Chilkoot Trail, a 53-km trail from Dyea, Alaska to Bennett, BC, was the main way for gold rush prospectors in late 1890s to get to Klondike River in Yukon. This slideshow contains photos of my 5-day hike through this historic trail.
Day 0: I fly to Whitehorse, Yukon where the group will get together the day after to drive to the trailhead. I have some time to explore the city.
The world's largest wind vane at the Yukon Transportation Museum. The wind is blowing eastward.
Whitehorse in Arabic letters
A common mode of transport in the old days, used by Royal Mail.
SS Klondike was the largest ship that operated on Yukon River
SS Klondike's engine room
"Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!" An old newspaper from Seattle shows how the gold rush started. When a large shipping of gold from Yukon arrived in the US, media started creating hype, and people desperate from the economic downturn swarmed towards Yukon to get a piece of that pie. Little did they know how brutal the winter conditions are, and how little gold they can claim after the news was already out.
Gold rush prospectors had to carry a huge amount of luggage with them. After arriving in Alaska, they had to take Chilkoot trail, and after reaching Bennett Lake, they could use Yukon River for rafting up to Dawson City (gold fields). Pictured is the 45-degree-sloped Chilkoot Pass which was the most difficult part of the trail. The Canadian police was stationed at the top of the pass.
Day 1: all packed up and ready to hit the trail. First we need to drive to Alaska for the trailhead.
Emerald Lake gives a preview of how the last part of the trail will look like.
Fireweed is Yukon's flower (their official floral emblem)
The road to Skagway, Alaska goes through White Pass, which was another major way during the gold rush. The railway on the less-steep White Pass made Chilkoot Trail obsolete in 1899.
This is how much "teeth" a train needs in order to carve through snow
Skagway, Alaska. After the gold rush, people's major occupation here was trapping animals. They now trap cruise ship tourists.
After watching a short movie about how to avoid or possibly fight bears, we take a short drive to Dyea, Alaska. The sunny weather at the trailhead is promising.
Beaver-created ponds. The first part of the trail is mostly swamps in a coastal rain forest. We have to keep making a lot of noise to scare the bears away.
Finnegan's Point is where we stop for the first night. It's after 10PM, and the sun has set behind the glacier across Taiya River.
All food, fuel, toiletry, and pretty much anything that smells has to go inside the bear cache, which is at least 50 meters away from the tents.
Day 2: It's still sunny and we are still in the rain forest. This means a lot of mosquito bites.
The trail permit hanging from each hiker's backpack shows we are one of 50 people that are allowed on the trail at the same time.
Devil's Club. Not so fun to whack to find your way through.
We only had to carry around 1 litre of water at a time. Fresh streams provided a reliable source of water throughout the trail.
Making your clothes wet could mean hypothermia at night. These finicky bridges can have up to one person at a time, but they mean no need to cross the river and risk getting wet.
Old baking oven in Canyon City. This city used to have thousands of people with shops and restaurants. It existed for about two years only and then was deserted.
Large boiler in Canyon City that powered the tramway. Only the richest prospectors would pay to use the trams.
Can you spot the old telegram cable?
Stove in a shelter to warm up
Our tour guide provides warm gourmet camping food. Priceless!
The second night at Sheep Camp has rain in the forecast. Time to pitch the tent tightly to avoid getting wet.
Day 3: This is the big day when we have to take the steep slopes, and to add insult to the injury, it starts raining. Leaving the camp at around 6am, we are pretty miserable.
The silver lining is that rain and fog make for good pictures. We are now exiting the rain forest and going above the tree line.
The old tram station at the top of the cliff.
The Scales: the Canadian government required gold rush prospectors to bring enough necessities to survive in the brutal winter of Yukon. The supply checklist includes items such as 150 pounds of bacon and 5 yards of mosquito nets. These scales were used to ensure the 1-ton supply is up to par.
This is where the Chilkoot Pass or "golden stairs" starts. The steep slope and grave winter conditions killed many people and horses. Their bones are scattered around the trail.
The Golden Stairs: this is the most difficult part of the trail, and the rain made it more dangerous. The top of the stairs is only a false summit; there are two more stretches of stairs left after that.
Snow patch and rain make for a fun slide, even if you don't intend to.
At the top of the stairs, on the US side of the trail, there's a monument to commemorate gold rush prospectors.
This is it; the summit! We are in Canada now and we get to go to the small warming hut to escape rain and gusting winds. We meet the Canadian warden who has worked there for decades.
Time-wise, we're only halfway through the third day, but the psychological sense of achievement makes you forget that.
After the summit, we have a long trek through the Alpine tundra zone of the trail.
Wild flowers carpet the kilometer-high plains
After 10.5 hours we reach the aptly-named Happy Camp with the first sight of the washrooms. Probably one of the most scenic outhouse locations!
Didn't know a warm Lipton soup in a cup could feel so good!
Hanging wet gear to dry overnight
Having put warm and dry clothes on, we go to our tents for the third night of the hike.
Day 4: today is a rather short day to rest our bodies. We get the last view of "river beauties" before we exit the alpine zone.
It's called Long Lake. Isn't it?
Deep Lake. Glacial water and the sediments make interesting hues of colour.
We are now entering the Boreal forests. There are lots of evergreen trees and lakes.
The remains of a boat. After crossing the Chilkoot pass, prospectors started building boats to use lakes and rivers to carry their 1-ton supplies. Needless to say, they only worked for a few months of the year.
The lakes turn into rapids in canyons. Many people died in this canyon, trying to haul their supplies on an unprofessionally-made boat.
We meet a porcupine (far away on the trail). This is not bad considering we won't likely see any large animals. They're usually scared away from big groups of people.
We finally arrive at Lindeman Lake.
The sandy beach and the turquoise colour reminds you of Caribbean climate. The temperature disagrees.
This shelter is at the former location of Lindeman City at the shore of Lindeman Lake. It was a huge tent city to serve gold rush prospectors, and at its peak, its population reached more than 10,000 people.
The Lindeman Camp was closed a couple of weeks before us, because of a bear attack. Luckily only properties were damaged, but the two involved bears were shot to death.
An old first-nation cemetery.
Day 5: Our last day is another 12 km from Lindeman Lake to Bennett Lake. Our trek in the Boreal forest goes along many lakes.
Pictured is Bare Loon Lake. We can hear loons around the lake, but I cannot see any.
As per our tour guide, this little lake is ideal for a family of elks to call home.
We don't see any elks, but the droppings are a telltale sign of their presence.
A small trapper's hut. The roof is adorned with bones of humans and animals.
If the trail wasn't diverse enough, we now have to cross sand fields. It looks like a desert.
Lo and behold: here's Bennett Lake. Bennett itself is still meters away, but it doesn't mean you can't take a triumphant picture.
Distances between campsites and landmarks if you start from the Canadian side.
This church is the only standing building from the gold rush times. It's only a shell so no one can enter.
Bennett Train Station. This is part of the old White Pass railway. Trains still operate here, but only for tourists.
Since Bennett has no road access, this is a common way for hikers to get back to civilization.
A White Pass railway worker carrying supplies around. He doesn't know how old that car is, but it still runs fine.
To end the hike on a high note, we're skipping the train and instead taking a float plane.
The pilot gives us the usual safety lecture. "The red lever opens the door, but please don't do it during the flight"
The plane takes off pretty close to the trees.
The river has changed course many times and has created such beautiful shapes
View of suburban Whitehorse along the Alaska Highway. This highway was created during World War II to connect Alaska to the rest of US.
Finally, downtown Whitehorse is in sight. The plane gets ready to land on a nearby lake.
The hike concludes with receiving a certificate. It shows an old picture of prospectors taking the golden stairs.