We’ve been on the Alaska Highway for 10 days. Several times a day, we pause and note – ‘Wow, that’s amazing!’ or ‘Look at that!’ Soon after we left Whitehorse, we started to see what appeared to be snow-covered peaks on the horizon. ‘Whoa, what’s that?’ As we approached Haines Junction, we realized the Kluane Range was in our faces. Our jaws dropped. We had to stop!
Literally. Ok, there was a crossroads in town where you had to bear left, turn right, or crash into the mountains that were in your face. According to the staff at the visitor center, these towering peaks were the foothills to the Kluane Mountains, among which are the 15 tallest peaks in Canada, #1 being Mount Logan at 5,959 m (19,551 feet). And although the Kluane National Park is ginormous, the only day hiking trails are right near Haines Junction. So we had to stop!
Fortunately, we don’t plan our trips much, so we can adapt when necessary to follow the wind, or in this case, the rapidly improving weather. Although it was raining at the time, the forecast suddenly changed, calling for clear skies the next day. Let’s hike! That decision brought us to Kathleen Lake Campground at Kluane National Park.
Kathleen Lake is beautiful! Fierce winds wound up, in the process of exorcising the bad, old weather, hinting at the clearing skies to come. We hiked the relatively short trails around and near the lake and were in awe! Not only was the lake itself and the mountains against the shore and off in the distance picturesque, but the roughed up lake and rapidly changing light make for amazing scenery and an overabundance of pix.
One of two primary peaks along the lake is King’s Throne. And yes, from almost anywhere near the lake, the mountain displayed a wide, craggy, ridge-like peak, a giant avalanche-chute stripped bowl and a wide relatively flat spot at the bottom known as the seat that looks like a super king sized throne… The best part is that the King’s Throne hiking trail started from the campground.
We woke early to a slightly chilly day with mostly sunny skies. And we were off to the King’s Throne! The trail started meandering along the lake shore before a series of quick switchbacks in the trees, enabling us to gain elevation rather quickly. We then found ourselves straight up from the base of a giant scree field of broken rock fragments. We lost count at 627 (or was it 628?) switchbacks before emerging onto the seat of the throne. Views of the lake below and the other peaks around did not disappoint.
A trail continued east up the right arm of the seat. Although the trail would eventually take one to the summit, we ooohed and aaahed upon reaching the ridge, looking down into the bowl and over into the next valley and the gorgeous Lake Dezadeash and started our way back down. The increasing winds, visible snow dotted knife edge, unsure footing of the steeper scree and our early season legs indicated a most satisfying end to our hike.
Not much grows in scree. However, at every minor bit of organic material, wildflowers were in bloom! Spring wildflowers are new to us. And on our return trip, we met a wild animal face-to-face in the middle of the trail. Although quite camera shy, we were able to identify markings, body characteristics and movement to later confirm we had met a shy and elusive Canada lynx. Our first!