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Toward (alaska) Chapter 7

The Alaskan Highway traverses the border of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory seven times before finally settling down on the Yukon side near the Morley River.

The AlCan crosses the Yukon’s southwest corner.
British Columbia or Yukon Territory?

The story of the Klondike Gold Rush is legend in the Yukon. In the late 1890’s at the height of the rush, 100k gold seekers passed through Dawson City, where the Yukon and Klondike rivers converged with their dreams of getting rich. Today, only 39k people inhabit the entire 186k-square-mile Yukon Territory, and its main industries are tourism and mining - but for gold not so much.

For us, the main attraction in the Yukon was Kluane National Park. The size of New Hampshire, it contains 17 of Canada’s 20 highest mountains, including its highest, Mt. Logan, at 19,551 feet. (In North America only Denali in Alaska is higher.) Deep in the park’s interior, Mt. Logan is visible only by air and not accessible by road or day hike.

Best (and only) shot of Mt. Logan I could get. Logan holds many “records” such as the largest massif in the world (with a circumference of 103 miles) and the lowest temperature ever recorded (-106 degrees Fahrenheit). The list goes on.

Kluane National Park, combined with its neighbors Glacier Bay and Wrangell-St. Elias of the U.S., is a World Heritage Site, and is the largest internationally protected area on the planet. We stayed in the only place where front-country camping is allowed in the park, at Kathleen Lake. Kathleen is another swimming-pool blue lake, due to its suspended glacial flour. A freshwater species of salmon, Kokanee, inhabits the lake, although they’re in decline. Unlike ocean-going salmon which can swim 1500 miles or more to spawn and die, when these fish are ready (at three years old) they take a short swim to a higher lake.

Top and left: Several times in Canadian parks we’ve encountered red chairs in beautiful spots, placed to encourage visitors to pause. Bottom right: Always on the lookout for fish.

A hike up the King’s Throne Trail, overlooking Kathleen Lake, was totally exhilarating. Also on the mountain were a few other international hikers, a couple sheep above the cirque, and some scat clearly left by a large omnivore.

Kathleen Lake
Views of and from King’s Throne. Those red chairs are on the far shoreline below. Sometimes during an exhilarating hike there are moments when I feel half my age....until someone half my age comes skipping past me.

We considered lingering at this beautiful place but decided to head up the road to Kluane Lake. The AlCan Highway, as it winds (and rolls over frost heaves) toward Alaska, runs for about 50 miles along the western shore of the lake below the mountains of Kluane National Park. Kluane Lake is the largest lake in the Yukon, with its own chapter of gold rush history and very few human inhabitants.

Kluane Lake at dawn (and in first photo)

The Provincial Park Campground on Kluane Lake is next to Congdon Creek, which is an established bear corridor between the mountains above and prime bruin food by the lake such as soapberries, bear root and yellow locoweed. (That last one sounds like bear catnip, doesn’t it?) This means tent campers must sleep inside an electrified fence enclosure, something we’ve only seen in Africa. We saw no bears from the security of our van, but didn’t forget to carry our bear spray.

Our last Yukon morning

Created By
alison blakeslee
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