Set against a spectacular backdrop of mountain peaks, the village of Haines Junction is a great jumping point to the Kluane National Park and Reserve or Alaska via the Yukon.
Your first stop should be the First Nation Da Kų “Our House” Cultural Centre. We particularly enjoyed an oversize floor map in the Da Kų centre which showcases the traditional trails and villages of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. The federal Parks Canada and territorial Department of Tourism and Culture have booths here too, all under one roof. Here, we gathered valuable information on the current park conditions, watched a bear awareness video, collected trail maps and a list of suggested stops along the route.
From “the Junction”, you can choose to go north or south, both directions will lead to Alaska. We headed south on the Haines Highway. Our first stop was at Kathleen Lake.
Here we viewed the King’s Throne and surrounding mountains across the perfectly calm Kathleen Lake.
Further south, we did a short hike on the Rock Glacier interpretive trail. The trail starts along a boardwalk and gently climbs a mass of rocks to an area providing views of Dezadeash Lake and the surrounding mountains. Just a few miles passed the trailhead; there’s a Yukon government campground with beautiful campsites backing the lake.
Rock glaciers as the name implies is an accumulation of rock debris that extends downslope as the result of deformation of ice and permafrost, similarly to ice glaciers.
Bear sightings are not uncommon in the Yukon. For the second time during our travels, we encountered a black bear by the roadside. Our first viewing was on our return from Skagway a few days earlier. From the comfort of the RV, we watched as he fed, laid down, got up, moved a few steps away and eat some more, chomping on the dandelions.
Further south, we crossed into British Columbia for a short stretch.
At the top of the Chilkat Pass, we took a few pictures of the bleak landscape of snow and rock.
We slowly descended into the Chilkat River basin and crossed into Alaska. From the US Customs, the road follows the Chilkat River corridor.
“Did you see that?” Both Maxine and Ginette thought they saw a moose across the river, but the road was too narrow to turn around, so we continued with eyes peeled to the horizon. And then, coming around a bend, we spotted a cow moose resting at the edge of the river. Gordon tentatively approached her using his zoom lens, and she seemed unfazed by his presence. Remember, wildlife viewing should be done from a respectful distance.
The highway leads to downtown Haines. In town, we immediately stumbled on a campground, more like an RV parking lot, with a stunning view and oceanside location–we booked it.
Our camp was steps away from the harbour. We took some pictures before going next door for a dinner of fish sandwich and fries. After which we wrapped up the evening with a cold brew at Fogcutters, a popular local pub.
The next morning we explored the region.
The drive south along Mud Bay leads to the Chilkat State Park. There are many viewing pull-outs along the way, or from the sandy, muddy, and gravel beaches we still had views of the Rainbow Glacier through the clouds.
Leaving Haines, we retracted the way we came. To our delight, we spotted seabirds, shorebirds, and eagles along the way. The Chilkat River is world-famous for the concentration of American Bald-Eagles that come in droves in late fall including some that are year-round residents.
That evening we camped at the territorial campground of Dezedeash Lake.
For dinner Gordon succeeded in creating a tasty dish, combining steamed dandelion leaves, fireweed shoots (both wild, abundant, and edible wildflowers) with the seafood bought earlier from the Haines Packing Co.
A few days later, as our vacation came to an end, we returned to Whitehorse for our flight home. Maxine, on the other hand, returned to Haines to partake in the annual Great Alaska Craft Beer and Home Brew Festival. Sadly our visit didn’t coincide with this event. Her talented friend, Brett Elliot created this video.
Darn–looks like we missed out on other wildlife!