We did two full day hikes and camped in the Tombstone campground. We would have gone further up the Dempster if we had more time but at least we got a taste.
The hike itself was fairly challenging. A massive wind storm passed through the night before and knocked down over 100 trees on the Grizzly Lake trail. On our way into the trail, a distraught couple with a young baby passed us heading back to their car. They were clearly upset (which was kind of funny) and told us not to go any further as there were so many downed trees! The man, red in the face and huffing, made a hand signal cutting across his neck as he told us it was frugal to go any further. But, we decided to keep going :)
The couple was definitely right about the trees posing a challenge! If we had a small baby with us we wouldn't have gone much further either. But I don't think we would have been so angry, haha. We did our best to navigate the trail over the fallen trees and came upon another couple trying to make their way as well, heading in the same direction as us. The woman was near hysterics as I approached, mumbling something about "only a couple of downed trees, my ass..." and when she realized we were approaching she straightened up and explained how she had just punctured her leg on a broken tree branch. The man looked a little weary about going further but, as I would have in her situation, the woman insisted on continuing, trying to make the best of this awkward situation.
It took maybe 20 or 30 minutes of this scrounging over trees before we came to the steep incline, heading up the hill toward a lookout point on the way to Grizzly Lake. The trail from then on posed a new challenge; very steep incline and rocky footing. As we forged on up the mountain, the colours and scents of the rugged north engaged our senses. The land looked like a shag carpet of reds, yellows, oranges and greens, leading up to the rugged mountain peeks in the distance, some powdered with snow. This was by far my favorite hike of the two. Once we got to the lookout point we stopped for a few pictures and to take in the sights, then decided to keep going to the top of the mountain ahead. It didn't take us too much longer to reach the peak where we had an amazing view of Grizzly Lake (top picture). We had made it well over half way to the lake, but decided to turn around at this point since we didn't bring our camping gear. In the future I think we would like to return to this trail and stay at the lake for a day.
It didn't take us long to make our way back down the mountain, but our quads did most of the work this time. We were very happy to find that the parks maintenance guy had already cleared some of the trees which made our trek back to the car much less treacherous.
The next day we hiked the Hart River trail which is a snowmobile trail in the winter and a hiking trail in the summer. It was not difficult by any stretch as it followed the Hart River valley with almost no incline at all, though some muddy patches. The mountains on either side of us were so pretty and majestic! We saw grizzly, caribou and moose tracks along the way, and we heard a wolf howling in the distance. The Hard River Caribou Herd roams the mountain sides here, year round, but unfortunately we didn't get to see them. We took our time, scoping the hillsides for wildlife, and taking snack breaks along the way. We turned around at a creek with a small gorge after sending a GPS beacon home so we could see where we ended up once we got back.
At the campsite we drank a couple of beers and made dinner in a communal cooking hut. We met a young Danish guy named Nikolaj who was travelling by himself. Nikolaj taught us a new card game in exchange for a few beers, and after learning that he was looking for a way back to Whitehorse or Dawson, we offered him a ride with us. We left after our Hart River hike at about 6:00pm and made it into Whitehorse just before midnight. Since it was so late Nikolaj stayed with us, sleeping on the couch at my Moms house. It turned into a kind of funny thing for Nikolaj, who ended up staying for 3 nights and attending a gathering of close friends one night, and of family the next. We basically adopted him into our family which was a lot of fun for all of us. It was the second time my Mom and Jock had invited a "stranger" into their home, as Andrew and I have been trying to introduce the concept of couch surfing to them. I think they've now seen how awesome it can be.
We hope you enjoy our pictures from Tombstone! We didn't have as much time as we would have liked to hike and explore the area, but now we know where to pick up when we get back to the Yukon. If you haven't been here before, make sure you add this to your list of places to see. And put it down for early-mid September so you can see the colours for yourself. The pictures are one thing, and actually being there and seeing it for yourself - priceless!