The magic of Kluane National Park's site 27

CBC Yukon radio host Dave White says there's nothing like finding your favourite Yukon campsite unexpectedly, and beautifully, empty

Is it real? Or is it just fantasy? Finding your favourite campsite miraculously vacant

The most beautiful campsite in the world? The spectacular view from site 27 at the Kathleen Lake campground. (Dave White)

Sorry, Forrest, life is not like a box of chocolates.

Boxes of chocolates hardly ever disappoint, aside from when you think you're getting caramel and you wind up with some stupid cherry or something. But sometimes, things work out.

Like when the weather finally breaks, and after two weeks of dreary rain Environment Canada's webpage has lots of little suns.

So you load up the camper and head down the road to Haines Junction, on to the Kathleen Lake campground in Kluane National Park. You pause for a moment to enjoy the breath-taking scenery, note the fact the clouds are breaking up, and head to the campground to make the circuit in search of your home for the night.

All of the sites at Kathleen Lake are outstanding; the distance from your neighbours and the beautiful picnic tables that are the feature of every site have spoiled you. But as you cruise around, the spark of one long-held dream starts to flicker: could Site 27 be available?

Site 27 is at the back end of the campground, overlooking Kathleen Lake. It's huge — bigger than most city housing lots, with the fire pit located off the parking spot, the grounds around it cleared over the years. It may be the most beautiful campsite in the world, and in two decades of coming to this campground it has always, always been occupied.

But what's this? There are no RVs parked in Site 27? No trucks and campers? Not even a dread-locked cyclist cooking quinoa over his impossibly tiny camp stove?

There's a tag on the post, which usually indicates the site has been bought and paid for and tonight's occupant went to the liquor store for "supplies."

Hold the phone: the tag says Site 27 was booked for two nights, three days ago. So you do what any normal Yukoner would do in this situation.

You freak out.

You open the back of your van and begin flinging camp chairs around Site 27 like a tornado just hit a Oklahoma trailer park. You run.....YOU the self registration kiosk and begin shoving money into the box like a dazed bus tour passenger in front of the slot machines at Diamond Tooth Gerties. You can't believe your luck.

Even when you bow to pressure and go on a hike up the King's Throne rather than simply sit down and enjoy your conquest, part of you is convinced you'll come back to Site 27 and find your van a smouldering ruin with a cruel message left on the picnic table: You are not WORTHY of Site 27.

But no, everything is fine. The van squats happily in its space, the camp chairs await your posterior, the firewood needs chopping.

Then the clouds break and you walk over to gaze at the lake, which so many people have done this at Site 27 there's a little path to the view. You can see deep into St. Elias Mountains, brilliant white against the now clear blue sky. That night the clouds vanish completely, and you gaze up at more stars than you've probably even seen in your life.

And you wonder if you should just stay at Site 27 forever.


Dave White is the host of Airplay, CBC Yukon's afternoon radio show. He's lived in the Yukon since 1989, more or less.


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