Once we were done with Canyon City, it was time to head toward Sheep Camp, a mere 4.8 miles away. We knew we had some climbing to do and that we would pass another camp, called Pleasant Camp. We were curious to see why and/or how each place got their names.
Out of Canyon City, the trail led to an immediate uphill climb. This seemed strangely familiar.
Up and down, and over and around rocks and roots in the often dark, damp forest we hiked. Thick spongy moss covered everything not moving.
Mushrooms grew out of rocks engulfed in roots. The trail beneath our feet sometimes felt like we were walking on a trampoline (I even tried to jump…didn’t work, otherwise I would have spent the rest of the day bouncing around the forest).
Lots of green growey stuff and the above mini forests within a forest, made us think of ‘Horton Hears A Who’. If these ups and downs were laborious during “dry” conditions, of which this week we are told is an anomaly, we could only imagine what it would be like in rainy wet conditions. I imagine it would have been a muddy slippery slog, that without trekking poles would be no fun at all. During this “short” 4.8 miles, my left knee began to “talk” to me, “quietly”, and I was glad that I had decided to tape my knee with my trusty KT tape…just in case. As long as things stay dry, this tape job should last me the entire trek. We’ll see.
Occasionally bright sunlight would filter through the trees like a Hollywood spot light. And although it was warm (in the 70’s) we kept with long pants and sleeves to ensure we didn’t “bleed out” by the time we arrived at Sheep Camp.
I am glad, and absolutely sold on my Exoffico “bug” treated shirt. And even though they’re pricey, I think they’re worth it. Shoot, this is the same hiking shirt I wore when for the Sierras to Ashland section when we did the PCT in 2014. They say these shirts are effective for up to 70 washings, and Lord knows this shirt didn’t, and hasn’t, to this day, been washed much. Back then, the only reason I traded it out was because I had such horrible pack rash due to the build up of salty sweat in the shirt, and my ULA pack, that after 1700 miles… literally rubbed me the wrong way. Anyhoo…this shirt is stained and worn, but still works, and I am very happy to frustrate these flying blood sacks, who land on my shirt bewildered and then fly off.
Eventually the terrain “leveled off”, and we stroll through Pleasant Camp, which after these past few miles made complete sense.
We pass discarded artifacts lying next to the trail, rotting in place, and marvel at the things that were left on/by the trail. From here we crossed another rickety suspension bridge.
We walk along the river, and the path turns away a bit leading us into Sheep Camp.
By the time we arrive at Sheep Camp, the biting flies (evil cousins of mosquitoes) are swarming, and thusly we have renamed it, Sheep Shit Camp. It’s fairly early in the day, but it is hot and actually humid which makes for snarley attitudes. The flies are SO BAD that when we select our platform upon which to erect our tent, we actually just lay on the platform with our head nets on and take a nap, before we decide to do anything. Seeing as I have already dosed the tops of my hands with bug spray and Paul hasn’t, he puts a pair of socks on his hands to dissuade the winged carnivores. After our nap, and the fact that we are no longer sweaty messes, our attitudes have improved, and it appears that the flies have found new prey to annoy and attack, as more and more hikers continue to stroll in. We store our food and look around for familiar faces. We see a few and nod in recognition. We need to filter some water, but the creek near camp is cloudy with glacial silt, that will stress our water filter unnecessarily. We hear there is another creek crossing about 10 minutes up the trail from camp. We also had heard from two gals that when they had gone to filter clear water, they had seen a bear. They told us they yelled, “Hey Bear!”, and he stood on his hind legs. They yelled, “Hey Bear!”, again, and off the bear trotted. So did they…in opposite directions of course. Figuring the bear would probably be long gone by now (having had encounters with bears before), we scampered up the trail for clear water. I know what you’re thinking ,’What are you? Idiots?’ Close, but not certifiable. As we walked up the trail, I clanked our empty 1 liter water bottles together making for annoying loud noises and we talked loudly up to the clear water that ran under a short wooden bridge.
Paul quickly filtered 7 liters of water as I talked loudly about anything and nothing. By the time we finished, and had dunked our heads in the icy stream, two of the guys that had set off earlier in the day (armed with bear spray) to see what tomorrow morning’s climb would be like were surprised to see us at the bridge. “You know the girls saw a bear here, right?”. ‘It was here? They said it was 10 minutes up the trail, this is only 5’, we replied. Go figure. We have the darndest “luck”. Fully loaded with water, we walk back to camp without incident.
We talk with a few people before we retreat to the cover of the cooking shelters to “cook” and eat our dinner before the 7pm Ranger talk in the new pavilion.
While in one of the cooking shelters, our new Canadian friends have arrived and we dine together sharing the day’s hike. Two other “local” guys (one of which is a bartender at the Bonanza Saloon in Skagway) join us as well.
Soon it’s time, at the pavilion, for the Ranger talk, which is a “briefing about tomorrow’s climb, and some history about the trail we been hiking so far. First on everyone’s mind is the bear sighting, seeing as another hiker reported seeing a bear 10yards from his tent platform not more than 15 minutes ago. “Oh shoot”, was the Ranger’s reply. “I’ll be right back. If you hear a shot, don’t worry, it’s just me.” 15 minutes later, he’s back. “It looks like he (the bear) is gone for now”, he says. “For NOW?”, a woman asks in a panicked voice. “This bear is a juvenile black bear, about 3 or 4 years old. He’s been hanging around this area recently, and doesn’t seem to be responding to our bear avoidance or intimidation techniques.”. ‘Typical teenager’, I chuckle out loud. The woman glares at me clutching her canister of bear repellant.
The Ranger continues saying that the bear isn’t really a “problem”, as long as we make sure all our food items and “scenty” stuff is stored in the bear lockers. Someone asks, “What do we do if he comes sniffing around our tent?”. “I wouldn’t worry”, says the Ranger, “Bears don’t like to go through barriers. If you see him outside your tent, stay inside and yell or blast your air horn. I’ll come running. In fact I’ll be on patrol tonight, so if you hear something, it most likely me walking around.” We chuckled at the thought of a bear thinking of a thin piece of ballooned taunt nylon as a “barrier”. We reckon if a bear really wants you, he’ll take you, especially in your tent when you’re “slow food”, wrapped up like perfect little “burritos”. For a bear, our tent is just the “plastic packaging wrap” you tear off to get to the delectable treats inside. Realizing that the Ranger is trying to assuage everyone’s fear, we keep our sarcasm to ourselves. He then changes the subject and talks about what we are to expect tomorrow morning. He advises that we should get going early as possible as sometimes it can take up to 12 hours to ascend and make it to Happy Camp, 7.5 miles away. He warned of the very real dangers of heat stroke and heat exhaustion, due to the unseasonably warm weather. “Normally”, he tells us, “I’m treating for hypothermia”, but lately it’s been heat related issues. He tells us that the granite rocks will get really hot by midday, upwards of 108° , so the earlier we get up and over the Pass, the better. He then talks about the history and the challenges the Stampeders faced. He passed around black and white period pictures, and a list of “recommended” items a Stampeder should bring to be able to sustain themselves for a year. We are amazed at the items on the list, as pictured below.
We are infinitely glad we don’t have to carry a tenth of what is on that list. The Ranger tells us the trail was really only used for about a year or two, because once the White Pass railroad was built, the remaining Stampeders opted for the $7 fare ($200 now) for you and your ton of goods, Considering the challenges of the route, it’s a deal, unless of course you have no more cash, and then it’s the Chilkoot for you. After the Klondike Gold Rush, the trail essentially lay fallow until the 60’s when an Alaskan prison trail crew was “commissioned” to rebuild the trail for recreational use. It wasn’t until 1976 that the trail became part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park.
When the Ranger had finished, we milled around a bit, while everyone discussed when they were going to head out in the morning. The consensus was no later than 7am. Our Canadian friends vowed they would be up and on the trail by 6am. This later would prove to be false, and become a linch pin in their adventure. Paul set up our makeshift “bear barrier” and we went to bed.