Kluane National Park
Under gray skies we headed north on the Haines Highway into British Columbia and then the Yukon Territory. The Tlingit name for Haines is Deishu which means “End of the Trail.” For us Haines is the beginning of a new part of our adventure. We are leaving Southeast Alaska and heading up to the larger inland part of Alaska.
The Haines Road has some stunning views as it first follows the braided Chilkat River north then climbs into the Chilkat Pass. We spent most of the day traveling on a high plateau with snowcapped mountains everywhere. No towns except for Haines Junction (where we joined the Alaska Highway) and few homes as most of the land is Bald Eagle Preserve, Provincial Park, or National Park. Not a lot of wildlife – a couple of swans nesting in the Twin Lakes area, numerous funny little ground squirrels running across the road, and one ptarmigan. We saw what looked like moose or caribou droppings on the road, but no moose or caribou.
We passed several stunning lakes with snow capped mountains behind them, but the most spectacular part of the trip came as we were getting ready to stop for the day. We arrived at Kluane Lake – the largest lake in the Yukon. It’s an odd lake in that it once drained to the Pacific from its south end, but a glacier left a moraine there, raising the lake level and causing it to drain from its north end – to the Bering Sea. The south end is very flat and covered with glacial “flour” (the fine dirt created as a glacier grinds away rock). As we approached the lake the wind was whipping up the “flour” into quite a dust storm. Since by now we actually had sun (yes, sun), it was quite a sight.
We stopped for the night at Congdon Campground, a government campground on the shore of the lake. In the Yukon, they provide free (dry!) wood at their campgrounds so David split some, and we had an easily started fire to cook steak, zucchini and onions, and potatoes.
Congdon Campground Review: 39 mostly-level sites with fire rings and picnic tables. Pit toilets and hand pump for water. Water advisement says: Boil water for 10 minutes before drinking. All sites are well-spaced with vegetation between. Five are directly on the lake. On the night we spent there, we were happy to have a site away from the water as the wind was blowing too hard to make those sites comfortable for sitting outside. Fee for night: $12 Canadian.