Updated: Jun 19, 2022
We decided to stay a total of four nights at Conrad’s Campground, mainly because we were really enjoying the views and the weather, but the thought of having a complete do-nothing day was also very appealing. After a down day, we ventured out to the small town of Carcross. Originally called Caribou Crossing due to large herds that crossed the narrows between the Bennett and Nares lakes. The name was changed due to confusion of mail services between the multiple Caribou Crossings in Alaska, British Columbia and the Klondike. I’m guessing the Caribou didn’t like the new name so much as we didn’t see any in the area.
Carcross was a major stop on the White Pass & Yukon railroad, in the early days people and goods were transferred from rail to paddle-wheelers here. We saw the remnants of one of the paddle-wheelers, the SS Tutshi and read its sad story. The local community raised money and donated their time to do a complete restoration, they used only the tools and techniques from when she was originally built so it took a few years. With just about a month to go before completion, a fire started and burned over 85% of the ship, it was such a blow to the community that there has been no interest in starting the restoration again.
Other points of interest in CarCross were the oldest continuously running business in the Yukon (Matthew Watson General Store), the world’s smallest desert and a cute little steam engine, the Duchess which was used in the early 20th century to connect tourists between Taku City on Tagish Lake and the scenic lake town of Atlin. It was only a two-mile journey, but apparently very steep as sometimes the passengers had to get out and push.
We decided to do a quick overnight near Whitehorse and do our exploring of that town on our way back down. Continuing west on the Alaska highway, as we were getting closer to Haines Junction, we started seeing the Kluane Range and the outer portion of the Saint Elias Mountains. The front range of the Kluanes are a chain of almost uninterrupted 8,000 ft peaks. The Saint Elias Mountains contain peaks ranging from 15,000 ft to Canadas largest peak, Mt. Logan at 19,545 ft. We could only see a couple of the 15,000+ peaks from the road (Mt. Kennedy and Mt. Hubbard), but the highway follows the Kluane front range to the Kluane Icefields which made for amazing and awesome views for the remainder of day.
Just west of the Kluane Icefields, the highway runs parrel with Kluane Lake, the largest lake in the Yukon at approximately 154 square miles. Our next stop was at Congdon Creek campground, situated on Kluane Lake and which had magnificent views of the Kluane Icefields on one side and the Ruby Mountains on the other. This campground is big time bear country, so much so that the people camping in tents are required to setup within an electric fence. The bears use Congdon creek as their corridor from the mountains down to the lake. While we did see signs of bear activity (claw scratches and bark removed from back scratching/marking), we fortunately did not encounter any bears. Again, the late spring came into play as there wasn’t anything around for them to eat yet.
We met a couple from Arizona here who were doing their 8th trip up to Alaska and who were a wealth of information. We wound up spending a lot of time talking with them and they provided us with lots of helpful tips and tricks, along with some of their favorite places to visit and things to see. It’s always nice to hear from folks who have a lot of experience doing the thing you are doing for the first time.
I had hoped to have a no-travel day on my birthday, but the cold and rainy weather had returned, so we went back to our pattern of keep moving in hopes of better weather elsewhere. My birthday morning started out mostly sunny and although we didn’t have a lot of miles to do, we had learned from the Arizona couple that we could expect a pretty rough road once we got about 30 miles west of the campground. We found the frost heaves weren’t too bad, since you can just go over them slowly, but the potholes and what we decided to call canyons were a challenge. Since there is so little traffic on the highway, you can use both sides of the road to go around the worst parts and of course, going slow is the key. Lola really had the worst of it since she’s not up on a seat like we are. I had made her a platform a few days before, hoping she would take to it prior to getting to the rough road, but she was very unhappy with the change, so we went back to her original palace design.
Between the road conditions and the weather turning back to cold and showery, we were all glad to pull into Snag Junction Campground, which is 33 miles from the US border. I tended to a roaring fire while Conrad made a delicious Filet Mignon dinner and Lola kept a close eye on the local chipmunks. I would have liked a slice of dark, rich chocolate cake for my birthday, but I had to make do with some divine 100% cocoa chocolate that Peter and Andrea had sent me before we left for our trip. It was a different sort of birthday from any I’d had before, but a very enjoyable one.