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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Day 67: Kluane National Park

The photos say it all. Kluane National Park was amazing! About 150 kms west of Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway, the village of Haines Junction sits on the edge of the park. If you travel north from the village on the A.H. towards Fairbanks, AK, the park lies to your left. You pass magnificent lakes where pairs of trumpeter swans float ephemerally, and above which snow-capped mountains tower. If you travel south from the village on the Haines Highway, the park lies to your right. You pass glaciers beside which Dall Mountain Sheep graze and roadside berry patches where grizzlies lurk and eventually, you reach Alaska.

Over the course of two days we traveled both routes, and a scenic gorge-fest those two days were. Though most of this vast park is inaccessible by road, we felt that we saw enough of it just traveling along its north-south fringe to make us lifelong fans of the Yukon. We got as far as Destruction Bay heading north, saw that police car and the place it was policing, and decided that the Cottonwood Campground just 20 or so kms back on beautiful Kluane Lake would suit us just fine for the night.

A swim in the lake's polar waters was, well...refreshing. The night sky provided aurora borealis magic. And having learned so much about the history of the Alaska Highway while traveling it, the serendipity of passing a large convoy of the original vehicles involved in the highway's construction as we made the journey up to Kluane Lake was not lost on us.

The convoy had been organized to mark the highway's 70th anniversary, and the 200 or so people making the trip in those vintage vehicles were nearing the end of their marathon trek along the length of the Alaska Highway when we passed them. At the excellent cafe at Haines Junction we had bumped into Donna and Bonnie who were part of the support crew of this ambitious trans-Alaska-Yukon-BC road-trip. We had also stocked up on supplies to support our own road-trip in the same cafe - it being the only place to buy a litre of milk within a 200km radius!

We hit the 10,000 km mark in Kluane National Park. Rona also celebrated her birthday. She began her day on the shores of Kluane Lake, YK. She had lunch on a mountain pass in BC, which the Haines Highway briefly traverses as it travels south from Yukon towards Alaska. And she finished the day at the seaside town of Haines, AK over a pint of locally brewed beer and a platter of locally caught fish at the Lighthouse Restaurant. That's one territory, one province, and one state, all in one day. It seemed a fitting way to see in a new year when you're on the road.