Day 38 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska
Lupe’s morning started at 7:00 AM with a quick side trip into nearby Fort St. John for fuel for the G6. Then it was back N a few miles to the turn SW onto Hwy 29 to Chetwynd. Making that turn, Lupe left the Alaska Highway for the final time on her Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation.
Hwy 29 was a beautiful drive. For a while, the road followed a stretch of the Peace River valley. However, that feeling of being in the truly far N, which Lupe had while in the Yukon and Alaska, was fading fast. At Chetwynd, SPHP turned W on Hwy 97. It would eventually turn S and take Lupe to Prince George. This was still gorgeous, unspoiled territory, all wild, forested, and full of rivers and lakes, but Lupe saw no more snow-capped mountains, not even on the most distant horizon.
Nearly all day would be spent driving, but Lupe did have one adventure in store for her. She was going to take the trail up Teapot Mountain, sometimes touted as one of the best day hikes of central interior British Columbia. The trail isn’t long, only 0.9 mile (1.4 km). It climbs an ancient steep-sided basaltic plug which survived the last ice age, while gaining 650 feet of elevation (200 meters).
The sky clouded up. Light rain showers dampened the highway. Miles rolled by. Suddenly, ack! Talus Road! Wasn’t that it? Yes, and SPHP had missed the turn. Oh, well. At least the sign had been spotted. SPHP found a place to turn around. A few minutes later, Lupe was turning W onto gravel Talus Road.
A kilometer later, SPHP missed the R turn onto Caine Creek Forestry Road, too. The whole area seemed to be a maze of gravel roads, and the signage wasn’t great. Nevertheless, after a brief exercise in futility, Lupe did make it back to Caine Creek Forestry Road, which wound around for 2 miles (3 km) before crossing a bridge over a creek connecting a couple of skinny, swampy lakes on either side.
As the road started curving L after crossing the bridge, a sign could be seen tucked back at the edge of the trees near a dirt side road on the R. Nearby was enough parking space for several vehicles. The sign said Teapot Mtn. An arrow pointed into the forest along the side road. Not another soul or vehicle was around, but this had to be the trailhead.
SPHP parked, and Lupe got out of the G6. The sky was clearing a little again. The sun was trying to break through. On the way here, Lupe had seen densely forested Teapot Mountain a little to the W. It didn’t look very big after all the mountains Lupe had seen on this Dingo Vacation. The trip up Teapot Mountain(3,009 ft.) wouldn’t take long.
Lupe had plenty of time. Why not take a look at the swampy lakes and the creek from the bridge, before going up the mountain?
The water in the creek, which was actually the Crooked River, looked clean and clear. From the smaller skinny lake, it flowed N under the bridge. Both skinny lakes were part of the river system. Lupe didn’t see any fish in the river, but no doubt there must be some. The lakes had plenty of water and looked like great habitat.
In the 15 minutes Lupe spent sniffing around the Crooked River and the swampy lakes, 2 vehicles had arrived and parked at the Teapot Mountain trailhead. Hikers were already somewhere on the trail ahead of her by the time Lupe started out. The first part of the trail followed the side road, which curved NW as it led Lupe into the forest. The side road dead-ended after only a few hundred feet.
Where the side road ended, a wide path strewn with leaves led off to the W toward Teapot Mountain. Lupe hadn’t gained any elevation yet, but she was about to. The path started climbing steadily, slowly at first, but it quickly became steep.
The well worn trail was easy to follow, but soon became a real challenge for heart, lungs and legs. It worked its way over to the SE face of Teapot Mountain, where it began to climb even more steeply heading almost straight up the mountain.
The dense, lush forest hid all views. Many tree roots and rocks were exposed on the trail, which was hard packed. This part of the Teapot Mountain trail must be very slick when wet, but it wasn’t bad as Lupe made her ascent.
Teapot Mountain hadn’t looked that big from below, but felt bigger with each step up. The relentless steep rate of climb continued until Lupe reached a junction close to the top of the mountain. Here, the trail divided. Lupe could go L or R. It didn’t really matter which way she went, since both directions were part of the circular loop trail around the upper rim of Teapot Mountain. Lupe went R (N), hoping to catch a view of the Crooked River below.
Just because Lupe had reached the loop trail didn’t mean she could see anything. The top of Teapot Mountain was as densely forested as all the rest of it was. The trail had come up near the SE end of the mountain, at a part of the rim that proved to be a little lower than most of it. The summit area contained within the loop trail was acres in size. The interior terrain sloped gradually and unevenly up toward some unseen high point.
The loop trail was an easy, almost level stroll. Lupe didn’t have to go very far N before she came to a break in the trees where she could see a long, skinny lake down along the Crooked River off to the NE.
On her way around the N rim of Teapot Mountain, Lupe came to no more viewpoints until she reached some cliffs at the NW end of the mountain. Lupe could see a large shallow pond in a clearing far below.
From the cliffs at the NW viewpoint, Lupe didn’t have far to go to reach a big tan-colored rock formation at the SW end of the mountain. Up until now, Lupe hadn’t seen anyone along the trail. She found everyone here, congregated on the rock formation which offers the premier view from Teapot Mountain.
A friendly dog wanted to play with Lupe, but with cliffs so close by, the humans put a quick end to all the mad dashing and chasing around. A wooden bench was nearby to the E. Lupe got up on it for a look at the big view. Summit Lake, which is quite large and has an interesting irregular shape, was the main attraction. Lupe could see the N end of Summit Lake dotted with forested islands not too far away to the S.
While everyone else remained congregated on the tan rock formation, Lupe and SPHP went off in search of the true summit of Teapot Mountain. The highest point Lupe found was a nice mossy spot at the end of a very faint trail into the interior. The summit wasn’t far from the SW viewpoint at all.
Lupe returned to the loop trail. People were getting ready to depart. Before long, Lupe had the premier viewpoint on Teapot Mountain all to herself.
For a little while, Lupe and SPHP stayed together up on the tan rock formation enjoying the view of the lakes and forests of central British Columbia. Before long voices were heard approaching from the E. More hikers. Time to go and let them enjoy this beautiful spot in peace. Loop still had many miles to go today anyway.
Lupe saw more teapots placed on rocks and in trees along the S rim of Teapot Mountain as she completed the loop back to the trail down. The clouds hadn’t so much as sprinkled any rain for a while. On her way down, Lupe encountered several more groups of people who had decided to come up. Apparently, Teapot Mountain really is quite a popular hike.
It was mid-afternoon by the time Lupe arrived back at the G6 (2:55 PM, 50°F) ready to resume the long drive S. Teapot Mountain had been a pleasant break from being cooped up. The whole trek had taken a little over 2 hours at a leisurely pace.
By evening, Lupe was far SE of Prince George near the small town of McBride. Her day ended with a pleasant twilight stroll exploring a quiet park next to the Fraser River. Up until her Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation, Lupe had never been even this far N before in her whole life. Tomorrow she would return to more familiar territory in Jasper and Banff National Parks in the fabulous Canadian Rockies!
Days 36 & 37 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska
Day 36, 9-3-16, 6:40 AM, 32°F – Time for Lupe’s last walk down to the shore to say farewell to Kluane Lake. As soon as the G6 defogged, Lupe would be leaving. Another 450 miles to go today. By the end of the day, she would leave the Yukon and reach extreme northern British Columbia.
The huge lake was calm, the smoothest Lupe had ever seen it. More exciting adventures remain for Lupe in Kluane National Park in this wild, remote corner of Yukon Territory, but not on this Dingo Vacation. Who knew when, or if, Lupe would ever return to do them and see fabulous Kluane Lake again? No matter. It was time to go.
The sun wasn’t even above the horizon yet, as Lupe and SPHP started S in the G6, but would be illuminating the Kluane front range peaks of the Saint Elias mountains before long.
Yesterday evening, SPHP had seen Mount Decoeli(7,650 ft.) from afar. Lupe climbed Mount Decoeli earlier on this Dingo Vacation. What a tremendous adventure that had been! Now Decoeli was sporting a cap of new snow. The Alaska Highway would soon take Lupe only a few miles E of the mountain. She wasn’t too many miles from Kluane Lake, before there it was, looking majestic, clean and white!
The Kluane front range mountains all looked even more impressive with snow on them, than when Lupe had been here in early August. SPHP stopped frequently for photos. These were the biggest, most gorgeous mountains Lupe would see all day!
Lupe enjoyed all the stops. She didn’t mind posing for pictures. Each stop was another chance, however brief, to explore fields and forests near the Alaska Highway.
On the way to Haines Junction, SPHP decided Lupe ought to take the 14 mile (one way) detour S to have a look at King’s Throne(6,529 ft.) and Kathleen Lake. King’s Thronewas the first mountain Lupe had climbed in Kluane National Park, and another super adventure! Maybe Lupe could get a great photo of King’s Throne covered with new snow and shining brightly in the morning light?
Lupe only got 10 miles S of Haines Junction, though, before it was apparent there wasn’t much point in going farther. Clouds already screened King’s Throne from the sunlight, and more clouds were moving in fast. From what could be seen, King’s Throne hadn’t received any of the recent new snow either, perhaps because it is lower than Decoeli.
Near Quill Creek, Lupe and SPHP turned around to head back N. The mountains here were still in brilliant sunshine. However, large clouds were moving in from the SE. Lupe’s best bet was to enjoy these gorgeous mountains while they were still in view. All the way back to Haines Junction, Lupe and SPHP stopped frequently to gaze upon the beautifully sunlit Kluane front range.
At Haines Junction, Lupe headed E on the Alaska Highway. The dazzling splendor of the Kluane front range of the Saint Elias mountains receded in the rear view mirror. Within a few minutes, the mountains disappeared entirely as Lupe entered a dense fog bank.
For miles SPHP drove slowly in the fog. Lupe finally emerged from the fog bank, but the mood of the morning was different here. The sky was overcast. The dull, gray clouds weren’t dark or threatening, but the cheerful sunshine was gone. Lupe snoozed as the miles rolled by. E of Whitehorse, Lupe crossed the Yukon River again. By now it was 11:15 AM, and even SPHP was drowsy.
Lupe and SPHP stopped at a rest area on the E bank of the Yukon River. Even though it was practically the middle of the day, and the Alaska Highway was busy, SPHP took a nap. An hour later, feeling better, it was time to press on. Before leaving, Lupe was ready for a short stroll down to the river.
The clouds were lighter and starting to break up as Lupe continued E on the Alaska Highway. After a slow start in the morning, Lupe was behind schedule on reaching her mileage quota for the day. She needed to keep rolling. She was allowed fairly frequent short stops at rest areas, but other than that, Lupe had little to do but continue dozing or watch the scenery go by.
Forests were everywhere. Lupe saw many lakes and streams. Although Lupe saw lots of mountains, too, they weren’t nearly as large or rugged as the ones back at Kluane National Park. Hours went by. Finally, a cluster of higher, more impressive mountains appeared in the distance ahead. They had a good dusting of snow and were quite beautiful.
On the way to the Yukon near the start of her Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation, Lupe had traveled up the Cassiar Highway (Hwy 37). This time, when she reached the junction, Lupe stayed on the Alaska Highway going E instead of turning S. This was an alternate route home. Lupe was going to see a lot of new territory!
The new territory featured forests. Trees stretched from horizon to horizon. Mile after mile. Not that there hadn’t been plenty of vast forests before. Here, though, there were hills, ridges, and deep river valleys, but no real mountains, not like Lupe was used to seeing up to this point. Everything was forested. Nothing was above treeline.
E of Watson Lake, the Alaska Highway left the Yukon for good. Lupe was now back in far northern British Columbia. The highway wound around near the Liard River valley. In many places, the forest was clear cut for 50 to 100 feet and mowed on both sides of the highway. The resulting miles long skinny clearings proved attractive to wildlife.
Lupe sprang to life when she realized there were animals out there! She’d been mostly resting in the G6 for two whole days. The American Dingo was bursting with energy and enthusiasm. Time for the barkfest to end all barkfests! Many buffalo, 3 bears, and 1 fox were all cause for ear-splitting excitement.
A little after 8 PM, with light fading fast, Lupe arrived at Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park. (Note: The 6.5 minute video on the front page of this link is worth watching. Be sure to expand it!) SPHP drove in at the entrance finding no one at the entry booth. It was Saturday night and lots of people were around. SPHP parked the G6, and Lupe was happy to get out.
The main attractions at Liard Hot Springs are a couple of hot water bathing pools along a flowing stream. A wide boardwalk led off toward the hot springs. Lots of people were coming and going on the boardwalk, so Lupe and SPHP took it, too.
The boardwalk went through a forested swamp. It was far longer than SPHP expected – 700 meters! Lupe did get to see the hot springs, although, sadly, it was already too dark for pictures. A couple of wooden changing rooms were next to a deck overlooking the hot springs, which had significant flow. A warm fog rose from the waters where bathers were enjoying soaking in two natural pools.
SPHP asked around how this all worked? As it turned out, there is normally a seasonal day use fee ($5.00 adult, $3.00 child, $10.00 family) charged for park admission at the entry booth at the front gate. A camping spot costs $26.00. However, the entry booth closes at 8 PM, and no day use admission is collected after that. Somewhat oddly, the gates close at 10 PM, after which no entry or exit is permitted.
Of course, Lupe couldn’t go in the hot springs, but there was still time for SPHP to enjoy them. Back to the G6, where Lupe was sad and worried about being abandoned. SPHP tried to cheer her up, promising to return before too long.
The changing rooms at the hot springs were rustic, with only benches and hooks. No lockers, showers, restrooms or anything like that. Not even electricity or any lights. The upstream pool was too hot for SPHP, but the downstream pool was great. Despite the excellent flow, the water cooled off quickly going downstream, so it was easy to choose the temperature zone that felt best.
Liard Hot Springs was totally awesome! Where else can you relax in soothing warm (hot, if you like!) waters outdoors in the middle of a boreal spruce forest in a giant swamp? SPHP soaked and chatted with people, who were mostly from Fort Nelson.
At 9:15 PM, someone came to announce the time, and that the park’s gates closed in 45 minutes at 10:00 PM. SPHP soaked for 10 more minutes, then got out into the chilly night air to get changed and return to Lupe. After a joyous reunion, Lupe and SPHP left the park at 9:48 PM with 12 minutes to spare. Onward! But only for a little way. Lupe had already made 500 miles today.
Day 37, 9-4-16, 6:19 AM, 35°F – Beneath a bright blue sky with thin little clouds, Lupe was underway early. She was in far northern British Columbia, only a little S of Liard Hot Springs. The terrain rapidly became increasingly mountainous as Lupe headed SE on the Alaska Highway. For a while, a long stretch of road construction slowed progress to a crawl.
SPHP hadn’t done a bit of research during pre-Dingo Vacation planning on Muncho Lake, and it was a real surprise. This was an area of unspoiled, remote snow-capped peaks. The Alaska Highway went right through it all, and hugged the E shore of beautiful Muncho Lake for miles. Lupe was thrilled to see more buffalo, and even another black bear.
Such beauty was cause for several stops. Lupe was only too glad to get out of the G6, if even only for a short time. Too bad Lupe’s time was so limited now. Muncho Lake Provincial Park was surely worth exploring!
S of Muncho Lake, the Alaska Highway lost elevation and entered the beautiful Toad River valley. Although it was still early in the day, SPHP was overcome by drowsiness. Lupe and SPHP wound up taking a nap at a pullout along the highway. Nearly two hours slipped by before SPHP woke up again, feeling much revived.
However, Lupe hadn’t needed reviving. By now she was so bored, she was desperate to get out of the G6. For the next half hour she had a great time sniffing around a young forest near the pullout while SPHP picked up copious amounts of trash. People! Trash containers were provided right at the pullout, yet way too many people don’t bother using them. Totally disgusting!
A little farther on, Lupe left Muncho Lake Provincial Park. Before long she crossed a bridge over another wonderful stream, the Racing River. SPHP parked the G6 again at a pullout near the bridge. Lupe found an old road leading through the forest. The primitive road paralleled the Racing River downstream for a little way. Evidently this route is sometimes used for dispersed camping. Lupe passed several old campfire sites before the road turned and ended at the river.
After 25 minutes near the Racing River, Lupe and SPHP continued on. The Alaska Highway quickly left the Racing River valley, going around the N side of a mountain into another big valley. The highway now followed the course of McDonald Creek upstream toward impressive white mountains. Lupe was nearing Stone Mountain Provincial Park.
Shortly after entering Stone Mountain Provincial Park, Lupe saw something she had never seen before. A small herd of caribou were trotting across an open field toward a forest! By the time SPHP could stop and turn around, they had vanished into the trees. The field the caribou had crossed was at quite an elevation above McDonald Creek, and offered a good lookout point toward the mountains. Lupe and SPHP got out of the G6 to take a look.
After getting a little exercise and seeing the grand view of Mount Saint George(7,402 ft.) and the McDonald Creek valley from Caribou Point, Lupe and SPHP drove on. The Alaska Highway turned NE and in only a few miles reached Summit Lake at the top of a pass. At the NE end of Summit Lake were a campground and picnic area. Lunch time! Lupe and SPHP pulled into the picnic area.
Soup, sardines and crackers were on the menu. While SPHP was heating the soup up, Lupe found a new friend. A big dog arrived to sniff and wag tails with her. A young woman from Fort Nelson came over to retrieve Grommet, which was the big dog’s name. She stayed chatting with SPHP while Lupe and Grommet did dog stuff – sniffing, playing and growling.
The friendly young woman mentioned a trailhead over on the opposite (N) side of the Alaska Highway. When lunch was over, Lupe and SPHP went over to check out the trailhead. A map showed a 2.5 km (one way) trail going to Summit Peak(6,611 ft.) on the N side of the Alaska Highway, and several other trails S of Summit Lake.
It all looked very interesting, but Lupe didn’t have time to explore any trails. In fact, it was 2 PM already. Lupe hadn’t even gone 100 miles yet today! Definitely time to get underway again.
E of Summit Lake, the Alaska Highway lost elevation again on the other side of the pass. Soon Lupe was out of Stone Mountain Provincial Park, leaving the big, snowy peaks of the Muskwa Ranges behind. At Fort Nelson, the Alaska Highway turned S again. Off to the W, Lupe could still see high mountains with snow. The highway got close to them at one point, but then veered away.
After a great morning and early afternoon, with lots of little hikes and scenic stops along the way, the rest of the afternoon and evening proved disappointing for the intrepid American Dingo. She spent nearly all of her time stuck in the G6, traveling through the endless forest. The road wound over and around high ridges. Sometimes the Alaska Highway dropped down into big valleys to cross rivers, but it never took Lupe back to the high mountains.
Lupe had few chances to get out of the G6 again, but by evening she did make her 450 miles for the day. Most of northern British Columbia was now behind her. That feeling Lupe’d had for most of the past month of being in the far N, in Arctic lands, was fast slipping away.
Day 11 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska.
No matter what hour of the night Lupe woke up, there was light in the northern sky. Twilight moved slowly around the horizon, but never completely disappeared. Lupe was N, as far N as she had ever been in her life. Beyond huge, dark Kluane Lake, a line of mysterious unknown mountains marched away to the Arctic. It all seemed surreal, but Lupe really was here, in the fabled Yukon!
Two days ago, Lupe had climbed her first peak in the Yukon, King’s Throne Peak(6,529 ft.) in Kluane National Park. It had been a long, hard climb in powerful, swirling winds, but Lupe had made it to the top. She had been rewarded with spectacular views of Kathleen Lake, Louise Lake and mountains of the Saint Elias range.
From King’s Throne Peak, Lupe had seen another peak off to the NW, the mountain she would attempt to climb today – Mount Decoeli(7,650 ft.). If Lupe could reach the summit of Decoeli, it was possible she would get to see the highest mountain in Canada, Mount Logan(19,541 ft.), far off to the WSW!
At some point, the long twilight became a long dawn, as the sun started sneaking back up toward the horizon again. Twenty minutes after the sun finally appeared (6:30 AM, 39°F), Lupe was at the long, paved pullout on the W side of the Alaska Highway that serves as the trailhead for the trek to Decoeli. No one else was here. The G6 was alone in the huge parking area.
At 7:23 AM, all was ready. Lupe and SPHP left the pullout heading S to a cairn marking the start of the route to Decoeli. Nearby an old jeep trail headed SW into a forest of stunted trees and tall soapberry bushes. Lupe and SPHP followed the jeep trail, which soon met another similar road coming from the E. Lupe took the new road W. Mount Decoeli was in sight up ahead.
About a kilometer from the Alaska Highway, the road ended at Summit Creek. From here, Lupe’s route followed Summit Creek upstream. The creek led Lupe toward a still unseen rock glacier S of Mount Decoeli.
Summit Creek was running low, but not low enough for SPHP to cross without getting wet feet. Lupe and SPHP stayed on the S side of the creek for as long as possible. It was generally easiest to simply travel right up the creek bed. However, Summit Creek often ran right along the S bank of the stream channel, forcing Lupe and SPHP up into the bushes above the bank.
At first, there were usually some pretty decent trails to follow through the brush, but as Lupe got farther and farther upstream, these trails deteriorated, becoming hard to find and follow. The jungle of bushes was so dense, it was almost impossible to make any headway where there wasn’t some kind of path.
Being in the tall bushes made SPHP increasingly nervous. Nothing more than a few feet away was in view. With the stream babbling along close by, it wasn’t easy to hear anything else. SPHP kept up a lively, loud conversation with Lupe, counting on Lupe to give some warning if she smelled bears in the area.
After being repeatedly forced up into the jungle, SPHP finally decided enough was enough! Lupe and SPHP forded Summit Creek, and stayed out in the open on the wide, rocky creek bed.
Of course, fording the stream meant SPHP’s feet were now soaking wet. They stayed that way. Summit Creek kept insisting upon flowing back and forth all the way from one side of the stream channel to the other, so Lupe and SPHP had to keep crossing the creek. Nevertheless, Lupe’s upstream progress was much faster out on the rocks. Furthermore, if any bears were in the area, at least out on the creek bed they could be seen well before coming right up on them.
After a long trek, Lupe could see the rock glacier S of Decoeli up ahead.
By the time Lupe reached the toe of the rock glacier, the dense jungle of bushes on the banks of Summit Creek was gone. Lupe left the creek bed to start climbing the green, mossy slope on the N bank. A trail showed others had taken this route before. Lupe liked being out on the spongy, mossy slope a lot better than being down on the rocky stream bed.
Only a few minutes after Lupe left the creek bed, SPHP heard voices. Looking back, two people and a big brown dog were in sight not too far away. They were moving fast, coming up the creek bed, just like Lupe and SPHP had.
Lupe’s route was much steeper up on the green, spongy ground, than it had been down by Summit Creek. Rather than turn NW directly up the steep slope, it seemed best to follow the trail W for a little while making a more gradual climb. Lupe had already crossed a big ravine and gained a fair amount of elevation above the rock glacier, by the time the two hikers and their dog overtook SPHP.
The two hikers were Milo and Ben, from Smithers, British Columbia, with their dog, Lucca. Lucca was bigger than Lupe, and not too sociable. Lucca growled menacingly. Lupe wisely kept her distance. Milo, Ben and SPHP had a brief, friendly conversation.
Had Lupe and SPHP seen the grizzly bear? Uh, no. What grizzly bear? Where? Milo and Ben said they had come across a huge, steaming, fresh grizzly scat at the junction of the two roads leading to Summit Creek. Shortly after that, they saw the grizzly. Fortunately, it just ambled off into the bushes where they lost sight of it.
SPHP was certain that a giant steaming bear scat hadn’t been at the road intersection when Lupe passed by. Even if SPHP hadn’t noticed it, Lupe certainly would have! The bear must have been fairly close by, though, for it to come through before Milo and Ben showed up. Yeah, avoiding the bushes, and staying out on the rocks on the wide Summit Creek channel was definitely the way to go on the way back!
All resumed the climb up Decoeli. Milo, Ben and Luca were soon well ahead of Lupe and SPHP. Everyone had turned NW going directly up the steep slope. For a little way farther, the ground was still covered with nice spongy, green plants. Pretty soon, though, Lupe reached rocky ground again. From here on, Lupe faced a long, steep climb up very loose scree mixed with occasional large rocks.
Although most of the sky was clear, a worrisome cloud formed and grew around the summit of Decoeli. It hung around for a while, but eventually blew away to the E. In the meantime, Lupe was making steady progress up Decoeli. She was now approaching the most challenging part of the climb.
Lupe and SPHP reached a long, incredibly steep, scree slope. The climb became rather unnerving. Virtually everything was loose. With each step up, the mountain gave way. Rocks slid and careened down the mountain from under SPHP’s feet. Now and then, entire areas began to slide, taking SPHP sliding back down, too, before stabilizing. Nothing wanted to hold. It was like trying to navigate a river of rock flowing in the opposite direction.
Most of the few large rocks on the slope were loose, too. SPHP avoided coming up directly below them. Even Lupe was causing showers of rocks to tumble, sometimes bounding hundreds of feet down the mountain. It was dangerous for Lupe and SPHP to be directly above or below each other, for fear of the projectiles being released from above.
Lupe headed up toward large rock formations along the ridge to the WNW. She gained elevation relentlessly. The view back down the precipitous scree slope toward the rock glacier was tremendous. Lupe was as calm as ever. SPHP, however, found it better not to look down too long upon the dizzying scene.
Lupe reached the top of the first big rock formation. On a small area of relatively level terra firma, Lupe and SPHP took a break. At Summit Creek, the air had been calm, but up here a cool breeze was blowing. The views were already fantastic, even though Lupe still had a considerable climb ahead. Lupe and SPHP relaxed for 10 minutes, recovering from the ordeal on the treacherous scree slope.
Lupe was now on the ridge that had been visible from below. Another, longer ridge was in view off to the W. The longer ridge looked like it might very well have been a considerably easier route up. Perhaps Lupe should have stayed down near the rock glacier longer, following it farther SW before turning N to start her climb. Maybe she should take that ridge on the way back down?
Off to the NW, SPHP saw another climber! He was at about Lupe’s level. Apparently, he had come up somewhere along that longer ridge, thereby avoiding the super steep, scree slope. This new climber also saw SPHP, and waved. SPHP waved back. No doubt, Lupe would get to meet him at the top of the mountain.
Lupe continued her climb up Decoeli. She was now traveling up the ridgeline, no longer on the scree slope. The ridge was still very rocky, and quite steep, but the rocks were more stable than before. Soon, Lupe came to another rock formation where there was a small patch of level ground.
Lupe was getting closer to the top of Decoeli. She still had to gain hundreds of feet of elevation, but the nature of the climb was changing. The slope ahead, while still steep, was broader and covered with talus. The large rocks were much more stable. Projectiles were no longer being released with every step.
Lupe and SPHP toiled upward. A cold W wind was blowing. The sky overhead was a clear, brilliant blue. The slope diminished. A weather vane, spinning rapidly, came into view. Beyond it, a silver metal shack perched atop the mountain. Milo, Ben and the new climber were all there, engaged in conversation. Weary, Lucca had collapsed on the rocks. She didn’t stir at all, as Lupe went by.
After gaining nearly 4,400 ft. of elevation, Lupe had made it to the top of Decoeli(7,650 ft.)! The views were fantastic, but disappointingly, off to the WSW, there were clouds in the direction where Mount Logan should be. High, snowy peaks were partially in view, but many summits were not.
After a few minutes gazing at the amazing views, Lupe and SPHP went to see Ben, Milo, and Lucca and meet the other climber. He was Richard Baker, owner of a seasonal window cleaning business in Tucson, Arizona. Richard was quite animated, and busy expounding upon his philosophy of life among other topics.
Milo and Ben were telling the tale of the grizzly bear. Richard couldn’t believe he hadn’t seen the bear scat, or noticed the grizzly. He is normally very wary in bear country, and was well-equipped with bear spray and other protective devices.
Milo and Ben were both wearing shorts, and feeling a bit uncomfortable in the cold breeze. Since they intended to start back down soon, it was time for a photo op with them at the summit cairn. Milo said they had just built the cairn higher while Lupe was coming up Decoeli, which explained it’s magnificently balanced slender height.
Spurred on by the cold wind, Milo, Ben and Lucca started down Decoeli. Lupe did not see them again. Richard, Lupe and SPHP were in no hurry to leave. Richard and SPHP chatted while admiring the views. Gradually, the clouds were lifting in the W! Many towering ice-clad mountains were in sight. Richard shared his binoculars with SPHP.
Richard and SPHP wondered whether or not Mount Logan was in view, and if so, which peak it might be. Richard thought it was one farther to the N than SPHP believed. In truth, neither Richard nor SPHP really knew, but it was fun to speculate. It remained a pretty good bet that Lupe was seeing Mount Logan somewhere over there!
Richard and SPHP spent so long taking turns looking through the binoculars, that Lupe became a bit bored with it all. She was tired of standing around, and disliked the cold wind. Lupe had water, some Taste of the Wild, and curled up on as flat a spot as she could find. SPHP covered her with a jacket to help her keep warm.
After Lupe and SPHP had been at the summit for 50 minutes, Richard announced that he was ready to head down. Lupe and SPHP remained on top of Decoeli alone a little longer for a last look around. The views remained simply astounding! Climbing Decoeli had been a challenging, yet magnificently rewarding experience.
Sadly, it was time to move on. Lupe and SPHP set off following Richard down the mountain. This time, Lupe stayed on the longer ridge going SSW. The first part of the descent down the talus slope was still quite steep and slow, but by staying on the SSW ridge, Lupe was able to avoid having to go down the treacherous scree slope to the SE where she and SPHP had come up.
Richard was leading the way, taking the same long SSW ridge. Even this route was steep enough so SPHP had to be careful not to send rocks bounding down the mountain toward him. Several times SPHP had to shout a warning.
Partly out of fear of rocks hurtling down the mountain, Richard stopped off to the side long enough to let Lupe and SPHP catch up. While climbing Decoeli, Richard had originally come up from the SE to reach this broad, gentler slope on the long SSW ridge. He had also had to climb up a steep, scree slope on the way, but not for nearly as far as Lupe.
Ahead was a small prominence overlooking the rock glacier to the S. The question was whether to start down to the SE now, or circle around the W side of the prominence? After a little discussion and scouting around, it was decided to go the long way around the W side. There were numerous sheep trails Lupe could follow in this area.
Eventually, Lupe, Richard and SPHP all arrived down at the rock glacier. Up close, it was possible to see there really was melting snow and glacial ice under all the rock.
Richard, Lupe and SPHP all started the journey NE toward the rock glacier’s toe. The terrain along the NW side of the glacier was often rough and broken. After staying near the glacier’s edge for a while, SPHP tried leading Lupe up a steep bank to a green, spongy area overlooking the glacier. This maneuver did not help. Lupe quickly arrived at a ravine leading right back down to the glacier.
Richard had stayed down by the rock glacier. He forged ahead, while Lupe and SPHP navigated the ravine. By the time Lupe reached the toe of the glacier, Richard was out of sight somewhere down Summit Creek.
Lupe and SPHP made great progress going down the wide, rock-strewn Summit Creek channel. This time, SPHP didn’t hesitate to simply ford the creek whenever necessary. Every now and then, Lupe caught sight of Richard far ahead. The long trek down the creek bed was actually quite easy and fun. Lupe and SPHP enjoyed the beautiful long Yukon evening.
Near the start of the jeep trail, Lupe and SPHP caught up with Richard again. Richard and SPHP chatted as Lupe trotted along the road. Richard expounded upon grizzly bears. He was carrying bear spray and other anti-bear devices to deal with them. He talked about how all these tall bushes with small red berries growing along the road were soapberry bushes, and how bears love soapberries!
At the intersection where the road forked, there it was, just like Milo and Ben had said. A huge grizzly bear scat full of soapberries was right there at the intersection. Richard still couldn’t believe he hadn’t seen it in the morning!
The sun was getting low when Lupe reached the G6. She’d had a long, long day. Without the slightest hesitation, she hopped into the G6. Lupe curled up on her blankets and pillows, looking forward to a soft, comfy snooze. For more than an hour outside, Richard and SPHP conversed about Decoeli, bears, and other things. Richard even offered SPHP a free canister of bear spray. SPHP thanked him, but declined.
When Richard said good-bye and drove off, SPHP joined Lupe in the G6. The sun was about to set. What a fantastic, memorable day it had been! Lupe had made it to the top of Decoeli. She had almost certainly seen Mount Logan, the highest mountain in all of Canada.
Lupe and SPHP drove N on the Alaska Highway on the way to Kluane Lake, as the still glowing evening faded slowly from the wild Yukon mountains and sky.
Note: The trailhead for Mount Decoeli is a long, paved pullout 12.5 miles N of Haines Junction on the W side of the Alaska Highway. (1.4 miles N of the Spruce Beetle trailhead.) Decoeli is near, but not actually in, Kluane National Park. The route up is not maintained or signed in any manner. There is no formal trail. Elevation gain is a bit under 4,400 feet, or 1330 meters. Distance is roughly 11 miles or 18 km round trip.
A free description of the route up Decoeli is available from visitor centers near Haines Junction and Kluane Lake.
Day 10 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska
The sky was overcast, but it wasn’t raining. What time was it? Good grief! Almost 9:30 AM already! SPHP came to. Lupe was looking way perkier than SPHP. Her successful climb up King’s Throne yesterday only seemed to have enlivened her. SPHP on the other hand … well, it didn’t matter, today needed to be a rest day, anyway.
Lupe and SPHP got water and pitched garbage at the campground. SPHP straightened up the G6. There were a few squirrels around, so Lupe was happy. When all was back in order again, Lupe and SPHP drove down to see Kathleen Lake. A crew was taking down big tents that had been set up for some youth group over the weekend. The tents had been flapping noisily in the wind much of the night.
King’s Throne Peak(6,529 ft.) was across the bay. SPHP had been hoping for a clear, bright shot of Lupe at shining blue Kathleen Lake with mighty King’s Throne illuminated by morning sun in the background, but it wasn’t going to happen. The top of the mountain was scraping clouds. There wasn’t a ray of sunshine anywhere. Kathleen Lake looked green, instead of the brilliant blue it had appeared only yesterday.
There wasn’t a real plan for the day. Lupe and SPHP drove to Haines Junction. SPHP managed to get a shower at a motel. Much better! The skies were clearing. Maybe it was time to head N and see what Lupe’s options were? On the way N, Lupe went by Mount Decoeli(7,650 ft.).
SPHP had hopes that Lupe would be able to climb Decoeli, but not today. It was too much for today, right after King’s Throne. Maybe it wasn’t a bad idea to check out the trailhead, though? SPHP found the trailhead on a hill more than 10 miles N of Haines Junction. The trailhead was really just a big paved pullout on the W side of the Alaska Highway. There was no sign, no information, nothing except free parking.
It seemed like a good idea to stop by the Tachal Dhal visitor center for information. SPHP knew the visitor center was located near the S end of Kluane Lake, a huge lake E of the Saint Elias range. Lupe and SPHP continued N on the Alaska Highway. Soon the lake could be seen ahead, flanked by mountains to the W.
Kluane Lake was huge and gorgeous! Before even going to the visitor center, Lupe and SPHP stopped at a large pullout along the shore at the S end of the lake.
Kluane Lake made a huge impression. To the N, the cold, blue waters stretched to the horizon like a Yukon sea. E of the lake, desolate unknown peaks marched N toward the Arctic until they vanished from view. NW across the lake was scenic Sheep Mountain(6,400 ft.), a peak SPHP hoped Lupe might be able to climb. To the W was the wide, flat Slims River valley. Strange clouds of dust blew from the valley toward Kluane Lake.
Blowing dust was unexpected and puzzling. Was the Alaska Highway gravel over there? SPHP figured the dust must be coming from traffic on the Alaska Highway or road construction. Later, it became evident the dust was being blown up by winds sweeping over dried out mud flats along the Slims River.
After Lupe had a chance to wade in Kluane Lake and have a refreshing drink of Yukon water, Lupe and SPHP went on to the Tachal Dahl visitor center. The visitor center was located in a small building in the Slims River Valley W of both Kluane Lake and the Alaska Highway. SPHP went in to inquire about trails in the area.
There was bad news for Lupe about the trail to Sheep Mountain. It was temporarily closed due to recent grizzly bear activity. SPHP chatted with a ranger about a much longer trail up the Slims River Valley to the Kaskawulsh Glacier. The best glacier viewpoint was from Observation Mountain(6,824 ft.), but getting there would involve a 3 day/2 night backpacking trip and major stream fords.
As a nice day hike, the ranger suggested the Bullion Plateau trail. The Bullion Plateau sounded interesting, but it was already afternoon and the trail was too long to consider today. How about something short and easy? Right away, the ranger suggested Shepherd’s Knoll, a hill not too far away up the Slims River valley. A very short trail goes to the top of Shepherd’s Knoll where there are views both up the valley and back toward Kluane Lake. It sounded perfect!
A little N on the Alaska Highway from the turn to the Tachal Dhal visitor center, another gravel road leaves the highway. This road goes 2.6 km up the Slims River valley to the Tachal Dahl trailhead. Lupe left for Shepherd’s Knoll from here. Lupe and SPHP started out on the main trail, which ultimately goes to the Kaskawulsh Glacier. The trail began as an old roadbed going through a forest.
It didn’t take Lupe long, maybe 15 minutes, to reach an intersection with the Sheep Creek trail. A few hundred feet farther along, on the valley side of the main trail, Lupe found the side trail to Shepherd’s Knoll.
The Shepherd’s Knoll trail wasn’t long at all. It climbed partway up a small hill and vanished. Lupe continued on higher up the hill, checking out the views from different vantage points along her way.
For as little effort as it took for Lupe to get here, the views from Shepherd’s Knoll were impressive.
Even though getting to Shepherd’s Knoll hadn’t taken Lupe very far up the Slims River valley, it was certainly a worthwhile easy trek. Lupe would have liked to do much more exploring in the Slims River area, but this was a rest day, and it was starting to get late. Lupe and SPHP returned to the Tachal Dahl trailhead.
No one had been at the trailhead before, but now there were nearly a dozen people here. They had just returned from an overnight backpacking trip to the Kaskawulsh Glacier. A campground near the glacier was about as far as most of them had made it. Only one person had succeeded in reaching the top of Observation Mountain. The trip was more strenuous than they’d anticipated.
Lupe and SPHP went back to Kluane Lake, but this time a bit farther N along the W side of the lake. A forested hill projected partway into the lake from mud flats deposited by the Slims River. Silt is gradually filling in this end of the lake.
Evening was coming. The views from the pullout along the S shore of Kluane Lake earlier in the day had been so beautiful that Lupe and SPHP returned to enjoy the evening there.
Lupe spent a few happy hours exploring the shore of Kluane Lake, while SPHP watched the ancient dust blow, and the waves roll in.
Days 8 and 9 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska
That guy at the Bell 1 rest area yesterday evening had been right. There were bears in these woods! As Lupe and SPHP rolled N along Cassiar Highway No. 37 early on August 6th, Lupe saw 7 bears near the road in a span of 1.5 hours. Each bear was cause for a ferocious barkfest – from the safety of the G6, of course – as Lupe sped on by.
Day 8 of Lupe’s summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation was going to be a travel day. SPHP drove. Lupe looked out the window watching for wildlife. After the bears, though, no wildlife appeared. Lupe got bored and snoozed.
Cassiar Highway No. 37 went past beautiful mountains and lakes. It crossed scenic rivers. The forest never ended. Even now, in 2016, with 7.5 billion people on the planet, Lupe really was in an unbelievably vast, uninhabited land. The narrow strip of highway was the only link to civilization. Everything else was unspoiled wilderness. It all hardly seemed possible. It felt like going back in time. Columbus may have landed in the Americas almost 524 years ago, but along the Cassiar Highway there were still few visible consequences.
The hours and miles went by. There was traffic on Cassiar Highway No. 37, more than SPHP expected. Most of it was big trucks. Civilization may not have made much of a dent yet, but it is coming soon, even here.
For hundreds of miles, Cassiar Highway No. 37 had been good pavement, but N of the Bell 2 rest stop the road deteriorated. Rough, broken, patchy pavement appeared. Stretches of very dusty gravel became common. N of the tiny community of Dease Lake, the road turned to gravel for a long way. SPHP feared the Cassiar Highway might be nothing but dust from here on, but Lupe hit pavement again after 25 miles or so. The worst was over. Gradually, the Cassiar Highway improved again.
Now and then Lupe and SPHP stopped for short breaks. At least, they were supposed to be short. At the Beaver Dam rest stop, SPHP was so weary of driving that 15 minutes of shuteye unintentionally turned into nearly 2 hours of unconsciousness.
On the road again, SPHP felt better. Unconsciousness has its benefits! Lupe wasn’t far now from 2 major milestones on her journey. Suddenly, up ahead, there it was! A much anticipated sign was up on an embankment near the road. Lupe just had to stop for this!
Lupe had made it to the Yukon! It was hard to believe she was really here. A relatively short drive N of the Yukon border brought Lupe to the next big milestone of the day. Lupe’s long journey on Cassiar Highway No. 37 was over. She had reached the Alaska Highway! Lupe and SPHP turned W, heading for Whitehorse.
The afternoon wore on. It was a long way to Whitehorse, hundreds of miles. Evening came. Nearing Teslin Lake, there was a bit of Dingo excitement when Lupe saw her 8th black bear of the day. Lupe didn’t make it to Whitehorse. Day 6 ended for Lupe W of Teslin Lake. Time to stop for the night.
The next morning, Lupe did make it to Whitehorse, the capital city of the Yukon. She didn’t stay long, though. Lupe was on her way to her first mountain climbing adventure in the Yukon, instead!
Although there had been mountains much of the way along the Alaska Highway, Lupe first caught sight of the higher, more rugged peaks of the Saint Elias Range approaching Haines Junction.
At Haines Junction, Lupe and SPHP left the Alaska Highway, turning S on Hwy 3 to Haines. Lupe wasn’t going all the way to Haines. Her objective was only 17 miles away now. About halfway there, SPHP saw a mountain to the SSW resembling a long high wall. Was that it? It looked incredibly steep! SPHP’s heart sank. Would Lupe be able to climb anything like that?
The realization quickly grew that the N end of the mountain wall really was Lupe’s objective! Well, there was supposed to be a trail, or at least a route, to the top. It had taken hours to get here, and was already late in the morning. No time to second guess things, Lupe would just have to try it and see how things went.
A short drive from a turn off Hwy 3 brought Lupe to the Cottonwood Trailhead. SPHP parked the G6. Ten minutes later (10:32 AM, 63°F), Lupe was on the Cottonwood Trail. The first part of the trail was quite level and followed a road through a shady forest. Up ahead was Lupe’s mighty objective – King’s Throne Peak(6,529 ft.).
About a mile from the trailhead, Lupe came to an intersection. The Cottonwood Trail headed NW on its way past Kathleen Lake. It is ultimately part of an 87 km 4-6 day backpacking loop. Lupe took the King’s Throne trail instead. The single track trail began to climb steeply.
At first, the trail was switchbacking up through forest, and Lupe couldn’t see much. Eventually, though, Lupe got above tree line. The views of Kathleen Lake to the N were already fabulous!
King’s Throne Peak is clearly named for the giant cirque which faces NNE. The cirque is the seat of the throne, with the high ridges wrapping around it serving as the throne’s arms and back. It really is pretty easy to imagine the mountain serving as the throne of a titan-sized king.
Evidently the giant cirque is the ultimate destination for many hikers, and they go no farther. As described in Kluane National Park literature, the King’s Throne trail goes only as far as the cirque. Elevation gain from Kathleen Lake required to reach the cirque is about 1,800 feet.
Down in the forest below, it had been a nice calm day, but as Lupe approached the giant cirque, it was starting to get pretty windy out. The American Dingo is no great fan of wind, but she had no choice but to put up with it.
Lupe and SPHP weren’t the only ones on the King’s Throne trail. Quite a few other hikers were around. Some of them turned around at the giant cirque, satisfied with the grand view of Kathleen Lake and being able to say they had hiked King’s Throne trail, which officially ends here.
Of course, Lupe was going onward! Kluane National Park literature describes the rest of the way up to King’s Throne summit as a “route” rather than a “trail”, because it isn’t officially maintained. The first part of the route was every bit as good as the official trail had been. It climbed toward the steep NE ridge of the mountain.
When the route reached the steep NE ridge, it turned and worked its way almost straight up it. For a while there was some grass around. Later on it was all rock. The ridgeline became increasingly narrow. Most of the time, the trail was a bit to the E of the ridgeline. Off to the W, on the side of the ridge toward the giant cirque, were increasingly fearsome cliffs.
The NE ridge was hard going. The route was either loose rocks or very hard packed soil difficult to maintain traction on. Hiking poles would have been an enormous help, but SPHP had none. Even some of the bigger rocks Lupe passed by at certain points were often crumbly, loose and rotten. Everything had to be tested.
The Carolina Dog had no problems, except for the wind. She hated it! As Lupe gained elevation, it swirled more and more violently around the ridgeline. SPHP joined Lupe on all fours, and virtually crawled up the mountain. Just trying to stand up and maintain balance was scary. The wind attacked first from one direction, then suddenly reversed and blew just as strongly from a completely different one.
Fortunately, it wasn’t cold out, which would have been unbearable in this wind. Still, the wind was taking a toll. People were coming down the mountain.
Most had simply turned around, having decided it wasn’t worth it in this gale. Among them Lupe saw climbers who had passed SPHP on the way up. A few groups who had left earlier in the day had succeeded in reaching the summit. They reported even windier conditions there. Looking down, climbers who had been gaining on Lupe and SPHP could no longer be seen. They had turned around, too.
Lupe kept climbing. Finally, a group of four guys appeared coming down the route. They had foreign accents and seemed very experienced. They too, reported very windy conditions at the summit, which they had successfully attained. They were the last people Lupe saw the rest of the day. Lupe and SPHP were alone on the mountain.
Lupe still had a ways to go up the steep NE ridge. Lupe pressed on. At last, she reached the end. She came upon a broad rocky plain which was almost level by comparison. The difficult part of the climb was over. The rest of the way to the summit would be much easier!
Wow, was it ever windy here, though! SPHP wouldn’t let Lupe get too close to the cliffs above the giant cirque for fear the Carolina Dog would sail right over the edge. For a few minutes, SPHP could only stand in one place. Taking a step was nearly impossible.
After a few minutes, a slight lull in the wind allowed SPHP to move again. For a little while, that was how it went. When the wind blew hardest, SPHP had to stand stock still, ready to crouch, if necessary. When there was a lull, progress resumed. Maybe it would be less windy away from the edge of the giant cirque?
It was! Away from the cliffs, the wind was noticeably weaker. Lupe and SPHP were on the move again. Lupe headed W toward the S side of a rounded high point where a saddle led over to the next peak to the S.
Maybe it was White Dingo Magic, but contrary to reports from climbers who had been here earlier, the wind was getting weaker, not worse! Lupe worked her way up and over a high point, and turned NW toward the King’s Throne summit. The reduced wind speed was a welcome relief.
Lupe and SPHP were making good time now. Even before Lupe reached King’s Throne summit, glorious sights came into view to the W.
By the time Lupe reached the summit of King’s Throne Peak, the wind had died down to just a breeze. Lupe and SPHP were free to really enjoy the stupendous views in every direction!
On the NE side of the summit, the air was almost calm. SPHP sat down out of the wind to rest while taking in the magnificent views. Lupe curled up in SPHP’s lap. Lupe got petted and praised for bringing SPHP to such a wonderful place. The Carolina Dog seemed to enjoy every moment.
One distant peak Lupe could see was of particular interest. The steep top of Mount Decoeli(7,650 ft.) was faintly in view to the NW far beyond Kathleen Lake. Mount Decoeli was on the short list of peaks in Kluane National Park that SPHP hoped Lupe might be able to climb.
However, Mount Decoeli looked every bit as steep as the NE ridge coming up King’s Throne Peak. Clearly, Decoeli would be a huge challenge. SPHP gazed at Decoeli filled with both hope and doubt. Would Lupe ever be on top of that daunting mountain?
Lupe and SPHP lingered at the summit of King’s Throne Peak for more than 45 minutes. Conditions were great, and the views were awe-inspiring. Lupe would have stayed much longer, but she had gotten a late morning start, and it had taken a very long time for SPHP to climb, crawl and stagger all the way to the top.
The time came when Lupe had to think about starting down. She returned to the King’s Throne summit cairn for a final look. SPHP took another round of photos. After all the effort expended to get here, it was hard to think about leaving already to face the steep, windy NE ridge again.
The relative calm Lupe experienced on top of King’s Throne summit did not prevail elsewhere, although the wind wasn’t as bad as it had been earlier in the day. Lupe and SPHP made good time on the route back until reaching the steep NE ridge.
Going down the NE ridge, the wind was still strong and unpredictable. The terrain was so steep, the footing so unreliable, and the swirling wind so unnerving that SPHP became extraordinarily slow and cautious. SPHP crawled, slid, and took baby steps down the mountain. Lupe became so impatient with SPHP, the were-puppy attacked repeatedly to encourage some movement.
This was taking forever! The sun was long gone. The creeping Yukon twilight slowly faded. Yet the sweeping views of the desolate mountains of the far N were chillingly inspiring. Thousands of feet below, whitecaps could be seen on Kathleen Lake.
Even the official King’s Throne trail below the giant cirque seemed steeper and more difficult than SPHP remembered. By now SPHP’s toes were all sore from being mashed against the front of the boots for hours. The painful trek continued.
By the time Lupe was back on the Cottonwood Trail, SPHP was beat. Amazingly, Lupe was bursting with American Dingo energy. The dark forest, roaring waves crashing on the unseen shore of Kathleen Lake, and wildly swaying treetops made Lupe wild, too. Something darted across the trail in the gloom ahead. A coyote! Who knew, maybe it was a wolf? This was the Yukon! Lupe seemed ready to dash off into the forest to live wild and free, too!
11:07 PM. The animated American Dingo was finally back at the G6. SPHP was still mostly alive. What a day it had been! Lupe had succeeded in climbing King’s Throne Peak, a feat dreamed of for a long time now. Despite exhaustion, SPHP was filled with joy.
Congratulations, Loopster! You did it – all the way to the top! Well done, sweet puppy! King’s Throne was amazingly amazing! And you know what? Tomorrow you aren’t even going to think about trying another stunt like that again. Bunny hill, here you come!
Bunnies? That grabbed Lupe’s attention! The Carolina Dog was all in favor of Bunny Hill.
Day 7 of Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska.
Lupe and SPHP hit the road again early (6:20 AM), still heading NW on Yellowhead Hwy No. 16. A cool, light rain fell under overcast skies. Lupe was happy. Vast forests continued to dominate, but every now and then the Carolina Dog had an opportunity to bark at cows or horses in fields near the road. The miles flew by.
The day seemed to be getting darker, instead of brighter, when Lupe passed through Smithers in rain and fog. High mountains were close to Smithers, the first high mountains Lupe had seen since before reaching Prince George yesterday. Lupe was approaching adventure territory once again!
On the way to New Hazelton, the rain stopped. The skies started clearing. It was going to be a bright day after all! After passing through New Hazelton, Yellowhead Highway No. 16 turned SW for a while. Lupe and SPHP stopped for a short break at Sealy Lake. A sign told of an ancient water-grizzly named Medeek.
Lupe went down to Sealy Lake. The lake was a small one with reeds near the shore. Impressive mountains were near Sealy Lake to the SE, but they weren’t what held SPHP’s interest. Across Sealy Lake, mountains with large snowfields on them were seen in the distance to the W. Before Lupe reached those mountains, she would turn N on the Cassiar Highway No. 37.
A little later on, Lupe was there, at the junction. Getting to the Cassiar Highway No. 37 was kind of a big deal. The Cassiar was going to be Lupe’s road to adventure!
As Lupe and SPHP traveled N on Cassiar Highway No. 37, mountains and forests soon took over completely. Gone were the fields of haystacks, cows and horses. The highway went by beautiful lakes and rivers. Lupe missed the cows and horses, and eventually fell asleep.
At Meziadin Junction, SPHP turned W on Hwy 37A, a 61 km spur road to Stewart, British Columbia. Along the way, Lupe got to see the Bear Glacier.
Farther on, Hwy 37A crossed a bridge over the Bear River just before entering the small border town of Stewart, British Columbia. The Bear River valley was impressive. Lupe and SPHP got out of the G6 to take a look.
Stewart is a small town at the end of the Portland Canal, a long narrow arm (a fjord, essentially) of the Pacific Ocean. Only 3 km from Stewart, Lupe entered the even smaller town of Hyder, Alaska. Alaska became Lupe’s 12th US Dingo State!
Hyder, Alaska has two main attractions, other than being on the Portland Canal. A few miles N of Hyder is the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site. For $5 per day, visitors can view wildlife from a raised wooden observation platform along Fish Creek. Wild bears feeding on salmon in Fish Creek are the big draw.
Although Lupe would have loved barking ferociously at grizzly bears from the safety of a raised platform, this would no doubt have been frowned upon by the park service and every other site visitor. Nevertheless, SPHP stopped briefly at the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site to ask directions to Hyder’s other main attraction, the Salmon Glacier.
The directions were easy. Just keep following the road past the Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Site. About 16 miles from Hyder, the road reaches an observation point with a tremendous view overlooking the Salmon Glacier. Interestingly, although the road through Hyder, Alaska and past Fish Creek provides the only access to the Salmon Glacier, the glacier itself is actually a short distance over the Canadian border in British Columbia.
The sky was crystal clear blue as Lupe and SPHP drove up the gravel road. The road went N following the Salmon River valley, climbing ever higher up on the mountain slopes on the E side of the valley. Traffic was surprisingly heavy, and raised long-lingering clouds of dust. There were numerous small pullouts at viewpoints along the way. Finally, the Salmon Glacier came into view.
The S tongue of the Salmon Glacier which came into view first was impressive, but is only a small part of the entire glacier. The scene became more and more amazing as Lupe neared the main Salmon Glacier viewpoint.
The main viewpoint was crowded when Lupe arrived. A dozen vehicles were parked along the road and in a small parking area. Two dozen or more people were milling around checking out the view. Lupe and SPHP ignored the dust and commotion, as much as possible. Lupe waited for a turn up on a small rise with a panoramic glacier view.
Wow! The Salmon Glacier was absolutely stunning! The huge white glacier, streaked with dark gray rock and tinges of blue, flows down a high wide valley surrounded by mountains straight toward the viewpoint. Hundreds of feet below, the giant glacier splits into a forked tongue. The larger end flows S (L) down the Salmon River valley. The smaller N (R) end flows into a depression filled earlier in the year by Summit Lake.
The Salmon Glacier was a glorious sight! What wasn’t glorious was how busy the main viewpoint was. Vehicles kept coming and going raising all kinds of dust. A road which goes 10 miles farther past the main viewpoint, was closed for construction. Construction equipment made more dust and noise as it rumbled by. Several helicopters flew back and forth, apparently in connection with the construction.
A two year old tyrant among the throng of tourists had learned to screech commands every 20 or 30 seconds at his willingly subservient parents. A grandma in the same family pleaded with 2 older girls to please come and stand by her for a photo. After all, grandma had bought them lots of nice things, hadn’t she? With nothing new in it for them, the girls pouted and declined to have anything to do with grandma.
Lupe loved one part of all these goings on – the helicopters! Lupe loves helicopters. In particular, she loves to run below them barking furiously to chase them away. With all the helicopters buzzing around, Lupe was only adding to the general tumult.
Fortunately, SPHP remembered reading online that there is an unmaintained trail going up the mountainside to the E of the Salmon Glacier viewpoint. The views would be even more spectacular up there! Lupe could bark at helicopters all she wanted to, far from the crowd. Lupe and SPHP left the little parking lot (1:51 PM, 66°F), quickly finding several informal trails winding up the mountainside.
Making the climb above the parking lot was a great decision. As Lupe and SPHP gained hundreds of feet of elevation, the noise, dust, brats and general commotion at the main viewpoint faded away. Helicopters still flew by, even closer than down below, greatly entertaining Lupe. She raced around barking for all she was worth, not bothering anyone.
Lupe and SPHP stopped for short breaks on a couple of hills hundreds feet above the road. Peace and tranquility reigned. Missing these incredible views from on high would have been a shame!
Fields of flowers watered by tiny streams and ponds were in view beyond the small hills where Lupe took her first short breaks. When her breaks were done, Lupe went SSE exploring this vibrant, colorful territory. She climbed even higher up to a massive knob of rock where she found a big cairn. To the SE, Lupe could see the snow-capped summit of Mount Dilworth(5,446 ft.).
From the rock knob, the views were amazing, not only toward the Salmon Glacier, but in every direction. The day was very warm and sunny. Conditions were ideal. For a little while, SPHP toyed with the idea of climbing Mount Dilworth with Lupe. It looked easy, but maybe the huge snowfield at the top was actually quite dangerous? Falling into a crevasse would be the end. Best to leave it alone.
So Lupe made no attempt to climb Mount Dilworth, despite how tempting it looked. Instead, the Carolina Dog had fun among flowers, fields, and streams on the way back down to the main Salmon Glacier viewpoint along the road. The return trip was a wonderful time full of beautiful sights.
When Lupe reached the main Salmon Glacier viewpoint back at the road, a new bit of excitement was going on. Someone had accidently dropped their camera far down a steep slope, and attempting to retrieve it, managed to get themselves stuck in a precarious position. A rescue operation was in progress.
While everyone else was gathered in one spot talking about the rescue, Lupe and SPHP walked over to a hill offering a better view of the N tongue of the glacier. Every year, typically in mid-July, this part of the Salmon Glacier unleashes a major natural hazard.
In spring and early summer, Summit Lake forms from meltwaters backed up by an ice-dam at the N end of the glacier. As temperatures warm, Summit Lake eventually breaks through the ice-dam. The lake then drains to the S beneath the Salmon Glacier, flooding the Salmon River where water levels rise suddenly by 4 or 5 feet for several days.
Since it was August, Summit Lake had already broken through the ice-dam and drained away. Lupe could still see where Summit Lake had been, though. A small area of gray green water remained at the bottom of a depression surrounded by collapsed ice and snow. The former high water level was easy to see on the side of the mountain above.
Lupe’s visit to the Salmon Glacier had been a most memorable occasion, but it was time to move on (4:07 PM, 76°F). Lupe and SPHP made a few more stops at viewpoints on the way back to Hyder while the glorious Salmon Glacier was still in view.
On the way back to Hyder, the G6 said the temperature hit an incredible 84°F outside. SPHP fretted uselessly about the ultimate fate of the Salmon Glacier. Things cooled off closer to Hyder, perhaps influenced by the nearby presence of the ocean.
Lupe hadn’t seen the ocean since visiting the Washington and Oregon coasts during her Summer of 2012 Dingo Vacation nearly 4 years ago. So when Lupe got back to Hyder, Alaska, SPHP drove her over to the end of the wharf to see the Portland Canal.
Lupe’s adventure to Hyder, Alaska and the Salmon Glacier was done. Lupe and SPHP went back through Canadian customs returning to Stewart in British Columbia. Although it was late afternoon already, the long Canadian summer days meant there were still hours of daylight left.
Lupe and SPHP left Stewart taking Hwy 37A back past the Bear Glacier to Meziadin Junction. After gassing the G6 up, Lupe’s long journey N on Cassiar Highway No. 37 resumed. Each mile took the Carolina Dog farther N than she had ever been before.
Daylight was fading by the time Lupe crossed a big bridge over a river that looked like it was running very low. Beyond the bridge was the Bell 1 rest stop. SPHP pulled in. Time for a quick dinner before dark. For some reason, Lupe wanted to stay in the G6. Was she just tired, or was it true?
A guy from Dease Lake had been talking to SPHP. He said his big brown dog sensed bears nearby. He claimed these woods were full of bears. He also talked about how the weather was changing. Last winter this area had received only 4 feet of snow. Ten years ago, typical total winter snowfall used to be 15 meters (49 feet). Another bad sign for the Salmon Glacier.
Well, that’s why we are here now, Looper! To see it all while fate and fortune still smile upon us, and these fabulous natural wonders of the world remain.
Day 5 (Part 2) & Day 6 of Lupe’s 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska
After an overcast, drippy morning, Lupe’s excursions to the toe of the Athabasca Glacier and Wilcox Pass had turned out great! The weather had gradually cleared up as the day went on. At mid-afternoon, as Lupe and SPHP headed N on Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 looking for the next adventure, sunny blue skies prevailed.
Why not go take a look at Sunwapta Falls? These mighty falls contain the meltwaters of the Athabasca Glacier, which Lupe had just visited.
Well, one reason not to was that the Sunwapta Falls parking lot was packed. It took a while for a parking spot to open up. Lupe and SPHP went to see Sunwapta Falls along with the rest of the teeming throng. No doubt about it, Sunwapta Falls was gorgeous. A huge torrent of water plunged into a deep narrow gorge the Sunwapta River has carved over eons right through the rock.
The bridge across the Sunwapta River below the falls was loaded with people. More tourists lined the chain link fences along the edges of the gorge. Lupe was lost and confused in the crowd. Once before, Lupe had taken a trail to lower Sunwapta Falls, a series of three more waterfalls in close succession downstream. The lower falls were equally impressive and worthwhile.
It wasn’t all that far to lower Sunwapta Falls. Unfortunately, today that was probably a disadvantage. The lower falls would likely be pretty busy, too. Not nearly as crowded as the upper falls, perhaps, but still busy. Lupe would have more fun somewhere else. Fortunately, Lupe and SPHP’s favorite picnic ground in Jasper National Park wasn’t that far away. Lupe and SPHP returned to the G6, and continued N.
Maybe Lupe’s favorite picnic ground in Jasper National Park is only intended for use by locals? It’s right off the W side of Icefields Parkway Hwy 93, about 5 or 6 miles S of Athabasca Falls, but there is no sign for it anywhere along the highway. The picnic ground features only a handful of picnic tables situated right up on the E bank overlooking the Athabasca River. Across the giant river are beautiful peaks of the Canadian Rockies.
When Lupe and SPHP arrived, the picnic ground was empty. Simply fantastic! Lupe rushed down to cool off in the meltwater swollen Athabasca River. She searched for squirrels in the forest, and found a few, too! Lupe and SPHP played Dingo games. No one came. Lupe was free to be herself. The American Dingo was having a blast!
When early evening arrived, it was time to leave the picnic ground to go take a look at Athabasca Falls. There were still people around this very popular and impressive waterfall, but a big majority of the usual daytime crowds had by now departed. A tremendous torrent of the combined Sunwapta and Athabasca Rivers roared over the falls.
After visiting Athabasca Falls, Lupe and SPHP continued N to the tourist and railroad town of Jasper. Lupe didn’t stay in Jasper long, though. Soon Lupe and SPHP were heading NW on Yellowhead Highway No. 16 toward British Columbia. It was a beautiful evening for a drive through the Canadian Rockies, but had been another long day, too. As SPHP drove, the weary American Dingo snoozed on her pile of blankets and pillows.
In Mount Robson Provincial Park, SPHP stopped the G6 at a long pullout near Yellowhead Lake. The lake was hidden by trees. Lupe and SPHP got out to take a look. A trail led through the forest and down a very steep bank to reach the shore of the lake.
Yellowhead Lake was gorgeous, but unfortunately, there was no trail along the shore. After a few minutes spent down by the lake admiring the view, Lupe and SPHP scrambled back up the steep bank. The dense forest blocked any view of the lake. Lupe’s last brief adventure of the day was spent sniffing around in the woods near Yellowhead Lake.
Lupe and SPHP drove on, but it was getting late. The long Canadian twilight was fading. Day was done. Time to stop for the night.
The next morning, Mount Fitzwilliam was in view, tall and impressive in the early light.
However, Lupe and SPHP were already beyond Mt. Fitzwilliam. Lupe wasn’t going back. Today was a special day. Today Lupe was going N, hundreds of miles farther N than she had ever been before! Most of the day would be spent traveling, but not too far ahead were two more big Canadian waterfalls Lupe could visit along the way. The first was Overlander Falls.
Overlander Falls on the Fraser River is in Mount Robson Provincial Park, within walking distance of the park headquarters. SPHP parked the G6 at a trailhead along Yellowhead Hwy No. 16. A sign at the trailhead displayed a simple map of the area.
Lupe was starting from the E end of the trail system, very close to Overlander Falls. A wide, well-worn path led into the forest from the highway. At first, the path lost elevation gradually, but as the roar of the falls grew louder, the trail started switchbacking down a steep slope.
In only 10 minutes, Lupe was at Overlander Falls. The falls weren’t high at all, but a tremendous volume of beautiful icy blue green water spilled over the brink into a vast swirling pool below.
A plaque near the falls told the story of how Overlander Falls got its name.
Since most of Lupe’s day was going to be spent traveling in the G6, the 1.6 km Overlander Falls trail along the Fraser River to the Mount Robson Provincial Park headquarters was an appealing option. No one was around yet, and the trail would provide a peaceful, secluded path through the forest along the scenic blue green river. Lupe could get some exercise, and SPHP would enjoy the views. Lupe was most definitely in favor of the idea!
As it turned out, the Overlander Falls trail did not stay down near the river. Instead, it paralleled the river mostly 40 to 80 feet above it on the forested slope. The Fraser River was only occasionally in view. The trail was in good condition, but didn’t look like it sees an awful lot of use, perhaps because there are trails to more dramatic destinations nearby. (See Lupe’s fabulous hike to Mount Robson and Berg Lake in 2013 on the Berg Lake Trail!)
The Overlander Falls trail was fairly level most of the time, and an easy hike. It passed Hogan’s camp, established way back when the railroad was being built. The Carolina Dog was not too impressed. Hogan’s camp now amounts to nothing more than a few rotting logs. However, Lupe did enjoy sniffing and exploring in the forest along the trail. She found a few squirrels to bark at, which made her day.
At the W end of the Overlander Falls trail, Lupe came to a road at a bridge across the Fraser River. There was no trailhead at this end, just a small sign near the bridge pointing out the trail. Downstream from the bridge was a bend in the Fraser River. Lupe and SPHP went down to the river’s edge so Lupe could get a drink.
After the American Dingo had her drink from the Fraser River, Lupe and SPHP took the road another 0.25 km to the Mount Robson Provincial Park headquarters on the N side of Yellowhead Hwy No. 16. Unfortunately, the sky had been clouding up. The summit of Mt. Robson was hidden from view.
Lupe and SPHP returned to the Overlander Falls trail. On the way back to the G6, tragedy struck. Excited by a squirrel, while leaping around in the thick underbrush, Lupe got her right front dewclaw got hooked on something. Her dewclaw snapped completely off! It was painful and bled a little, but not much. The wounded Carolina Dog looked to SPHP for help.
SPHP examined Lupe’s paw, kissed the terrible wound many times, and gave Lupe lots of attention. When that didn’t cure it, SPHP carried Lupe along the trail.
Naturally, her right front paw hurt where the dewclaw had snapped off right at the base. Lupe was certain she couldn’t go on. Until she could. After 15 minutes of being carted around like a sack of potatoes, at Hogan’s camp Lupe decided she could manage on her own just fine. Back at the G6, Dr. SPHP applied anti-biotic ointment and a bandage (9:55 AM).
Lupe’s adventures (and misadventures) at Overlander Falls were complete. Time to get back on the road again (10:12 AM), but only for a short stretch. Lupe had very little chance to recuperate before reaching the trailhead for Rearguard Falls. She did fine anyway.
The trail to Rearguard Falls wasn’t very long. Lupe soon came to an elaborate system of walkways with metal railings near the falls. Like Overlander Falls, Rearguard Falls wasn’t all that high. Rearguard Falls was almost more like a cascade. It was still impressive and very beautiful. Lupe and SPHP stayed at Rearguard Falls for close to an hour.
Part of the reason Lupe was at Rearguard Falls so long was that other people kept coming and going. Some of them had very fancy cameras they set up on tripods. At the closest viewpoint next to the falls, several photographers set up their tripods in succession, each one occupying the coveted spot continuously for 15 or 20 minutes.
It didn’t matter to Lupe or SPHP how long they took. The stunningly beautiful river, the hypnotic roar of the falls both soothing and powerful, the mountain scenery, and perfect weather made Rearguard Falls a great place to be. Waiting for a turn at the closest viewpoint, SPHP chatted with people, while Lupe relaxed or enjoyed being admired and petted by friendly tourists.
One lady was here with her husband (who was busy with his camera and tripod at the coveted spot) and two sons. They were from the Netherlands. She said they had saved money for 10 years to come to Canada. Eventually they were going to sail up the inland passage on the Pacific Ocean near the end of their trip. They loved Canada, and were having a fabulous time!
Finally, it was Lupe’s turn at the closest spot to Rearguard Falls. Two photos, a final lingering look, and Lupe’s time at Rearguard Falls was over (11:31 AM).
Lupe and SPHP spent nearly all the rest of the day traveling on Yellowhead Hwy No. 16. Both Lupe and SPHP were farther N than they had ever been before. Lupe was entering a whole new world!
NW of the junction with Hwy 5, traffic on Hwy 16 greatly diminished. Almost everyone else had turned S on Hwy 5 heading for Kamloops. Lupe was in a valley miles wide, with a wall of high mountains on each side. Nearly all the land was forested, but at first there were some farms and fields near the highway, too. Haystacks were abundant, but curiously, not livestock. Lupe watched diligently for a long time, but saw only one herd of cows to bark at.
After a while, the farms and fields disappeared. On both sides of the valley, the high mountains were getting progressively smaller and more distant. Unbroken forest stretched in every direction as far the eye could see. Despite being in what appeared to be a complete wilderness, no wildlife was seen except for ravens picking at roadkill.
With no cows or horses to bark at, and no wildlife to hold her attention, Lupe’s eyelids began to droop. Soon she was snoozing, as the countless miles of endless forest went by. To SPHP, it was all increasingly magical, to be here, at last, with Lupe in a wilderness that stretched ahead for not only hundreds, but literally thousands of miles, heading toward the unknown.
Granted, what lay ahead wasn’t completely unknown. SPHP had maps and descriptions, had seen photos online, and had a general plan for Lupe’s 2016 Dingo Vacation adventures. All that was helpful, necessary and informative to a degree, but only scratched the surface of the possibilities and realities in this gigantic new territory Lupe was traveling through. And all the preparations weren’t the same as finally being here, actually seeing it all for the very first time.
The mountains were gone, replaced by distant blue ridges, by the time Lupe neared Prince George. Lupe woke up as the G6 slowed entering the city. Prince George turned out to be a lively and attractive city situated along the scenic Fraser River. It was the only large town Lupe would see in all of British Columbia. SPHP made a couple of stops for gas and groceries.
As Hwy 16 headed WNW from Prince George, farms and fields appeared again, carved out of the seemingly limitless forest. To Lupe, the open fields meant cows and horses. This time the Carolina Dog wasn’t disappointed. Although most of the fields were full of haystacks and bales, Lupe did see lots of cows and horses. She got plenty of most satisfying barking in. Now and then she had to stop long enough to slurp up water to wet her poor overworked parched barker.
At a rest stop near Cluculz Lake, Lupe and SPHP devoured half of a whole roasted chicken purchased in Prince George, while a rain shower passed over. Between the exciting cows and horses, and tasty roasted chicken, Lupe was very much revived. Back on the road again, she remained awake and watchful.
The long drive was marvelously relaxing. Lush green fields surrounded by dark forests appeared, and subsequently retreated from view. Distant blue ridges defined the horizon. Gray white clouds drifted across a partly sunny blue sky, trailing rain dark streaks of rain behind them. For a long time, the G6 said it was a perfect 71°F out.
The green fields closer to Prince George gradually disappeared, swallowed by the primal forest. Lupe passed through a few small towns of significance – Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, and Burns Lake. The farther Lupe went, the less traffic remained on the road. The sun was low by the time Lupe reached Houston, a tiny, quiet community near the Bulkley River.
In Houston, right alongside Yellowhead Highway No. 16, was a very beautiful small park with a fountain, manicured lawn, and a profusion of vibrantly colored flowers. Here Lupe and SPHP stopped to stretch their legs and admire Houston’s crown jewel, in the little time remaining while it was all still aglow in the sharply slanting rays of earth’s sinking star.
Day 5 (Part 1) of Lupe’s summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation to the Canadian Rockies, Yukon & Alaska.
After midnight, Lupe heard rain. Always light, never heavy, but steady. SPHP hoped there would be new snow on the mountains in the morning. Morning came. No such luck. The night hadn’t been quite cold enough. Even if there had been new snow, Lupe might not have seen it. The mountaintops remained shrouded by clouds and mist.
In early morning mist and light rain, Lupe and SPHP explored along the shore of Bow Lake from the picnic ground to where Lupe could see the toe of the Crowfoot Glacier. The toe was the only part of the glacier not lost in the clouds.
A visit to the Athabasca Glacier, and a trek up to Wilcox Pass were on Lupe’s agenda for the day. Unfortunately, both would be pointless in this weather. All the glorious sights would be hidden from view.
The American Dingo had been to Wilcox Pass twice before, on both her 2013 & 2014 Dingo Vacations. The views from the overlook toward the Athabasca Glacier and surrounding peaks were the most spectacular Lupe had seen anywhere in the Canadian Rockies. Missing out on Wilcox Pass would be simply tragic!
Nothing we can do, Loop, but head N and see what conditions are like when we get there! Maybe these clouds will burn off or move out by then.
Nothing had really changed, though, by the time Lupe and SPHP drove over Sunwapta Pass into Jasper National Park. The sky was still completely overcast, the mountaintops hidden from view. Light rain fell intermittently. It didn’t look like Wilcox Pass was in the cards at all.
Surprisingly, most of the Athabasca Glacier could be seen beneath the clouds. Lupe could still take the little hike up toward the toe of the glacier.
The short hike to see the Athabasca Glacier didn’t take very long, but during that time, the rain virtually stopped. Off to the N, SPHP noticed two tiny patches of blue sky. That was all it took. Once back at the G6, Lupe and SPHP drove S on Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 a few miles to the Wilcox Pass trailhead.
Only 3 vehicles were at the normally popular trailhead, an indication of how poor conditions had been to start the day. Disappointingly, instead of growing as hoped, the tiny patches of blue sky had disappeared. It was misting again. The temperature was only in the 40’s (°F).
Lupe was undeterred. The Carolina Dog was ready to hit the trail! Another vehicle pulled into the trailhead as Lupe began her ascent to Wilcox Pass (10:00 AM).
The first part of the Wilcox Pass trail winds around in a forest while climbing steadily. Shortly after crossing a wooden bridge over a steep slope, Lupe came to the first viewpoint. Part of the Athabasca Glacier was in view, but clouds still clung to the mountains.
Beyond the first viewpoint, the forest thinned quickly. The trail was relatively level for a short distance, as it led along the edge of a ridge. The Athabasca Glacier could now be seen most of the time.
The steepest part of the climb was next. The trail turned away from the view and went up a big slope. Lupe passed by scattered patches of stunted forest, and was soon above tree line. Ominously, instead of clearing up, the sky was looking darker. The mist was heavier than before.
Lupe wasn’t turning back now! The hardest part of the climb was over. The trek to Wilcox Pass was becoming progressively easier when, suddenly, Lupe stopped. She had seen or sniffed something up on the slope above the trail!
A small herd of Bighorn sheep was resting on the tundra. Lupe was fascinated. She wanted to stay right here and watch. Actually, she wanted to go trophy sheep hunting, but the leash prevented her from having too much fun.
As Lupe watched Bighorn sheep, the mist turned to rain. The few people who had come up to Wilcox Pass earlier in the day were now slogging past Lupe and SPHP on the way back down the trail. The couple that had been following Lupe up turned around and retreated, too.
SPHP finally persuaded Lupe to press on, leaving the sheep to enjoy their solitude. As Lupe neared Wilcox Pass, a chill wind drove the rain down more fiercely. Lupe and SPHP were totally alone. That was awesome! The fresh breeze felt good, too, but the rain would have to let up pretty soon if Lupe was to remain up here for long.
Lupe made it to Wilcox Pass. Conditions weren’t terrible, but they weren’t encouraging either. The vast and lonely pass was beautiful and mysterious beneath the sullen sky.
The stupendous panoramic view that Lupe had come to see was at the end of a side trail to the SW, not right at Wilcox Pass itself. Even though it appeared likely the view was going to be obscured by clouds and rain, Lupe and SPHP set off on the side trail. The solitary hike over the forlorn, broken wild tundra might have to be its own reward.
The commanding, panoramic view of the Athabasca Glacier and surrounding peaks Lupe was on her way to see is perhaps 0.5 mile to 1.0 mile SW of the main trail at Wilcox Pass. The trail to the viewpoint climbs several small ridges, and goes through a series of lower areas, too, on the way. Lupe and SPHP made good progress to one of the higher ridges, where there was a large cairn.
It was still windy, but thankfully, the rain was starting to let up. The clouds were lifting. Lupe could now see the summit of Mount Wilcox(9,462 ft.). Even better, off to the N was another patch of blue sky! It was bigger than the tiny patches of blue sky SPHP had seen before.
The weather continued improving as Lupe and SPHP followed the side trail SW. The patch of blue sky near Mount Wilcox was growing fast!
The last little valley to be crossed before reaching the final ridge was narrow and had a tiny stream flowing through it. Lupe crossed the stream and climbed up on the final ridge. The whole ridgeline featured tremendous views. Lupe and SPHP followed the trail NW to another big cairn. This cairn appeared to be the end of the side trail, and a fantastic spot to take in the panoramic view.
Going a short distance SW down the slope from the cairn got Lupe out of the worst of the wind. At first, clouds still obscured the mountains surrounding the Athabasca Glacier. However, the now huge hole in the clouds near Mount Wilcox held out the promise of clearing skies and splendid scenes soon to come. Lupe and SPHP got comfortable, and prepared to watch the big show.
Lupe had made it to the viewpoint just in time. It was only a matter of a few minutes before blue sky started appearing over the Athabasca Glacier. The summit of Snow Dome(11,483 ft.) was the first to be revealed.
For 40 minutes, Lupe and SPHP watched the changing scene. The blue sky tried hard, but never could reveal the summits of the other peaks around the Athabasca Glacier. Clouds clung to them. Sometimes it seemed like the peaks were creating more clouds all by themselves.
It was all still gorgeous. SPHP was very glad that Lupe came up to Wilcox Pass and over to the viewpoint. What a shame it would have been to miss all this grandeur!
Eventually the big patch of blue sky started losing the battle. More clouds were coming. The sky darkened. The big show was over, at least for now. It was time for Lupe to go. She had lots of fun on the way back exploring the heather.
The blue sky had encouraged others to start coming back up to Wilcox Pass, too. Soon Lupe and SPHP were no longer alone. Sporadically, it rained again, but this time not hard enough to discourage everyone. Now, Lupe and SPHP were the only ones going down, while others came up.
Lupe was pleased and excited to see that the Bighorn sheep hadn’t gone anywhere. They were still peacefully watching the passing parade. Lupe got a little more sheep watching in, too.
When Lupe emerged from the forest at the Wilcox Pass trailhead again (2:47 PM), the clouds were nearly all gone. Blue skies and sunshine prevailed, and things had warmed up considerably (59°F).
SPHP drove Lupe down to the Icefield Centre across the highway from the Athabasca Glacier. The place was a madhouse. SPHP was fortunate to get a parking spot in the huge parking lot. The place was packed with vehicles, with lots more circling around looking for an opening.
The views from the Icefield Centre weren’t as good as from high above in the Wilcox Pass area, but the scene was still magnificent. Now that their summits were in clear view, Lupe agreed to pose for a few more photos of the high snowy peaks surrounding the Athabasca Glacier.
The rainy, misty morning was long gone, having finally given way to this bright, sunny afternoon. Lupe had been close to the Athabasca Glacier, made it to Wilcox Pass, and seen glorious sights from on high.
Well, Looper, it’s what, not even 3:15 PM, yet. What now?
Since we are in the Canadian Rockies on a fine summer afternoon, looks like time for another adventure to me!
The clever Carolina Dog was so right! Lupe and SPHP hopped in the G6, left the teeming Icefield Centre parking lot, and headed N on Icefields Parkway Hwy 93. When you are in the Canadian Rockies, the next big adventure is never far away!
Note: Although there are many areas of superb beauty in the Canadian Rockies, the Wilcox Pass trail to the dramatic snow and ice-covered panoramic view of Mt. Athabasca, Mt. Andromeda, the Athabasca Glacier, Snow Dome and Mt. Kitchener is the most scenically rewarding half day hike Lupe and SPHP have found to date.
The Wilcox Pass trailhead is located less than 0.25 mile off the N bound side of Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 along the gravel road that leads to the Wilcox Creek campground. The turnoff is just a mile or two N of the Banff and Jasper National Parks boundary at Sunwapta Pass, and just a couple miles S of the Icefield Centre across from the Athabasca Glacier.
The Wilcox Pass trail is in good condition. The side trail to the viewpoint SW of the pass is easy to spot and follow. Total elevation gain is on the order of 1,400 feet. One section of the main trail is fairly steep, but most of it is only moderately strenuous.
Another great trail to a glacier view is only 10 minutes away. The Parker Ridge trail, which is even shorter (and less time-consuming) than the Wilcox Pass trail, switchbacks up to a spectacular view of the Saskatchewan Glacier. The Parker Ridge trailhead is along the S bound side of Icefields Parkway Hwy 93 several miles S of the Jasper National Park and Banff National Park boundary at Sunwapta Pass.
The trailhead for Mount Bourgeau(9,616 ft.) was empty when Lupe arrived (7:09 AM, 41°F). That didn’t last long. Another vehicle pulled in within 2 minutes, and 5 or 6 more pulled in within 10 minutes. Lupe was anxious to get started. SPHP agreed. SPHP helped Lupe up the metal grate stairway, opened the gate, and let Lupe down in the forest on the other side.
There wouldn’t be much to see except forest for quite a long way. The trail wouldn’t get out in the open until Lupe was close to Bourgeau Lake, more than 2,000 feet higher than the trailhead. On the way, Lupe would get occasional glimpses of nearby mountains, pass by a creek and a waterfall, but that would be about it.
Lupe and SPHP hurried along the trail to stay ahead of the crowd that would soon be coming. The trail gained elevation at a relentless, but moderate pace. SPHP grew concerned about the weather. The sky was clouding up. Fortunately, after a while it gradually cleared again enough to alleviate any real worries.
If successful, this would be Lupe’s 2nd trip up Mount Bourgeau. She had climbed it more than two years ago on 7-22-14 during her 2014 Dingo Vacation. That time SPHP had forgotten the camera, a mistake not realized until Lupe was already far from the G6, too far to go back for it.
If that hadn’t happened, Lupe would probably have been exploring a new trail to a different mountain today. However, the views from Mount Bourgeau had been too grand not to have some photos of Lupe up there. So now, 2 years later, Lupe was back! And this time, SPHP made 100% certain to bring the camera.
Lupe pressed on. Despite the unchanging appearance of the forest, she was making progress. First, traffic noise from Trans-Canada Hwy No. 1 faded away. Then she could hear a rushing creek far below to the N. She eventually crossed a nice wooden bridge over another creek.
When Lupe reached the big waterfall cascading down a headwall, SPHP knew the trail was about to get steeper. The good news was that Lupe didn’t have much farther to go to reach Bourgeau Lake.
There was no bridge across the creek below the falls. However, rocks were grouped up in wire cages, forming platforms that stood well above the water level. Crossing the creek was no problem at all. Once past the falls, the trail steepened. Long switchbacks kept the rate of climb from becoming too difficult. Lupe had plenty of time to sniff around off trail during SPHP’s air and water breaks.
Lupe had already covered the vast majority of the distance from the trailhead to Bourgeau Lake. As soon as she was up over the headwall, the trail would level out, the views would open up, and Lupe would see the cliffs of the NW face of Mount Bourgeau, below which Borgeau Lake is hidden in a small section of forest.
Lupe and SPHP reached the level trail above the headwall. The forest gave way to more open territory where the views were every bit as wonderful as SPHP remembered. From now on, Lupe would see increasingly spectacular country all the rest of the way up to the summit of Mount Bourgeau.
It wasn’t much farther to Bourgeau Lake, tucked away in a corner at the base of towering cliffs to the S and W. A small forested area kept the lake hidden from view until Lupe was almost upon it. The main trail doesn’t go quite all the way to the lake. Upon re-entering the forest, Lupe and SPHP took a minor side trail leading to the NE shore of Bourgeau Lake.
At Bourgeau Lake, Lupe had already gone well over half the distance along the trail to the top of Mount Bourgeau, but more than half of the elevation gain required was still ahead. Lupe stayed at Bourgeau Lake only a short while. Lupe and SPHP returned to the main trail to continue the trek.
The trail wound SW through the forest a little to the NW of Bourgeau Lake, which was no longer in view. Before long, the trail turned NW and started climbing again. Lupe left the forest behind as she gained elevation. The trail now climbed steeply traversing a long slope of loose rock toward the top of a 2nd headwall. Well to the left of the trail, a creek tumbled noisily down a series of small waterfalls.
By the time Lupe reached the top of the 2nd headwall, the trail had turned W. A small lake could be seen ahead. Beyond the lake, the trail continued up yet another smaller rise.
Lupe followed the trail past the N shore of the small lake, and then up the next rise beyond it. Although there were a few stunted trees and bushes around, Lupe was effectively at or above tree line.
From the top of the rise beyond the small lake, Lupe could see a big grassy area containing a pond fed by small streams. High rock walls sheltered this area on the N, W and SW. However, the trail did not continue W toward the pond. Instead, it turned S, gradually steepening as it went up a long slope. Lupe’s 2nd major objective, Harvey Pass, was at the top of the slope.
Lupe and SPHP followed the trail on up to Harvey Pass. Another pond was nestled in a low spot up at the pass.
Reaching Harvey Pass was an important milestone. From the S end of the pass, Lupe got her first expansive view of the territory SW of Mount Bourgeau. Lupe could even see Mount Assiniboine(11,864 ft.), sometimes called the Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies, although the top of the peak was lost in the clouds.
Near the S end of Harvey Pass, the trail to Mount Bourgeau splits off and angles SE up a grassy slope. As the trail reaches the top of the near ridge, it turns more to the E. From here, much of Lupe’s route on the final leg up to the summit could be seen ahead.
As Lupe and SPHP climbed along the trail from Harvey Pass the rest of the way up Mount Bourgeau, the views got better and better. The trail was often steep, but easy to follow. The general route was always clear, even though parts of the trail were braided. Caution was occasionally required. The trail sometimes passed very close to the edge of the cliffs to the N.
Lupe reached the summit of Mount Bourgeau. A few people who had passed her on the way up, while she was checking out Bourgeau Lake or waiting for SPHP along the trail, were already at the top of the mountain. More people kept arriving every 5 minutes or so. Soon there was quite a crowd near the summit cairn. Fortunately, the overall summit area is quite large. There was plenty of room for everyone.
Several hardy people arrived at the top of Mount Bourgeau wearing shorts. They generally regretted their choice of attire. The temperature was in the low 40’s °F with an often brisk SW breeze.
The views from Mount Bourgeau were spectacular. Scenes of the Canadian Rockies like those from airline magazines were in every direction. While everyone else was milling around near the summit cairn, Lupe and SPHP wandered around looking at the splendid views.
When the area near the summit cairn was briefly vacated by the crowd, Lupe went over to it for her official summit of Mount Bourgeau photo.
There were so many wonderful views from Mount Bourgeau, it was easy to just keep clicking away taking pictures.
Lupe and SPHP took a long break up on Mount Bourgeau. Lupe was ready for Taste of the Wild and water. SPHP had pudding and fruit cups. During the break, SPHP kept hoping for a clear view of Mount Assiniboine, but the summit remained shrouded by clouds.
Lupe checked out the white shed at the top of Mount Bourgeau. When Lupe had been here before on 7-22-14, there had been a couple of marmots living under this shed. The marmots had done a great job keeping Lupe entertained. Sadly, there was no sign of any marmots this time.
Lupe may have been disappointed that the marmots were gone, but she didn’t have time to get bored. Plenty of people were paying attention to Lupe. She was suddenly quite popular. She got petted and loved and talked to by lots of kind strangers. Lupe basked in the attention.
Not all of the friends Lupe made on Mount Bourgeau were human. After Lupe had been at the summit for an hour or so, along came a dog named Marshall. Lupe and Marshall had a good time wrestling. When they got tired of that, they posed for a “canines only” photo at the summit cairn.
Lupe and SPHP remained on Mount Bourgeau for over 1.5 hours. During that time, many people came and went. Gradually the crowd began to thin out, although there were still occasional new arrivals. Eventually, it was time to think about heading back down. Lupe and SPHP took one last tour around the summit area.
Finally, it was time for Lupe to say good-bye to Mount Bourgeau. She would return by the same route she came up. The scenery was just as fabulous the 2nd time around! Lupe and SPHP enjoyed it immensely.
On the way down to Harvey Pass, Lupe met two amazing young girls still hiking up with their parents. They were less than 30 minutes away from the top of the mountain, a climb of over 4,900 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead. Jasmine was just 8 years old. Her sister, Angelica, was only 6. They were both still climbing under their own power! Angelica was quite taken with Lupe.
When Lupe reached Harvey Pass again, the weather was beautiful. It was much warmer than up on top of Mount Bourgeau, and with hardly any wind. Best of all, there was finally a clear view of Mount Assiniboini, too! Lupe and SPHP dawdled for half an hour at Harvey Pass, enjoying the day and the glorious surroundings.
Lupe finally said good-bye to Harvey Pass, too. The scenery continued to be wonderful all the way back down past Bourgeau Lake. After that, Lupe entered the forest again, as the trail switchbacked down the first headwall. The rest of the way back was a long, pleasant stroll downhill to the trailhead and the G6 (6:54 PM, 65°F).
A day in the Canadian Rockies at Mount Bourgeau is hard to beat, but Lupe’s Summer of 2016 Dingo Vacation was just getting going!
Note: The Mount Bourgeau trailhead is located on the SW (Eastbound) side of Trans-Canada Hwy No. 1. It is perhaps a 10 minute drive W of the town of Banff. For westbound traffic there is a sign for Mount Bourgeau (or Bourgeau Lake?) along Hwy 1 a little past the exit to Sunshine Meadows. The left turn to the TH is 2 km past the sign. (Watch for eastbound traffic after crossing the forested median.) There is no sign at the actual turning point. The TH is very close to Hwy 1, but hidden in the forest.
5:30 AM. Daylight already. Lupe was wide awake. Soon SPHP was, too. It was August 1, 2013, Day 23 of Lupe’s 2013 Dingo Vacation to the Beartooths & Canada. This was to be Lupe’s last full day in Canada. Yesterday she had already started heading S from the Mount Robson area to begin the trip back home. Before leaving Canada, Lupe and SPHP still had a few places to go and things to see. It was good to be up early!
Shortly after 6:00 AM, SPHP was parking the G6 at the Peyto Lake parking lot near Bow Pass on the Icefields Parkway Highway No. 93. Although the Peyto Lake observation deck at the end of a short paved path is a very popular tourist destination, no one else was around this early in the day. The G6 was the only vehicle in the parking lot. It wouldn’t stay that way for very long. Lupe and SPHP took the short path to see Peyto Lake.
There used to be a lookout tower at Bow Summit. After admiring the view of Peyto Lake and the Mistaya River valley from the observation deck, Lupe and SPHP went in search of the old fire lookout service road. SPHP had brought along the following note summarizing instructions on how to get to Bow Summit from research done online:
“From the Peyto Lake overlook, take the right hand of two paved trails leading uphill. After 100 meters, there will be a 3 way junction at an interpretive sign. Continue on the middle branch angling uphill to the left of the sign (this is part of the upper nature trail). In a few minutes, the paved nature trail will continue on to the right, but continue straight on the old fire lookout service road.”
Soon Lupe was trotting happily on up the road to the old fire lookout. It was a gorgeous morning with views to match. After gaining 760 feet of elevation, Lupe and SPHP reached the end of the road at Bow Summit. There were wonderful views to the N back toward the Mistaya River valley and Waterfowl Lakes. The best views to the S toward Bow Lake and beyond were a little farther on.
The views at Bow Summit were wonderful, amazing and incredible. It was hard not to feel sad that Lupe had to leave Canada. The views weren’t the only thing that were amazing and incredible, though. Amazing and incredible swarms of not-so-wonderful mosquitoes started plaguing Lupe and SPHP within just a minute or two of arriving at Bow Summit.
Although Lupe doesn’t like strong winds, a good stiff breeze would have been welcome. As it was, Lupe and SPHP tired very quickly of serving as local blood banks. The mosquitoes had been only a minor annoyance while moving on the way up, but they were intolerable staying put in any one place. Definitely time to be moving on. Two hours after leaving the G6, Lupe and SPHP were back at the now bustling Peyto Lake parking lot.
After Bow Summit, Lupe went on one more outing in the Canadian Rockies. Near the high point on Hwy 93 heading W toward Kootenay National Park in British Columbia, there was a trailhead for Boom Lake. The trail was only 5.1 km to Boom Lake, which was perfect for the limited time Lupe had to spend.
At the trailhead parking lot, Lupe met a skinny 7 month old black lab puppy named Geeko. Lupe and Geeko played with each other in the parking lot, and each time they met along the trail.
SPHP met a Canadian biologist from Winnipeg along the way. When SPHP learned the biologist had hiked more than 2,000 km of trails in the Canadian Rockies, SPHP asked for recommendations on day hikes. The biologist recommended a trail quite near by, which goes to the Stanley Glacier. Lupe didn’t have time to check it out this trip, but SPHP hopes some day she will.
By the time Lupe and SPHP reached Boom Lake, it was raining and foggy. It looked like a beautiful spot, but Lupe would have to return under better conditions to explore further and get some photos worthy of the area. Lupe had fun, but she was a rather soggy doggie by the time she completed the trek back to the G6.
Lupe and SPHP enjoyed a wonderful drive through scenic Kootenay National Park, but made no more stops until reaching Radium Hot Springs. Lupe had to wait in the G6 at Radium Hot Springs, while SPHP went in to get cleaned up and bask in the warm mineral waters.
SPHP returned from the Radium Hot Springs clean and refreshed. Cleanliness always boosts SPHP’s spirits, especially while traveling. It was time to get serious about making some progress getting home! Lupe was in for a good time – after all, the cows and horses in Montana alone were going to provide at least 500 miles of frenzied Dingo barking pleasure!
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