Surfbird Ridge, Tombstone Territorial Park, Yukon

I love the name Surfbird Ridge.

Surfbird.

It makes me think of freedom and big open spaces. It makes me think of happiness.

It turns out that there's an actual bird by the name of Surfbird. According to the Cornell Lab of Orinithology, "a stocky shorebird living among the wave-tossed rocks of the Pacific Coast, the Surfbird is rarely found away from the splash and spray of incoming waves. Only to breed does it leave the coast for the rocky mountain ridges of Alaska and the Yukon."

We didn't see any surfbirds on our hike to the ridge. The only feathered thing we saw was this dude. I have no idea what kind of bird he is, but he makes me think of a partridge.

A bird we saw at Surfbird Ridge.

This was such a memorable hike and unlike any of the other hikes we did in Tombstone. It was a wide open space for us to find our own way up to the ridge. The only thing we were told by the park ranger was to not follow each other. The tundra is surprisingly sensitive - too many footsteps could cause damages.

The tundra can be a very stark landscape - frozen for a large portion of the year and its subsoil permanently frozen.

Surfbird Mountain

But when we looked closely at the ground we were walking on, it was fascinating. All the colors, texture and variety of plants that managed to grow.

Cranberries mixed in lichen and moss.

Cranberries mixed in lichen and moss.

Strange worm-like plants that have the same texture as dried leaves.

Strange worm-like plants that have the same texture as dried leaves.

Moss and tussocks.
Moss and such.
Tundra vegetation.
Arctic White Heather

Arctic White Heather

tundra-tombstone-yukon-5
This might be poop.

This might be poop.

This one is my favorite, mainly because it's called fairy puke. (At least I'm pretty sure that's what this is.)

This one is my favorite, mainly because it's called fairy puke. (At least I'm pretty sure that's what this is.)

The ground was unexpectedly soft. Each step sunk a few inches.

Each step sunk us a few inches.

There were also patches of tussocks, grassy clumps scattered across the tundra. Stepping on one meant throwing us off balance and twisting our ankles.

One foot on a mound of tussock.

At some point during the summer we heard about cloudberries. The name is so dreamy. I had high hopes we'd come across one to taste and I imagined its flavor would be delicious.

Then there they were, two cloudberries peeking out from the bird's nest of moss, lichen, leaves, and branches. Eagerly we placed them in our mouths. Jerud enthusiastically said how delicious it was. I, on the other hand, made a gross face. To this day Jerud still thinks I got a bad berry. The taste and texture of the juice is what I imagine biting into a fish oil pill would be like. According to Wikipedia, "when over-ripe, they have a creamy texture somewhat like yogurt and a sweetened flavor." Maybe yogurt that's gone bad. The cloudberry is sometimes also called a low-bush salmonberry. Could that be because they taste like fish?

Cloudberry

Those were the only two cloudberries we came across during our time in Yukon. But I'd really like to taste another one, because there is no way in the world a fruit by the name of cloudberry would taste like fish.

This is one of those hikes where you're not sure where to look. There are views in every direction. It's about going slow to be able to take it all in.

Surfbird Ridge
Mountains of Tombstone Territorial Park.

If you've ever wanted to feel absolutely alone, like nothing else exists in the world except for you at that moment, this is the place to find. 

There's only land, mountains, creeks, and clouds.

Endless views.
 
Creek
 
Road leading away from Surfbird Ridge.

And of course the bald eagle we saw on our way back to the campsite.

Bald eagle in Tombstone Territorial Park.

TIPS:

  • Hiking information on Surfbird Ridge can be found here
  • Wear waterproof hiking boots because the ground can be wet in some spots

We visited this area from August 17 - 22, 2016.


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