Then we headed for a very short hike out by Kathleen Lake with Angel. It really is quite a beautiful lake, but there are lots of warnings about the wind picking up rather quickly. The hike is just a ½ mile mostly on a boardwalk but you can continue around the lake at the end of the boardwalk.
We were hoping to publish a blog post, so we had a plan A and a plan B. Plan A was to stop at the nearby Kathleen Lake Lodge and ask if we could use their WiFi, plan B was to continue another fifteen miles to the Visitor Center in Haines Junction and use theirs.
The Kathleen Lake Lodge has several cabins, but also has a nice grassy area out back for dry camping. We may stay there in August when we head visit Haines.
On our way back to our campground, we were forced to stop by a couple of men standing in the middle of the road. They had spotted grouse with babies in the middle of the road and stood there to protect them from traffic. Sweet! But the grouse quickly went out of sight.The same guys told us they had spotted a huge grizzly on their way here, somewhere past our campground. We were interested in driving out a bit in that direction anyway, so off we went in search of the grizzly. The landscape on the way to Haines is just spectacular with more views of the Kluane Range, and more lakes and wetlands, it just gets better and better as you continue towards Haines.
But since we will be visiting Haines in August to see eagles and bears when the salmon start running, we only went a short way down the road and stopped short of the US Border. And we did not find the grizzly. What we did find was a third Yukon Government Campground, Million Dollar Falls. It has a few sites overlooking the river in a pretty wooded area.
It also has a short trail out to an elevated boardwalk with multiple views of the Million Dollar Falls, and we took this opportunity to check them out. This is definitely bear country and I was thinking about the huge grizzly so we took our bear spray. The falls are not very big, but are quite pretty.
Tip of the day: Bring an ax, as the wood provided by Yukon Government Campgrounds consists of entire log sections that need to be split, and we suspect that there will be other places where that is the case as well.
So we headed to the Cultural Center, which features exhibits about the lifestyles and traditional identity of Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. This beautiful structure was built two years ago is shared with a Yukon and Kluane National Park Visitor Center. It displays traditional artwork, cultural artifacts and interpretive panels. It is one of the most informative displays of First Nations that we have seen.
The Festival was the first at the new center and the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations invited dancers and dignitaries from neighboring nations, including the towns of Haines and Anchorage, Alaska to participate.
One wonderful thing about the dances is that they included all generations, from babies held by their mothers to the elders. The regalia they wore was very different from the regalia that First Nations wore in at the Pow Wow we attended in Eastern Canada two years ago but also quite beautiful.
We also stayed for a few presentations by the dignitaries which included Chiefs from many of the groups. The Chiefs from the other Nations, many of which were women, all expressed gratitude for having been invited to the land of the Champagne and the Aishihik.
Then the Mayors of Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, and Haines, Alaska spoke. The Mayor of Haines Junction spoke movingly about an experience he had while staying with First Nations. Then the Mayor of Haines, Alaska spoke and said that she and the Mayor of Haines Junction had just met and were going to partner for some activities. Even though they are 130 miles from each other, they are in different countries, so I imagine those opportunities do not come often.
The festival was mostly geared to First Nations people with workshops on traditional arts and other relevant topics, but we thoroughly enjoyed the brief time that we were there and we felt warmly welcomed to this very special event.
First, we visited the Village Monument, “the most photographed spot in Haines Junction”, nicknamed “The Muffin” or “Animal Cupcake”. It depicts a mountain with wildlife from the area, but apparently has raised much controversy as many people despise it. Art is definitely in the eye of the beholder.
The other interesting structure we visited was Our Lady of the Way Catholic Mission. This Quonset hut that was used by the American Army during the construction of the Alaska Highway was converted to a Catholic church by an enterprising priest, Father E. Morriset. He added a steeple and bell tower and created a very unique church. Supposedly the most photographed church in the Yukon!