Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pepper spray and bells

Haines Junction, a town in the Yukon, population 800, surrounded by the Kluane National Park.  The park is jointly managed by the Canadian Park System, and the local First Nation tribe.  First Nation is the term used in Canada to identify the tribal nations. 

We now have the day to hike, and learn about the park.  Lots of warnings about bears, and hand outs on bear awareness.  So we decided to carry bear spray, which is pepper spray, and wearing a bear bell.  We are told the bell warns the bear that you are present so that the bear, supposedly goes the other way.  I worry the bear might think I'm calling him to dinner. 

Be bear aware!  That means, apparently, stay calm even if the bear is charging you.  Talk nicely, the bear might turn away.  So I ask you, could you talk nicely, stay calm, while a large bear is charging at you?  After looking tall and talking calmly to the bear, the advice is to stand there,  remain standing where you are. Should the bear charge hold your ground, don't flinch, and wait till the bear maybe veers off and leaves. As a last resort fight fiercly if the bear in determined to have fresh road kill, or play dead, if you aren't already.

We took the hike anyway.  Much moose and bear scat along the trail. No worries until we saw bear prints in the mud. Still, hard to imagine any concern as others had hiked up the trail not too long before us. A couple of miles up the King's Throne trail, elevation gains huffing and puffing. Shortly we found ourselves above tree line, now hiking on rock rubble with any semblance of a trail intermittently hidden by snow. We fought on as views into the valley became more expansive and vistas of Lake Kathleen spread across the horizon until the lake as well began to shrink in size.

A few hundred yards further we'd totally lost the trail and the only clear path was a straight climb up the rock scrabble at a rather steep grade. Sounded like a fine time for a sit, some snacks and time to meditate the vista across the Kluane Range.

Back in Haines Junction, have earned our calories, we stopped in at the local version Tasty Freeze for a well deserved double cone. Finally, a day warm enough for ice cream!

Stranded in town, a road junction really, we washed up, changed, short nap and it was time for the evening's entertainment.  Friday, and its salmon BBQ night at The Village Bakery along with a live acoustic group.  Alaskan IPA, BBQ salmon, an assortment of salads and bread, live music and a fully lit sky. Not much missing in this picture. If this is stranded we're going back for more! (At the same time the Alaskan Highway was cut by a mud slide west of Haines Junction there were two more road breaks further east cutting the Yukon and Alaska from road travel to/from the rest of the planet. I doubt those stranded at Watson Lake and points further west had it nearly as well serviced or delightful as we did.)

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