The drive from Lake Creek was quite spectacular as the snow-capped peaks of Kluane NP (home to Mt. Logan which is the tallest mountain in Canada at 19,551 feet) were on our right hand side. We stopped at several viewpoints before reaching Burwash Landing where we went to an excellent Museum called the Kluane Museum of History. Outside they had a record sized gold pan and a display showing how close the Burwash fire of 1999 got to the museum building. Inside the museum they had a large number of wildlife displays with some quite unique facts about the animals and there was also a section on the history of the Champagne, Aishihik, and Kluane First Nation people.
As we continued the drive we could see more of the beautiful blue coloured Kluane Lake (the largest lake in the Yukon). It is a glacial fed lake so the silt particles in the water scatter the blue light from the sun, giving it the colour. We looked at a historic park in Destruction Bay and then tried to get into one of the PP but all the water sights were full as it was Saturday night so we drove a little further to Cottonwood RV Park and got a nice spot right on the water, a little close to the neighbours but they were nice to talk to and we kept seeing them as we journeyed further. The water was a little too refreshing to go for a swim but we did put our feet in. They had some interesting sayings posted in the park office so I’ll share one here. That evening we played mini golf in the campground and I was the winner😉
The next morning, we did a short hike up to Soldiers Summit, the location of the official Alaska Highway opening in 1942. We are now in Kluane National Park so had to get our red chair photo. We stopped at one of the NP Visitor Centres to check out their display on the Dall Sheep. Unfortunately, there were no sheep on Sheep Mountain that day. We continued on our way to Haines Junction and had our closest Grizzly sighting yet. The Grizzly was busy eating berries on the side of the road and could care less that we were several feet away!
We checked out the Quanset hut church in Haines Junction which apparently is the most photographed church in the Yukon. We also stopped into the combined First Nation Cultural centre, Yukon Tourist office, and Kluane NP Visitor centre to check out the displays, get our internet fix, and of course get our Yukon passport stamps. The Yukon tourist offices all seem to have great high-speed internet. It was a short drive south to the Kathleen Lake campground of Kluane NP where we stayed for a couple of nights. That evening we went to the ranger talk about Grizzly bears where she told us that the Kluane bears are less than half the size of the Alaskan bears because they have very little salmon in their diet. They mainly eat berries, like the one we saw, and they can eat up to 200,000 berries in a day!
The following day we got an early start as we wanted to do the King’s Throne trail and possibly the King’s Throne Summit Trail. The total would be 16 kms with an elevation gain of 4,329 feet! We were glad we started early as the sun was in and out of the clouds, so it wasn’t too hot as we got above the tree line. The trail switch backed straight up the mountain and the scree type surface was a combination of dust, gravel, and large stones. We were really glad that we had our poles with us because you had a tendency to slide back down when you took a step. One guy passed us on the King’s Throne section but otherwise we didn’t see anybody for several hours. We had a snack at the top of the King’s Throne and enjoyed the amazing views of Kathleen Lake. As you got higher up the blues in the lake due to the sandy bottom around the edge were beautiful. We started up the summit trail but found the pitch difficult especially with the slippery scree surface. Sharon decided to stop on the east ridge and I continued on for another km but my legs were starting to get weak and I was worried about the descent. In fact, the descent was far more difficult than going up. When you are going up you are affected by the cardio workout but coming down you are constantly trying to find a footing where you don’t slip which causes your leg muscles to get even more of a workout. Eventually I decided it would be too much for me to try to complete the last 2 kms to the summit so I enjoyed the views from where I got to. We started to see lots of younger people now going to the top. At one point I heard some rocks slide and when I looked on the face of the mountain, I could see two dall sheep perched precariously on a ledge! I returned to where Sharon was waiting and since we had great cell coverage (no coverage at the campground) Sharon made some phone calls and I posted a photo on FB. When we got back to the cirque area we met up with Michael who was camped by us in the park. He was in his late 70’s and hiked all the time so in fact headed down the mountain much faster than we did. My hike was just short of 14 kms that day with an elevation gain of 3,000 feet and even though my thighs are still feeling it a week later, it was worth the effort for the views.
The following day we called an RV park in Haines Alaska and got a reservation and the lady told us the ferries were now operating again after the strike. We started the drive south but stopped to do the Rock Glacier trail. The ice has all melted from this glacier leaving behind rock debris. This was a short trail but at least gave our weary legs a bit of stretching. The coolest thing (if you’re a GoT fan) was that someone had built a replica of the Game of Thrones throne from rocks and the root system from a dead tree so we both took a rest on the throne😉
We ventured off the main road to see a First Nations summer fish camp called Klukshu village on the banks of the Klukshu river. There were a handful of log cabins and meat caches, and traditional traps and drying racks. There weren’t many people around as the salmon weren’t running yet.
The drive south was quite pretty with mountains on both sides of the road. We stopped at Million Dollar Falls campground to see the falls and have lunch by the river. The border crossing back into Alaska was uneventful. After the border we followed along the banks of the Chilkat River and stopped at the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve where in the fall 3 to 4 thousand eagles congregate in this area to feed on salmon. We were too early to see any eagles. Once in Haines we had to fill up our propane tank because our volume sensor had failed so we didn’t know how low we were on propane. We then checked into the Haines Hitch-up RV park and tried to get a booking for the ferry to Skagway. Since the ferry had just started back up, they only had a slot open at 7 am Friday (way to early when you have to be there 2 hours prior) or 2 pm Saturday (good time but with the extra couple days we could drive the route) and we decided not to wait in Haines for the extra days. We went for walk in the downtown to see the harbour and found a fantastic restaurant called Fireweed for dinner. I had grilled Rockfish and Sharon had grilled Halibut and we had a Peanut Butter pie for dessert😉
This was a very nice RV park with a great laundry room so we hauled out all the laundry (5 loads) and got that done before venturing into town to the Hammer Museum. Sharon’s Dad loved working with his hands creating and fixing things. At one point we gave him the nickname “Hammer”, so in honour of him we went to check out a museum he’d love. It was actually a really interesting museum, who knew there were so many different uses for hammers. We believe the collection has over 1,800 hammers on display and 1,200 more they got from another collection that they are currently cataloging.
It was a very hot and humid day so we tried to find shade as we walked along the harbour. A cruise ship was in so we went to see it and then did a historic walking tour of Fort William H Seward. The fort had been established in 1903 and had been closed after WWII. Now the area has shops and art galleries. One of the interesting buildings was the old Fort Hospital that is now the Alaska Indian Arts skill centre. We could look into the workshops that they use and see the totem poles that they are restoring. In the centre of the parade grounds they also had a replica of a Chilkat Tribal House with more totem poles and paintings. Sharon enjoyed talking to one of the local artists about his work and bought a t-shirt with one of his prints.
The next day before leaving Haines we took a trip out Mud Bay Road to visit the Feed ‘em Fish Haines Packaging company. Since they were processing salmon that day we were able to see the fish fileting and packaging process in action. This plant handles fresh fish filets, smoked fish, and canned salmon. They also had a gift shop with lots of fish related items and a seafood shop so we spent some money in both places. The location for the plant was truly breathtaking. After the plant we headed back along the Chilkat river north and crossed the border again into Canada and stopped in Dezadeash Lake PP for the night where we were lucky to get a spot right on the lake.
Our plan from here takes us back through Haines Junction, across to Whitehorse, and then down to Carcross.