Rain seems to be the constant this summer but it does make for a dramatic landscape. Never have we seen hillsides so white with blooming heather before. We disturbed a pair of willets who became vocal and agitated when we unexpectedly approached either their nest or young. We tried to find them but after a few moments we began to feel bad for disturbing the hard working parents circling around us, trying all they could to protect their young. We moved off and poked at wolf scat filled with fur and little bones and photographed some of the many blooming wildflowers. Another typical day for us. Aimless wandering. Going outside just to see what we might discover.
It was another rainy weekend in Tat-Alsek Provincial Park but even in the rain and cloud, it is magical. Semipalmated plovers chirped at my approach, trying to lead me away from their nests. Willow ptarmigan flew out of the brush and ran after me, protecting their young. And of course, the wildflowers were more colourful than ever.
We chose an old trail along the Skagway Road and followed it just to see where it might lead us.
A few creek crossings and several hundred metres of elevation climbed and we ended up in a gorgeous, sprawling alpine complete with mountain goats, glaciers, lakes and wildflowers, including the most wonderful fragrant heather.
I think the best kind of hiking is the kind you can’t anticipate where you might end up. One where distance and time does not matter. it’s all about discovery and time well spent.
Perhaps our greatest find of the day was two western toads, considered a species of concern and also one of the few amphibians that live in the alpine. A first for us in the north.
Spent two days on a leisurely backpack to Canada Creek near the toe of Kaskawulsh Glacier. Normally, it would have been a straight forward easy one day hike in but this was a work trip so our pace considerably slower, work getting in the way.
I was hiking with two coworkers and it was an unbelievably strange feeling to be in the backcountry with someone other than John. I haven’t been in the woods with anyone but John in almost ten years. I am accustomed to hiking alone or with John. Hiking with anyone else feels unnatural and wrong.
It was a great trip nonetheless. Lots of wildflowers in bloom. Heard wolf pups yipping across the valley. Followed in the paw prints of large grizzlies. Marvelled at mountains, crossed swollen creeks, napped in the Bullion Dunes and celebrated Summer Solstice while camped on an alluvial fan watching mountain goats feeding in a meadow far above us.
And at Canada Creek, I spent an hour watching a grizzly travel across the river flats in search of food, unconcerned by the backpackers just a few hundred metres away.
To enter the backcountry feels like a homecoming. How I miss the backcountry. Only 10 more weeks of work until we are again unemployed and free to disappear back into the wild.
It’s never wise to silently stalk a snowshoe hare in thick willows when you’re deep in a valley renowned for its healthy population of grizzly bears.
My plans for an overnight trip was thwarted when I happened to stalk the same hare as a grizzly and when we bumped into each other we both happily walked swiftly away from one another.
I had been wandering the willows trying to pick up the faint trail after crossing an expansive alluvial fan when I came across this hare. This is the first year in a long while that I’ve seen snowshoe hares every day. Other people don’t appear to care but I seem to get very excited each time I see one.
And so that is how I met a grizzly out in the A’ay Chu Valley (aka, Slims River East).
In hindsight, I think it was wise I turned back; my autoimmune illness, though currently quiet, I can feel simmering in the background and has me worried about my abilities, especially deep in the backcountry.