Leaving Alaska & Lupe’s Return to Yukon Territory, Canada (9-1-16 & 9-2-16)

The end of Day 34, plus Day 35 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska

Day 34, 9-1-16, 4:00 PM, 72°F – Well, it was over.  After 7,500+ feet of elevation gain in the past 31 hours, Lupe was back at the Lazy Mountain Recreation Site trailhead.  Blisters and a pulled muscle in the front right leg, suffered yesterday while coming down Pepper Peak, caused SPHP to hobble slowly onto the parking lot behind her.

Make that almost over.  A tall, lanky, young guy immediately struck up a conversation.  Both Lupe and SPHP just wanted to go the remaining 50 feet to the G6 and sit/lay down.  Instead this complete stranger launched into a monologue about mountains and trails.  He talked with a strange accent, or maybe a lisp, and seemed kind of, well – “off”, somehow.

Remind you of anyone, SPHP?

Oh, please!  Silence, wisecracking Dingo of mine!

Actually the friendly stranger’s conversation would normally have been of great interest.  He was a wealth of knowledge about Alaska, and what there was to do outdoors around here.  Moreover, he was eager to share his experiences.

Where had he been for the last 3 weeks?  Off or not, any other time SPHP would have enjoyed talking to him for hours, but not now.  Not his fault, but his timing was atrocious.  No need for his insight now.  Lupe had just returned from Lazy Mountain (3,740 ft.), the last mountain she would climb in Alaska in 2016.  Recuperation at the G6 was priority one.

After a seeming eternity, a brief lull came in the one-sided conversation.  SPHP used the opening to wish the stranger well, and encourage his speedy enjoyment of the Lazy Mountain trail.  Off he went, happy as a clam.  SPHP limped 50 feet and unlocked the G6.  Lupe eagerly leaped in.  Now it was over!  No more climbing mountains in Alaska.  Sad, tragic really, but paws, feet, legs, and lungs all advised getting over it.  Wow, it did feel good to rest!

With the G6’s windows down on this beautiful, warm afternoon so Lupe could sniff the air, SPHP drove the few miles back to Palmer.  Brief stops for groceries and gas.  A trip to McDonald’s.  Lupe ate only one bite of cheeseburger.  Surprising, but she knew how she felt.  She seemed cheerful and perfectly fine.

At long last, off with the boots.  What a relief!  So much better!  In stocking feet, SPHP drove E out of Palmer on the Glenn Highway, marvelously equipped with cheeseburgers, fries and a Coke.  Lupe panted happily, looking out the window at the splendid scenery of the Matanuska River valley going by.  A relaxing, astonishingly beautiful evening drive was ahead.  After 22 unforgettable days in Alaska, Lupe was starting for home.

In a sense, Lupe had already been going home for 5 days, ever since she left Grace Ridge (3,136 ft.), back near Homer on the Kenai Peninsula.  So far, though, every day had been mostly filled with adventures.  She hadn’t really gotten all that far.  The Carolina Dog was still more than 3,000 miles from home in the Black Hills.  Time to make tracks.  450 miles per day for the next week should about do it.

The return trip would be fabulous!  Endless forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, sky and clouds.  A road trip made in heaven.  Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon and Alaska had been a huge success!  Time to kick back and enjoy the road home.  Lupe would still have a chance for a few adventures along the way, if they weren’t too long, and there would be plenty of stops to stretch, sniff the air, and admire the world.

Lupe’s first stop this evening was to see the Matanuska Glacier again.  She’d had absolutely fabulous views of it earlier on her Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation when she’d climbed Lion Head (3,185 ft.).

The Matanuska Glacier from the Glenn Highway (Alaska Route 1).
Lupe stops for a quick look at the Matanuska Glacier again. She’d had absolutely fabulous views of it earlier on her Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation when she’d climbed nearby Lion Head (3,185 ft.). Photo looks S.
Snowy peaks near the Matanuska Glacier. Photo looks S using the telephoto lens.

Matanuska Glacier, Alaska

Lupe didn’t make it much beyond the Matanuska Glacier this evening, stopping near Gunsight Mountain (6,441 ft.) for the night.  Gunsight Mountain was the highest peak in Alaska that Lupe had climbed.  She had met Laura from Montana, and Luke Hall from Australia up there.

The best views from the highway near Gunsight Mountain were to the S.  The peaks in that direction appeared to have fresh new-fallen snow.

Looking S from the Gunsight Mountain area.
Last light.

Day 35, 9-2-16, Predawn, 32°F – Orion hung low in the E.  The pale light of dawn hadn’t arrived yet, but there was a hint of it on the horizon.  The North Star was high overhead.  Northern lights, not a great display, but easily seen, streamed from the N toward the coming sun.

With the G6’s right headlight not working, it was still too early to leave the Gunsight Mountain area.  Lupe and SPHP walked W along an abandoned stretch of the old Glenn Highway.  Chilly out, but Lupe was in fine form, sniffing like mad among the bushes lining the old road.  A mile, maybe a mile and a half later, it was time to turn around.

The were-puppy attacked SPHP!  Once the were-puppy was fended off, the Carolina Dog showed off how fast and agile she was, racing up and down the road, running circles around SPHP.  Ahh, to feel like that!  So much energy and joy of living!  Shrill Dingo barking filled the air for a couple of minutes before Lupe returned to sniffing.

On the way back to the G6, sunrise was on its way.  Soon time to depart.

Sunrise approaches.
Looking E from the Gunsight Mountain area on Lupe’s last morning in Alaska.
First light hits the peaks S of Gunsight Mountain. Photo looks S.

Heading E toward Glenn Allen, Mount Drum (12,010 ft.) came into view.  Lupe hadn’t seen it before.  When she’d first arrived in Alaska, the towering white monsters of the Wrangell Range were all shrouded by clouds.  Now they basked in brilliant sunshine.  Lupe saw them from various angles as SPHP followed the highway beyond Glenn Allen around to the Tok Cut-Off.

SPHP meant to stop at the same viewpoint overlooking the Copper River where Lupe had stopped before, but somehow missed it.  The white monsters were far from the highway, but could be seen for many miles.  After a while, though, they receded from view as the miles clicked by.

One of the white monsters of the Wrangell Range SE of Glenn Allen. SPHP didn’t know their names, but they were spectacular peaks covered in huge quantities of snow and ice.
One hell of a sledding hill! Kind of a rough ending, though.

After being in view for many miles as Lupe circled them to the N, the huge white Wrangell Mountains began to recede in the rear view mirror.

After all her many Alaskan adventures, Lupe was feeling pretty relaxed on this first full day of driving on her way home.E of Tok, Lupe crossed the Tanana River.  She was happy to get out of the G6 to stretch her legs a bit.

Lupe stretches her legs after crossing the Tanana River, which flows all the way NW to Fairbanks. The Tanana is ultimately a tributary of the Yukon River.
Lupe near the Alaskan Highway bridge over the Tanana River E of Tok. Photo looks downstream toward the NW.

With the majestic high peaks of the Wrangell Mountains now far behind, Lupe traveled through an area of lower hills, ridges and distant mountains.  Fall was coming to Alaska, as Lupe was leaving.  There were many hills with colorful displays of fall colors.

Lupe stops along the Alaska Highway for a photo with the fall colors.
A brilliant hillside.

Lupe left Alaska, returning to Yukon Territory in Canada around 2 PM Alaska Time (3 PM Pacific Time).  Soon she was seeing bigger mountains closer by again.  She crossed the White River without stopping.  A few weeks earlier, it had been wide and impressive, but now it was mostly dried up.

After Lupe left Alaska entering Yukon Territory, she began to see higher mountains near the Alaska Highway again.
Yukon Territory from the Alaska Highway.

By the time Lupe reached the Donjek River, it was getting to be late afternoon.  The Donjek was running low, too, but it seemed like a good time to get out of the G6 to stretch and walk around a bit.  Lupe went for short walks on both sides of the scenic river, spending about 45 minutes in the area.

Lupe near the NW bank of the mighty Donjek River. Of course, the river was running low this time of year. Photo looks SW.
The Donjek River is a major tributary of the White River. Both are part of the Yukon River’s drainage area.
Most of the Donjek was mud flats when Lupe was here, but the river must be gigantic during the spring runoff when the snow melts.
The beautiful mountains and impressive river bed of the Donjek invite exploration, but away from the Alaska Highway this is true wilderness.

The Alaska Highway bridge over the Donjek River. Although the mountains to the SW looked high, remote and dangerous, this one to the E looked like something Lupe could climb if she’d had enough time. Photo looks E.
Loopster on the mud flats of the Donjek. Photo looks W.
The Donjek has a braided floodplain. This was only one small channel. Love that big cloud boiling up over the far ridge!
Lupe on the SE bank of the Donjek now. There was more flow over here. Photo looks WSW.

Lupe’s time along the Donjek River was a wonderful break. The whole area was so beautiful and remote. Lupe and SPHP were lucky to be here to see it. There are still amazing places in the world far beyond casual exploration. The Donjek and White Rivers capture the imagination, but few ever glimpse more of them than Lupe was seeing from near the highway.

A little S of the Donjek River, a mountain with new snow on top caught SPHP’s fancy.

This striking mountain with new snow on it some miles S of the Donjek River caught SPHP’s fancy, and gave Lupe another opportunity to sniff around for a few minutes out of the G6.

For the last 5 or 6 days Lupe had been in Alaska, the sky had been almost totally clear.  However, there were quite a few clouds here in the Yukon.  Near Destruction Bay on Kluane Lake, Lupe and SPHP drove through rain showers.  Lupe saw a rainbow.

Rainbow near Destruction Bay on Kluane Lake.

In Kluane National Park, Lupe and SPHP stopped again at the Tachal Dahl visitor center in the Slims River valley at the S end of Kluane Lake.  The visitor center was closed.  Not a soul was around.  SPHP made use of one of the picnic tables to prepare dinner.  Lupe was eager to help SPHP make the last can of beef stew and remaining cheese disappear, but she buried a cracker with her nose.

The mood had changed remarkably since Lupe had been here in early August.  Back then, there had been activity.  It hadn’t been crowded at all, but people had been around.  The Alaska Highway had lots of traffic.  The days were warm and bright, and the sun stayed up late.  Dust had been blowing dramatically down the Slims River valley toward Kluane Lake.

Now there was new snow on the mountaintops.  The air was chilly.  The Slims River valley was still dry, but no dust blew.  No one at all was around.  Traffic on the Alaska Highway was only a trickle.  The whole place felt deserted, like late fall with early winter knocking on the door.  SPHP ate while watching two large herds of wild sheep high up on Sheep Mountain (6,400 ft.).  Lupe sniffed around nearby.

Lupe returns to the Slims River valley in Kluane National Park in the Yukon near the Tachal Dahl visitor center. The mood had changed since early August when Lupe had last been here. The mountains had new snow on them. A chill was in the air. Dust no longer blew down the still parched Slims River valley toward Kluane Lake. Photo looks SW.
Although it was only September 2nd, new snow on the mountains already hinted of the approach of another deadly cold, dark winter.

Lupe was more than 500 miles from Palmer, Alaska now.  She’d made her 450 miles for the day from where she’d left Gunsight Mountain this morning, so it was time to stop for the night.  As the light of day faded much earlier than it had only 3.5 weeks ago, Lupe got to spend time playing and sniffing around the S shore of Kluane Lake once more.

Lupe at the S shore of Kluane Lake. Photo looks W.

Sheep Mountain from Kluane Lake. Photo looks NW.
Kluane Lake
Lupe spent the rest of the evening playing and sniffing around the S shore.
A dramatic sky near evening’s end.

One thing hadn’t changed.  Beyond Kluane Lake, a line of mountains marched endlessly away to the N horizon toward the Arctic.  The remote peaks were part of a vast wilderness only a little less mysterious than before, and as beautiful and romantic as ever.

Looking N.

Want more Lupe adventures?  Choose from Lupe’s 2016 Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska Adventure Index, Dingo Vacations Adventure Index or Master Adventure Index.  Or subscribe free to New Lupe Adventures.


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