We got an early start to the day, heading out of Whitehorse and heading west towards Haines Junction and eventually Kathleen Lake campground in Kluane National Park. The drive was spectacular, as we headed towards the mountains. Sadly, the weather was not cooperating, and we saw the temperature dip as low as 2C, and as we headed towards the mountains we saw our first signs of snow.
The scenery on the drive was amazing, but there wasn't much in the way of wildlife. I saw one lone elk, and that was about it. Very disappointing. I had really hoped to see a lot of wildlife through this stretch of our trip.
We stopped at a couple of lookout points, and at one stop there was an old log bridge from the early 1900s, build by Sam Magee.
Before long we were at Haines Junction, so we stopped at the Kluane Visitor Centre. The Visitor Centre was amazing, with great displays on the park, the local wildlife and First Nations culture. There was a 25 minute video about the park that was excellent, and really left you wanting to explore the park in a lot more detail than we are going to have time for.
For those that are unfamiliar, I've included a screen shot of the park from Google Maps. It's a huge park - Kluane National Park Reserve was established in 1972, covering 22,013 km2. The park includes the highest mountain in Canada, Mount Logan (5,959 m/19,551 ft) of the Saint Elias Mountains. Mountains and glaciers dominate the park's landscape, covering 83% of its area. The rest of the land in the park is forest and tundra—east of the largest mountains and glaciers. Most of the park requires backcountry access - hiking, skiing, planes - so we were only going to see the very outer edge of it on this trip. But after watching that video, we might have to come back and see more of it.
After leaving the Visitor Centre, we headed south towards the Kathleen Lake Campground in the park. The place was deserted - maybe two or three other groups - so we had our pick of the excellent wooded sites.
We got set up and fortunately the rain slowed down. We went back out for a bit of a drive, and headed to a trailhead to do a short hike. We did part of the Auriol Trail, which wound through the boreal forest. The scenery was again amazing, with the fall colours starting to really pop.
There were no animal sightings other than the odd red squirrel. There were lots of really cool mushrooms, a creek crossing, some nice viewpoints and snow. End of August and it was snowing on us. We didn't do the full loop, and the trail description I had didn't really help us a lot. So we ended up not getting to the point on the trail I was hoping to see. Another time... hopefully.
After the hike, we stopped at Kathleen Lake to enjoy the view. The lake sits down at the bottom of the mountains, and with the colour of the changing leaves and the snow on the mountains, the view was breathtaking.
We headed back to the campsite and shared a big spaghetti dinner with Dave and Linda. After dinner, we tried to make a fire but the rain started up again, forcing us back inside for an early night.