We planned for Kluane National Park to be the furthest point north that we’d venture before turning south. Michael had always dreamed of going to Nahanni in the NWT but when he realized that required a float plane, he decided that Kluane was a little more realistic. We were surprised to find out that my mom also dreamed of seeing the Yukon and its rugged wilderness. She signed up to join us for this leg after flying into Whitehorse to meet us.
My mom is a seasoned world traveller who loves adventure but camping has never been her cup of tea. We were genuinely surprised when she agreed to stay in an Otentik with us at the National Park (not sure if she quite knew what she was agreeing to). While the pictures might make an Otentik seem like glamping, I can assure you that it was a rustic camping experience. There were no flush toilets within 20 km and there were a lot of bugs making it hard to be outside in the evenings. Despite the basic nature of the facilities, Kluane’s ambiance and scenery are pretty special and the camp is quirky and fun.
Every night there was a campfire chat hosted by a Parks Canada employee (with free tea or hot chocolate to stay warm). We learned about birds, mountains, moose, grizzlies and the First Nations people who co-manage the park. Kluane is also home to Canada’s highest peak (5,959-metre Mount Logan). It was unfortunately on the other side of the giant park and not visible from where we were at Kathleen Lake – a glacial blue/green lake like those in the Rockies. Michael did a polar plunge into the frigid water (something that he told us he would repeat each day but unsurprisingly did not).
A highlight for me was a river raft tour (which we thought was going to be a motorized zodiac tour) but turned out to be more like a raft floating tour. The girls put paddles in a few times as we floated down the Dezadesh river and admired the scenery. We stopped and made bannock on a small island and the girls found fresh grizzly tracks in the mud. The guide brought a dog along telling us that she’ll be sure to find and alert us to any bears before they come near. We trusted him but I watched the dog sniffing quite carefully. The guide himself was very eccentric telling us about half a dozen different lives that he had lived before becoming a guide (everything from special operations in the British military to teacher to Oxford University student).
We also took a waking tour with Lionel from Belgium – a recent Yukon transplant. We started by driving across a creek in his Toyota Rav 4 then we hiked to Alsek glacier valley. The kids had walking poles and we all jumped over creeks and small streams. Some of us (not naming names) got their feet wet! By the end of the hike, Julie was an expert creek jumper and Isabella was a seasoned pole-vaulter. In a different life, we would have just continued the hike (which veered up a spectacular mountain) but instead we turned around since Julie was approaching her 3 km limit.
Overall we felt humbled to visit this part of the Yukon and so grateful to have experienced it with Mom/Pat/Nan. We know that the kids will have lots of memories from here too. Julie still asks about having bannock again and Isabella asks when we can jump over rivers again!
- 1 big black bear
- 1 grizzly bear: I am not sure what “Kluane has North America’s most genetically diverse grizzly population” means but we were reminded often of this while we were there.
- 1 bat: did not eat enough of those mosquitos
- 1 elk
- 1 Bald Eagle
- Dahl Sheep (specks on a hill that we watched with binoculars)
By the Numbers:
- Total Kilometres: 8100
- Number of visits to Village Bakery in Hains Junction: 3
- Number of Nanaimo bars consumed by Mike at the Village Bakery: 3
- Number of Nights Paige let Isabella sleep on the top bunk: 1 (but I barricaded her with a broom to make she would not roll out)
- Cans of bug spray finished: 2
- Pieces of bannock that Julie ate (they were large): 3