Sunday, 31 July 2016

Golden Circle: The Climax - Kluane Icefields

The most epic event of our 10 day trip was our flight over the Kluane icefields in a ski plane (with Icefield Discovery) and landing on the largest non-polar icefield in the world.  It was an experience beyond words, seeing range after range of these spectacular mountains from the plane and watching the huge glaciers merge and move through them.  It was not an experience that we could have achieved without the flight - the landing on the pristine ice field, face to face with Mt. Logan with not a soul around was awe-inspiring.  I had a lump in my throat throughout the 90 minute flight - take a look for yourself...

The merging of the two glaciers - made me feel small...

Closeup view of the mountains from the plane


Seeing these mountains and glaciers from the sky reminded me of the paintings of Lawren Harris... 


The glacier flowed around the mountains

Mt. Vancouver

Blue ice caves and crevasses

Landing on the icefield facing Mt. Logan


Landscape of nothing but snow and ice...and mountains 

Closeup of the glacial ponds and creavasses

This gives a sense of proportion - size of crevasses beside the mountains

The glacier pushing towards the lake 


Where the glacier flows into the river

  Next: The wrap-up - a day in Kluane National Park

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Golden Circle: the fabulous Haines Highway

After an amazing 3 days in Haines, we continued on the third and final leg of the Golden Circle up the Haines Highway back to the Yukon.  The magnificent mountains continued to dominate both sides of the road - it was another spectacular drive.  We made our first stop just shortly out of Haines at the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve.  There were a few eagles in flight but nothing close up as one would expect in the fall when apparently thousands of eagles congregate here - probably a spectacle worth a trip in itself.  Haines has tour operators offering wildlife viewing raft trips up the Chilkat river to see bears and eagles by the river bank, likely worth the price during the salmon run.

It didn't take us long to cross back into Canada and one of the first sights in the Yukon to stop for was the jade green Million Dollar Falls, just a short walk from the parking lot.  It was spring and the rush of water down the cliff into a narrow canyon was quite impressive.  As we entered Kluane National Park territory, we stopped at the rock glacier which could be reached by a short hike through the forest although the climb up was quite steep.  Other than seeing the unique rock glacier, we also got a panoramic view of nearby Dazadeash Lake.  

Finally, our last stop - Haines Junction.  It is nothing like Haines - hardly little more than a tourist service area at the junction of the Haines Road and the Alaskan Highway with a mishmash of eateries, motels, gas stations, outdoor adventure operators and a prominent liquor store.  We stopped at the one and only bakery every day we were in town.  But it is an important gateway to a vast and dramatic wilderness area which we saw only a small part of in our ten days in the area.  

Haines Road

From one of several viewing platforms at the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve

A raft of tourists looking for wildlife by the river

Magnificent mountains on both sides of the road
Red clover in bloom
Million Dollar Falls

The Rock Glacier

Growing out of the rocks

Dezadeash Lake on the edge of Kluane National Park

Watch out for the next post:  The awesome Kluane Icefields!

Monday, 18 July 2016

Golden Circle: Down the fjord

While Haines is on the Golden Circle route, Juneau isn't.  Taking the fast ferry to Juneau was a side trip recommended as a quick way to see Juneau, a key cruise ship stop famous for its Mendenhall Glacier and at the same time, a spectacular trip down the Lynn Canal, North America's deepest fjord at 2,000 feet and one of the deepest and longest in the world.  The packaged day trip on the fast ferry takes 40 passengers collected from Skagway and Haines down the inside passage to Juneau and back in 11 hours, including a bus trip to the glacier.

The catamaran ride turned out to be the most interesting part of the trip as the mountains on both sides of the fjord provided a continuous splendorous backdrop along the route, coupled with sightings of wildlife and the perpetual hope of seeing a whale.  We did see a few, at least one breach, but I was not close enough (or fast enough!) for pictures.  Then of course there was a permanent colony of sea lions that would assure at least a few decent closeups of a very photogenic species.

Juneau the town was anti-climactic, in spite of the fact that it is the Alaska state capital - the same cruise port shops and pubs greeted us.  It was too hot to trudge into the town centre to see the government buildings.  The highlight of the Juneau visit was the lunch of Alaskan King Crab - fresh, sweet and delicious!  And then of course there is the Mendenhall Glacier, an impressive tongue of ice which still sadly reminded us of climate change with its retreat. It was a pleasant return to peaceful Haines harbour at the end of the day.

Spectacular scenery all along the Lynn Canal

Colony of sea lions along the way

Family harmony?

Eagle Glacier along the Lynn Canal

Whale spouting

Fresh, delicious Alaskan king crab lunch was the highlight of the Juneau visit


Mendenhall Glacier

Nugget Falls, before the retreat of the Mendenhall glacier, used to fall directly onto the glacier.  Now it falls into Mendenhall Lake at the foot of the glacier.

The historic Eldred Rock Lighthouse, the last of the ten lighthouses built in Alaska between 1902 and 1906

Haines Harbour at dusk (yes, it was still bright at dusk as it was four days before the summer solstice, the longest day of the year)

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Golden Circle: Haines, continued

After the strenuous hike up to the Mt. Riley summit, we took a break the following day and did a short hike to Battery Point Park for a relaxing picnic by the beach front.  The trail head was a short drive from town and the beach, easily accessible after a 20 minute hike through the rain forest, gave yet more panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.  

Haines is situated in between two inlets, Chilkat and Chilkoot.  Chilkat is renowned for its Bald Eagle Reserve where American bald eagles congregate in the fall.  We visited on our way up the Haines Highway but did not see any eagles close enough to photograph.  The Chilkoot River is renowned for its salmon run and the bears and eagles feeding on the salmon.  But we were too early for that too. So I resigned myself to photographing a few eagles that happened to be chilling around the Chilkoot river.  The beauty of the landscape continues to astound, wherever we look.  Haines is truly amazing.

The view from Battery Point Park

Battery Point panorama

The magical rain forest

Spring flowers at Battery Point

Haines streetscape

The Chilkoot River - lots of salmon at the right time

View along the Chilkoot

Bald eagle watching out for dinner high up on a tree

This old eagle is called the "Harbourmaster" - it has a permanent perch atop the tallest tree overlooking the harbour.

Haines Harbour
Next post:  Fast ferry to Juneau