Kluane, Part Two

Ten rainy days kept us from scaling mountain peaks but we hiked lakeshores, forests, rock glaciers and canyons. Instead of focusing on mountain views we had the opportunity to observe the less heralded but equally exciting side of Kluane. The large aspen tortrix have been busy consuming balsam poplars in the south end of Kluane, dangling on threads from branches, waiting for unsuspecting faces to cling to. At one point I turned to John and he pointed out a dozen worms on my pants and another half dozen in my hair and neck. It is at these times when I can’t help but think, “Nature is gross.” My girly side comes out. Having lunch beside a creek at the base of Mount Barker we watched two ants hauling away an apen tortrix, still alive and losing the fight.

Despite the rain obscuring the mountains and glaciers Kluane is known for, we found plenty of beauty. The pyrola was blooming, as were the ladyslippers, monkshood, larkspur and arnica. Fledgling birds fluttered everywhere. A spotted sandpiper chick tried hopelessly to hide in the rocks, a juvenile white-crowned sparrow stood beneath a wild rose bush flapping wings and peeping for its parent to bring food. We found a Wilson’s warbler nest tucked beneath a tuft of grasses, at least three newly hatched chicks inside, naked and blind. Northern harriers and red-tailed hawks and sharp-shinned hawks dominated the skies. Perhaps most exciting of all, if you’re a birder, on Kluane Lake (just outside park boundaries) were Caspian terns, uncommon in the Yukon.

Lynx abounded, as well as grizzlies. A porcupine waddled away from us while a pine marten, curious and angry, stomped its feet and growled at us.

In the end we didn’t really care that we couldn’t see the mountains. The rain forced us to slow down since we canceled our grand ambitions for scaling peaks and long distance backpacking. Instead, we took our time sauntering down trails and frolicking in alpine meadows. We had time to sniff the wildflowers, watch the birds and watch wilderness exist as it does.