You Keep Watching the Tundra, Then You Remember to Look Up (at Tombstone)

I said this to Tracy yesterday while we were hiking along the mountains in the northern part of Tombstone Territorial Park, here in the Yukon, a little east of Fairbanks. The sub-arctic tundra here is so beautiful—moss and lichen and flowers—a deep cover that insulates the permafrost right below.

Even if the ground weren’t captivating, you’d have to watch every step because water lies in holes on top of the permafrost, often hidden by mounds of soil and shrubs growing over them. These hummocks are difficult to walk over, plus the lichen is fragile and important food for caribou. My goodness how beautiful, though. (I’ve put a short video of me walking through them at the end here.)

Dhäl Ch’èl Cha Nän

That’s the name of this area (ragged mountain land) inhabited by the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in. They supported the development of the park as a means to protect their land and way of life; as part of the agreement, they continue to hunt and forage year-round.

We’re staying in the campground far below Tombstone Mountain, which is in the far distance. It’s hard to focus on it because I keep getting distracted by mountain views like this.

Our campsite backs up to the north fork of the Klondike River, and it’s loud this time of year. Tracy is being driven insane by the constant sound, but Banjo and I quite like it.

A short hike from the park’s interpretative center leads along the river to a beaver pond. I walked it this morning and saw tons of new tracks and scat, I want to say from moose, but there aren’t a ton of moose up here. You can be sure I’ll let you know if I see any here!

(So far my moose count is five.)

This is how cold the river is behind out campsite; this snow is just a little upstream from us.

One evening in the campground, a local group of actors stopped in to read a couple of plays. The story I sat for was about the history of Indigenous and immigrant relations, with references to current water rights activism. The young people, though, how entirely adorable they were acting out attempts at first contact before a shared language, with lots of giggling. I was transfixed. I didn’t stay for the next play because it had violence and alcohol and drug abuse in it. Common themes here, I think.

Up the Dempster

One morning we drove up the Dempster Highway, which is where Doug and Melanie went to see the Arctic Ocean. We drove only to the boundary of the park and got out where we could to walk around in the tundra.

Tundra covers the mountain sides in this lush green layer that is so unusual to see. No trees, no grass; instead, a carpet of brush and shrubs that never ends.

We walked until the inevitable storm came rolling over the mountain and drove us back to the truck.

I was able to get this panoramic video of the land before then, though. It doesn’t show the mountains in the distance, but my goodness it shows everything else.

Here are my feet walking over the tundra, with the camera moving up to Tracy ahead of me at the end. Seriously, I could watch this over and over.

You get wrapped up in the flowers and mosses so your world is all at your feet, and when something makes you look up, you’re like, “Oh yeah! There’s that, too!”

Tracy is out on a guided botanical hike, and I’m hanging around the campground with Banjo, excited for Doug and Melanie to arrive from their Arctic trip. My senses could use a rest anyway from all this glory.

7 thoughts to “You Keep Watching the Tundra, Then You Remember to Look Up (at Tombstone)”

  1. I love the videos!! Moose are amazing creatures, I love them 💚 when I lived in Colorado we went to Buena Vista one evening for dinner and there was a giant bull Moose walking down the street there 💚