Slim’s River West Hike Part 1

Heather and I are chomping at the bit to get an early start on our 22km day, though Parks Canada has a different idea.

I mention multiple times we both live in the Yukon, and I mention multiple times we’ve both had bear encounters – which falls on deaf ears. We’re forced to watch the “Bear Safety” video all the same.

  • There are two kinds of bear attack: Offensive and Defensive.
  • Offensive: The bear is trying to eat you = fight back.
  • Defensive: You startled the bear and it’s just defending itself = play dead.

Got it. On with the hiking!

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The early parts of the Slims River West trail are open and spectacular

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The views across the Slims River valley

We shoulder our backpacks and hit the trail with seemingly tons of food in our packs and bounce in our step. The sun is beaming down, and the fall colours are really shining. This trail is defined by it’s river crossings and it’s not long until we have to ford Sheep Creek. It seems doable, so we don our “river shoes” to keep our boots and socks dry and go across one at a time with packs un-clipped in case we fall in. It’s barely up to my knees, and hiking poles are a tremendous help.

Back on the trail we hike on and on, morning stretching into midday, midday stretching into afternoon. At times the swampy trail hugs Slim’s River, at times it climbs above into the spruce and pine. Afternoon stretches into early evening and we finally arrive at the Canada Creek campground footsore, tired, and more than ready for dinner.
By the time we’ve setup the tent and cooked, the other people camping have already turned in for the night.

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Slims River valley

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The trail rises above the river at times

We realize we don’t have an alarm (or any timepiece, for that matter) and try to get up when we think it’s early. Apparently we miss the mark, as everyone else leaves camp just as we start cooking breakfast. We’ve got a 19km roundtrip to the top of creatively named Observation Mountain and back, a climb of 1200 meters. After breakfast we pack a small daypack and set out across the alluvial fan of Canada Creek.
I spot a monstrous Grizzly in the far distance walking in a similar direction. I don’t think he spots us, and he continues on his way. I wonder if he is following the hikers we know are in front of us.

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Observation Mountain across the alluvial fan of Canada Creek

We have to cross Canada Creek twice today – once right now and once on the way back to camp this afternoon. It’s a given the level will rise and the afternoon crossing will be much harder than the one we face right now.
Again we don our river shoes, and again hiking poles make all the difference. The water is extremely cold and fast, though not particularly deep.
Following Canada Creek upstream we branch left along Columbia Creek, following an extremely barren and rocky valley around the back of Observation Mountain.

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Heather fording Canada Creek

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The barren Canada Creek / Columbia Creek valley

Flagging tape marks the start of what can only be described as “The endless uphill trail” which we trudge up for hour upon hour. Every crest we rise we’re greeted with a view of ten more. Every switchback in the trail leads only to more.

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Climbing up the backside of Observation Mountain

After hours and hours, our spirits rise when we finally get a glimpse of what we came for – the mighty Kaskawulsh Glacier stretching impossibly far into the distance.

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Kaskawulsh glacier glimpse

There is lots more to come on this one.


1 Response

  1. Jordan says:

    That looks like work… next time just take the jeep! 😀

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