~Friday, September 16, 2022~
Day 88 of Alaska Trip
It’s been quite a while not being on a trail, so it felt so good to be back out there in the crisp, cool Fall air, exploring. It didn’t take much convincing for either of us to want to stay an extra day just so we could do the 9.5 mile Miles Canyon hike with our girl Sadie. It is by far her favorite activity, to be off leash (with our discretion), meet other dogs and take a dip in a freezing lake when she wants to. She really is living her best life.
Considering how popular this trail is (even though we didn’t run into too many people), we were surprised at how small the parking lot was. Since it is a loop trail, there are various starting points along the way. Originally referred to as the Grand Canyon, U.S. Army Lieutenant Fredrick Schwatka renamed it in 1883 after General Nelson Miles. Miles played a leading role in nearly all of the U.S. Army’s campaigns against the American Indian tribes of the Great Plains. As you approach the tamed, emerald green river that is the Yukon, the views are captivating.
Come to think of it, it’s pretty amazing how many times we’ve come across the Yukon River on this trip, crossing it 2-½ months ago in Dawson City, then again 1,000 miles away on our drive to the Arctic Circle along the Dawson Highway. The difference is by the time you’re that far north, the river looks that silty brown from all the glaciers, whereas where we are presently, it is basically the start of the river which is why the color is that stunning emerald green color.
Adding to the drama of the landscape is the basalt rock walls that line the canyon which come from a time when lava flowed across a pre-glacial landscape in the Yukon. This narrow section and the lower section into town where the Yukon River hydro dam exists, provided a significant challenge to gold-seekers heading to the Klondike Gold Rush before the river was tamed.
Starting at the southern end of the Yukon River Loop Trail. Our first landmark was the Robert Lowe Bridge. This suspension bridge that spans the Yukon River was built in 1922, named after Robert Lowe who was a long serving local and territorial politician.
The terrain was varied with dense evergreen and deciduous forest and sometimes sand, with very gradual altitude changes. A few sections were a bit steep and sketchy though we were warned to be cautious with the skull and crossbone signs and the words used “proceed at your own risk”. I just kept telling myself, put my weight into the hill and go slow. With Sadie’s 4-wheel drive, she made it look too easy. Because of a few side trails and alternate routes, we questioned our direction a few times, but in the end, never made a wrong turn. Whew! We found a lovely spot for a picnic, overlooking the Schwatka Lake.
It was one of several rest stops along the route, complete with picnic tables, port-a-potties, and garbage receptacles. It looks like we beat a motorcyclist to his favorite spot as he pulled in, gave us a wave then moved on.
Not too long after resuming our hike, we were entertained by a number of float planes either taking off or landing at this beautiful spot before our approach to the dam. About 4 or 5 miles in, we came to the Yukon Energy’s Whitehorse facility, aforementioned. Although the dam is not very large, the amount of water
coming through is sure to get anyone’s attention. It was built in 1958 at a cost of $7.2 million, starting out with 2 hydro turbines, with a third being added in 1969 and a fourth in 1985, doubling the capacity of the plant. Today, this hydro facility can now produce enough power to light up 1 million 40-watt light bulbs. That’s the Yukon River for ‘ya! The plant basically takes what it needs from the flow of the river, then expels it on the other side of the dam to continue its journey. We had no idea that this gem of a trail would consist of so many things…..a suspension bridge, the Yukon River, a utility dam, and float planes. Awesome! 🥾👏
After our 5-hour hike, it was time for a sip of that Spruce Tip IPA that we were told about yesterday. So back to Winterlong Brewing Company we went to sample this hit beer. The Spruce, in particular, is their last batch of the season so they had crates full of the stuff for sale and it was flying off the floor! But here’s the funny thing. Jeff went up to order the Spruce Tip and a beer for me, not sure of which beer was what when he arrived back at the table. All along, he was drinking the beer he had the night before and I was drinking the Spruce Tip. But the beer that he was drinking tasted more like Spruce than the actual Spruce Tip beer. Are you confused yet? Obviously I liked it. So Jeff went back to try again, but just couldn’t tell it was a Spruce Tip IPA (now one of his favs). In the end, it was all good, though the bar has been set way high ever since our visit to Klondike Brewing in Skagway.