More Kluane National Park, and a trip along the Yukon River in Whitehorse
YUKON TERRITORY - I spent most of my first day checking out Haines Junction and Kathleen Lake.
The next day I got up and drove an hour or so northwest on the Alaska Highway. It’s a beautiful drive, with large, craggy, snowcapped mountains streaked with ice and capped with brilliant white snow set off against the deep black rock, as if someone had taken the mountains and turned them upside down and dipped them into a vat of white ice cream, then put them back in place.
There are smaller hills on the right as you make your way past a couple small lodges and settlements, and there’s almost nothing for 45 minutes but the odd rabbit and endless stretches of forest and the occasional pond or small lake. The road climbs up toward looming mountains, then dips and swirls a bit before you finally spot massive Kluane Lake off in the distance, hard by some very high, dusty brown and rocky mountains. Tacahl Dhal (Sheep Mountain) Centre is a small building at the base of a giant hill of brown rock. Way up high you can see tiny white dots, those being Dall sheep who make a living by nibbling on the grasses and plants that dot the slope.
It’s very stark but also very humbling and beautiful. A bright red and white Canadian flag was flapping madly in the breeze alongside an inukshuk when I was there. There’s a ghost town nearby called Silver City but, sadly, I didn’t hear about it until I was in Whitehorse.
Back in Whitehorse in the afternoon, I spent a few hours on the Yukon River searching fruitlessly for fish with local guide Mark Zrum, a genuinely fun and pleasant guy who knows the hotspots on the Yukon River but couldn’t quite conjure up any hungry fish for myself and a visiting writer from Australia. Still, it was a great half-hour trip up the river and back.
We started in Schwatka Lake, just south of town, and then made our way through narrow Miles Canyon, an historic part of the gold rush route. The canyon is a high, narrow slot filled with curious basalt columns; somewhat reminiscent of the Giant’s Steps in northern Ireland. It’s weird, because the rest of the river banks are sloping hills of powdery sand that look something like the Rouge River or the Scarborough Bluffs.
The canyon was a treacherous piece of work during the Gold Rush days, a foaming, frothing and deadly narrows filled with roaring water. Only the best pilots knew the safe way through.
Anyway, no fish for me on the Yukon but still a fun time. Folks were out and about on the water in kayaks or long canoes or power boats and there were a decent number of hikers sitting out on the rocks enjoying what passes for spring weather in these parts. It was about 13 Celsius and there was at least one guy in nothing but shorts and shoes.
I went back again later to check out the area on my own. If you drive south of town a mile or so you’ll probably find the overlook of the canyon, which is located on, oddly enough, Miles Canyon Road.
There’s a beautiful, white bridge crossing over the canyon and the river below, with hiking trails galore on the other side. I walked along a bit, ever mindful of stray bears.
Zrum said he was armed but didn’t shoot as the bear was clearly bluffing.
“How did you know,” I asked.
“If they charge with their heads straight up and down, they’re just bluffing. But if they tilt their heads to one side, that’s because they want to get their teeth into something.”
Keep that in mind if you ever see a grizzly. Yeah, right.
Before you reach the bridge, look to your left for a beautiful lookout point. You can stand hundreds of feet above the canyon with views out to several nearby mountains.
WEDNESDAY: More on Whitehorse and the Canadian Tourism Commission's Go Media meetings...