Klondike Letters Project

Translating experience into memory through inspired creation.

Tag: Bare Loon Lake

Day 4 – Bare Loon

Day 4 postcard

8 July, 2016

All obligations are over. We sleep in until almost 9am, then stare at the dozens of mosquitos waiting patiently on the screen door of our tent. We pack up with bug nets over our heads and cook breakfast in the same fashion, eating oatmeal as we move from rock to rock in hopes of eluding the pesky creatures.

DonBearAs we finish up, Don and Bear arrive from Sheep Camp. Bear is 7 years old with curly black hair, a round belly, pink tongue, and a satisfied whine when you rub his tummy. Don is a lightweight backpacker in true Ray Jardin style. He has hiked this trail every year for the last 34 years. We talk about the John Muir Trail, which he recently completed with his wife, and the morning dissolves into noon. Some of the hikers from Happy Camp start filtering through. Finally Don’s light trail shoes go back on, Bear eats a stick of salami, the Jetboil is packed away, signaling it is time for us all to move on. There are rumors that the boy scouts are coming!

mtcoralThom and I head out at a leisurely pace, stopping to take macro shots of the waist high wildflowers and crouching down to get a good view of what we have dubbed to be “mountain coral” – the tiny intricate lichen that grow slowly into spindly ruffles and lacy orbs. Walking along the roaring canyon, we marvel at the depth of the chasm and the energy contained in the churning water. Does this unstoppable force really freeze and become a snow-covered highway with easy passage for stampeder sleds.

Lindeman offers a welcome lunch break, some education at the interpretive tent, and a quick chilly dunk in the glacial green waters. Then we are on our way to Bare Loon. As we hike the now sandy trails, in between granite boulders and widely-spaced spruce, Thom comments, “This reminds me of hiking in Colorado.” Funny how we attach our reference points to our home places – for me it is quintessential Sierra Nevada; for him it is clearly Rocky Mountains. In truth, it is its own place, the start of the “Interior” – a word used often enough by the Canadians on this trail that I understand it as a political geography. It is beautiful and familiar at any rate.

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We arrive at Bare Loon, eager for a second swim, and most of the camp residents seem to agree as they are already in the water, splashing between the rocky islets near the shore. After our previous swimming adventures, the water is practically warm. It feels wonderful to sprint for the short distance to the rocks, hoping 4 days of trail dirt and sweat is loosening from our skin as goosebumps pop up. Finally, there is some time to brush hair, organize clothing, catch up on journalling, while the last few hikers arrive and hurriedly set up tents to the sound of approaching thunder. Everyone gathers under the cooking shelter as rain splats, then pours, from the sky. Dinner is a crowded, noisy affair, but full of more stories and conversation, shared chocolate and ginger and Jetboil magic shows. Eventually the crowd thins as the rain moves on. Across the lake we begin to hear the loons calling out the evening vespers. It is time for bed.

Read Trail Journal Day 5

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Day 11 – Alohas and reflections at Bare Loon Lake

Day 11
5 July
Bare Loon Lake
A perfectly calm and magical evening.


I spent the morning around Lindeman catching up on my journal and painting the sunny lakeshore. Then the Parks Canada crowd showed up – three rangers with a crew of forestry guys ready for chainsaw safety workshop. Time for me to head out, but not before Rene showed me his map. It’s a passion project, meticulous research to find the exact route of the historic Dead Horse Trail over White Pass. He unrolls a large sheet of vellum with careful pencil lines marking the topography, possible routes and certain artifacts he’s found while wandering in the 1 mile stretch or Porcupine Hill. Hand draw from memory by candlelight – the way it was done back in the days when they piled corduroy road over the bodies of horses that dropped dead from exhaustion on the trail. It is a work of art.

A quick lunch and then I pick up my pack – my HEAVY pack! Having shared the load with my sister from Sheep Camp to Lindeman, I’m once again the sole pack horse for camera and camping gear and my remaining food. But it’s the home stretch.


The walk to Bare Loon reminded me so much of hiking in the Sierra. Pines widely spaced dropping their needles between granite boulders, views of blue lakes through the trees, sunshine and warmth! Maybe that was the trigger. The first day of legitimate sun-basking! I arrive at camp sweaty and seek out a private bay to dunk myself. Not as cold as Lower Dewey – still I was happy to get out of the water and tingle my way to warmth while the animals stared at me…


36 people! A full camp and I’m glad I met them all yesterday. After dinner I read them postcards and show off my paintings. Everyone seems so excited about the postcards. Maybe it’s the infectious enthusiasm of the high school girls (who shared their no-bake chocolate-PB cookies with me!), or maybe it’s because a shower and a beer are just a day away, but the mood in camp is buoyant. The wind dies down, cooperating for once, so I pull out Donald and we chat on the record. It is tiring work, being on the record, but I am excited to see how all these puzzle pieces will fit together into film language in the coming year.

One man came up to me after my little presentation and asked if he could write a postcard to someone else, because he knew he would not be alive in a year. I didn’t ask for details, but just took his postcard and placed it with the others. I have become a keeper of secrets, I hold in my hands a stack of confessions, fears, joys and sorrows. Such lovely people, even the grumpy family on their first ever backpacking trip, suffering together.


After everyone has gone to bed I climb up to the helipad and am rewarded with something like a sunset – pink clouds high in the sky at 11:30pm. I had worried that doing this residency might be a bad career move. I am stepping away from my nearly finished film and potential commercial projects knocking at my studio door to chase a vague new project that will probably consume a lot of my time with sorting, blogging and creating. But talking to everyone tonight, I do know that for the handful of postcard writers and talkers, the world is now a slightly more vibrant place. Their trek is a tad more meaningful, their lives a wee bit enriched. So, I guess that makes it all worth it? I’m still a poor artist who doesn’t make enough money to support myself. But there is something new and good in the world because of my existence on the trail. I think I’m glad that whatever it is, it doesn’t entirely belong to me.

Read More: Trail Journal Day 12