Hiking is one of my life’s great joys, particularly multi-night treks where I can escape far into the wild and get away from the sights and sounds of modern living. I relish in the opportunities to reconnect, to bask in the essence of simplicity. However, I know I have a tendency to look at this activity with very rose coloured hindsight.
It nearly always starts the same. Sometime during the first big grueling up of a hike, right about the time that my legs are screaming for mercy, my hips feel like they are crumbling under the weight of my pack, my lungs are burning and my head starts to thump I begin to be overtaken by the reeling awareness that this is something I have chosen to do for fun! Are you kidding me? How have I convinced myself I like this?
Then miraculously, somehow, as I make it to the first peek or ridge and take a moment to pause, to suck in the vast landscape or view, allow my body a few minutes to slow down, my lungs and head a chance to equalize, I find peace in the flood of endorphins that flow through my system and I am washed with the sensations of being light as a feather. I am then visited with every happy memory of hiking trips passed and I somehow experience a laps in short term memory, my impressions of the so called hell I just scaled suddenly doesn’t really feel like that big of a deal.
My most recent hiking pursuits took me to The Tombstone Territorial Park, about 60km north on the Demster highway, Yukon. The Tombstone range essentially marks the divisional line where the boreal forest ends and the tundra begins. It’s a breath taking area with rugged toothy peaks, brilliant permafrost landscapes and abundant wildlife. Although the weather can be harsh and unpredictable at anytime of year it is a patch of the earth that any lover of the wild would instantly fall head or heals for.
Our 4 day- 3 night adventure took us full circle. I know some people prefer a trek that doesn’t back track, a route that has a starting point and a destination that doesn’t require an about face but I really enjoy the opportunity to retrace my steps. I’m fascinated with how my perceptions of an area may vary day to day depending on weather, how my body is feeling, where my blood sugar is at, etc. It was an extreme pleasure to experience this Tombstone hike and to be able to definitively mark the midway point on the second night by reaching our furthest destination, the Talus Lake campsite. By then, knowing all the territory that would need to be covered on the way out, the going felt much quicker and more joyful. The trip out felt like I had more time to just marvel at my surroundings and suck in all the good. It certainly didn’t hurt knowing that once we completed out trek on the 4th day that our cozy camper was waiting for us with a hearty homemade chilli and a 6 pack of Yukon Gold!
It’s the rhythm of things I believe I am the most in love with when it comes to hiking and back country camping. The way that the simplest acts almost become ceremonial. The journey itself IS the experience, the focus of activity. The smallest things become ritual in nature, the way you rise in the morning, make food and coffee, pack and organize your bag.. we do these things (in some capacity) everyday but we often move through them mindlessly, almost numb. When I remove myself for the buzz of my regular world my sensory perceptions feel like they explode… Things look brighter, smell sweeter and fresher, taste better. Hiking, especially in big mountain landscapes forces you to dig deep into yourself and to push. Sometimes it takes all you have to get you up over a peek , through a pass or over a crazy bolder field. Hiking can reduce you back down to your pure animal instincts and it is at these times that everything you see, hear, taste and experience is fully magnified. When its good its really good, and sometimes when it’s bad… Well it really sucks.. Haha! Tombstone certainly has some doozy moments … Like coming around the bend of what felt like the vastest meadow ever to take my first glances at Grizzley Lake and then to find out there was nearly another 2 hours of boulders hoping over a tricky talus slope to get down to the flats, or ascending to the ridge and then making our way down the far side of Glissade Pass battling the weather the entire way as we approached the murk of the tombstone pass. But whatever it is that a journey puts before you it is the fullness of the adventure itself that propels the entire experience. The Tombstone circuit is most certainly worth the effort.
View from the top of Grizzly Ridge
Talus Slope on the way to Grizzly Lake.
Nature does it best!
First views of Grizzly Lake.
Sun splashed Mount Monolith.
Grizzly Lake Campsite.
Grizzly lake view Glissade Pass.
Meadow and valley toward Divide Lake.
Chels see the view as even more beautiful!
Descending from Glissade Pass, Wes adds to an ever growing cairn.
Approaching Divide Lake.
Visual markers to keep you on the trail.
Campsite Talus Lake.
Tundra valley, Talus Lake.
Blanket of Tundra.
Home is where the tent is.
A clearer view of the Tombstones as we begin our journey back.
Cook shelter rest stop, Divide Lake.
Coffee for two, with a view. About the re-ascend Glissade pass from the Divide Lake side.
The loose and crumbling trail, climbing to Glissade Pass.
One of thousands of Hooray Marmots, catching some rays.
Final morning, trip out. Through the meadows to Grizzly Ridge.
Wes taking it all in.
A feast good enough for a king!
The beauty of Tombstone Territorial Park.
I truly love the line of thought by Billy Graham, he said “The word ‘romance’ according to the dictionary means ‘excitement’, ‘adventure’, and ‘something extremely real.’ Romance should last a lifetime!”Agreed!