When we left Watson Lake on Sunday morning, we headed toward Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway. Our plan was to stop at Marsh Lake Recreation Site and Campground for the night, but we pulled in just as they were closing the campground. Apparently, a grizzly bear had determined that the campground was a great place to hang out, so to keep everyone safe, they were closing it down until they could trap and relocate the bear. This forced us to head on up the road closer to Whitehorse, to Wolf Creek Yukon Government Campground. We were lucky to get one of the last sites there. It was nothing special, but perfectly fine to get a good night’s rest.
The plan for yesterday was to get some groceries on our way through Whitehorse and then continue on the Alaska Highway to somewhere between Haines Junction and Destruction Bay. We stopped to fuel up in Haines Junction, though, and the kind woman who was working at the gas station told us we really needed to stop into their visitor center across the road and check it out. She said it had lots of information on the area and exhibits about Kluane National Park that we should see. Since she was so adamant about it, we figured we should at least run in for a few minutes and see what it was all about.
The exhibits and park movie on Kluane National Park captivated us. We learned that Kluane is home to Canada’s highest mountain, along with some beautiful lakes, rivers, glaciers, and many, many other mountains. While much of it is inaccessible without an airplane or multiple day hike, we still wondered if we should alter our plans to at least see a bit of it. Prior to stopping at the visitor center, we had read that the one campground in the park only had a few sites that would accommodate us, and that it was first come, first served. The park employees working at the visitor center, however, didn’t seem to think we would have any problems, and since it was only about 20 minutes out of our way, we decided to give it a try. We pulled into Kathleen Lake Campground around 2:30pm and there were only three campsites occupied at the time. Thinking that only three or four sites would be big enough, we began our search around the campground, and found that almost all of the sites would work. I’m not sure why the internet says that this campground isn’t good for larger campers and motor homes, because there is no problem at all. If you are in the area in a larger rig, give it a try! Anyway, we found a site that we liked, and got set up for a couple of nights.
Our first plan of action was to walk down to Kathleen Lake. It is a beautiful jade green lake set right at the base of the front-range of the Kluane Mountains. It is gorgeous. Yesterday, when we arrived, it was extremely windy at the lake, but still a worthy stop for us to look around quickly and get some photos. This morning, though, the wind had died down a bit so we went back down and enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the lake shore and even found some red chairs to relax in for a bit. The red chairs are a Parks Canada (the organization that runs the Canadian national parks – like the NPS in the US) thing. In places of particular beauty, they will place a couple of red Adirondack chairs for people to use to enjoy the view. We have found several sets on other trips to other Canadian National Parks. There was no one else around, so we spent quite a while enjoying the comfortable chairs and the spectacular view.
After a quick lunch in the camper, we went to Rock Glacier, which is a very short, but steep, hike up a rock glacier that two different park employees recommended to us. We had never heard of a rock glacier before, but apparently, it is what happens at the end of a glacier’s life. As the glacier stops moving and starts melting, all the rocks and debris in and on the glacier are left in place, and it literally looks like a glacier made of rock. This trail took us part way up on the stones. It was a really interesting hike with signage along the way that taught us about what we were seeing and hiking on. We were so hoping to see an elusive pika – and we did hear one – but no luck catching a glimpse. We are sure that he or she saw us first and took cover! Had we sat very still and quiet for a while, we might have had better luck, but it looked like rain could be coming, so we didn’t want to linger too long.
After Rock Glacier we went a little north of the campground to stop quickly at the Kathleen Lake Viewpoint and then made another quick stop to check out the Kathleen River. There is beauty everywhere you look here!
We are so glad we happened to stop at the fuel station with the woman who encouraged us to go to the visitor center, otherwise, we would have continued along our intended route and missed out on a visit to this amazing national park! A friend told us today that life is about the journey, not the destination, and boy is she right! We have found that the places we stumble across are sometimes our favorites! Tomorrow is back to the Alaska Highway, though, and onward toward Alaska. We will probably be there within a couple of days and we are so excited!
Watch our adventures in Kluane National Park by clicking the play button below:
Until next time!