Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tombstone Territorial Park shrouded in magic

We spent 4 days back country hiking in Tombstone Territorial Park. A magical place deserving of much more of our time! (Click on pics to enlarge.)
Marmot Meadow featured marmots, pikas and
ground squirrels, but no bears.

The 7-hour drive from Whitehorse is scenic, of course, and the first 10% of the Dempster Highway we drove were in great shape even though it is unpaved.

We booked the Grizzly, Divide and Talus Lakes campsites - the only 'developed' sites in the Park - complete with 10' x 10' tent platforms, cooking shelter, outhouse and even grey water barrels. When visiting this well-established loop, booking is necessary. Other than that, trekkers can hike and camp anywhere; the message that this is remote wilderness where people are expected to be self-sufficient is unambiguously communicated.
Ground level clouds roll in at Grizzly Lake.

The first night we camped close to the Visitors Centre awed by the beauty of these mountains already. The next morning we got our back country permits, a briefing on what to expect and off we went. As we hiked up Grizzly Ridge the rain started to move in. Still, we enjoyed the varied mountain terrain and reached Grizzly Lake in just under 6 hours. There was no-one else until another couple appeared later in the evening.

Jan descends Glissade Pass. Fun boot skiing.

Our new ultra-light tent (Big Agnes) would got its first wet weather test. Happily it stayed dry, kept us warm and we discovered that the fly sheds water so that it's not even wet when packing it despite some heavy rain.

The next day, we set off to Talus Lake via Divide. This meant crossing Glissade Pass with its 1,400 feet elevation. We had been told that it can be arduous especially when carrying weight. Alas, we were prepared for this terrain.  Even the rain held off for some of the hiking; it resumed as we finished putting up the tent at Talus. It was amazing to have the whole valley to ourselves.

Talus Lake was dramatic and our tent was perfect!
There will be a break in the weather!
On our third day in the back country, rain had been with us every day: the clouds revealed and obscured these rugged and ragged mountains creating ever-changing moods of light and dark; a feeling of a landscape shrouded in old stories and ancient spirits. We had been walking all alone among them.

That evening we went to Divide Lake - a short 2-hour hike. As the weather improved we met a few people: four Germans including two lone hikers and a couple of Canadians. The most impressive itinerary belonged to Andreas from Stuttgart: a 3-week self-supported trek throughout the Park. His gear was remarkable: from a tent weighing 350 grams to carrying Pemmican, nature bars and dried fruit to eat, so there was no need to carry any cooking equipment at all. That is a kind of wilderness experience to which I can merely aspire! (I think we could manage a good week given our much lighter equipment now.)

The next day we set out on the long trek back to 'the other world.'

The clouds lifted in the morning and we enjoyed ever-changing light, stupendous views of ridges, rocks and mountain tops for our 9.5 hour hike out. Glorious. And leaving us wanting so much more.

Divide Lake turns mirror-like
as we arrive for the night.
Overlooking Grizzly Lake and seeing the surrounding
mountain tops on our hike out.

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