When you picture a honeymoon, images of tropical sunsets, clean beaches, warm, comforting air and margaritas (or cerveza) seem to come to mind. For the first time in months, you don’t want to be bothered by anyone or anything- it’s time to relax!

But what if, on a whim, you planned a 3-week road trip up north to Whitehorse, Yukon, then onwards to Skagway, Alaska for a 4-night hike through time (with the requisite historical train ride back), and after several more days of driving to get to Prince Rupert, a ferry ride to the mystical Haida Gwaii where you spend most of your days on a beautiful, isolated beach?

I got married early this summer; it was in the mountains, on old church steps of an abandoned mining town, and it rained.

My honeymoon: a 3-week road trip consisting of 7-9 hour drives/day when mobilizing, not much in the way of blissful shower and hygiene, and honestly, kinda crappy weather. There is not an ounce of regret. The sheer beauty of the north and north west is one for those who appreciate the slowness of pace and the untouched wilderness… honeymoon or not, you have to check out these destinations.

I don’t have a sweet, pirate-treasure-esque map, but hopefully this one will do:

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I could ramble about this adventure, but being a 3 week adventure, I figured a “photo-essay” might be a better option.

truck tent

Our vehicle of choice with the option of truck tent, as seen. Prior to trip we did a little test-run to see how it looked.

 

views on route

Who knew that the route up north could be so beautiful? Some of the views en route to Grand Prairie.

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The official commencement of the Alaska Highway at Mile Zero in Dawson Creek, Alberta.

wild bison

On our drive to Liard River Hotsprings, we saw many wild bison along the road. Look at that hair!

scenic hike

After such a long day of driving from Grand Prairie to Liard River, we were so excited to check out the hot springs. But before we got to dip into the natural spa, we enjoyed the short little scenic hike to its entrance.

hot springs

The photo doesn’t quite capture the majestic essence (sulphur and steam?) that exists when you enter these waters. As you got closer to the source (or what we thought was the source, marked by people’s rock trophies), the water was unbearably (scalding) hot. Apparently, the bears have a calling to these spas- I can understand why.

whitehorse

I feel bad that I don’t have many (good) photos of Whitehorse, Yukon because I actually found the city to be very charming. We spent most of our night enjoying beers and food, knowing that in a few days we would be out in the bush for days without city comforts.

views

En route to Skagway, Alaska, right near the USA-CAN border, there was this eerie but beautiful terrain that I could not resist to explore for half an hour. It was cold but the views spanned for kilometres and were simply out of this world.

skagway alaska

Oh Skagway! Yes, this is a very touristy town; during some hours of the day, it is completely busy with flocks of tourists from the cruise ships. But then, silence… when they all board again for the night. The history of this town is very interesting and is the segue to our adventure on foot- The Chilkoot Trail.

trailhead to chilkoot trail

At the Trailhead of the Chilkoot Trail. I recall not being too thrilled at starting the hike wet already, but it was a good lesson since the rain did not cease until about the 4th day.

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Had to watch our footing here; some of the boards looked to be in good shape but proved otherwise. For a good distance, we traversed on this boardwalk through 2-3 foot deep “water”. When was the last time you hiked a path in a swamp like this? I kept expecting a crocodile to show up, but alas, no wildlife seen here. And to think this is Alaska!

abandoned cabin

This is where the magic began for me. Slightly eerie, however, an odd sense of becoming one with history occurred once we started seeing the relics of the gold rush. This IS the longest museum in the world.

boiler from gold rush

Another finding: a boiler used to power the tramway during the gold rush.

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I’m a sucker for mushrooms and this is just one of the hundreds that I saw on the hike. If I was to analyze the stats of why I ever stopped during a hike to take a photo or just observe, about 75% of time it would have been a mushroom. They were all shapes, colours, and mostly massive!

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As you can see, camp was muddy (everywhere we went). These shacks were a godsend, however. We would all help each other out by getting a fire started (with as dry wood as we could find) and keep it going, while we shared stories, ate our dinners and tried to dry ourselves off. Most of the hike was with the same people each night, so we got to know each other well.

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A typical tent site at each campground. It was always raining, so you had to learn to embrace it.

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“I thought I lost these!” Shoes from the past. As we approached the ascent, more and more relics of the past were strewn in our path.

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View of part of the ascent with the requisite bones (horse, I hope) for decoration. One of the rangers described the process as “you climb and you think you’ve made it, but then it’s a false peak, and you have to keep climbing… this will happen several times”. Thousands of horses died on this trail during the great migration of the gold rush; it is still evident by their bones seen along the trail to this day.

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Don’t look down! The fun part! Awkwardly climbing boulders to get to the top, hoping not to set one loose or losing your balance and tumbling down.

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We were called the Honeymooners and Speed Demons on this trip. Deserved. Although you can’t see how far we’ve come, you can at least be sure that we had fun by the smiles on our faces.

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A little memorandum for the stampeders. Their history is worth a read; the hardships endured by the men, families and animals is simply incredible!

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Catching the historical train from the finish of the hike back to Skagway. Not a flattering photo by any means, but it was so fun to be on a train!

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This train ride on the historic White Pass & Yukon Route was worth every penny! Guides on the train told the story of the gold rush as it pertained to this historic railway and the scenery was out of this world!

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Campsite cooking at its finest! Blankets make excellent skirts and mosquito protectors- and the wine helps, too. Kinaskan National Park.

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After a very long ferry ride from Prince Rupert, BC we made it to Haida Gwaii. A little pre-dinner exploring at Agate Beach near Tow Hill.

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This was our first beach hike. We did not take the drought warnings seriously but thank goodness we brought a little extra water. We made our own little campsite (that we deemed would not get sucked in by the tide) and enjoyed a pleasant fire thanks to driftwood. Signage was sparse and so at times, the combination of sun, heat and dehydration made you feel like you were going crazy and that you were lost. The tides also added a level of difficulty as at some points, if the beach was narrow, you’d be trapped… being forced to push your way through bush, inland. Luckily enough, we didn’t get stuck anywhere- the only nuisance being our limited supply of water.

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The second half of the hike was inland inside the forest. Footing proved to be better than sand, but roots proved to be a bit more challenging. Lush and green it was, but the only “water” to be found was in the form of mud.

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Cool squid that I found on the beach. Not sure if I saved it, but I did return it back into the water.

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A gem of a hike, although most of it again was on sand in the intense sun and heat along a river. We saw salmon heading inland (they were jumping out of the water), which was a treat. The reason for the hike was to see the PESUTA SHIPWRECK.

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Little sea creatures we found while beach combing.

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Our final destination was an isolated, quite beach. To get here, we had to drive 50+km on logging roads. Once we got to the beach, we decided we were going to stay here for several nights so we made sure we set up our campsite to be super comfortable.

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The campsite was surrounded by spectacular views. We always had somewhere to explore or relax. Other than the odd visitor or the one other camper, we were the only beach combers there. And the weather was perfect!

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Hiking the trails around Haida Gwaii, the trees (Cedar) made you feel really small. With their enormous sense of history, you can see why people want to protect these aged giants.

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It was with great difficulty that I did not just dump all the photos out of my album here and press “post”. However, even though there was so much beauty on this trip through North and North-West Canada, I realize these moments were not captured on film. Experiences are priceless; moments of physical exertion & challenge, sleeping in wet clothes during a hike, eating kraft dinner and drinking boxed wine, picking wild blueberries until your fingers froze, not having showers for days, absorbing that delightful sunlight as you listen to the waves and feel the ocean mist on your skin… each of these memories is vivid in my mind and yet there is no photo that comes close to replicating it. So I guess what I am ultimately trying to say is, don’t be afraid of doing something uncomfortable (even for your honeymoon), for it is in these moments of vulnerability that we form our greatest memories and isn’t that what we deserve to experience and share?

 

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About the author

Iwona

Living in Calgary, Alberta- I'm just soaking up all the adventure that I can. When not hiking in the summer, I try to cross country ski out in the mountains. If not either of those, I am sure to either be abroad or at home, either cooking up a storm or trying amazing foods in new places.

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