Eight months ago, I eagerly posted that I was in Whitehorse and about to start the Chilkoot Trail… and of course I get back and get busy so forget to actually write a post about it Still, no time like the present?
If you want to see a map of all of this, here is one courtesy of Parks Canada.
Day 0: Whitehorse
I’m calling this day 0 as it’s not really day 1… we had to get into Whitehorse the day before and stayed at the Beez Kneez hostel (great, well kept, brilliant hostel, has WiFi, friendly owners). We explored for a little bit and found the
Getting to sleep that night we did notice the longer days up that far North.
Day 1: Travel to Skagway, Dyea and setting off
Early start and headed to find some breakfast before setting of on the bus for Skagway, Alaska. The bus driver seemed extremely pleased that I had my I94-W already from an earlier trip. Saved time at the border. We also stopped for an hour at the (somewhat touristy) Carcross, Yukon.
Once in Skagway we got registered at the trail office and were told in no uncertain terms that metal detectors were not allowed! Seems they had a bit of a rash of people going hunting for treasures with them. All signed up, we head off to find some food and something to remember the first time in Alaska! In Skagway itself, we did observe quite a lot of cruise ship passengers… and suitable places to serve those passengers. I’ll be honest, the heavy tourist focus isn’t my thing and not something I really like that much. If I go to a place I don’t want to think that I’m being fleeced for cash at every turn, and as nice as Skagway was, unfortunately that felt true. We toured round for a bit and found a few decent shops none the less, you had to look for them but they could be found… Also, see that place call the Red Onion? It’s a former brothel turned into a theme restaurant.
We caught a bus (all of this organised by Hannah by the way, thanks again) up to the trailhead just near Dyea, Alaska.
So we headed off into the first of what would be several different areas… the first being coastal rain forest… and at least in my mind, the definition of it. Green, wet, leafy trees and (despite being early summer) somewhat humid. For the most part this was easy going, mostly a gentle uphill (but some steeper sections). Note that you won’t get water until about the 6km mark where there is a stream, so don’t do what I did and set off with just 1L that morning! You’ll see quite a few leftovers that the goldrush folks dropped (but not that many) on your way. We had great fun spotting these and shouting “artifact!” when seen. We did about 8km that day before setting up at Canyon City for the night.
By far, the note of this night was a laminated book which contained the journal of Leo Healy, titled To the Klondike, quoting the abstract:
Diary of nineteen-year-old Leo R. Healy, who with his brother George, journeyed to the Yukon Klondike gold fields in 1898. They arrived in Seattle after a train trip from Chicago. There they bought their outfits and voyaged to Skagway, then went over the Chilkoot Pass to Dawson. After a brief stay, seeing the conditions in Dawson, they returned home via the Yukon and St. Michael.
Later I emailed the Alaksa State Library and they were kind enough to send me a copy of the diary, unfortunately, I don’t think the copyright notice gives me permission to post it here, but you can request it from them for personal use. I strongly suggest you all do using the details above, MS0013-07-04 is the document number). Made good reading in the hut to hide out from the rain.
Day 2: Canyon City to Sheep Camp
Started off wet unfortunately but dried up. We saw a few more artifacts along the way. Things began to get more rocky and trees thinned out a bit. However, it was flatter than yesterday. Just as well, because your pack should still be pretty heavy with food at this point… you’ll need your energy for tomorrow for The Pass (see this elevation profile I posted of that). I probably shouldn’t have polished off a whole bag of beef jerky then…
The wettest night of the trip ensued. We just got the tents up in time to avoid it. We hung out in the huts with the new friends we were making (you tend to see the same people each night in camps) and played asshole. Enjoyed eating a bunch of tortilla wraps and Buffalo Chicken filling for them. We met some folks who were shuttling food drops up to a group, they were doing almost our entire route so far in a day, no problem at all! The Rangers (who had a small house nearby) gave a briefing on what to expect and where the border actually was. Sleep time for what was ahead…
Day 3: The Pass
Oh this is the one we were working up in our heads. Got up a little earlier, got walking as soon as the food was done. We headed into more mountainous terrain now, a few streams to cross, snow starting to appear in patches. You have a general uphill for about 2 hours until you start to reach a moraine and scree field. There are a LOT of discarded artifacts in this area.
Oh did I mention a large scree field known as The Scales? This is what seperated the men from the boys back in the Gold Rush days. People would charge $1 (a great deal in that time I might add) to haul your Gold hunting gear up and you would quickly pay it to avoid doing it yourself. Clearly such a fearsome terrain adversary would best anyone meeting it these days…
Quite easy really!
On we went, now the terrain was above the treeline high alpine stuff. Rocky at first. We found where the US border was. So we stop for a photo. Simple enough isn’t it? Just set up the camera, set it on self-timer and run like hell towards your spot right on the side of a ledge with a heavy pack on your back?
Instead when I sat down I lost my balance, Christina fortunately realized this and dived across my legs before I tipped backwards!
On we trotted to the ranger station and outhouses. The Rangers (one Canadian, one American) were great, really friendly and informative… in addition to hiking at the speed of mountain goats! (Seriously, they almost ran up the Scales)
Hiking alongside the gigantic, blue Crater Lake you could see the ice/snowbergs (is snowberg an actual term?) well on their way to breaking up. This section is also memorable as it’s where the downhill really started coming in.
A few river crossings later we arrived at Happy Camp. Mosquitoes were bad here so it’s time to break out the nets we bought in Whitehorse.
That Dark Chocolate Cheese Cake was hiked up in secret, along with some candles, for Hannah’s birthday (well, a little early, it was the day after we got back).
Day 4: Happy Camp to Bare Loon Lake
This was a more downhill day, we felt we deserved that. You started off in Alpine areas and glacial bowls with lakes everywhere, until you reach Deep Lake campground.
After this it’s a walk along the edge of a gorge, following the river, moving noticeably faster now. This area takes you down into the treeline again and the soil becomes a richer red colour, more desert-like. Eventually you make it to Lindeman City and the small museum there.
This is where we kept thinking we would get to Bare Loon Lake in no time at all… but we were not aware of the smaller lakes in the area so kept thinking it was closer than it was. We found ourselves on undulating terrain here too. Eventually though we reached it. This was easily my favourite camp because:
- It was sunny and warm weather
- After 4 days without a shower, we could have swim in the (freezing bloody cold) lake
- It was more like summer than the last few days
Day 5: Bare Loon Lake to the finish line at Bennett
Started off the day by taking plenty of photos are Bare Loon then did the final, very sandy section of the trip. Plenty of artifacts now and our packs noticeably more empty and lighter.
We got to Bennett just in time to see the train we would take tomorrow depart. We’d planned for this to be an easy day of chilling out and swimming… although we did notice a lot of glass around the place. I was down to my last 2 freeze dried meals, so a disciplined diet was needed (that means I looked at them both as if they must be eaten immediately). We then continued our crib playing (taught by Hannah).
During the crib games, the heavens opened on us and we decided it was easier to just move the tents onto the deck, as we were the only ones around (we thought about sleeping inside but didn’t).
Day 6: Trip back to Whitehorse
Final day, final bagged meal… I had to have Chicken Teryaki for breakfast. A game or two of crib then lunch was served at the train station that we had prebooked. The hikers get their own room away from the tourists (as we all smell by that point)!
Train trip back to Carcross was quite scenic, I’ll just post the photos as it really was a scenic train trip…
A few hours in Carcross again then we headed back to Whitehorse… look I’ll be honest, I wanted the following:
However, I shot myself in the foot there… the rich food kept me awake all night and I wound up only sleeping a couple of hours…
Day 7: Flew Home