Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kluane National Park of Canada

Kluane Lake (pronounced 'Kloo-wah-nee') is named after a composite of two names given the lake by native peoples. The names meant "big fish lake" and "whitefish country."
 At the southern end of Kluane Lake is the Sheep Mountain Visitor Center. 
 Dall Sheep live on the mountain.
 They have spotting scopes set up at the Visitor's Center and rangers to help you locate the sheep.
There were quite a few up there. Check out Birdie's blog for the great shot she got of sheep standing on the ridge on a backdrop of blue sky.
As we drive toward Haines Junction, the Kluane Ranges of the St. Elias Mountains come into view to the south.
At Haines Junction we turn off the Alcan Highway and will be taking the Haines Highway which skirts the boundary of Kluane National Park to our right.
 Over look of Haines Junction from the start of the Haines Highway.
Similar to Canada's Waterton and U.S. Glacier National Parks, Kluane National Park borders the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska. Together they form the largest protected landmass on earth.
Birdie points to our location on the map.
In the background on the left you can just see a portion of Kathleen Lake. That is where we are headed for a couple of days. We will stay in the National Park campground and explore the area.
Kathleen Lake Day-Use area has a kitchen shelter, picnic area, and a wheelchair accessible trail along the shore.
The lake is large and goes far beyond what you can see from here. It is also cold and deep.
 In the 1700's a glacial dam blocked the Alsek river, trapping salmon in Kathleen Lake. The young salmon were not able to return to the sea and were forced to adapt to fresh water. About 150 years ago, the dam broke opening the pathway to the sea once more, but the link to their ancestral home had been broken, so even though they can, they continue to spend their entire lives in fresh water.
This mountain seen from the campground is called the King's Throne. Can you see the seat about half-way up? There's a trail to the seat that we will attempt tomorrow as it is about 6 miles round-trip and will take at least 4 hours.
We walked the short trail along the shore.
 A belted kingfisher greeted us.
After getting settled in the campground we took a ride in Birdie's car. This is the Kathleen River, which flows into the lake.
Farther south we came to Dezadeash Lake. We drove through the campground there. It has some nice sites right on the water.
Beside Lake Dezadeash is a trailhead to Rock Glacier. The trail is only two miles, so we have time to do it today.
Put on your sturdy footwear, bring water, and a hiking stick would be good too. Wish we had brought one. Look for the next post about this trail....coming soon.

Traveling from Valdez, AK to Kluane Lake, Yukon

We left Valdez as we arrived, in chilly rain and heavy cloud cover. So we drove right by those beautiful waterfalls and Worthington Glacier....again.
We did stop in Copper Center. It was sad to learn that the historic roadhouse, a centerpiece of Copper Center's historic downtown, burned to the ground last May, just at the start of the tourist season.
This is a picture of the roadhouse as it looked when I was here in 2009.
 They will rebuild, but Copper Center will never be quite the same.
Traveling on, we stopped at a scenic pull-out on the Tok Cutoff. Can you see the dot in the middle of the lake on the left side?
It was a moose.
 Moose have very long legs, but the lake had to be pretty shallow too.
After a stop in Tok, we continued onto the Alaska Highway. This was another scenic lake with ducks and grebes to watch.
The aspens are turning gold along the highway here.
Golden aspens.
Remember all those wild roses blooming in June? Now there are bright red rosehips.
 This free campground on Deadman Lake was a great find, operated by the US Fish and Wildlife Dept. It is in Alaska, not far from the Canadian border.
Deadman Lake got its name during the building of the Alcan Highway when one of the workers died there in an accident. Yes, those are people swimming....a couple from Canada. I noticed they didn't stay in long.
 There was a nice Interpretive trail in the campground.
On it we learned about the local ecology. 
 Raised beds.
 Fire is necessary for these trees to reproduce.
I have also heard the Taiga referred to as a "drunken" forest.
 I was glad to learn what the bright red leaves carpeting the ground were called.
 We saw several Gray Jays, also known as Canadian Jays.
 On the lake there were Trumpeter Swans. They are migrating right now.
 Trumpeter Swan
 In the evening a ranger came and gave a program about ravens. At the end this couple (the same couple that were swimming earlier) volunteered to entertain us with some songs that he had written. 
 As we walked back to our campsites we saw this moose across the lake.
 Back on the road with more fall colors popping out.
We stopped for lunch at Pickaxe Lake.
This is a juvenile Red-necked Grebe. We also saw swans, loons, and Mallard ducks here.
We stopped for the night at a private campground on the shores of Kluane Lake in Yukon Territory. The Government campground we planned to stay was closed due to recent bear activity. Soapberries are ripe.
My next post will be from Kluane National Park of Canada on the Haines Highway. Stretch your legs....there are some great hiking trails to come.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Chapel of the Sea

On Sundays, the Glacier Wildlife Cruise ship Lu-lu Belle becomes a chapel. Captain Fred and the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Valdez use their time and resources to provide a unique but meaningful worship service aboard the Lu-lu Belle on Prince William Sound. The service is non-denominational in presentation, and all are invited to attend.
When we arrived at 7:45, the harbor was socked in with fog. Nothing could be seen out the windows. I like to think that God sent the fog so that worshipers would not be distracted by what was outside, but could focus on the message and on what was inside our hearts.
These pictures from my Friday cruise will help illustrate the service.

The worship began with a series of choruses from some of my favorite hymns:

"Some glad morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly away...
to a home on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away."
O victory in Jesus, My Savior forever...He plunged me to victory, Beneath the cleansing flood."
Amazing Grace: "When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, 
We've no less days to sing God's praise, Than when we first begun."
The Pastor's message came from the first chapter of Hosea. God told (actually permitted) Hosea to take a wife of harlotry, warning him that he would suffer because his wife would be unfaithful. 
She was, and Hosea was angry. He could not condone her sin, even though he still loved her. So he set about to win her back into a right relationship with him.
God used this unfortunate experience to portray His relationship with us. He loves us even though we don't deserve it. We stink.
 We do crude things that separate us from God. You probably know someone like that who nobody wants to be around.
We fight and argue and say unkind things. We just are not very pretty sometimes.
But John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world (that's everyone), that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life." Even though we have sinned he will never cease to love us, and will seek to win back those who have forsaken Him. When we repent, He is quick to forgive.
 And so should we be like that to one another.
Hope I haven't butchered the Pastor's sermon too badly. There is a great ministry taking place aboard the Lu-lu Belle.