Yukon Fall Colours and More


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North America » Canada » Yukon » Whitehorse
October 13th 2022
Published: October 13th 2022
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Welcome back to Marilyn’s Journey, the blog I started in 2013 when I was travelling during a leave of absence from work. I’ve since retired (in December 2021) and the Yukon photography trip was a retirement / birthday present to myself after other travel plans were derailed because of Covid earlier this year.

It was a busy few days in mid-September, roaming in the southern Yukon with Neil Zeller, a Calgary-based photographer (Neil Zeller Photography (zenfolio.com)). I initially met Neil a few years ago when he offered a class on how to shoot fireworks at Globalfest and have followed his work and taken a couple of classes and local tours with him since. Six fellow photo enthusiasts and I met at the Calgary airport for the flight to Whitehorse on the evening of September 10 to set out on the longest flight I’d been on since March15, 2020 - it was only a few hours, with a stopover in Edmonton on the way. Neil had arranged for window seats on the Air North flight but, as it turned out, there were no aurora borealis (northern lights) to see as we actually gained an hour and the sun had set just before we arrived up north. By road, Whitehorse is 2,200 km drive from Calgary, so flying was the practical option for such a short visit.

Our accommodation for the five nights was at the Inn at the Lake, on Marsh Lake, located about 35 kms south of Whitehorse (Inn on the Lake - at Marsh Lake in Yukon, Canada). Carson and his team made us feel very welcome during our stay at the Inn and his beef short ribs one evening was one of the best meals I’ve enjoyed in a long time! It was quiet and peaceful waking up each morning right on the edge of the lake.

September 11 – Between Marsh Lake and the White Pass

Our first full day roaming was south of the Inn, across the British Columbia border and up to the White Pass along the Klondike Highway, where the international border with Alaska lies. Stops along the way to admire the fall scenery included Emerald Lake (not be confused with Yoho National Park’s Emerald Lake), the Carcross Desert, the hamlet of Carcross on Bennett Lake, Bove Lake and the White Pass.

The Carcross Desert is not a desert at all but rather the sandy result of an ancient seabed of glaciers. Walking in the sand dunes was very cool (given the unexpected location) and was interesting to see the amount of life growing there, from ragged grasses to massive pine trees. Carcross Desert - Wikipedia

A few kilometers down the road lies the small hamlet of Carcross. It’s the terminus of the White Pass Railway, which connects Carcross with Skagway, Alaska. The trains haven’t been running much due to Covid and the issues crossing the Canadian border, so there haven’t been many visitors who visit off the cruise ships stopping in Skagway. Carcross is on the shore of Bennett Lake and on the route to Dawson City during the Klondike Gold Rush of the late 1800s.

Carcross - Wikipedia

Klondike Gold Rush - Wikipedia

The area around the White Pass at Canada / U.S. border is rocky and lake-filled. It was a great time to visit with the fall colours at their peak.

September 12 – Part 1 - Aurora!

The text from Neil arrived at 11:50 pm – get out of bed and get ready to see some aurora. He had prepped us to set up our cameras in advance on their tripods with the widest-angle lens you had (mine was a 17- 40mm F4), fresh batteries and extra memory cards, so it was just a grab and go to the van for the drive to the site he had selected out nearby. Temps were hovering near 0* C, so warm jackets, toques and mittens were appropriate attire. We actually stopped on the highway on the way to watch the aurora dancing in case they didn’t reappear. No photos then but a treat to watch. We were fortunate that they kept appearing once we got set up at the site.

First order of business to shoot aurora – fixing your focal point so the images would be sharp. We had a just past full moon shining and lots of stars but it’s a harder task than you think in the dark! Anyway, once focus was established, you switch to manual focus and point your camera at the aurora. A key piece of equipment was a cable release – this triggered the shutter to release without jarring the camera. Most of my images were taken with a 6 to 8 second shutter speed. We photographed the aurora for about an hour and decided that was probably it, so headed back to the van. Wrong….they lit up better than before, so we raced back and set up again for another 25 minutes or so.

I grew up in northern Alberta and we saw the aurora frequently, especially in the winter. I have a greater appreciation for them now, having seen them in the Yukon and learning to how to photograph them effectively. The camera sees so much more colour and movement than looking at them with the naked eye. Absolutely magic! And worth the middle of the night call-out, especially since that turned out to be the only clear night we had.

Aurora - Wikipedia

September 12 – Part 2 – Haines Junction and Kluane National Park

After a bit of a lie-in due to the late (2:30 am) bedtime after watching the aurora, we headed north past Whitehorse along the Alaska Highway to Haines Junction and Kluane National Park and Reserve (Kluane National Park and Reserve - Wikipedia). There were a few random elk along the road but other than that, not much in the way of wildlife to be seen.

We headed to the small airport at Haines Junction, where scenic flights in a small aircraft (pilot + max four passengers) had been arranged. The flight was probably my trip highlight. It was fascinating to fly over world’s largest non-polar icefields, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Kluane / Wrangell-St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek - UNESCO World Heritage Centre). We saw the base of Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak (Mount Logan - Wikipedia) - the top was obscured in cloud. We could see as far as the Pacific Ocean on the horizon as we neared U.S. airspace. Stewart, our pilot, was very informative, pointing out various mountain peaks and glaciers we passed over as well as the tiny research base located on one of the ice fields. Due to the encroaching clouds, our trip diverted down the valley over Kathleen Lake on the return, which was very picturesque with fall colours. Overall, a great way to spend 90 minutes on a generally sunny afternoon! After a picnic lunch at Kathleen Lake, it was back to Whitehorse, with short stops to investigate things alongside the highway just for fun.

September 13 – Random Roaming

Tuesday was an unstructured day out and about in the van along the Alaska Highway. We captured the bridge over the Teslin River at Johnson’s Crossing as well as an asylum of loons (isn’t that a great name for a group of loons!) floating on the river. Loons have such a distinctive call and their white polka dot wing feathers are very photogenic. Across the bridge at the rest stop were the rusted remains of some old trucks and equipment – so random! We headed back to Carcross for more time to poke around the hamlet – I think I walked all of its streets looking for quirky photo opportunities. On the way back to Marsh Lake, we all agreed that the leaves had turned even more in the couple of days since our first visit.

September 14 – Miles Canyon and Yukon Wildlife Preserve

The morning was spent near Whitehorse. We saw float planes departing from the Schwatka float terminal near the city and visited Miles Canyon, used for transport during the Gold Rush. Good practice for learning how to use a neutral density filter for some different photo effects.

One of the surprises of the trip was the wildlife we did not encounter; honestly, I was at least expecting to see moose given all the swampy areas we passed but we were shut out aside from a few elk along the roadside going to Haines Junction and a few bald eagles. However, the animal fix was satisfied during our afternoon visit to the Yukon Wildlife Preserve (Home - Yukon Wildlife Preserve) to meet our guide Lindsay who is an amazing ambassador, so knowledgeable about the animals in the Preserve’s care. After hopping into a park vehicle, we made our way around the former game park. A small herd of buffalo were hanging out and we finally saw a few moose in the fields. The highlight was feeding time with the three lynx (Canada lynx - Wikipedia) as well as seeing an arctic fox, which was transitioning from its summer to winter coat. It was a great way to spend our last afternoon in the Yukon.

September 15 – Whitehorse and Home

We had some time in and around Whitehorse (Whitehorse - Wikipedia) on our final day before heading back to Calgary. Thanks to Neil, Beth, Elizabeth, Trudy, Angie, Kim and Ann - I enjoyed sharing the time with you and appreciate your generosity in sharing your tips and tricks!


Additional photos below
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14th October 2022

Beautiful Pics!
Thank you, Mar, for sharing your incredible images. So glad you had 2 sessions with the northern lights. Looks like you got to practice new techniques with amazing results. Great pictures .. and those lynx!
14th October 2022

great photos!
Thanks so much for sharing. Really enjoyed looking through all the photos you included, they brought back some great memories of my time spent living in the Yukon. All the best on your next stop. Looking forward to hearing about it and seeing the photos. Kathie
15th October 2022
Bove Lake

Awesome pictures
You really have some awesome pictures in that blog of yours. Seeing them I realize that I have to visit Canada one day. I'd love it there. /Ake
15th October 2022
Abandoned Cars3

We will put up a blog entry entirely with abandoned cars
In August we visited a car cemetery (actually an abandoned car scrapyard) in western Sweden. We will eventually put up an entire blog entry with pictures from there. We'll probably get to that in January or February. We have several blogs lined up that we want to write and publish before we write that one. Hope you feel like looking at that when we get there. We have actually already posted one blog entry from another car cemetery. It is called "Unusual sightseeing in Smaland" and we published it in 2013 if you want to have a look at it. /Ake
24th February 2023

I love all the pictures of the north. I got as far as Haines Junction in winter of 1960 when Dale worked on the Microwave towers all the say up the highway. Ended at Haines.
I traveled by bus ten times from 2001 to 2008 when I was DD for Royal Purple and made trips to Whitehorse. For one event we had three chartered busses went up with Elks from all over Alberta. What fun they were. The scenery is so beautiful. And almost ever trip we saw lots of animals and many Bison around the Liard area. In the spring lots of young one.

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