Yukon Diaries: Keno 2016

“And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?”

-Elizabeth Bishop, “Questions of Travel”

Yet another year has rolled around and I have still not updated you, friends and fam, with last years adventures! The passage of time and daily life over the past few months has somewhat blurred my memory of last summer, tinging it orange with a warm glow like the flaming sunset Michael and I got to witness in Keno at 11:35 at night. As such, I’ll have to keep the dialogue short and let my snapshots tell you the story.

20th July, 2016

As per usual during my hectic 6-days-a-week work schedule, we squeezed out every inch of free time I had, taking advantage of the late solstice sun, and left straight after work was finished. The familiar scenery of the Klondike Highway and the Silver Trail flashed through the window screen until we reached the Mayo gas station, then from there it was alien territory to me.

The wide, sweeping landscape was bathed in sunlight, and so was the little town of Keno, all shiny and nestled away at the base of the hill like a little gold nugget.

The tiny building on the right was faced with bright copper tiles that reflected the blinding sun.

This church is actually a library. It’s such a shame I didn’t get a chance to go in–although I’ve heard it on good authority that it’s well worth it if you can!

After a quick drive through town (and I mean quick!) we snaked our way up the gravelly, pot-holed road to the dome.

The red sun and barren hills made us feel as if we were on Mars.

As the brightest rays of sun died down, we followed an overgrown dirt road away from the main peak and found ourselves a spot for the night.

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21st July, 2016

The next day dawned with grey and heavy skies, a moody compliment to the dramatic landscape.

The textures of the mountains and scrabbly rock was gorgeous.

Fireweed blooms

Although we enjoyed our brief getaway and hike, the end of the day and the heavier clouds were edging in so we made some hot lunch on the camp stove, took one last look at the moody view before the curtains of rain enclosed the town, and headed back to dodge.

Very different light than the previous night

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Yukon Diaries: Tombstone Mountains… Again

“Late last night, I lost track of time and I knew I was waiting for the sun to rise…” Snowmine, Columbus

Perhaps my title is misleading. I am writing another post about the Tombstones Mountains – and trust me, I could do a million posts on this beautiful place – but this visit actually occurred earlier in the summer. A week or so before the helicopter trip, Michael and I realized how quickly our time in the Yukon was running out and made our escape to the mountains again – this time for more than an afternoon!

19th August, 2015

We hit the road as soon as we finished work with a car packed full of gear, eager to escape town. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to Snowmine or Bombay Bicycle Club without thinking of that drive, those mountains, and Michael. One of the great things about Tombstones Territorial Park is that you can camp anywhere. With the campground being full and not really wanting to share our experience of the mountains with other people, we kept driving and found a great little spot just off the road.

One of my favourite sections of the park. This part of the road is where the valley really opens up before you.
One of my favourite sections of the park. This part of the road is where the valley really opens up before you.

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The skies became more ominous the further into the park we got. We should have known there would be snow!
The skies became more ominous the further into the park we got. The way the clouds closed behind us like a curtain was uncanny!

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20th August, 2015

It snowed overnight, though thankfully not where we were and not where we hiked. It was a chilly wake-up though. After a 5-star breakfast (who knew camping food could be so gourmet!?) we drove to a pull out near our mountain, Mt Adney. The journey began with bush-wacking through the willows and downy, swampy flats. Then began the gentler incline up the first ridge. It didn’t matter how many times you looked back at the view unfolding behind you, it was sublime every time. From that first ridge we climbed up to the second and had lunch on a flat spot near the peak. Let me just pause and say that I do not have much hiking experience. Though I am skinny, I am definitely not fit, and as I found out that day, I’m a little afraid of heights. I got close to the top of the peak, but absolutely freaked out on the scrambley cliff. Michael climbed to the top and took some gorgeous shots of the view then patiently guided me back down the scary cliff. This mountain was tough for me, but the immense feeling of accomplishment I found when I got to the top (or as close as I dared) was so rewarding. I’m hooked now! To add to that, the view was just stunning – there’s no words adequate to describe the beauty. We made our way back down the mountain (much more quickly than the way up!), pausing to collect some of the unique purple stones, then kept driving to the edge of the park to check out the views.

You can see the snow on the mountains in the distance to the left.
You can see the snow on the distant mountains to the left.

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It doesn't take long to warm up!
It doesn’t take long to warm up!

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View from the first ridge
View from the first ridge. Photo: Michael Maclean
From Michael's film camera
From Michael’s film camera
This photo reminds me of Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer Above the Sea Fog (1818) - fitting in its association with the sublime.
This photo reminds me of Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above the Sea Fog (1818) – fitting in its association with the sublime.
Michael realizing how crazy and steep the drop from that cliff is!
Michael realizing how crazy and steep the drop from that cliff is!
Photo: Michael Maclean
Photo: Michael Maclean

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I'm not sure of the name of that range, but the array of shades is quite stunning.
The edge of the park. I’m not sure of the name of that range, but the array of shades is quite stunning.
I got my cheesy sign picture!
I got my cheesy sign picture!

21st August, 2015

Our last morning dawned with warm sunshine, making it even harder to fathom going back to reality. We had one last gourmet camp-stove breakfast and packed up, then drove to our next mountain: Goldensides. This mountain is considerably easier; for starters, there’s a pathway (Mt Adney was back-country hiking) and you drive a fair way up to get to the opening of the trail. On a sunshiney day like we had, you can see why it’s named Goldensides. All the Fall colours were out, with sun highlighting gold, burgundy, russet, and the last green vestiges of summer. Some wildlife made their appearances, including an eagle chasing a smaller bird and some happy sunbathing marmots. We hiked to the end of the short trail, enjoyed a moment there, then made a final stop-in at the visitor centre on the way home.

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Yukon Diaries: The Orchid Trail

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Last Monday I went on a mini-hike in West Dawson to check out the Orchid Trail. These boreal orchids — Spotted Lady Slippers (Cypripedium Guttatum) — grow in the deciduous forest area bordering the road to Sunnydale and only bloom for a few days.

Spotted Lady Slipper

A creepy looking Balsam Poplar.
Yukon Lupine

Yukon Lupine, Yukon Willow, Spotted Lady Slipper, Wild Rose