On the Road

Liard River Hot Springs

This is the third time I drive the Alaska Highway. A must stop on this long haul is Liard River Hot Springs. When I go to heaven, I give up the seven virgins or singing “Hosianna” all day, if I can have a place like this on my cloud.

In the summer the spring is surrounded by lush ferns and horsetails. A lingering morning fog may add to the magic of this place. The water is odorless and clear. The bottom of the pool is covered with gentle pebbles.

I recommend starting with the lower pool. The water is warm on top and cooler at the bottom. A cold spring is feeding into the hot water. This makes for a unique bathing experience. Once you are warmed up, you are ready for the hot upper pool. Let’s see how close you want to come to the hot source.

Next time I visit this place will be in winter. Google for some amazing pictures!

Maybe that’s what I want on my cloud. A cabin with Yukon winter weather and a hot spring right outside my deck. Until then, I will have to revisit Liard River Hot Springs and other wonders of Nature.

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One Man's Paradise

After the storm

“Thank goodness for the first snow, it was a reminder–no matter how old you became and how much you’d seen, things could still be new if you were willing to believe they still mattered.”

Candace Bushnell


Beautiful skies are back in all it’s splendor after the second snow this season.

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Summit Lake, British Columbia

 

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One Man's Paradise

Close to the heart

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May Weather in the Boundaries Range, British Columbia


“As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing.
I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche.
I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens,
and get as near the heart of the world as I can.”

John Muir


 

Those are the words of a great man.

Looking across the valleys and mountains of the Boundaries Range I imagine this is what John Muir had in mind, when he traveled to Alaska 130 years ago: Snow and ice covered landscapes. Even today, patches of that pristine wilderness still exist. Often times hiding in the clouds.

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A long winter with a short skiing season…

That’s how winter 2015/16 in SE Alaska goes down in my books. First, a lot of rain in October and November, not the desirable white fluffy stuff. Then unsettled weather in December and January, short days, not enough to venture too far off the road. February and March were good to us. Not the usual weather pattern, though. And then came spring, one month early.

I have learned something about back country skiing in the Coastal Mountains: So many runs, not enough time.

Can’t wait to explore more next winter, which is going to be epic!

Into the Wild

A season in review

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One Man's Paradise

The Guardsmen

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One of the “Three Guardsmen” peaking through the coastal clouds.

“Guard the mind and protect the soul.”

  Ikechukwu Izuakor


That’s the Alaska Winter blues. Actually, this day we absorbed more color (and sun light) than during the average gray day in January. All the more reason to go out and play.

The Three Guardsmen are located in a tiny Western enclave of British Columbia, just opposite to the isolated Tatshenshini-Alsek Park. In 2011 BC dropped its famous “Best Place on Earth” motto. Why?

Now it is “Canada Starts Here” or “Super Natural British Columbia”. Oh well.

So much for today.

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One Man's Paradise

Chilkoot Trail: Day 3

In the summer of 1897, news of the Klondike gold strike turned the intermittent trickle of hardy prospectors into an uncontrollable flood of fortune seekers. More than 30,000 men, women, and children scaled the daunting Golden Stairs during the Klondike Gold Rush hauling one ton of supplies to sustain them for a year. The hardship and drama is very much unimaginable by today’s standards.


© Parks Canada

Today: the queen’s stage, or hors catégorie, as the French would say. From Sheep Camp to Happy Camp in about 8 miles and almost 3000 feet of climbing.

Another crisp morning. In the summer the ranger will kick you out of camp at 6 in the morning, because of avalanche danger. Not so today. The snow from last winter is  gone, the new accumulation is harmless, and most importantly, there is no ranger. I am slowly getting into a rhythm. It takes me an hour in the morning to stow all my belongings into my backpack and get ready. Although it’s day 3 and I have already consumed some food, there is still not enough room for all of my stuff inside the backpack. So I am stuffing socks in my pockets, the camera bag houses the gas, waterbottle, sleeping pad, and raingear go on the outside of the backpack. I am looking like a traveling salesman, but it works. I also think, all the dangling makes enough noise to keep the bears away.

I make it above the treeline. It is pretty straightforward to follow the trail. Shortly before the Scales I run into snow. Luckily I see the footprints of Sam and his dog. The scales were used to weigh once more the gear of the miners. Packers would charge by the pound. At some point there was also a tramway heading up Chilkoot Pass. Until a couple of years ago a wooden tower from the tramway was still standing nearby. Now the towers have been reduced to a pile of rotting beams. Rusty cables on the ground are great trail markers. A couple more inches of snow and the cables will disappear. Around the pass turns out to be the most challenging section of the trail this time of the year. Big granite boulders are covered with a couple inches of snow. It is impossible to see where the rock ends and where the hole begins. I don’t want to twist my ankles here.

After a number of false summits I reach the top of Chilkoot Pass. It is winter up here. Most artifacts are hidden beneath the snow, except for some massive iron wheels. The Golden Stairs… Go look up the historic images of this place with a thousand miners crawling up the pass. Like an ant hill, simply amazing. I am sitting by myself at the same place almost 120 years later. Humbling.

Chilkoot Pass

Chilkoot Pass

I spend some time in the emergency shelter, which would be a great place to spend the night. No wood stove, no wood to burn, but a nice shelter. This would be an amazing place to watch the Northern lights! It’s too early to call it a day, and it is easier to stay warm walking than sitting around in the shelter. Who knows what the weather will bring tomorrow? So, I keep going, descending to Crater Lake. What a sight. Glassy surface! How often does this happen? Frozen waterfalls and creeks make for an interesting descent.

Crater Lake

Passing a few piles lumber (Stone Crib), I finally make it to  Happy Camp, another fine warming hut. “Happy to see you!”

I don’ t expect any other visitors, so I make myself comfortable attempting to dry out socks, boots and whatnot. There is a big poster on the wall showing Happy Camp during the Gold Rush. What a miserable place it must have been compared to today. Still, the miners called it Happy Camp for a reason: They had made it over the pass! In the flickering light of a candle they were served coffee, stale bread with some butter and a piece of canned beef – happiness.

Well, it’s freeze-dried Pad Thai and the last can of beer for me tonight and I call it a day.

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Not quite.

At 3 AM in the morning I hear voices outside, flash lights flickering across the room. Two ladies and a dog made it across the pass, coming from I have no clue where. They have been hiking for 12 hours straight and are to put it mildly out of their mind happy to have found this place in the last glimmer of their fading head lights. An hour later it’s all quiet again. Everybody is settled in for the night.

This time for good. When I leave the cabin in the morning the two night walkers are stlll sound asleep. Only their company, Nugget, is growling at me.

Good bye Happy Camp!


“Look, when do the really interesting things happen? Not when you’ve brushed your teeth and put on your pyjamas and are cozy in bed. They happen when you are cold and uncomfortable and hungry and don’t have a roof over your head for the night.”

Ellen Potter

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