Jan 01, 2019
The Donjek trek is not only a hiking adventure, it’s also an experience where one learns how to read the land, interprets the signs of passing time on the mountains and understands the geomorphological phenomena that take place around the glacier. In fact, for those who are interested, understanding what is happening between the glacier and the terminal moraine is a real challenge! Through our trips around the Donjek Glacier, the terminal area has never looked the same: sometimes a lake is covering the entire zone, sometimes only half, some other times the lake is completely gone and reveals a fast-flowing creek digging its way through gravel and ice, right at the snout of the glacier… Two river beds are visible exiting the terminal lake area, one being 15m higher (altitude) than the other, we have seen both flow at different times.
In an effort to better understand what’s going on, we have contacted a team of glaciologist who have worked around the Donjek Glacier in the past and have shared with them our observations and photos. They had no idea ice was hiding underneath the gravel at the bottom of the terminal lake… Need less to say this is all fascinating and brings an educative side to the adventure!
Getting closer to the glacier...
Looking at the 6km wide ice wall of the Donjek Glacier, from the terminal moraine.
The terminal lake of the Donjek Glacier.
Dec 18, 2018
We hiked up Hoge Pass the next day, feeling that the weather was about to change. The clouds were breaking up, allowing us to see the magnificent view on the mountains in the heart of the park. At the end of the day, once we reached camp in the middle of the huge Donjek River valley, the Sun was shining and we spread all our wet and damp gear out and before sun down everything was dry again!
The next day, day 4, is the day we reached the Donjek Glacier by following the old horse trail through the forest and the willow. A kilometer or so before reaching the front of the glacier, as we were crossing a small creek bed, we spotted a grizzly bear about 50 meters away from us, sitting down in berry bushes. It was starring at us saying “don’t come any closer”! We cautiously walked around and left the area as quick as possible.
Our heart rates had just come back to normal when we saw a group of four grizzly bears, crossing the dry river bed coming out of the old terminal lake of the glacier. It was a female and her three cubs (probably 2 years old). Luckily for us, we were downwind from them so they did not pick up on our presence until they were far away. By then we had a chance to leave the area without disturbing them, ensuring safety for the group. That was by far the most exciting wildlife observation we had on this backpacking trip!
Camp was not far from where we encountered these bears, and carried away by the excitement of what we just saw and the fact that we made it to the glacier, we came down the hill below camp and went for a swim in the iceberg filled glacial lake!
Dall Sheep showing us the way
Beautiful view from Hoge Pass
Following Hoge Creek
Mama bear and her three cubs
Nice place to go for a swim
Dec 14, 2018
It did not take long for our group of three to become more than strangers in August on our Donjek glacier hike in Kluane National Park. Coming from Quebec, France or the Yukon, we all brought our share of good mood and energy to the group! And that was a good thing because on the first day we had to work together, quickly, to set up camp before the rain hit us. We were in the Burwash Uplands, way past the tree line and the rain that was starting to fall would not stop until the next day at lunch. It’s at times like these that having the right gear is critical to stay dry and warm!
When crossing the tundra the next day, on our way to Burwash Creek, the cold wind sweeping the plateau forced us to keep going to not get cold until we reached shelter in the shrubs. Luckily, the rain stopped then and we could enjoy a well-deserved warm lunch!
As we were approaching camp and the border of Kluane National Park, we saw a wolf on the other side of Burwash Creek. It did not seem to mind our presence (we were about a kilometer away from it) and was headed straight to where our camp was. Unfortunately, we did not see it past this observation, but once we got to camp, we understood why the wolf was coming this way: there were Dall sheep everywhere in the area, above camp in the rock outcrops, across the river, further up the mountain towards Hoge Pass. This was clearly there home and we were just passing by!
On the old minig road
Our first encounter of the trek! Grizzly bear in the Burwash Uplands.
Dall sheep above camp
Sep 25, 2018
We know have 6 days to get to Little Salmon Village on the shore of the Yukon River. Rapids, wildlife watching, beautiful camping spot and good food are part of the plans!
The Big Salmon River, a paradise for Nature and wildlife lovers!
Our first day on the river is mostly spent avoiding log jams and sweepers which are numerous at the start of the river. It has been a while since we used our canoe skills and it’s quite fun to be reusing them on such a sweet little river! We stopped twice along the way to check out our way through dead trees and lucky us we didn’t have any portage to do! With all the stuff we took with us it would have been a lot of work to take everything out and put everything back in!
We get lucky with wildlife as well. The first moose we see is right in the middle of the river (which is 20m wide at that point), as soon as he sees us he freezes and watches us going down the river which carries us right his way… Great observation until he realises that we’re getting closes and closer and run away in the forest when we get 20m away from him. This first young male will be the first of eight moose that we will be seeing along the river.
Of course, when you leave on river trip knowing that is supposed to be great for wildlife your expectations are high, but we were not disappointed! On top of the moose, we also saw four lynxes, a black bear, stone sheep, beavers and a bunch of ducks often with their ducklings!
After we got out of the messy upper part of the river, the river become a mix of fast water crossing pebbles banks, offering great views on the mountains around and slower parts with large meanders which take us through the boreal forest with beautiful undergrowth.
Every night we pick our perfect camp spot, with river view of course, and cook gourmet meals, as usual ! Even without customers we like to treat ourselves!
Overall, this paddling trip was a great experience and a Yukon adventure as we enjoy them, beautiful and simple!
This is what the upper part looked like
This young moose hold that pose for almost a minute before running away!
Sunny evening on the Big Salmon
Floating down the river, taking our time...
Breakfast the most important meal of the day!
Sep 11, 2018
Of course, getting in bed at 3am we didn’t leave the camp before noon the next day. But who cares days are long in the Yukon and we don’t have much paddling to do today!
From Quiet Lake to the start of the Big Salmon crossing Sandy Lake and Big Salmon Lake
After getting ready, we leave our camp leaving Simon behind ho will be fishing the whole day before getting back to Whitehorse. Right from the start we are surprised by the size of the river, it’s really small and way easier to look for wildlife than when paddling the Yukon River!
Let’s face it the weather is not that great, but we are so excited to start our little adventure that we don’t care that much. The only thing we’re hoping is that the lakes are easy to cross… Sandy lake is small, and we cross it without problem, Big Salmon lake is a bit bigger and rain is all over us, wind is blowing lucky us quite in the right direction! After passing a tip we end up with the wind on the side, the waves are big, and the water is getting in! That’s when we decide to stop for a lunch on the shore, finding on old tree to protect us for the rain and the wind before crossing the end of the lake.
After lunch, the weather is getting better and we can finally cross the end of the lake and get to the Big Salmon. It’s not easy to find the start of the river it is small and the high grass around it makes it hard to see it. But we finally found it!
Getting ready to leave our first camp on Quiet Lake
Just few minutes after leaving Quiet Lake
Crossing Sandy Lake and enjoying the rain!
The weather is not better on Big Salmon Lake!
Finally we're down with the lakes, let's start paddling the river!