As I sit here looking out of my window at Mount Kelvin, a white peak above the treed hills, I dream of summer hikes past and future.
A few years back on a summer day two friends and I went up Mount Kelvin. We started out following an existing trail along the grassy ridges, but soon we lost the trail and climbed east straight up the side hill, along a little creek.
It was tough going through the alders, “aldercations” I call them but at the end of the tangle we got to snack on blueberries that grow there abundantly.
It was still about 10 km to the top. We had done around seven so far.
The weather was hot, even above the tree line. It was hot enough to take a dip in the little mountain lakes.
Mount Kelvin actually has two tops, the one I see from the house and a higher, flatter top. And it was here in a great fold in front of the two tops, we saw a grizzly bear.
We decided that on this grand, wide-open mountain we could actually circumvent the bear. We took a short detour and soon the landscape was mainly scale and rock and only too soon we came to the top. The bear is of no concern anymore, we thought.
There, on the other side of the top, was our second, less dangerous, treat. We spotted mountain sheep, which retreated into the jumble of rocks. Then there was another treat.
From any mountaintop one can see endlessly on a clear day and there is a lot to see, from tiny wild flowers to all the big lakes and mountains surrounding us. Suddenly, above the Kluane Range there was this floating, glimmering white vision.
We had not even dreamed about this. What we saw was North America’s greatest, the mountains of the St. Elias Range.
Mount Kelvin’s highest point is around 6,000 feet (1.8 km) above sea level. We were looking at mountains around 16,000 feet (4.9 km) high.
Those mountains were 150 km away and are known as the Ice Palace: three big mountains called Kennedy, Alverstone and the Hubbard Massif.
Elated and having filled our tummies too, we returned. We came by a crossroads and had the grizzly bear in mind again. Something we later all disagreed on is how the next thing happened.
My story is that I said, “Lets take the far west ridge,” someone else said,
“No, lets go lower down from here to the far east side.”
Somehow we end up going straight for the middle route, right where we saw the bear.
I had lingered a bit behind. The other girls would love to tell you all the wonderful sights they saw, but I just have one image etched in my brain: a mother Griz and three one-year-old cubs, right behind me.
I made a move to run.
Alison realized my attempt and screamed for me to stop. And then calmer, I retreated slowly, cautiously, while the girls watched the playing cubs.
All the way down I was still on edge and somehow descending in the trees we end up in even worse “aldercations.” Only when we were in sight of the Dezadeash River, on the gentle grassy slope, did I feel at ease.
Here I promised myself again to always head home at any sign of bears.
But it won’t keep me off the mountain; as you know, they are my life.