Kluane, Yukon / Tatshenshini-Alsek, British Columbia

About two hours west of Whitehorse is Haines Junction, the gateway to the St. Elias mountains, the world’s highest coastal mountain range. The whole chain is divided into four parks: Kluane (Yukon), Tatshenshini-Alsek (BC), and Wrangell-St. Elias and Glacier Bay (both in Alaska), all of which combined form a UNESCO world heritage site. The Himalayas of North America, so to speak, minus the fame — I admit I hadn’t even heard of this place until this trip.

The tallest mountain in Canada is Mount Logan (a whopping 5250m), deep inside Kluane National Park and Reserve. Without a helicopter or any serious mountaineering chops though, it’s neither accessible nor visible. But does it matter? Just look at this landscape!

Kathleen Lake and King's Throne, Kluane NPR

Kathleen Lake and King’s Throne, Kluane NPR

Slowing down our pace for the remainder of the trip and now down to just three of us, we based ourselves at a comfortable apartment in Haines Junction, taking our time doing several hikes in Kluane and scenic drives south to Tatshenshini-Alsek (the oft-forgotten northwestern corner of British Columbia with no apparent permanent population) and north to Kluane Lake, with nobody around except the occasional grizzly bear or herd of mountain sheep. Sure, we could have done harder or longer hikes or taken a sightseeing flight, and crossing the border in either direction to Alaska wasn’t an option due to the pandemic, but with glaciers, peaks, rivers, lakes, and vibrant fall colours everywhere already — in a very different combination than that of the Dempster — we had more than enough to take in.

You know how after a fair amount of travel in Europe, you get church fatigue from seeing all the beautiful cathedrals, or the same with temple fatigue in Asia?  Yeah, by the end of the week, we had a little of that, except with scenery.  Hard to imagine, looking back at these photos!

To Whitehorse residents, this is all weekend trip material. (Or perhaps even a post-work evening hike in the height of the summer, when the days are long!) What Whistler is to Vancouver, Kluane is to Whitehorse — and I thought we were spoiled down south! You get scenery as majestic as Banff up here, minus the crowds. It’s all pristine and remarkably accessible.

The Dempster and Dawson have been on my bucket list for awhile, but I’m certain I would not have thought to come up to the Yukon this year if it weren’t for current circumstances — I don’t know how long I’d put it off until, given my habit to look abroad so often. And I never even would have thought of Kluane if it weren’t for Devin and Yumi. But look where we are now: these two weeks were incredible, I’d love to come back, and I can’t fathom why (pre-pandemic) I don’t hear of the Yukon discussed as a travel option as much as other parts of Canada.

We’re all going to be stuck in Canada for awhile, and some regions, provinces and territories are closed off to others. Even so, we’re incredibly lucky with what’s available to us to explore, and we’ve got it all to ourselves while our outer borders are still closed. Mwahahaha. Taken with covid responsibility, it’s a hell of an opportunity for us to enjoy exclusively while getting to know the country better.

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