July 12, 2010

At the summit.

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm in Wrigley, NWT right now. The drive from Whitehorse to Wrigley has about 1,600 kilometres-worth of gorgeous scenery (and some seriously adventure-filled roads).

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On my way here, I stopped at a place I've passed many, many times - and even spent the night in my car at the pull-out, once - but never took the time to explore.

Summit Lake, part of BC's Stone Mountain Provincial Park, marks the highest point on the Alaska Highway (1,295m/4,250ft). There are several trails branching off the highway and I hadn't explored a single one of them.

That had to change.

The sun had set behind the mountain but, taking advantage of the still-long days, I began trotting up the 5km Summit Mountain trail. The trailhead (and mountain) is behind this guy - who might not be there when you visit:

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(Holy smokes! I can't believe they "Street Viewed" the entire Alaska Highway!!!)

The trail was easy, but climbed relentlessly uphill. Although there were some loose stones near the summit, I did the whole hike in my knock-off Crocs. I wouldn't recommend this for others, but for me it was fine.

Things started off nicely with some pretty flowers, followed shortly thereafter with a little stream crossing.

Near the tree-line, there was a fantastic rock, laden with marine fossils and quartz-lined geodes.

I strolled higher and higher, now above the treeline, trying to catch up to the sunset.


The wind, which had been non-existent down in the valley, was now screaming. The wind wasn't cold - in fact, the temperature was downright pleasant - but it was so strong that the wind whistling through my ears was starting to make my ears hurt.  I had to cover them with the hood on my hooded sweatshirt. I suspect that, if the wind had been just a few kilometres-an-hour faster, my ears would have started to flap.

As I walked higher and higher, the ridge narrowed. It became unnerving to walk along the ridge when the almost-ear-flapping wind was trying its best to push me off.

A long way down...

Not quite making it to the summit, I decided to let caution prevail and headed back down the mountain - doing some more exploring along the way, of course.

As I was poking around, somewhere about here...

...I came across this. Now, it's entirely possible that I'm going insane. Because, really, what would be the odds that I would find, one day after the other, 640 kms apart, another DINOSAUR FOOTPRINT!!!

Am I going crazy here? Please help me on this one because I really think I'm starting to lose my marbles. Sadly, this one won't be as easy to re-locate as the (possible) ones on Lake Laberge.

I was planning on taking more pictures of it. I really was. And then this happened.

My lovable, reliable, Canon S1IS stopped working. I don't know why. It might have something to do with a long-missing screw in the side of the case. Maybe it really didn't like that wind (although I tried to protect it under my sweatshirt). Maybe it didn't want me to show you any pictures of what came next.

What came next?

I went skinny dipping.

I reeked of sulphur from a quick dip I had taken in the Liard Hotsprings a couple hours before. I could smell it emanating off me during the entire walk up the mountain. The smell had to go.

Instead of following the path back down to the car, I decided to follow the creek bed. Oh, how I wish I'd had my camera! The creek bed was, for all intents and purposes, dry. There were huge slabs of picturesque bedrock and erosion-drilled pools. It was in one of these sheltered, erosion pools that I took a dip. The pool was about the size of a small hot tub and the water was crystal clear, slightly warmed by the day's sun.

Refreshed and nowhere near as sulphury, I continued to follow the creek bed down the mountain.

There were more pools, some larger than others, all of them warmed by the sun and all of them crystal-clear. At one point, the creek bed narrowed between two walls of rock, with a smooth slab above and a smooth slab below. Just above the narrowing, there is a large, private pool of varying depths perfect for little kids who like to swim. Only a short walk up from the parking area (and one that's entirely do-able with toddlers), I'm skipping the hotsprings the next time I drive this part of the Alaska Highway with my family - I'm taking them there instead!

As I continued down the creek bed, something perplexed me more and more.  I had had to cross a stream on my way up the mountain, but this creek bed was dry. Where did the water come from?  I wasn't lost.  I wasn't in the wrong creek bed.  I could see the trail from where I was.   The geography made it nearly impossible to get lost. I was in a narrow valley and there weren't any other valleys where the water could have come from.

I continued to follow the creek bed downstream. I could hear rushing water ahead. Finding the water, I followed it up to its source - which took only seconds. The water was shooting out of the ground. It was a spring, shooting right out of the mountain!

Thirsty after my hike, I dipped my hands into the cool, cool water and drank deep. It was delicious.

The spring and the short walk to it will now become an Alaska Highway ritual for me.

And something tells me that the Summit Lake area has many more treasures to share and is worthy of much, much, much more exploring.


Carolyn said...

Wonderful photos of your adventure Michael...the vistas are stunning. I feel your pain...I had camera death a couple of weeks ago however your word picture of the rest of the trek is quite amazing.
Thanks for sharing.

Jennoit said...

Gorgeous! And how neat-o to be in Wrigley! Must have been an amazing drive.

Unknown said...

It was a great drive (gorgeous scenery, lots of wildlife, and a couple of ferry crossings), but a long one to do in only two days.

I'm glad to finally visit Wrigley after having lived only 500 kilometers away for so long!

Unknown said...

It was a great drive (gorgeous scenery, lots of wildlife, and a couple of ferry crossings), but a long one to do in only two days.

I'm glad to finally visit Wrigley after having lived only 500 kilometers away for so long!