Day 103 - Friday, July 12 - Milepost 7305 - Birdcount 275 - Chilkat Pass, British Columbia
(BF's Journal). We say farewell to Alaska and climb the Chilkat Pass out of Haines and into British Columbia, the same pass many gold miners took a hundred years ago. This pass is a gradual climb, but it ascends higher than White Pass in Skagway. Chilkat Pass is true alpine country, treeless, windy and cool. Shari sees it as desolate; I see it as fascinating. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Gray, but clear skies illuminate distant mountains, bare but for several inches of a thick mat of miniature plants, many yellow, pink and white flowers. The mountains pitch and toss in rolling curves visible for 50+ miles. Human life is non-existent except for a few travelers; animal life is sparse - a few birds and omnipresent Arctic Ground Squirrels.
At a rest stop on the crest of Chilkat Pass, I trick a squirrel into posing for me. I plant a few bread crumbs in front of a cluster of yellow flowers, adjust my tripod and telephoto lens and wait. Within a few minutes a ground squirrel takes the bait and sits prettily for my photographs. After twenty miles of flat highlands, we pass into another Canadian province, the Yukon Territory, and soon stop when we find a pretty campsite at the edge of Dezadeash Lake. A few feet from shore, our view of the large gray lake extends to the surrounding mountains, snow capped on one end and smoothly rounded and greenish gray on the other. The misty smooth mountains remind me of a painting hanging in the commons area of my college dormitory. The artist abstractly sketched reclining nudes with voluptuous curves into a lulling landscape. Outside the chilly air requires an overcoat and almost gloves and even the warmth of a pine charged fire is lost to the constant winds. Inside the motor home, the wind whistles and rocks us on our springs. Friday, this date night is at Sharis Restaurant since we have not passed a building, much less at town, since we left Haines 118 miles ago.
(SF's Journal). As I try to write the journal tonight I cannot find words. I have not felt especially comfortable at todays scenery. The Milespost states that Haines Highway is "noted for its grandeur and variety of alpine scenery" but I find it barren and threatening. We climbed to almost 3500 feet at Chilkat Pass this morning and are again above tree level. The wind is strong and cold and there is not much plant or animal life. The mountains are barren except at the pass level where long grasses and a very few wild flowers grow. Bert still has it in his craw to see a Rock Ptarmigan and I think no self-respecting bird would live in this barren land. He insists it would so spends the better part of 45 minutes searching for one at a rest area. I end up talking to a couple from Minnesota on their way home. They tell me there is road construction between Haines Junction and Whitehorse. (We did not run into that in May.) They also were advised by AAA to carry two spare tires if they intended to take the Cassiar Highway since it is very rough. Another conflicting report. The redeeming quality of todays road is it allows us to bypass the steep ascent out of Skagway. Bert wants to camp in the boonies tonight and picks Dezadeash Lake Campground, a primitive government camp on the lake with 20 level sites, pit toilets, no water, but picnic tables and free firewood. The highlight of the day is a float plane landing on the lake and delivering gear for a group that intends to take a float trip down a river to the ocean. As I write this the only sound is the constant whistling of the strong wind: creepy cold harsh howl trying to get into R TENT so much that we rock. I think sleep will elude me tonight as I wait for morning to arrive.
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