Over the Top
Gabe stands next to a trail flag on the Canadian side of the pass. Elevation is about 3500 feet according to our map. Just ahead is the promised ranger cabin.
Looking past a Canadian outhouse toward Lindeman Lake
As we take over the Canadian ranger cabin, the sun has passed behind the clouds, and the temperature has now dropped to 54 degrees. The cabin is nice in that it blocks the wind. However, the rough wood floor is in poor contrast to the beds of spruce needles that I have enjoyed on my first two trail nights.
As I cook up my trail specialty, Hungarian goulash with real basil and oregano, it occurs to me that our food supplies are thinning out. A treat of hard salami and cheese which has brightened our stops on the trail is now gone. Experienced hikers all recommend real gourmet meals on the trail even if there is a price to pay in terms of weight and cooking utensils. I agree with that, but I have cut it a little too close for comfort on this trip.
Gabe and I wake at 8:15am in hopes of getting an early start toward Lindeman Lake. We are ready to shoulder our packs when four hikers show up just arrived from the summit. They had started out from Sheep Creek only a few hours ago. I am blown away at their speed until the apparent leader - a petite and lively woman with a thick French accent - tells me she has done the trail seven times. Two others are Queenslanders, the fourth from New Brunswick.
French seven times, who actually lives in Whitehorse, says the snow cover we see on the downhill side of the summit in Canada goes all the way to Happy Camp... about three hours distant. After schmoozing, and seeing the speedy Canadians off down the trail, Gabe and I get underway at 10:05am. Temperature is 50 degrees. Winds are southerly through the pass at the summit, 15 - 25 miles per hour. Clouds are building at our destination, but clear and sunny here.
In the middle of this windy field of barren snow and ice, a rocky outcrop harbors some hardy wild flowers. Gabe checks them out. These little flowers with their insistence on pushing through the rocks and turning toward the new summer sun, are a great delight.
The sun glares off the snow, and is extremely bright. I worry about our eyes. Gabe assures me that he is squinting, and is sure he can handle it. Gabe is very stoical in the face of things that I have to mentally struggle with. He is always ready to press on. I'm very proud of him.
We arrive at Happy Camp at 1:15pm... right on schedule. It is starting to get hot. Following our usual practice we take off our packs and crap out for an hour or so.
Our French advisor has suggested that we take a full hour break at Happy Camp. We are glad to have an excuse to do just that. She told us it is a long grind uphill to Lindeman. She leavened the bad news with the good news that it is all downhill from Lindeman. We will see. Temperature has gone up to 78 degrees. There are skimpy clouds above us, and some high cirrus and building cumulus in the direction of the Lake.
Our last major stop before Lindeman Lake is Deep Lake camp. We arrive there at 5:00pm. Once again we run into my friend Henry Cole. We trade a few philosophical bon mots. Mine was: "Choose the simplest course and say the least about it." Henry said he would ponder it under the sunshine here at Deep Lake camp.
Gabe and I say our good byes since we want to press on to Lindeman.
As we descend from Deep Lake into Lindeman City, we pass by the remains of boats like the one above. These temporary boats were used to travel down the "Gorge."
The Gorge is a deep cut in the rocks between the summit and Lindeman Lake. In summer, the gold stampeders used these boats for fast travel with their gear to Lindeman Lake and Lindeman City. The gorge is deep and the water is very fast. It looks treacherous to me.
We arrive in Lindeman City at 7:30pm. Once again we are too late for the ranger guided tour. We set up camp on the lake then go to a log cabin which serves as kind of a social center. There, we cook up a dinner of Ramen noodles with beef, and Ramen noodles and Pork. All cooked on a wood cook stove in the cabin.
Our new trail friends, the French seven-timer and the New Brunswickian join us. Another fellow was already cooking when we arrived. He was welsh, on a year long global walkabout. He turned out to be the fellow who had had the confrontation with the bear and cub back near Pleasant Camp.
Setting up camp on the shore of Lindeman Lake
Gabe catches up in his journal
After dinner we started cracking jokes in various languages and dialects. The fellow from Wales was a welsh speaker, and gave us some great expositions in Gaelic. Our French friends spoke Acadian French as their native language. They told us that the Acadians had been thrown out of France in 1755, and had been trying to make a home for themselves in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Many also migrated to New Orleans. Our seven-timer is employed by the Francophone Association in Whitehorse. She says they are 1000 strong there.
With our word plays and stories in English, French, and Gaelic we passed a very pleasurable couple of hours. These kinds of chance social encounters in the wilderness are one of the great delights of long distance hiking.
On the shore of Lindeman Lake in the morning sun
We start out of Lindeman City at 12:50pm on the last leg of our hike... Lindeman Lake to Bennett Lake. On our way out of the "City," we stopped to look at an interesting photo exhibit of the gold stampede. There are maps like our trail map available for the taking. Our trail map is so good that I take more than my share to pass out to friends back home. I feel guilty about being piggy. As I discover later on the trail, these maps look the same as my favorite trail map, but there is something fundamentally different about them. Then I realize that the maps I have picked up are all written in French.
Somehow, I think the French would appreciate the irony.
The temperature is 70 degrees. There is a strong wind from the south. A beautiful day otherwise. We are low on food, and it is time to admit it, first to myself, then to Gabe. Though I doubt that he would ever admit it, Gabe is clearly hungry. The reason I know is that I myself am hungry. Gabe maintains his stiff upper lip, however, and we press on.
As we hike toward a little lake named Bear Loon Lake on the map, I think about the Welshman's bear encounter. He said he rounded a corner and surprised a bear cub not more than five feet away. The cub yelped and scrambled up a tree. The next thing he knew, the sow was charging down the trail toward him. It was all bluff, but when an 800 lb bear is charging directly at you with her ears up, it really doesn't look much like a bluff to the bluffee.
She stopped ten feet away and stood on her hind legs to check out this threat to the cub. The Welshman had obviously learned some tricks about dealing with charging bears. The first is: Don't panic, and don't turn and run. Keep facing the bear; don't make any quick movements; be passive; back away slowly. The Welshman started backing down the trail slowly but steadily. The bear did not follow. He told us he backed away at least 100 yards, and waited quite awhile after the bear and cub left the trail before continuing.
I think about this as we go through some heavy brush suitable for hiding bears. I fix the clinking metal objects on my pack so they clink more loudly, and practice a while on my harmonica. I tell Gabe to limber up the whistle he has been carrying so as to scare off the bears. He does so.
We stop at Bear Loon Lake and eat what is basically the last of our food, except for some cocoa, and a pack of rice soup. Our last treat is a small can of anchovies which has been in my kitchen cupboard in Juneau for, oh, say five years. They are incredibly salty.
I worry about the propane, I worry about the bears, I worry about lots of things. Gabe is hungry, but tranquil. Bennett Lake is three miles away, about two hiking hours.