Polar Light Nights

Polar light nights

August 2022

After three weeks we have left Alaska and now via the Alaska Highway with destination Whitehorse. On our way from Tok to the border with Canada, we had planned another overnight stay at a campsite near Deadman Lake, which was advised to us by an American tourist more than a month ago in the Rocky Mountains. At this lake, 13 beautiful spots were made where one could spend the night for free. In the background we could even easily recognize the Kluane mountain range in Canada!

What also makes this campground special is that there are free canoes available that one can use to explore the lake. We did not need to be told twice. We ended the day with a campfire. We decided to add an extra day. It was a cold night, which we had not anticipated. The temperature outside was just above freezing and our winter sleeping bags were unfortunately still in the luggage compartment. So we did not manage to get out of bed at night and check if we could see the northern lights. The surprise came in the morning, when we saw that our camera had actually recorded the northern lights. Now we felt a little sorry for our laziness.

What better way to start the next day than to take the canoe out onto the lake and seek peace and quiet. No human anywhere to be seen and other than some ducks that occasionally rose from the lake not a sound to be heard. After breakfast we jumped into the water and let ourselves dry in the sun. Eddy thought it was a good idea to get out the hammock. The sun was shining and the temperature was starting to rise nicely by Alaskan standards. Who could have imagined that the hammock would be used for the first time in Alaska? The campsite host invited us to join the other campers for a hot dog dinner tonight. In a big circle by the campfire it became an interesting evening with people from all around the world. This was a perfect ending for our stay in Alaska.

Crossing the Alaskan – Canadian border eventually went smoothly. We waved goodbye to the Americans without having to stop and drove another 30 kilometers through no man’s land until a large Canadian flag flew high above a small customs office. Welcome back to Canada.

Our Lady of Grace Catholic Mission in Beaver Creek close to the border

We drove along Kluane National Park. The mountain massif contains the largest glacier area in the world outside the Arctic, along with Wrangell-St. Elias park on the American side. Like Wrangell, Kluane is not very accessible to day tourists. You get an impression, but the highest peaks remain hidden. At the Tachal Dhal info center located on Lake Kluane we inquired what we could do. It was already after four and we opted to hike a section of the Sheep Creek trail from where halfway up you should have an excellent view of the Slims River valley.

After we had parked we were pointed out by other hikers that there are Dall sheep to spot high atop the mountain. Through our binoculars we could easily spot the white sheep with huge curled horns. Besides Dall sheep, of course, there were signs again that we were in “Bear Country”. At least we were rewarded with fantastic views for the 300 vertical meters we had made in a short time. We turned around here and walked back to the car. Once again, a confrontation with a bear did not occur.

We drove up to the town of Haines Junction. At the Village Bakery we got a coffee and a piece of cake. To Whitehorse it was only two more hours of driving, so we had plenty of time to go into the woods in Haines Junction and enjoy nature. We saw some beautifully colored birds and the mountains in the background didn’t bore us yet either.

To celebrate our ninth wedding anniversary, we had decided to treat ourselves to dinner at a restaurant. On the off chance we went to the Klondike Rib & Salmon BBQ Restaurant and after some waiting time enjoyed spare ribs and an elk stew. For dessert, we had agreed to go to our favorite coffee shop, Tim Hortons. We were starting to show symptoms of addiction. Whitehorse is “Last Frontier” as far as Tim Hortons stores go, after that we hadn’t seen a Tim in about 5 weeks.

The next day we left Whitehorse, though not without driving past the beautiful Miles Canyon. After a short hike, we turned onto the South Klondike Highway toward Skagway. The idea was to drive up to White Pass, the mountain pass that marks the border between Canada and Alaska. Looking for wildlife and a nice place for lunch, we drove to Annie Lake on a 20-kilometer gravel road. Unfortunately no wildlife was seen, but the lunch spot right on the lake with the mountains as a backdrop could not have been better. Emerald Lake was another lake we drove by next. We still haven’t figured out if the color of the water was green, blue or turquoise.

We followed the road further toward Alaska and were glad we had chosen this route. Long stretched mountain lakes accompanied us through the rugged landscape until the Canadians asked for one’s passport, and then we turned around.

What stood out was that autumn had clearly arrived. Where the deciduous trees were well camouflaged among the conifers during the summer months, they now stood out with their beautiful yellow, red and brown leaves. Canada was getting more color. The sleeping place we found was also in the exceptional category. We deftly drove the car over rocks right along the shore of Tutshi Lake and, shielded from the rest of the world, and enjoyed our rest and a White Russian cocktail. As the icing on the cake, we were able to admire the northern lights in the evening around the campfire.

In Carcross, we lingered in the historic town for a while. We got a coffee at the local coffee shop and used the Visitor Center’s Internet. There’s not much historic left to see. Other than the train station and the burned remains of the steamship S.S. Tutshi, there is not much left.

Carcross also claims to have the world’s smallest desert within its village limits. Just down the road is a sand drift created after the last ice age. The ice melted, leaving behind a lake that for a long time was fed by a river and carried sand from the mountains. When the river dried up, the lake eventually disappeared as well, leaving sediment at the bottom. A large sandbox in the middle of all the green and gray in the area. A strange sight.

From here we headed back up the Alaska Highway, heading back east with the goal of driving the Stewart-Cassiar Highway south to British-Colombia. 

Eddy and Romy van Es © 2020, All Rights Reserved.

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