When you drive the Alaska Highway towards Haines Junction you get glimpses of the Takhini River on your right, but it disappears from sight once you cross and it lies on the south side of the road. Being so close to the road, but out of sight makes it a good area to park a car and step into the wild.
My friend Mary and I met halfway between Mendenhall and Whitehorse and parked our cars a few kilometres apart from each other so we could ski towards the Takhini River, follow it a few kilometres arrive at one car and shuttle to the other.
Both Mary and I had canoed this part of the river, but neither of us had explored this area on foot.
The weather was sunny and the snow was perfect. Being the first ski of the season, it felt fantastic to glide off into a new adventure.
First, we came upon a steep gully towards the river. We followed the gully on the high bank and soon our eyes came upon that gorgeous Takhini River, which featured roundish chunks of ice floating downstream. The ice floes seem to alter with the turbulence of the river, at some points even breaking up. At one point we noticed how the ice floes suddenly carried quite a bit of sand. From the high bank we could see the meandering path of the river for quite a distance.
We skied along the high bank, which follows paths where the river flowed in previous eras and today diverges away from the river at point.
As always, we watched the animal tracks, suddenly there was something odd. We saw a large track, in a four-print pattern with the animal taking strides that were four metres in length. We suspected a wolf or even an elusive cougar. We didn’t see a kill site but the mystery animal’s gallop ended on a high point on the bank, where we saw bedding down places for elk.
A few days later I went back to find that spot, without any luck. But this time I saw an eagle feeding on a dead coyote. To see it feeding on such an animal, I was given perspective on how large these birds actually are; it was a powerful encounter.