I have this mountain in my backyard.
Our elevation at home, somewhere along the Alaska Highway, is almost 2,500 feet. The top of my mountain is almost 3,300 feet. Its foot is about a mile from my home.
In summer I can get up that mountain and back in two hours, which sometimes is exhilarating, but I really like to spend time on the way and on top.
It’s a perfect playground for our mountain spirit.
Some winters I have a beaten trail going all the way to the foot of the mountain. Not this winter.
On April 4, I took my snowshoes under my arm and headed off. First there were the packed skidoo trails, but I knew that skidoos hardly ever go all the way up, because they will have to turn around at the steep slope.
Where the skidoo trail circumvents the mountain, I put my snowshoes on and broke a trail up to the drumlins lying in front of the mountain. These are gravel strips left by the receding glacier long time ago.
Breaking trail is always hard work. Sometimes, where wind exposed, I stayed totally on top – hence the use of snowshoes.
Since Yukon snow is dry and powdery, I sometimes sank in very deep, making every step an effort. Sometimes it was just right, making a trail that compacted the snow only a few inches.
Up and down through gullies from one drumlin to the next, crossing them perpendicular. Ahhh! Suddenly, there was the mountain right in front of me – its rocks, amidst the trees, protruding out of the snow.
I took my snowshoes off here, where the trees were a jumble and the crevice from the last drumlin to the mountain was deep.
Here I was glad to have Jasper with me. He found a way through three feet of snow and pulled me up and over big boulders.
Soon we reached slabs of granite that were almost snow-free. A week later, on April 12, they were bare.
This time I went up with a young friend. She is nine years old, and this was her first climb.
We probably all know that most kids are mountain goats, and they love to climb. It’s the long trail towards the climb that will discourage some. Not this kid!
I did prepare her though, and she could walk as fast as I did.
I brought my snowshoes again, in case the trail I made the previous week was not solid enough. But it was, and I left my snowshoes where the hard-packed skidoo trail ended.
Only where I had floated on the surface the previous week, did I break through.
My companion was light enough most of the way, and almost flew wherever we went.
We reached the mountain with ease. Even the trail through the jumble in the crevice just before the mountain proved easy.
Soon we were crawling up sunny slabs. What a treat!
I would say this face of the mountain has a 45-degree slope. In some places that were too steep to walk, crawling up four-footed worked perfectly. The cracks in between, with grass and saxifrage, gave us extra footage where we needed it.
To walk with a child is always magic, because while we adults might marvel over views, rocks and plant communities, a child will meet with fairies and be a mountain spirit.
There were places that we; some rocks still had a film of ice from melting snow, and the mud in the cracks was very wet at this time of year.
We spent an hour marvelling and playing, each in her own way, interacting only sometimes.
Needless to say, I love my mountain. On its fairly flat top (now still in snow) are pine, alders and birch beside the poplar, willows and spruce that make up the forest below.
My mountain has different faces; only the southern side provides easy travelling. On the west it has more crevices, and on the east little tangly poplars. On the north it is still full of snow, and heavily timbered.
The way back, which is almost always faster, was a little harder that day. In the afternoon sun, the snow had become soft, and we sank in deeply. Gravity slows everything. Our trip took a total of four hours.
When I first started doing this hike 20 years ago, it took me six hours of weaving through the forest, for lack of a trail.
As a quick escape from daily tasks, it offers an enjoyable two-hour outing on a perfect day.
But I don’t call it solace. The mountains are my life.
There’s no escape needed from who we are.