Time for another adventure. This time we are off to Alaska. The last frontier. Home of swarming hummingbird size mosquitoes, large mammals with sharp teeth (and claws), vibrant ecosystems, tasty and often massive fish and crustaceans, dramatic landscapes, ridiculous beauty and some of the most resilient, pleasant and engaging people, that so proudly call themselves Alaskans. While this is not our first trip to Alaska, it will be our first time exploring and experiencing terra firma’s Alaska, as opposed to the salty depths of the Chattam Strait with monofilament, and an anchovy. Our first week in Alaska will find us traveling via the Alaskan Marine Highway from Juneau to Skagway, where we will pick up our permit to hike the Chilkoot trail of Klondike Gold Rush fame. Over five days (Yes five days. I have been promised low miles and NO morning alarm) we will wander the 33 mile route (43 if you count the walk from Skagway to Dyea…unless a kind Alaskan gives us a lift) and up over the 3525 ft Chilkoot pass, crossing the border into Canada, with the final destination of Lake Bennett. From there we will take the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway back to Skagway, and again board a ferry that will eventually take us to Angoon for a week of underwater foaraging for salmon, halibut, crab and shrimp. We might even get to compete with the grizzlies for salmon on a narrow river. Paul or I are not too excited about the grizzlies part, but then fishing in an 18ft Boston Whaler that could be over turned or crushed by a pod of Orca or a breaching grey whale into 42° (instant hypothermic water) doesn’t seem to particularly “fun” either, and yet we do it with great enthusiasm.
In preparation for this hike, I made the point to read James Michner’s “Alaska” (I love how he starts from the beginning of “time” and weaves fact with fiction into a colorful and relatable story). We watched a few History Channel videos about the Klondike Gold Rush which had a relatively short life-span of 4 years (1896-1899), paying particular attention to the areas we will be setting up camp along the way, and the route from “Sheep Camp” to the border, often referred to as the “Golden Stairs or Staircase“. We are especially grateful that the Canadian government no longer requires one to enter Canada via the Chilkoot Pass with 2000lbs of supplies in tow. This route, the Chilkoot Trail has been aptly dubbed, the “meanest 33 miles in history”.
Over 30,000 “stampeders and at least 60,000 tons of gear was hauled up and over the Chilkoot Pass down to Lake Bennett where many an aspiring prospector would build a boat and set out down the Yukon river…whether they could swim or not. Many never made it over the pass, and even down the other side as a result of a fall, avalanche and even just pure exhaustion. Even more never survived the trip down the river. We of course will not be traveling down the river (this time), but will return to Skagway via railway. It was, in fact, this railway that put an end to the popularity and necessity of the Chilkoot Trail. A welcome option for many a traveler who would rather not challenge their luck via terrain, weather and/or fur suited omnivores. We on the other hand will live “dangerously” and follow the tracks of stalwart pioneers who risked everything, including their lives, to roll the dice, as it were, to “make it rich”. We however will be dressed appropriately and be adequately prepared for the terrain and conditions, with our cooking stove being a JetBoil as opposed to a 400-700 pound cast iron stove, or those 19th Century “ultra-light” pioneers who carried a #12 size (6qt/7.5lbs) Dutch Oven. And more importantly we will NOT be subjected to the snowy conditions as pictured above, which may or may not be a good thing, as the route mostly likely will now be free of snow and nothing more than a 2000 ft boulder scramble up one side and down the other.
To add to our trip and the telling of it’s story, we have purchased a GoPro Hero5 Sessions, and will try to add a Vlog dimension to 2moremiles adventures. We will see how well these two luddites can evolve with technology, as sometimes words can not truly convey the terrain nor the experience, yet we will our my best, namely in hopes that it inspires one to wander outside one’s comfort zone and strike out on an adventure(s), if only for a day.
Pingback: Hiking Chilkoot Pass - Our Journey - Idlewild AlaskaIdlewild Alaska
Pingback: Continental Divide Trail - 2020 - The Trek