The beige Parks Canada truck pulls up to our the little rented cabin, ready for loading. Adam and I relocated to Haines Junction yesterday, in preparation of the next leg of my Kluane expedition: canoeing in the south end of the park on Mush and Bates Lakes for 4 days. Canoeing is not a common activity here, as the road in about 28 km, and can be rather rough. But as an Ontario boy whose passion for floating around was sparked early on, I just had to find a way to get in a canoe on this trip, even if just for a few days.
Sean Sheardown, superintendent of Kluane steps out of the truck, offers a hand with our gear, and we are on our way. After almost 60 km south, we turn off the Alaska Highway on Mush Road, and are once again in the park. The first big bump we cross is the high bank of a dry river bed, and it uses all if the free space under the truck to get over. We continue on this rugged and adventurous road for 2.5 hours, crossing rivers at numerous points, hitting muddy stretches, tilting at odd angles here and there. I find myself gripping that little handle above the door a few times as well. What a ride! A massive grizzly stops us in our tracks, and disappears in to the woods before I can get the video camera turned on.
When the rodeo ride finally subsides, we find ourselves pulling onto a beautiful beach, looking out onto a calm and clear Mush Lake. Lined with mountains all around, it’s a canoeing paradise.
As Sean leaves, Adam pulls out lunch, and we kick off this leg our the trip sitting on the beach looking at the red floating vessel that will be carrying our heavy load. What a treat it will be to NOT be carrying our gear on our backs.
Canoeing for an hour into a gentle breeze brings us to a fine gravel point where we break and soak in the sun’s warmth for a while. Feels like I’m on a holiday.
As we board the canoe again to continue our way across Mush Lake, we notice that the wind has reversed direction, and is now pushing at our back and helping us along. How convenient!
The lake ends in shallow, sheltered bay, and we find the portage trail next to the outflowing river mouth. Unlike the Donjek Route that we’ve just left, we find an easy trail. Its only a few minutes hike until we reach the end where the river becomes canoe-able again. Three trips later, including my first canoe portage ever in the Yukon, our gear is loaded back up and ready to go. But we aren’t going anywhere just yet. In front of us is one of the sweetest looking fishing holes I’ve come across, running deep and clear green, and it’s just waiting for a few casts.
Twenty minutes pass and after a few tussles with some spunky grayling that happily returned their lucid homes, I exchange the rod for the paddle and we carry on. Half paddling, half drifting, we round a few bends until we catch a glimpse of the distant mountains lining the back of Bates Lake. Here, the winds is blowing, and we dig our paddles in a little harder.The lake comes into full view now and what a contrast with Mush Lake that we’ve just come through. The feel here is much more raw, rugged, exposed and wild. It’s amazing how two lakes so close together can feel so different. One common element that we are glad to find though is more beaches. Adam and I work our way down the close end of the lake and find a great camping location.
Though the small islands out there are beckoning me to come visit, the strong winds make us stay put for the evening, Maybe I’ll get my chance to do so tomorrow if things calm down. For now, with the day ending, I’ll just relax with a tea and enjoy my new surroundings.