians to get their photos taken with the centre-line of highways??? GET OFF THE ROAD!

Welcome to British Columbia sign

I got an email earlier in the week from a researcher wanting to hike to the grave of Fred Whitcomb Jr., and had sent him detailed directions to the remote site. After seeing near-flood-level waters in all the lakes, though, I had to send him a follow-up note last night, telling him that the site is inaccessible except by boat now.

I haven’t shot a motorcycle selfie in a while, and this pullout at a little lake provided the perfect spot for it. The bike is a 2009 VStar 1100 Classic that I bought new to celebrate my 60th birthday – after 6 years, I still think that it was the perfect choice. When I was shopping, I was looking at older, smaller (and much cheaper) bikes. Cathy finally said “why don’t you buy the bike you really want?” – and a few hours later, the VStar was in our driveway πŸ™‚

Murray Lundberg with his 2009 VStar 1100 Classic in the Yukon
I also went for a short hike at that pullout. The light wasn’t great for scenic shots, but the ground offered lots of subjects.

Mushroom in the Yukon
I’d heard at the “Welcome” signs that the weather turned nasty at Fraser, and stayed that way right into Skagway. It had improved a bit, and I stopped at the Fraser interpretive lookout for a few shots of a train loaded with new ties – the line must be close to having 100% new ties now.

New ties for the White Pass & Yukon Route railway
I rode into fog near Summit Creek, and it got fairly thick near the summit. The rain that I’d been told to expect never happened, though.

The new “signature wall” at the summit. Some people wonder why there’s such animosity between locals and seasonal employees. Here’s a good example – “SPM” notes his 3 summers here (all 3 years were painted 2 weeks ago), and now other disrespectful morons are joining in.

Grafitti in the White Pass
I went for lunch at the Skagway Pizza Station, and despite the fact that they were extremely busy, it was excellent as always. Then I went for a wander on the bike to see what’s new. Every now and then, seeing the ships gets me a bit wistful, and this was one of those days. That may have been partly because, 6 years ago, Cathy and I went on a particularly fine cruise in the Caribbean on the nearest ship, the Noordam. Last week, we got asked by friends to think about going on a European river cruise with them – we were going to stay close to home with the motorhome for a few years, but…

Noordam and Ruby Princess in Skagway
I keep track of the bike’s mileage by taking photos of the odometer rather than writing it down. Even with 2 slack summers since buying the RV, I’m pretty happy about having put 29,000 km on the bike with zero problems.

Despite the comments that show my frustration with some people, it was a great day. There’s nothing like putting 350 km on the bike to blow out the crap that’s accumulated between my ears πŸ™‚

We haven’t decided yet where to take the motorhome this weekend, but looking at the weather forecast, I may be back in Skagway tonight!

Leave No Trace – Stop Building Cairns / Inukshuks

Has the wilderness for many people just become a unique place to take a quick selfie before rushing back to the latte shop to post the image to Facebook? Is that “wilderness experience” even better when you’ve left your mark by building cairns?

Or is having respect for incredible places that Mother Nature has created, or even letting other people enjoy unspoiled views in such places, now just an old-fashioned concept?

Building cairns near the BC/Alaska border

In what’s becoming known as “The Age of Entitlement”, perhaps we need to look back a few years, even to the late 1970s when “Leave No Trace” and similar outdoors-related ethics became well known and were commonly practised. Even in 4-wheel-drive vehicle advertising, “Tread Lightly” policies were widely followed in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Today, 4×4 ads once more show the earth being torn up, painted graffiti is common around the world – we even found it in parks in New Zealand – and in natural and even wilderness areas, buildings cairns is often the “I’ll do whatever I want” equivalent.

In Canada, these rock piles are often called “inukshuks” as many try to replicate the Inuit (and other Arctic peoples’) cairns shaped like people and commonly known by that name. An inukshuk in the form of a human being, though, is actually called an inunnguaq. The Inuit were not the only people that related their cairns to people. In German, a cairn is known as a “steinmann” (“stone man”), and in the Italian Alps, they are known as “ometto” or “small man”.

Regulations on Public Lands

Building cairns has become such a popular activity that Parks Canada, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) all have regulations or policies that discourage or prohibit it. Many other park systems around the world are also adopting similar policies – in Wales, building cairns has become a particularly big problem in Snowdonia National Park. While there are differences, the regulations for Canada’s Auyuittuq National Park are typical except for the request to not disturb any you find.

Do not build cairns, other markers, or leave messages in the dirt. Such markers detract from other visitors’ sense of discovery and wilderness experience. They can also be misleading and potentially dangerous. For example, a cairn marking a good river crossing one day may mark a deadly crossing place when the river changes its course or flow, which rivers here do regularly. Do not disturb or destroy any cairns that you do find. Some are of great historical significance.

At the Jasper SkyTram in Jasper National Park, Alberta, signs at the start of the trail to Whistler’s Mountain beyond the upper tramway station ask hikers to not build cairns. Despite that, there are many near the summit. The route near the summit is lined with rocks in a garden-path sort of way, and to add injury to insult, most of the cairns have been built using those rocks.

Building cairns contravenes regulations at the Jasper SkyTram
Signs at the Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Icefield Area, also Jasper National Park, make the acceptability of cairns even more clear. DON’T build cairns, and DO kick over any you see. Unlike the situation in Auyuittuq National Park, there are no historic cairns here.

Signs at the Athabasca Glacier prohibit building cairns
Social media has started to become one of the educational tools used by parks. The comments on such posts often show the sort of attitudes that make trying to educate people a frustrating process. Click on the Zion National Park image below to open that Facebook page in a new window – the post currently has over 2,400 comments with some very strong opinions both pro and con!

The long-abandoned Myra Canyon section of the Kettle Valley Railway, located in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park and Protected Area near Kelowna, BC, has one of the largest collections of cairns I’ve seen yet. BC Parks doesn’t seem to have a policy on visitors building cairns yet.

Building cairns on the Myra Canyon section of the Kettle Valley Railway in BC

The Two Sides in Alaska/Yukon Tourism

Along the South Klondike Highway north of Skagway, cruise ship passengers are clearly the most prolific builders of cairns. Tour bus drivers can and do play a large part in either encouraging or discouraging the activity. On the “discouraging” side, Sherry Corrington offers The ‘Inukshuks Suck’ Tour: “Your driver escorts you up the Klondike Highway to a 7 mile stretch past the White Pass summit to knock down as many stacked rocks and Inukshuks you can possibly destroy in a minimum of 4 hours.”

Another Skagway tour operator, Dyea Dave, encourages his passengers to build them, even on his Web site: “You will have a chance to build your own “Inukshuk” to leave a part of yourself in the mountains.” On Beyond Skagway Tours’ Web site, one of their clients is shown building building one. It’s been clear a few times when I’m camping at Summit Creek that a large number of cairns appear after a particular bus goes by – the implication is that the driver has an attitude like Dave’s. I haven’t yet taken notice of which bus(es) that happens with.

Summit Creek

Located on the South Klondike Highway 29 km (18 mi) north of Skagway, a large pullout at Summit Creek is one of the major stops for most bus and van tours for cruise ship passengers. With a large supply of both blasted and natural pieces of granite of all sizes, that also makes it the most popular place I’ve seen in the North for building cairns. As I drive and camp along the highway a lot, keeping Summit Creek cairn-free has become an activity that I spend a fair bit of time at now that I’m retired.

The first photo, which I also used to introduce this post, was shot in 2012 when building cairns at Summit Creek peaked, with little or no backlash from those of us who object.

Building cairns along the South Klondike Highway at Summit Creek, BC

I first became very vocal about my objections to cairns as part of raising hell about painted graffiti that appeared at Summit Creek in late June of 2015. A brief article at CBC North used to have dozens of comments, but a new policy on comments resulted in them all being deleted. The story also prompted a wonderful cartoon by Wyatt in the Yukon News, and generated a great deal of controversy, with a large number of emails and Facebook messages sent my way, many of them nasty. A couple of weeks after I met with a couple of people who work with Yukon Justice in restorative justice, however, the graffiti disappeared. I don’t know for sure who did the cleanup, but it took a great deal of work.

I’ve spent a lot of time RV-camping in the White Pass this summer, and the next two photos show the before and after of building cairns and cleaning up the mess a few weeks ago. Cathy was watching from the RV a couple of hundred yards away and said that all she could see of the activity was rocks flying through the air. I’ve found that just toppling the cairns is only a minor disruption of the building of them, but if the rocks are tossed into a nearby hollow that becomes a pond in the Spring, the effort of getting them up to a high point stops a lot of the re-building.

Building cairns along the South Klondike Highway at Summit Creek, BC

Cleaning up cairns built along the South Klondike Highway at Summit Creek, BC

Below are links to other articles about building cairns – first the cons (don’t build cairns), and then the pros (have fun building cairns). The comments on some of those articles are as interesting as the articles themselves.

The Cons (Don’t Build Cairns)

In “Making Mountains Out Of Trail Markers?“, Robyn Martin, a lecturer focusing on ecological oral histories at Northern Arizona University, says “Yes, I have knocked a few down, sure,” adding that she considers the cairns to be “pointless reminders of human ego.”

In Robyn Martin’s essay Stop the rock-stacking, she says that “Building cairns where none are needed for route finding is antithetical to Leave-No-Trace ethics.”

An Experiment Using Signs to Reduce Visitor-Built Cairns in Acadia National Park (pdf, 287Kb)

Leave the Rocks for the Next Glacier by Charlie Jacobi, NPS (pdf, 872Kb)

Should You Knock Over Cairns? by Steve Casimiro

Conservationists Want You to Stop Building Rock Piles by Marissa Fessenden, for

Overzealous police force make it illegal to stack rocks in Boulder County. WTF?

What’s with all those stacks of stones in the woods? by Ron Dungan, The Arizona Republic

Leave No Trace: A Backpackers Oath – this excellent 12-minute video by Dave Collins teaches crucial “Leave No Trace” skills that will help you to reduce your impact on the wild and leave pristine wilderness areas.

Leave No Trace Hiking: Removing Cairns Graffiti from Punch Bowl Falls

The Pros (Have Fun Building Cairns)

While I have a strong impulse to argue with many of the points in these articles, I’ll resist πŸ™‚

The spiritual practice of stacking stones by Jane Hugo Davis, at “The spiritual practice of stacking stones claims ordinary moments of life for God and invites those who pass by to notice the holy ground on which they already stand. What markers of God’s presence are you leaving behind on the trail for those who come after you?”

Relaxation: Rock Stacking and the Art of Balance by Peter Rogers, at “Why balance rocks? Reason 1: Because they are there. Reason 2: Because for a short time you leave something in the landscape artfully altered, showing you were there. Reason 3: The joy of the process.”

River art or 3-D graffiti? by Wes Johnson, for the Springfield News-Leader, looks at both sides of the argument.

My Poll on Building Cairns

Do you think that building cairns should be allowed?
Not in parks
Not on any public land
Other (please add a comment below)

Survey Maker

Fall at Kluane Lake – Dall sheep and more colours

Last weekend was the Discovery Day long weekend, which celebrates the discovery of gold in the Klondike, and is the start of the end of the tourist season. The Alaska Highway isn’t quite a one-way road leading south yet, but the vast majority of RVs are headed that way.

We actually made it an even longer weekend, as Cathy took Tuesday off work as well, so we were back at Congdon Creek Campground for 4 nights starting on Friday. Although the weather forecast looked pretty good, with lots of sunshine and daily high temperatures around 20°C (68°F), that’s not what we got. The weather seen in this photo was the norm, with high winds that mostly kept us off the beach, and temps in the mid teens (high 50s/low 60s F).

Stormy Fall weather on Kluane Lake, Yukon
Early on Saturday morning (05:30, almost an hour before sunrise), I went to the beach to take some time exposures of the waves. This was shot at a 1.3-second exposure.

Stormy Fall morning on Kluane Lake, Yukon
We drove to the Sheep Mountain (Tachäl Dhäl) Visitor Centre a couple of times during our stay, as the Dall sheep are starting to congregate on the sunny side of the mountain, which faces the centre.

Tachal Dhal (Sheep Mountain) Visitor Centre
There are spotting scopes set up at the Visitor Centre so you don’t have to just see what we call “Dall dots”. There were nearly 100 sheep in 3 areas of the mountain on the first visit, about 60 the second time.

Spotting scope set up at the Sheep Mountain Visitor Centre, Yukon
The next 2 photos show the Dall dots. There are about 450 sheep on the mountain now. The ewes and lambs come to the sunny side first, while the rams will stay on the far side for a few weeks yet.

Dall sheep on Sheep Mountain, Yukon

Dall sheep on Sheep Mountain, Yukon
With the constant strong winds we experienced, there was plenty of dust blowing around on the Slims River flats. This is looking toward what used to be an island.

Dust blowing around on the Slims River flats
The headlight coming out of the dust cloud is a motorcycle that’s just crossed the Slims River bridge on the Alaska Highway.

Dust on the Alaska Highway at the Slims River
I finally walked out to a broken section of long-abandoned pipeline near the Visitor Centre to see which pipeline it was.

Long-abandoned oil pipeline running across Slims River flats
From the diameter of the pipe (8 inches), this is the Haines-Fairbanks Pipeline that operated between 1955 and 1971.

A piece of the pipeline that ran between Fairbanks and Haines
Going over to the historic Alexander cabin, I was very pleased to see that Kelly Wroot’s wonderful art installation that I first saw last July is still in place. The error message on the computer screen reads “Error: Cultural identity not found.”

Art installation at Sheep Mountain, Yukon - 'Error: Cultural identity not found'
This ridge of granite has been battered by the elements for thousands of years, resulting in a smooth surface that looks more like Lake Superior than Kluane Lake. The lee side of the little peninsula afforded us enough shelter to enjoy the view for quite a while one afternoon.

A heavily-weathered granite peninsula on Kluane Lake
On the interpretive trail back at the campground, I shot this photo at 1/25th of a second to blur the wind-whipped autumn leaves along a section of the trail that’s not protected from the wind.

Wind-whipped Fall leaves along Kluane Lake
We spent a lot of time reading in front of a campfire, or in the rig when the wind got too strong. This squirrel seemed to enjoy teasing Molly and the dogs when we were inside.

Squirrel at Congdon Creek Campground
The “Murphy’s Laws of Weekend Weather” being what they are, the sunshine finally arrived on Tuesday as we were about to start packing up to leave. The wind had only dropped slightly, though.

Fall on Kluane Lake
In the shelter of the campground, I finally launched the drone and got a few minutes of video, from which I took the next 2 screenshots. I’m at the lower left of the first photo.

Looking north to Congdon Creek, this was shot from an altitude of 57 meters (187 feet).

On the drive home, we noticed that the beach at the south end of the lake was calm so stopped there for a couple of hours to enjoy the sun, and even the water. Both Bella and Tucker had gotten very dirty, so they both got a bath in the lake.

As I write this, there’s no good weather within a 3-day drive, so we’ll be home for a bit. I have lots more plans for the season within a few hundred miles yet, though…

Hiking along the Canada/USA Border in the White Pass

For the third day showing hikers from Haines and Anchorage the wonders of the White Pass, following the Canada/USA border along the granite ridge from the South Klondike Highway to the WP&YR railway was my hope if the weather cooperated.

This Google Earth image shows the area and the 3 border monuments we’d visit (two of the monuments are numbered, one isn’t). Click on it to open an interactive map in a new window.

Looking towards the summit from our campsite at 07:50 (on Sunday, August 7th), things didn’t look too good.

A cloudy morning in the White Pass
At 08:40, the fog/cloud near the summit was still very thick, so we went back to the motorhome for another pot of coffee.

A foggy morning in the White Pass
At about 11:00, the clouds had lifted enough to at least see where we’d be going, so we headed out. At the first border monument, a newer and thus unnumbered one beside the highway, one of the fellows showed us why kilts are so comfortable to wear for hiking. A good laugh is a fine way to start a hike! πŸ™‚

Wearing a kilt for hiking
At 11:30, we started the very steep climb from the highway – the small tour bus is at the “Welcome to Alaska” sign. On the other side of the highway from our route, several people were hiking the popular waterfall trail despite very thick fog/clouds.

The South Klondike Highway through the White Pass
There is no trail along the border, but I enjoy the challenge of finding good routes across the bare granite, which has lots of cliffs and lots of ponds.

Granite in the White Pass
This is one of the most wonderful natural pools I’ve ever seen. Although it was certainly enticing, a very strong and cool wind deterred any of the group from going for a dip.

A wonderful natural pool in the White Pass
Me at Monument 118. This monument was replaced in 2008, and at the lower right of the photo you can see some of the garbage left by the people who did it (the wooden forms for the concrete base). Before leaving, we gathered up the wood and buried it under rocks, but next time up there, I’ll take matches and burn it all.

Murray Lundberg at Monument 118 on the Canada/USA border
There are plenty of ravines to cross, of all sizes. Some are easy to get across, some take some thought about the best route.

A large ravine on the Canada/USA border in the White Pass
The cool wind had continued, and when I spotted a small lake sheltered in a dip, we headed there for a lengthy lunch stop.

A small lake on the Canada/USA border in the White Pass
Ahh – refreshing!! πŸ™‚

Going for a dip in a small lake on the Canada/USA border in the White Pass
Some very unusual erosion on the ridge above that small lake.

Very unusual erosion of granite
I try to avoid the vegetation in the White Pass as much as possible, as it’s very hard to get through, but for quite a distance dropping down to the railway, it can’t be avoided.

Hiking along the Canada/USA border in the White Pass
A look at the White Pass & Yukon Route railway as it goes north along Summit Lake.

The White Pass & Yukon Route railway at Summit Lake
The railway runs though the gap running just above the centre of the photo.

Hiking along the Canada/USA border in the White Pass
We made a short detour so I should show the group the old wooden dam and water system from the days when there was a hotel at the summit, as well as a tank for watering steam locomotives. This was originally built in about 1905.

Old wooden dam and water system on the WP&YR railway at the White Pass summit
Border Monument 117, which stands right above the railway.

Canada/USA Border Monument 117, in the White Pass
The White Pass & Yukon Route railway at Summit Lake. There’s a replica North West Mounted Police cabin, and a line of flags.

The flags are, from left to right, the United States of America, Alaska, British Columbia, the Yukon Territory, and Canada.

Flags from the United States of America, Alaska, British Columbia, the Yukon Territory, and Canada
We had just climbed the ridge to the east of the railway when a train arrived from Skagway (at 3:10 pm).

A WP&YR train arrives at the White Pass summit
The Summit Excursion is the railway’s shortest trip, and the most popular one with cruise ship passengers. When the train gets to the summit, the locomotives are disconnected and moved to what had been the end of the train. There, they are re-connected to the cars and can pull them back down to Skagway. This photo shows the locomotives being moved to their new position.

A WP&YR train at the White Pass summit

We attempted to hike further to the east, but couldn’t find a good route, and were about out of time anyway, so at 3:45, we started back to the highway, on a different route, lower on the ridge.

About halfway back to the highway, we found this pile of hikers’ equipment that’s obviously been there for many years. We saw other scattered items for quite a distance from this pile. In the pile was an expensive water filter. Very odd.

Abandoned hiking equipment in the White Pass
These dried-up creeks intrigue me. I’d like to see them at full flow, but this would be a tough spot to get to with a lot of wet snow on the ground.

A dried-up creek in the White Pass

We spent a long time laying out in the sun on the way back, but just after 5:00 pm, “Outhouse Hill” was close. We stayed well above my usual route, though, and reached the highway just below the spot where we’d left the cars.

Outhouse Hill on the South Klondike Highway

That evening, there was a lot of discussion about possibilities for Monday. On Monday morning, though, the weather was dismal and it was clearly not going to get better, so we packed up and headed for home, some up the South Klondike towards Whitehorse, others down the highway towards the ferry to Haines.

Hiking to Bryant Lake and Glacier

Two weeks ago (August 5-8), I hosted an Alaska hiking club in the White Pass, and members from Haines and Anchorage came to explore this incredible area, with Bryant Lake (called Fraser Lake by many people) our first major hike.

I’d been worried about the weather ever since we’d started planning this a few months ago, but it was looking great in Whitehorse and even as far south as Tutshi Lake, seen in this photo.

By the time I reached Summit Lake, though, clouds had moved in and a strong wind had kicked up. The first arrival and I added a layer of clothing and went down to the beach for a while anyway.

Beach on Summit Lake, BC
When I heard the whistle of the WP&YR steam train heading north from the summit, we raced north to the good viewing spot overlooking the Thompson River. I love any train, but this steam locomotive, built for the White Pass and Yukon Route by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1947, is extra special.

WP&YR steam train
Next, I wanted to make the short but far-from-easy hike up to the canyons on Summit Creek that I’d seen from Summit Creek Hill 3 weeks before. While from a distance this valley looks easy to cross, it’s actually thick, chest-high brush.

Hiking near Summit Creek in the White Pass
Hiking up to cross a ridge that looked like it would take us to the upper canyon, we came to this creek with a bed that was so level it looked almost like paving stones. It’s not the first time I’ve seen such formations, but they’re rare and I have no idea what causes it.

Hiking near Summit Creek in the White Pass
Success. The bottom of the upper canyon on Summit Creek. A couple of hundred meters/yards up the part of the canyon seen here, I see on Google Earth that it takes an abrupt 90-degree turn and gets even deeper, so I have more exploring to do here yet πŸ™‚

The upper canyon on Summit Creek
And a few minutes later, the top of the lower canyon. I was hoping that we’d be able to hike into both canyons, but there was no way to do that.

The lower canyon on Summit Creek
Starting to set up camp beside the South Klondike Highway just south of Summit Creek on Friday evening. The highway is never very busy, but gets very quiet once the cruise ship tours quit for the day, and is closed from midnight to 08:00 between the US and Canadian border posts (this spot is about halfway between the two posts).

RV camping beside the South Klondike Highway just south of Summit Creek
On Saturday morning, a thick, cold fog blanketed the White Pass, but I went for a drive to see if there were any clearings where we could hike. No luck to the south, but to the north, the Bryant Lake valley was all clear. As I got back to camp, this hoary marmot (of the subspecies Marmota caligata caligata, I believe) was sitting on the guardrail 100 yards from the motorhome, and hung around for a longer photo session.

Hoary marmot in the White Pass
Because of the weather, we didn’t get to the trailhead until just after 10:30. It was quite incredible to be able to quickly hike out of the cold fog!

The height of Bryant Lake was raised with an earthen dam 40-odd years ago, to provide water for the Department of Highways and Canada Customs posts at Fraser. Some people cross this creek by walking along the wood-and-insulation-encased water pipe, others, including me, wade the creek.

A creek crossing on the hike to Bryant Lake.
We reached Bryant Lake at 11:30. I don’t know what’s in that little building with the “High Voltage” sign on the door.

Bryant Lake, BC
From the lake, we could see that the valley was still filled with that cold fog. I really like looking down on clouds πŸ™‚

Looking down on clouds in the White Pass.
Just before we reached the lake, we saw a group of hikers heading up the route to the peak on the left. calls it “Fraser Peak“, but they also use the incorrect name “Fraser Lake” for Bryant Lake (as does Google). Like most of these mountains, it probably doesn’t have a name so you can call it whatever you want.

Bryant Lake, BC
The trail along the south side of the lake is fairly well used, though we saw nobody, and except where it crosses a large rock slide, is quite good.

Hiking around Bryant Lake, BC
The trail goes up and over this large granite outcropping.

Hiking trail along Bryant Lake, BC
The rock slide is a bit of a challenge, but the higher you go on it, the smaller and easier to navigate the rocks are.

Rock slide on the trail along Bryant Lake, BC
Bryant Lake is stunningly beautiful anywhere you look, but the head of the lake is particularly so. Two creeks flow into it, and there’s a large area of shallow water. We ended up spending a long time on a coarse-sand beach at the far end.

The head of Bryant Lake, BC
Well that’s bizarre – this well-preserved mouse was on the bottom of a little pool of water along the lake shore.

Dead mouse at Bryant Lake, BC
The water isn’t warm by a long shot, but Ryan tried to suck us in! The prettier the water colour, the deeper and colder it is.

Bathing in Bryant Lake, BC
I like the feeling of sun-warmed mud much more than cold water!

Walking through mud along Bryant Lake, BC
At about 1:30, I suggested that we hike to the main glacier that feeds Bryant Lake. From the valley below the glacier, the Chilkoot Trail is a short but very steep hike. While the fireweed flowers (Epilobium angustifolium) were all about finished at this altitude, the dwarf fireweed or river beauty (Chamerion latifolium) seen in the foreground still had lots of life in it yet.

This image from Google Earth shows the location of the glacier (which seems to have no name) in relation to Bryant Lake and the Chilkoot Trail. Click on it to open an interactive map in a new window.

Walking up the valley was tougher than it looked like it would be, with lots of water and marshy areas as well as lots of tough brush. But it was so beautiful that none of us minded. Arctic cotton (Eriophorum callitrix) livened up some of the wet spots.

Arctic cotton near Bryant Lake
For those of us with water shoes of whatever kind, the creek provided the easiest walking in a few places.

Creek running between an unnamed glacier and Bryant Lake, BC
Even this grass in shallow water was enough to stop me for a few photos.

Grass in shallow water
At least six terminal moraines were visible as we walked toward the glacier. It’s been a very active glacier over the past few thousand years, advancing, retreating, and advancing again over and over.

Glacier above Bryant Lake, BC
The creek cutting through the third and largest of the terminal moraines.

Old terminal moraine of the glacier above Bryant Lake, BC
Three more small terminal moraines are visible in this photo. This is where most of us stopped.

Old terminal moraines of the glacier above Bryant Lake, BC
The view back down the valley to Bryant Lake.

I need to dig out my photos from 20+ years ago – my memory is that the ice was down almost to the bottom of the bare solid rock.

glacier above Bryant Lake, BC
Just before 3:30 pm, we started back, making a quick stop at the beach to pick up the gear we’d left there. The light was lovely for the walk back along the lake.

Dwarf fireweed along Bryant Lake, BC
The fog had cleared out of the lower valley by the time we could see it again.

Hiking down to the White Pass from Bryant Lake, BC
One final shot, taken at 5:45 pm. We reached the highway at 6:15, and a few minutes later were back at camp.

Hiking down to the South Klondike Highway from Bryant Lake, BC

The plan for Sunday was to hike along the Canada/USA border from the highway to the railway – if the weather cooperated.

Mud, Dust, and History at Kluane Lake

After a somewhat disappointing couple of days down the Haines Highway due to weather, our four days at Kluane Lake were wonderful. I’ve already told you about our flight to Mount Logan and our discovery of Cultus Lake, but we had a lot of fun on the other days as well.

For a bit of a change of scenery, we went to the beach along the Alaska Highway where it first drops down to the head of the lake to play. Bella actually prefers it, as much of the beach at Congdon Creek has larger stones that she doesn’t like walking on.

Playing with the dogs on the beach at Kluane Lake
Continuing on past that beach, we drove along a long-abandoned section of the Alaska Highway, where this Gulf sign is all that remains of the gas station.

Just past the gas station sign is the remains of the Sheep Mountain Motel. There must have been more to it in its heyday (the 1950s?), as this building sure wouldn’t have done much to attract people.

Abandoned Sheep Mountain Motel, Yukon

Abandoned Sheep Mountain Motel, Yukon
There are a few cabins along that section of the old highway, then it ends at Silver Creek, where a lot of work was done starting about 25 years ago to control the flash floods that occur every few years.

Silver Creek, Yukon
A beautiful morning at Congdon Creek Campground, seen from lakefront campsite #7, which is the one we get for most of our visits.

A beautiful morning at Congdon Creek Campground, Yukon
A calm morning in the RV, with Tucker asleep on the bench in front of me, Molly asleep beside me, and Bella asleep on the couch 5 feet away. And Cathy all by herself in bed πŸ™‚

Murray Lundberg in his RV in the morning
“It was here at Slim’s Flats on 20 November 1942 that a formal luncheon was held following the Alaska Canada Highway dedication ceremonies at Soldiers’ Summit. Fifty years later, 20 November 1992, the ceremonies and festivities were reenacted.”

We decided to take the dogs out onto the newly-enlarged Slims River flats for a play. There’s lots of parking at the Soldiers Summit trailhead and the viewing area across the highway, where this photo was shot from. This has become a very popular place to go for a walk, by both visitors and locals.

Slims River flats, Yukon
Out on the flats. This is wonderful barefoot walking – it’s so nice to get off the gravel beaches for a while. Tucker has turned into rather a ball-chasing maniac, and it’s perfect for that.

Slims River flats, Yukon
Is that a close-up of the mud on the flats, or an aerial photo of some “Badlands” desert region?

Is that a close-up of the mud on the Slims River flats, or an aerial photo of some desert region?
The fine-sand beach on the windward side of what used to be an island (it doesn’t seem to have a name).

Slims River flats, Yukon
While there’s a lot of dry sand and silt on the flats, there’s also some wonderful mud, and we can count on Bella to find the best ot it! πŸ™‚ It’s hard to not think “quicksand!!”, but there’s a good solid base a few inches down.

Bella tried hard to convince Tucker to come and play in the mud with us, but he was having none of it.

Our dogs Bella and Tucker playing in the water on the Slims River flats
Dirty and exhausted – life is good for Bella!

Our muddy sheltie cross, Bella
Bella may enjoy getting muddy, but like any princess, she also loves getting cleaned up πŸ™‚

Grooming Bella, our sheltie cross
When the wind kicks up, those flats are nowhere near as much fun to be on! And we seem to be getting a lot of wind this summer.

Dust storm on the Slims River flats, Yukon
This trip didn’t end very well. As I was driving back to the campground after our last outing on Tuesday, a police SUV kicked a rock into the windshield of the Tracker. I took it in to a glass shop in Whitehorse, and they said that it was too big to fix. That windshield was only 3 months old πŸ™

Back home on Tuesday afternoon, I had two days to get ready for the next trip – I was meeting friends from Alaska for 3 days of hiking in the White Pass.

The Yukon’s newest lake, formerly Cultus Bay

As you drive the Alaska Highway along Kluane Lake, you can see a road on the opposite side of the lake as it crosses several steep slopes. I’ve always wondered what that road looked like, and on our last Congdon Creek weekend, we finally went for a look. The main thing we found was that Kluane Lake’s Cultus Bay is now a lake, caused by the lowering of the level of Kluane Lake that I’ve talked about here a few times.

On this map, “Cultus Bay” at the upper right is now “Cultus Lake”, as it’s been completely separated from Kluane Lake.

Map, Kluane Lake / Cultus Bay, Yukon

To get to what I’m calling the Kluane North Road, turn off the Alaska Highway at Km 1635.8, onto the gravel road that leads to the ghost town of Silver City and the Kluane B&B. Then turn right onto a smaller gravel/dirt road 2.1 km from the highway. Mileages that follow are from this point, though there are no mileage makers on either of the gravel roads.

Note that the Kluane North Road is narrow with some very steep hills, and there are creeks to ford and some fairly large rocks on the road. A high-clearance vehicle with awd or 4×4 is strongly recommended.

You may notice different lighting on some of the photos below – we went to Cultus Bay/Lake twice, on Sunday and again on Tuesday when there was a fair bit of forest fire smoke in the air.

From the Silver City road, the road immediately climbs onto a bench above Kluane Lake, into the Kluane Hills. On the opposite side of the road from this view at Km 1.4, Jenny Lake can be seen below.

Kluane North Road Km 1.4 - Kluane Lake, Yukon
At Km 3.7, you drive through Christmas Creek. Both the drop down into and the climb out of this valley are very steep. The water in the creek was about 10 inches deep last weekend, but can clearly get much higher at times.

Christmas Creek, Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
At Km 4.9, you cross Little John Creek. For a few hundred yards leading up to this point, you’re driving on what is sometimes the creek bed.

Little John Creek, Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
Km 5.0 – the climb out of the Little John Creek valley is very steep.

Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
Km 5.2 – at the top of the climb out of the Little John Creek valley, the views are wonderful.

Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
At Km 7.0, a lovely, unnamed emerald lake can be seen below, with Kluane Lake in the distance. I had a brief but unsuccessful look for access to the emerald lake.

Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
The road runs on top of glacial eskers in several places, for several kilometers in total. This esker is at Km 9.1. An esker is the sand/gravel/rock deposited by streams/rivers that ran along the bottom of the glaciers that covered this region thousands of years ago.

Kluane North Road on an esker - Kluane Lake, Yukon
Km 12.9 – one of the many dry grassy slopes along the road that offer great views.

Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
Km 13.1

Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
There is some interesting geology along the road. This boulder of tortured sedimentary rock at Km 14.2 is about 3 feet across.

Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
Km 14.3

Km 14.3, Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
For a short distance around Km 14.9, there are some impressive cliffs towering above the road.

Cliffs above the Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
The view ahead at Km 16.5.

Km 16.5, Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
The gravel beaches of Kluane Lake below the road at Km 17.0 are enticing, offering great walking and ATV riding.

Beach below the Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
At Km 17.3, the road drops steeply down to the the point where Cultus Bay used to lead off Kluane Lake. Much of the road surface on this hill is soft dirt.

Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
Km 17.8 – a well-used campsite on what is now Cultus Lake.

Kluane North Road - Cultus Lake, Yukon
Driving along Cultus Lake at Km 18.3. Because this lake is now about 4 feet higher than Kluane Lake, the beaches are much smaller than on the big lake.

Kluane North Road - Cultus Lake, Yukon
Seen from Km 19.3, a pair of Trumpeter swans were at the far end of the marsh at the north end of Cultus Lake. “Cultus” is a word in the Chinook language that was used in the early fur trade. It means “bad” or “worthless”, and this marsh (and the creatures that inhabit it) would make the water here undrinkable.

Kluane North Road - Cultus Lake, Yukon
There are 2 crossings of Cultus Creek, at Km 19.8, and here at Km 19.9.

Kluane North Road - Kluane Lake, Yukon
Km 22.5 is where we turned around on Sunday – on Tuesday, we didn’t even come this far. Cultus Lake was where we wanted to play and explore both days. A pickup truck from Alberta was raising the dust ahead of us.

The road north of Cultus Bay, Yukon

Two roads lead off the Kluane North Road at the south end of Cultus Lake – the one to the north is only 30 or so meters/yards long, but the south one leads onto the Kluane Lake beach and with the right vehicle could provide many miles of driving.

This is the south end of the Cultus Lake. There used to be a narrow channel connecting it to Kluane Lake, but now it’s a wide gravel dam.

Cultus Bay / Cultus Lake, Yukon
There is some drainage from Cultus Lake into Kluane Lake, but Cultus is still about 4 feet higher than Kluane.

Cultus Bay / Cultus Lake draining into Kluane Lake, Yukon
We had great fun playing in the lake. It’s still not warm, but it’s warmer than Kluane is, and Bella was hilarious. Just after Cathy took this photo, Bella started swimming back to shore, then came back to make sure that I was okay and coming with her. What a love she is!

Murray Lundberg and Bella in Cultus Bay / Cultus Lake, Yukon
The hill to the north of Cultus looked like it would provide some good views. The beach of Kluane is so wide now that it appears you could ride an ATV right around the lake if you could get across the Kluane River – that would be about a 100-mile ride.

Kluane Lake, Yukon
An old Cat road climbs the hill.

An old Cat road along Kluane Lake, Yukon
These 5 ravens started hassling Bella and Tucker as we got near the top of the hill. I never did figure what their problem was, but they sure cut our time at the top short.

Ravens hassling dogs at Kluane Lake, Yukon
The hill did provide some of the views I was hoping for, though trees blocked any views to the north, to Rat Lake, Grayling Lake, and beyond.

Cultus Bay / Cultus Lake and Kluane Lake, Yukon
Getting a drink on the way back to the car.

Dogs drinking from Kluane Lake, Yukon
On the drive out, I had a look at the side road at Km 6.5. The main road goes to a group of cabins, but a side road off it leads to this view of Christmas Bay.

That side road continues along the ridge above Kluane Lake, but this was as far as I went.

It’s going to be interesting to see how much Cultus Bay / Cultus Lake is going to change in the coming years. Will the lake eventually drain down to the same level as Kluane? Will the warmer water create a completely new ecosystem that will change the creatures and vegetation around and in it? There’s no end to the amount of exploring that I still want to do – and I still want to see the end of the Kluane North Road!

By Skiplane to Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak

Many years ago, Cathy was in the right place at the right time, and flew to Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak at 5,959 meters high (19,551 feet). It’s also the largest non-volcanic mountain in the world in terms of mass – it’s 100 miles around the base. Last Monday (August 1st), she and I finally got to experience the flight and glacier landing that Icefield Discovery calls “The Ultimate Experience!” – and we now definitely agree with that name.

We’ve driven down this road to Icefield Discovery’s base on Kluane Lake a few times, but things have never worked out before, usually because of the weather in the back country. As recently as 3 weeks ago, we drove in and made a reservation for the next day, but then the weather shut down. Their base is located at the Silver City airport, where the Arctic Institute of North America’s Kluane Lake Research Station is also located. Last year, the Yukon News published an excellent story about Icefield Discovery’s history.

The road to Icefield Discovery's air base on Kluane Lake
This is the office of the Chief Pilot, Tom Bradley – the main office is on the other side of the runway.

Icefield Discovery's air base on Kluane Lake
C-GXFB, a 1966 Helio H-295-1200 Super Courier on retractable skis, would be our chariot to the ice. This incredible aircraft, with twin turbochargers on a 295-hp Lycoming engine, can take off and land at 30 mph on gravel/dirt strips less than 500 feet long, and can climb to over 20,000 feet. With an identical aircraft, former company owner Andy Williams made some 200 flights into a research station at 5,311 meters (17,425 feet) on Mount Logan.

C-GXFB, a 1966 Helio H-295-1200 Super Courier
I asked for the front seat and all of the 3 women flying agreed. Having a few hundred hours in the left seat of little planes, I love seeing the various components of “the office” at work.

The control panel of C-GXFB, a 1966 Helio H-295-1200 Super Courier
At 4:05 pm, we started taxiing to the far end of the gravel runway, and at 4:13, our takeoff would have looked like this (this is a photo of a takeoff the next day). The elevation of the airport is 783 meters (2,570 feet).

C-GXFB, a 1966 Helio H-295-1200 Super Courier, taking off from the Silver City airport in the Yukon
A minute later, we were looking down on the Slims River pouring silt into Kluane Lake, with Sheep Mountain towering over them. The furthest, whitest beach is the one we’ve been playing with Bella and Tucker on recently.

Aerial view of the Slims River and Kluane Lake, Yukon
The old Alaska Highway leads from the new highway out of sight to the right, past the Sheep Mountain (Tachäl Dhäl) Visitor Centre to the parking lot in the centre of the photo. From there, you can hike the Slims River West, Sheep Creek, and Bullion Creek trails in Kluane National Park.

Aerial view of the old Alaska Highway at Sheep Mountain
Sheep Creek.

Aerial view of Sheep Creek, Yukon
Bullion Creek.

Aerial view of Bullion Creek, Yukon
Looking south, up the Slims River towards the Kaskawulsh Glacier.

Aerial view up the Slims River towards the Kaskawulsh Glacier
One of the many impressive deltas along the Slims River valley. I’m still reading scientific literature to confirm a few things, but these seem to me to be kame deltas, formed when the creeks emptied their sediment into the lake that existed here as the Kaskawulsh Glacier started retreating some 12,000 years ago. But they could just be alluvial fans πŸ™‚ We were now climbing through 6,700 feet (I took several photos of the altimeter to keep track of this).

A kame delta along the Slims River valley
To the right of centre is a large rock glacier along Canada Creek. A rock glacier can be either a mixture of rock and ice, or ice overlain by rock and gravels. This is one of many in the area. Along the Haines Highway, the Rock Glacier Trail is a popular hike, but that rock glacier is much smaller than this one.

A rock glacier along Canada Creek, Yukon
There are glaciers everywhere – most of them, as with most of the mountains, are unnamed. I think that Tom told us the name of this one, but it’s not on any of my maps.

Glacier in Kluane National Park
The size of the Kaskawulsh Glacier is stunning, with a surface area of more than 25,000 square kilometers (15,000 square miles).

Kaskawulsh Glacier
The Central Arm to the left is about 3.5 km wide, and the North Arm is about 2 km wide. Where the two arms converge to form the Kaskawulsh Glacier proper, the width is 5-6 km.

It’s hard to imagine the volume of ice that’s been lost since the days when these two glaciers met the North Arm, or the volume that’s been lost by the North Arm as evidenced by the ice scars on the slopes above it. An article in the “Journal of Glaciology” in 2011 reported that between 1977 and 2007, the thickness of the glacier decreased by an average of 6.1 meters (20.0 feet), with maximum losses of up to 88 meters (289 feet) near the centre of the glacier near the terminus, and retreated 471 meters (1,545 feet).

Glaciers above the North Arm of the Kaskawulsh Glacier, Kluane National Park
Up in the land of permanent snow, flying at about 8,600 feet, the surface of the glacier smooths out a lot, but there are lots of massive caves, snow bridges, and pools of the most amazing blue water. Many glaciers flow from these high-altitude Kluane icefields, the largest non-polar icefields in the world.

Permanent snow on the Kluane icefield

Pools of water on the Kluane icefields
In the centre of the next photo, our destination, the Icefield Discovery Base Camp, can be seen. This heated 16×32-foot hut houses washing, cooking and dining facilities for vistors who want to learn about glaciers while living on one for 3 days. Tents are set up around the hut for 2-12 visitors at a time.

Icefield Discovery Base Camp
On the Hubbard Glacier, at 60° 41.00N, 139° 47.13W, at 2,607 meters (8,553 feet) elevation.

Ski plane on the Hubbard Glacier
Tom Bradley with Cathy.

Pilot Tom Bradley and Cathy Small at the Icefield Discovery Base Camp on the Hubbard Glacier
Me and Cathy.

Murray Lundberg and Cathy Small at the Icefield Discovery Base Camp on the Hubbard Glacier
The north-east face of Mount Logan and our ski tracks.

The north-east face of Mount Logan and our ski tracks
Tom kept the engine of the plane running for the half-hour that we were on the glacier – that’s not the place to have a dead battery or any other engine issue. I’d love to have gotten a photo of the plane with Mount Logan in the background, but didn’t question Tom’s request that we not go in front of the plane for safety reasons.

In this vast world of rock and ice, the 5 of us in the plane were probably the only people. It’s a very different feeling than flying at Denali, where you know that there are always lots of other people experiencing it.

Aerial view of Kluane icefields
Avalanches happen constantly on these very steep mountains, which are still growing due to tectonic plate activity.

Mountains above the Kluane icefields
On the climb up to Icefield Discovery Base Camp, we had been high over the Kaskawulsh Glacier, but on the return flight, Tom gave us a much closer look. The medial moraine formed when the North and Central Arms converge is much higher than I thought. From a lower altitude it was obvious how difficult travel across the glacier would be in the summer.

Medial moraine on the Kaskawulsh Glacier
There really are no words to properly describe this world, and the closer look makes that even more true. The wreckage of a Cessna 180 that crashed many years ago can still be seen on the glacier.

A close look at the Kaskawulsh Glacier, Yukon
The variety of colours was quite surprising to me, from the green on some of the slopes to the different colours of rock and gravels in the moraines, speckled with blue water in streams and pools.

A close look at the Kaskawulsh Glacier, Yukon

A close look at the Kaskawulsh Glacier, Yukon
In the centre of this photo, a stream running across the top of the Kaskawulsh Glacier drops into a moulin – they can be extremely deep, possibly right to the bottom of the glacier, which at this point is about 500 meters thick (1,640 feet). It’s hard to judge scale, but I’d guess this moulin to be about 10 feet across.

A moulin on the Kaskawulsh Glacier, Yukon
By the time you get near the toe of the glacier, there’s more gravel visible than ice. From the end of the Slims River West Trail, hikers can climb Observation Mountain, just to the left of the ridge seen in this photo, for incredible views of the Kaskawulsh Glacier.

Near the toe of the Kaskawulsh Glacier
The Kaskawulsh Glacier has drained into two rivers, the Slims and Alsek, for many years, but the channel marked by the arrow is new as of this Spring, and now virtually all the glacier’s outflow goes into the Alsek system. This has resulted in a lowering of the level of Kluane Lake by 10-12 feet.

New channel at the toe of the Kaskawulsh Glacier
The vast Slims River valley is now nearly dry in its upper reaches, and dust storms are getting more common and more impressive.

The vast Slims River valley
The huge alluvial fan (or perhaps a kame delta) of Vulcan Creek. In September 2014, a landslide near the headwaters of Vulcan Creek created a new lake.

The huge alluvial fan (or perhaps a kame delta) of Vulcan Creek, Yukon
Passing over the ghost town of Silver City (a.k.a Kluane). Although privately owned, there are no controls on use, and it’s fairly heavily visited. The red-roofed buildings behind are the Kluane B&B.

Aerial view of Silver City, Yukon
This is the mouth of Silver Creek, which is heavily controlled for a mile or so as it passes under the Alaska Highway. The lack of a regular channel that you see here has done a lot of damage over the years, including to the Silver City ghost town. This is known as a “braided river” and is typical of glacial rivers.

The mouth of Silver Creek, Yukon
On final approach to Silver City at 5:45.

On final approach to Silver City Airport, Yukon

While the creations of Mother Nature were the main star of this experience, our pilot, Tom Bradley, added immensely to it. His passion for mountain and glacier flying is wonderful to share, and his virtually non-stop sharing of his deep knowledge of the area places this flight as the best that Cathy or I have ever made. We’re already talking to him about a longer charter for next season, to fly right around Mount Logan.

RV Camping at Dezadeash Lake and Million Dollar Falls Campgrounds

I got home at noon last Wednesday (August 3rd) from a week off-grid at 3 Territorial campgrounds in the Kluane area – Dezadeash Lake, Million Dollar Falls, and Congdon Creek. I was back on the road to the White Pass again less than 48 hours later, so I’m way behind with the blog now. I’d like to go back and tell you about that Kluane trip, though, because it had several aspects that I’d like to share with you.

The weather is one of the main determining factors in deciding where to go, the other being accessibility – it has to be somewhere that Cathy can join me for the weekend. Once again, Kluane was the winner. While not a great forecast, it was far better than any other direction. I decided, though, to start off down the Haines Highway to try out Dezadeash Lake and Million Dollar Falls Campgrounds.

This map shows the route I had planned, though because of poor weather I didn’t go down as far as Three Guardsmen. Click on it to open an interactive map in a new window.

I was pretty much ready to go by 09:00, but then I just couldn’t get out of town. I had some final groceries to pick up, then I just did this and that, and it was 12:30 before I pulled away from Whitehorse.

My motorhome and toad ready for another trip
A few minutes from Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway, it started raining. All that time washing the vehicles wasted…

Rain on the Alaska Highway west of Whitehorse
Nearing Haines Junction, the rain stopped. This rest area is at Km 1566 of the Alaska Highway.

Rest area at Km 1566 of the Alaska Highway
My plan had been to go to Million Dollar Falls Campground the first night, but as we got near Dezadeash Lake Campground, I decided that was far enough – it appeared to be raining hard south of there.

Dezadeash Lake Campground, Yukon
Dezadeash Lake Campground, at Km 195.7 of the Haines Highway, is on an odd triangle of land sticking out into the lake. It looks like a creek delta, but even from the air, there’s no hint that a creek formed it. The water level was quite high, so the beach wasn’t very wide, and there was no good place to run Bella and Tucker off-leash, though other campers had their dogs off-leash, and some were just roaming loose around the campground.

Dezadeash Lake Campground, Yukon
Dezadeash Lake is a small campground, only 20 sites, and there was only one RV set up when we got there just after 3:00 pm.

Dezadeash Lake Campground, Yukon
Molly always settles in very quickly. By the time the dogs and I got back from an exploratory walk, life looked pretty good for her πŸ™‚

Cat on the dash of an RV at Dezadeash Lake Campground, Yukon
It started raining soon after we arrived. Sitting in the rig reading, I was surprised to see 3 Common loons (Gavia immer) passing by our campsite – I usually see them alone.

Common loons (Gavia immer) at Dezadeash Lake Campground, Yukon
I took the dogs for another walk (in the rain) soon after the loons went by, and as we got back to our campsite, this Harlequin duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) sailed calmly close by us.

Harlequin duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) at Dezadeash Lake Campground, Yukon
I haven’t been able to identify these waist-high shrubs. The fact that they were only in a fairly small area at the entrance to the campground makes me think that they may be an invasive species.

Wild flowers at Dezadeash Lake Campground, Yukon
The wind blew all night and the weather was cold, windy, and wet on Thursday morning. We were going to Million Dollar Falls regardless of the weather, though, so I took this photo and then we started that short drive just before 11:00.

Stormy weather at Dezadeash Lake Campground, Yukon
I stopped briefly at the viewpoint over the Kluane Range at Km 162, but clouds obscured much of the view. The blue panel on the rock to the left commemorates the designation of the Tatshenshini River as a Canadian Heritage River in May 2004.

Kluane Range viewpoint, Haines Highway
The Takhanne River bridge at Km 159.2 – the entrance to Million Dollar Falls Campground is just around the corner ahead.

Takhanne River bridge at Km 159.2 of the Haines Highway
I looped around the campground and decided that I liked site #7, which was very open and had great access to the trail and stairs to the falls. This is the view of the site from the waterfall trail.

Million Dollar Falls Campground, Yukon
The view of the Takhanne River from the top of the stairs.

Million Dollar Falls Campground, Yukon
An extensive network of stairs and viewing areas provide access to the falls.

Stairs at Million Dollar Falls Campground, Yukon
A great deal of logging and brush clearing has been done recently (last year?), and the slope above the river is much more open now – it was getting to be very dark and views were getting to be quite limited.

Logging at Million Dollar Falls Campground, Yukon

Bella and Tucker and I did a lot of walking on Thursday – the campground and the access road from the highway provide great scenic walking. The weather on Thursday night was really erratic, but it was nice enough for a while that I built a campfire and the dogs and I had a very nice hour or so in front of it before a cold wind returned with rain and drove us inside.

I was up early on Friday morning to go back down to the falls to do some long-exposure shots. This one was shot at 06:35 – it’s a tripod-mounted selfie, shot at ISO 100 and f20, with a 1.6-second exposure. The grafitti carved into the handrail has been edited out of this image.

Takhanne Falls at Million Dollar Falls Campground, Yukon
After breakfast, we drove south to see if the weather was any better towards the Haines Summit. By the time we reached the Yukon/BC border at Km 145.5 it wasn’t, so I decided to turn around. That’s the Blanchard River bridge ahead.

Blanchard River bridge, Haines Highway
The Blanchard River Highways Department camp below the highway.

The Blanchard River Highways Department camp on the Haines Highway
I found this sign funny. I didn’t know that radar detectors were still a thing, and the fact that it still says “the Yukon” dates it back prior to about 2000, before the government decided that it should just be called “Yukon”.

Disable your radar detector. Use is prohibited in the Yukon.
Leaving Million Dollar Falls Campground at 09:30. Cathy was going to join us at Congdon Creek Campground on Friday night, and I wanted to get there early so we could get a lakshore site.

Leaving Million Dollar Falls Campground, Yukon
Right at Kathleen Lake, the skies suddenly cleared, and at 10:25 I stopped at the Haines Junction viewpoint for a few photos, to check my phone for messages, and to send Cathy a text that we were on the way to Congdon Creek.

Haines Junction viewpoint, Haines Highway
There, that’s better weather to enjoy the spectacular views along the Alaska Highway en route to Kluane Lake!

Glacier along the Alaska Highway near Kluane Lake
The first view of Kluane Lake as you drop down from Boutillier Summit (Km 1633) always excites me – I love that country.

Kluane Lake viewpoint on the Alaska Highway

Things were looking good for a perfect weekend… πŸ™‚

Hiking in the White Pass: the Railway Summit

I hadn’t checked the weather forecast when I drove Cathy back to Whitehorse on Sunday night, but since it’s seldom right, it was the sky when I went to bed back in the RV at Summit Creek that gave me hope for some great hiking on Monday and maybe even beyond that. The first destination would be the historic White Pass summit – the one that the White Pass & Yukon Route railway goes through – and possibly down to the railway’s cantilever bridge, whose base has apparently started to fail.

Before my hike, I needed to tire Bella and Tucker out, since they couldn’t join me on this hike. There’s too much bare granite, and Bella is terrified of trains. But I had a plan for Tuesday’s hike which would include them, and we drove up to the highway summit to confirm the access for that one, above the “Welcome to Alaska” sign.

Welcome to Alaska sign on the South Klondike Highway
The next stop was, of course, the beach at Summit Lake. It was shaping up to be a superb day, and I was really glad that I decided to stay longer. A Holland America cruise line tour bus can be seen on the highway in this photo – this is the kind of day that everybody should see this world.

Summit Lake on the South Klondike Highway
The kids seemed to be a bit slower than they did on Sunday, when they were both really crazy. Maybe they actually do tire out! That Tucker is one funny-looking dude when he runs, isn’t he? πŸ™‚

Dogs playing on the beach at Summit Lake
Once the dogs were happy to play by themselves instead of with me throwing balls and sticks, I went off and did some photography of flowers and rocks and water.

Summit Lake, north of Skagway, Alaska
A small channel of Summit Creek was making some interesting patterns as it sorted the sand and gravels near the lake.

Patterns in Summit Creek
Bella and Tucker pooped out in less than an hour and a half, so I took them back to the motorhome and put them to bed, and I headed off. The route would be across this ridge, from the point on the highway marked “A”, to the railway summit at “B”.

The ridge leading from the South Klondike Highway to the WP&YR railway
Just before noon, I parked the Tracker on the shoulder of the highway, turned on my Garmin and Spot, and started hiking up to treeline. There’s no trail or any route markings across the ridge, and I’ve never seen any other hikers up there.

The South Klondike Highway in the White Pass
I’ve hiked this route a few times, and have found that the higher you go, the easier it is to get across. In particular, the low spruce can be very tough to get through, and there are several gullies that are easier to cross at higher elevations.

Murray Lundberg, hiking in the White Pass
This ramp was built by snowmobilers many years ago – the sign on it says “Rock Star Built”. This slope is a very popular location for sledders – I thought that it was safe from avalanches, but a large one came down here about 3 years ago.

Snowmobile jump in the White Pass
Some of the granite up here is quite incredible – this outcropping is about 60 feet long, with a crack about 10 inches wide.

Granite in the White Pass
A granite sidewalk – easy hiking for 100 feet.

A granite sidewalk in the White Pass
I reached the first of the first of the large gullies at 12:45.

Hiking in the White Pass
The tiny creek in the gully was not only drinkable, it was wonderful to cool off in. The temperature was probably about 24°C/76°F, a bit hotter than what I consider to be a perfect hiking day, but I sure wasn’t complaining!

Hiking in the White Pass
This is one of my favourite places on earth. I could spend an entire summer camped where I’ve been the past couple of weekends. In this photo, the beach we play at is just about at the furthest point you can see on Summit Lake.

Murray Lundberg, hiking in the White Pass
Damn! As I made that step, I had a micro-thought that the footing on the sharp and heavily-eroded granite slab didn’t look very secure and I should go around it. That was my first hiking boo-boo in many years. I sat down for a few minutes until I was sure that it was only a skin issue, then continued on.

Hiking injury
Crossing another of the gullies, at 1:20.

Hiking in the granite of the White Pass
The last few hundred yards to the railway are the toughest, with multiple gullies, cliffs and thick vegetation, but at 1:40, I was there, at Mile 20.4 from Skagway. The cabin is a replica North West Mounted Police post that was built for the 1995 R.C.M.P. Yukon Centennial.

The summit of the White Pass & Yukon Route railway
Perched on a rocky ridge above the railway is this border monument – Monument 17 on the topo maps.

Canada/USA border monument 17, north of Skagway, Alaska
I hadn’t seen or heard any trains during the 2 hours I’d been hiking, so I started hiking south on the rail line. At 2:10, I reached the former site of the large American snowshed, at Mile 19.4. It was demolished in the 1970s – the timbers can be seen in the lower centre of the photo. Snaking up the gully below the railway is “The Trail of ’98”, the actual trail used to get through the White Pass during the Klondike Gold Rush before the railway was built (the trail is a thin greenish line).

American Shed on the White Pass & Yukon Route railway
Nobody hikes The Trail of ’98 anymore, since it doesn’t go from or to anywhere, but decade after decade, it looks the same.

The Trail of '98 on the White Pass & Yukon Route railway
There are quite a few artifacts along the trail, ranging from shovels to horse skulls. In the early madness of the gold rush, this was the infamous “Dead Horse Trail”. The trail was narrow, steep, slippery, and overcrowded, and about 3,000 horses and other pack animals died here.

The Trail of '98 on the White Pass & Yukon Route railway
Looking south at Mile 19.

Mile 19 on the White Pass & Yukon Route railway
The Trail of ’98 can be seen at the lower right, and the Skagway River is in the distance.

On the White Pass & Yukon Route railway
In the fall of 1969, a new tunnel and bridge were built to bypass the old cantilever bridge which wasn’t up to the weight of the new trains loaded with ore coming out of Yukon mines. Although I’d planned to go to the old bridge, which is to the right in this photo, the alders have grown up a lot since my last visit during a hike in 2012, and about 100 yards in, I decided that I didn’t have the energy to push through a half-mile of them. Some fresh bear poop added to my decision to turn back, at 2:25 pm.

Tunnel on the White Pass & Yukon Route railway
Just after I started walking north, I could hear a train far off in the distance. The valley funnels sound so you can hear them for many miles, and I was well north of American Shed when it reached me. This was the afternoon train to Fraser. A couple of train crew members yelled at me that there were “3” and “a bunch of” trains coming in the next hour, and I was tempted to hang around, though their intent was clearly to get me to bugger off for some reason. I was starting to feel bad about leaving the dogs for so long, though, and kept going.

White Pass & Yukon Route train near the summit
Back at the summit, at 2:52.

Nearing the summit on White Pass & Yukon Route railway
I hardly took any photos on the way back. I hadn’t done any hard hikes yet this year, and I was tired (but at 65 years old, that doesn’t embarrass me). This dried-up creek was too cool to pass up getting some photos of, though. I got back to the car at about 4:30, very pleased with the day. Granite as a medicinal aid for seniors – who knew? It was a very calm night!

Hiking in the granite of the White Pass
On Tuesday morning, I decided to drive back to Fraser to see what the border looks like when it’s closed (it’s closed from midnight until 08:00). As I got near, I was very surprised to meet 4 semis heading south. I still don’t know how that happened, unless they crossed the border and then went to sleep for the night, because when I got to Fraser at 07:25, it was all locked up. So camped out in “no man’s land” between the two Customs posts, you really are trapped if you want to look at it in a negative way. πŸ™‚

From Fraser I could see rain to the north, and by 9:30 it was raining heavily at my campsite. It soon became clear that the rain was not going to quit, so I packed up to head home. The last time I looked at a forecast, the weather was supposed to turn wet on Wednesday and stay that way for several days.

A tour bus in the rain in the White Pass
There were 4 large cruise ships in Skagway (Crown Princess, Coral Princess, Solstice, and Nieuw Amsterdam), and the lineup at the border was very long when I got there at 11:00. It took over half an hour to get through, but I was home by 1:00. I really like having a strong connection with the cruise ships – of these four, I worked on the Coral Princess as the ship naturalist for 3 weeks in June/July 2010, and Cathy and I sailed to Hawaii on the Solstice in September 2014.

As I write this, it’s hard to say when the next outing will be be – the weather forecasts for Whitehorse and everywhere else I look within a reasonable driving distance suck. Oh well, I have no shortage of projects I need to deal with, including some work on the motorhome (this weekend, the water pump died for a couple of days and then re-started, and the screen door latch broke) πŸ™‚