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Midnight Sun Hike at Carcross, Yukon
June 21, 2001

by Murray Lundberg

Click on each photo below to greatly enlarge it.

Trucks full of hikers heading up Montana Mountain at Carcross, Yukon to enjoy the midnight sun     On June 21, 2001, the fourth annual summer solstice hike up Montana Mountain took place at Carcross, Yukon. This was by far the most successful hike yet, with 47 people turning out. Although most were from Whitehorse, there were people from many other areas as well, including Washington State, Oregon, Louisiana and Florida.

    The sun at this time of the year rises above the horizon at about 4:24 AM and sets at about 11:38 PM. The hike was originally intended to combine wildlife viewing and education opportunities with the uniquely Northern experience of being able to hike throughout the night. This year I joined caribou biologist Tod Powell in guiding the group - I live at the foot of Montana Mountain, and in 1996 published Fractured Veins & Broken Dreams, a book which is primarily about its mining history.

Hikers enjoying the midnight sun at Carcross, Yukon     Leaving Carcross at 9:30 PM, the group traveled up the mountain in 11 trucks, 8 of them 4-wheel-drive. The 4x4s were able to get much higher than the others, but were still stopped by a gully full of snow at an elevation of about 5,300 feet (the view from that spot is shown in the top photo). From there, we walked another couple of miles to a pass which provides the easiest access to the mountain complex. The second photo shows some of the hikers admiring the view at about 11:00PM, just as the sun was dropping below the rim of the 5,000-foot ridge on the west side of the Watson River Valley.

    Tod and I explained the significance of the mountain from environmental, economic and spiritual perspectives. As well as just talking about it, from a single location at the top of the pass we were able to point out specific sites that ranged from prehistoric caribou hunting blinds and snowfields that caribou have used for centuries to get away from mosquitoes, to mining ruins dating from as far back as 1903. We didn't see any wildlife, but with a group that size nobody was surprised - there was a lot of conversations being carried on, and animals would have been able to hear us for a great distance. The presence of fresh scat of a grizzly and cub on the road on the way up was clear proof that were weren't alone, and that seemed to be sufficent for most people.

    The weather on the mountain can be very unpredictable. Last year it snowed during the hike, but this year it only dropped down to about 40 degrees, although a very cold wind came up that prompted the group to start heading back to the trucks. By 2:30 AM the group was back in Carcross and heading home to bed.

    If you're ever looking for something really different to do to celebrate summer, come on up and join the fun (this hike is unfortunately no longer conducted due to political interference, but there's lots more to see and do).

All About Carcross