Yukon Territory Part 2: Kluane National Park + Haines, Alaska

I’m waiting for a 15-hour code to finish running and couldn’t possibly do any other work in the meantime, so I figured it’d be a good time to finish up my Kluane posts.

After we were returned to civilization from the icefields, we had plans to do some hikes in Kluane national park.  The perimeter of the park has a lot more green and a lot less snow.  And a lot more GRIZZLIES TO EAT YOUR FACE.

view of kathleen lake from king's throne trail

view of kathleen lake from king’s throne trail

On our first day back we tackled King’s Throne, which turned out to be probably the hardest #$%&*@ trail I’ve ever been on.  On the drive to the trailhead David pointed out I’d forgotten my poles.  The icefield people had described king’s throne as a “knee buster” but in my infinite wisdom I decided it couldn’t be THAT bad and didn’t drive back into town to get the poles (foreshadowing: this was dumb).  We arrived at the trailhead and started the hike, which begins easily along an old road.  We even saw a mildly concerned porcupine ambling up the road, who eventually got less mildly concerned and dove into the brush.  Sorry, porcupine.

view of the

view of the “throne”, starting up the steep, terrible ridge

We popped out of the trees fairly quickly and were given an expansive view of Kathleen lake.  Eventually we hit some steep switchbacks with crumbly, sandy, shale.  This is my least favorite type of terrain …EVER.  I complained “is it going to be like this the whole way?”… YES, SELF. YES IT IS.  In New Hampshire we have some pretty steep and “knee busting” trails, but the stable granite rocks always provide the peace of mind that the trail isn’t going to go sliding out from under your feet!

almost at the summit...

almost at the summit…

After grumbling up the crumbly switchbacks we reached the plateau of the “throne” and had a view of the steep ridge we’d have to climb to get up and over the other side of the peaks in front of us.  I realized what I had been complaining about earlier wasn’t really that worthy of being complained about, and began complaining in earnest as the trail became SUPER worthy of being complained about.

summit pano #1!  click to enlarge

summit pano #1! click to enlarge

The ridge up to the peak of king’s throne is probably the steepest, nastiest section of trail I’ve ever been on.  We guesstimated that it gains about 2,000 feet of elevation in about a mile, and combined with the crumbly shale, several areas of 45 degree angles, and general exposure and drop-off cliffy-ness, it was not a nice trail.  I was reaaalllllyyy regretting forgetting my poles, but getting down was a problem for future Laura!

summit pano #2! click to enlarge

summit pano #2! click to enlarge.  can you see the snow-covered mountains in the waaaay back?

After approximately 500 hours, we finally made it to the top of the ridge and things leveled out somewhat as we walked the last mile to the summit.  We finally got a view deep into Kluane, where you can even see giant snow-covered peaks in the distance, probably close to where we were at ice camp.  I took approximately 500 pictures, some delicious sandwiches from the Haines Junction bakery were consumed, and then I had to face the reality of going down that steep, crappy, trail.

trying to prove that some of the white stuff in the distance is indeed mountains

trying to prove that some of the white stuff in the distance is indeed mountains

Much complaining (and a fair amount of crab walking… it was steep, okay?) was done and it took about as long to go down those 2,000 feet and one mile as it took to go up.  My knees were most definitely shot, and I strategized about my future knee-replacement surgeries as I hobbled the remaining few miles back to the car.  I think by the time we got back to where we had spotted the porcupine, I had devolved into a rambling loon, pretending that I was in the cast of Outlander and calling David a “sassenach” in a terrible accent, despite the fact that he is not, in fact, British.

starting back down from the summit

starting back down from the summit

this picture does not accurately convey how steep this is.  i was maybe possibly crab-walking...

this picture does not accurately convey how steep this is. i was maybe possibly crab-walking…

Somehow I made it down (and somehow David didn’t stab me?), cursed king’s throne, and cursed the Yukon’s steep, crumbly trails.

trying to distract myself from the pain by taking macro shots of the wee alpine flowers

trying to distract myself from the pain by taking macro shots of the wee alpine flowers

The next day I could barely walk, so we thought it’d be a good idea to drive the Haines to Haines road from Haines Junction, Yukon Territory to Haines, Alaska.  Apparently this is a pretty well-known scenic highway and it definitely lived up to expectations.

picture of the bastard king's throne (rightmost peak) from kathleen lake

picture of the bastard king’s throne (rightmost peak) from kathleen lake

The drive from Haines to Haines is around 3 hours, and crosses through various mountain ranges and through some very pretty and varied scenery.  There are also about 500 ground squirrels darting back and forth along the two-lane road in front of your car, so you’ve been warned!

driving from haines to haines

driving from haines to haines

another car shot

another car shot

We made it with nary a murdered squirrel, and basically bummed around for a few hours, exploring Chilkoot (lake) and Chilkat (inlet).  We were also on the hunt for bald eagles.  The border patrol officer informed us that it wasn’t really bald eagle season yet (also informed us that it was Sunday when it was Saturday), but we still managed to spot a few (I think 5?) and I repeatedly and pathetically tried to take pictures of them without a telephoto lens 🙂

chilkoot lake

chilkoot lake

After exploring the scenery, paying for things in good ol’ American dollars, and excitedly using the data on our cell phones without exorbitant international fees, we decided to drive back up to the Yukon and say ta-ta for now, Alaska.

chilkat inlet

chilkat inlet

cool snow ledge

cool snow ledge

On our last day the weather finally decided to be uncooperative and we hiked the Sheep Creek trail in the fog and rain, but the pictures are pretty sad in comparison to the other trip pictures so I won’t post them here. Plus, we saw NARY A SHEEP…womp womp.  At least I got to use the word “nary” twice in one post.

can you see the eagle!?!

can you see the eagle!?!

THERE HE IS!

THERE HE IS!

The End.

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