Friday, June 12, 2015

Kluane Provincial Park

June 12 - Dezadeash Lake, Kluane Provincial park, western Yukon, on the edge of the St. Elias Mountain range.

first of all, it's not, The Yukon, or Yukon Territories anymore. in recent times the name has been officially changed to Yukon- a real province like all the others. We have washed up on the shore of western Yukon at the foot of the massive St. Elias Range topped with some of the largest ice caps on the continent after a long overland voyage across British Columbia. We can move no further west, as the alpine ramparts block further progress and we must follow the glacial valley north in order to reach Alaska from here. South is Haines, and we can see along the mountain ridge almost all the way to the sea from here.

There are almost no large birds to observe as they must have migrated either north or south from here and will not return until the Salmon run in a few months. There are Mosquitos, but the wind and cool temperatures have kept them well under control. The forest and meadows are carpeted with lush wild flowers , lupine, wild rose, red and yellow paintbrush, and a few smaller varieties we have not identified. Along the hiking trails and lake shores are a wide variety of fresh animal scat and lots of large hoofed prints - like woodland caribou.

Wispy clouds shroud the middle elevations, leaving the steep lower forest slopes, and upper snowy ramparts free of the thick gauze. This is what passes for a clear day here, as it is not raining and the entire sky is not ping pong ball grey. Small songbirds fly by, as almost a second thought of the wind, like they are passengers on a speeding freight train, rather then individually minded creatures with a locomotion plan.

We are intending to almost circumnavigate the St. Elias Mountain Range over the next two weeks. this range is the largest international contiguous protected land mass in the world, and as such has earned the "World Heritage Site" distinction. At it's center, the range is a swarm of interconnected ice fields and glaciers. On the eastern flank where we now find ourselves, there is a massive alluvial plain rising out of the marshes and ending at the snow capped mountain ridges- much like a wet version of the eastern Sierras. Today as we climbed up to the foot of an extinct smaller glacier, now really just a large fan of scree spilling out of a gash in the mountainside Diane spots a large porcupine nibbling on tender shoots of mountain aspen. The animal is about the size of a small beach ball, and when alerted to our approach, he expanded his long quills so he looked like a mountain version of a large sea anemone. After eyeing us carefully, he ambled a slight distance away, and climbed up a stubby tree to continue his nibbling.

While reclining in thrones built of flat stones at the top of the trail, with a commanding view out over Dezadeash Lake, Diane spots a cow moose along the shore of the Lake, grazing knee high in water but easily 75-100 feet off shore. The large beast could be plainly seen, almost 3/4 of a mile away surrounded by the shimmering water of the lake, dipping her whole head under Water to munch, then lifting it dribbling on her high shoulders to look around. The binoculars brought her details in nicely, but of course, I did not have the big lens in my pack, so we settled for a protracted observation through the binoculars. Our first moose of the journey. Hurray.

No comments: