Please pardon my delay in writing this post. While we did get home a day early, there was much to do upon our return - airing out the tent, washing our stank clothes, cleaning for the housewarming party, etc. From what, you may ask, did we get home a day early? Why from putting 1,600 miles on my car in order to hike 33 miles over 5 days. Trust me, it was worth it.
Tom enjoys the scenic views at the Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge. You may not know this about Tom, but he is an informational plaque-aholic. I cackled with glee as I drove past many, many plaques at high speed. Unfortunately, they reprint a lot of them in the Milepost.
We spent our first night on the road at Kluane Base Camp. Fittingly enough, it was right near Kluane Lake. We opted to use the tent instead of renting a hostel room. It dipped below freezing, which isn't so good with my 40-degree sleeping bag. We bought a small fleece blanket the next day at the Canadian Superstore.
We traveled through many varied terrains, including desert. I'm not certain if Carcross is, in fact, the world's smallest desert. The sign ambiguously says that it is "affectionately known as the smallest desert." Hey, I'm affectionately known as "the most awesomest person ever," but that doesn't necessarily make it true or make awesomest a word.
We spent the night before we started at the Dyea campground, and naturally decided to get a jump on things with a visit to the old Dyea city ruins. At one point we were gazing across an empty meadow when my keen eye caught two moving black shapes in the distance. Bears! It was only the next morning that it occurred to us that we had driven around to the ruins.
It occurred to us right around the time that we heard something very big run past our tent very fast. Tom later confided that he was grateful that I didn't freak out when another camper asked if we had seen that big bear by our tent that morning.
As you can see, the Chilkoot Trail starts with going up. This will be a prevalent theme.
Part of the allure of hiking the Chilkoot Trail is that it is like walking through a museum. When the stampeders went through, they dropped empty cans, extra shoes and anything they found too heavy to carry over the pass. These relics still lay by the side of the trail, kind of like a monument to the efforts of the gold rush of 1898. By leaving everything exactly as you found it, you can help ensure that future hikers can appreciate the living bit of history they are walking through.
And right before this picture was taken, I managed to knock down a bunch of rusty shit with my pack. Take that, history!
We stopped for our first lunch break, and the river looked so cool and inviting that I decided to dip my feet in. After shrieking like a little girl, I pulled them out to let them dry. That's a glacier-fed river, me thinks.
The trail goes through a few different ecosystems, staring with temperate rainforest. Hence, we crossed lots of bridges.
The rainforest is home to lots and lots of mushrooms. This was one of the freakiest ones. OK, the one that seemed to be dripping with blood was a little freakier, but I didn't get a picture. This will have to suffice.
Tom says "Hi" to the blogosphere.
After the first night camping at Canyon City, we set off. More bridges, this time of the suspension variety. Here you see Happy Mary, posing for a picture. After the flash went off, Apprehensive Mary returned, and I crossed the bridge clinging to the wires, all the while mumbling about drunk college kids building rickety bridges on their summer vacation.
More rainforest, more climbing. But our second camp, Sheep Camp was not too far ahead. Once we got settled in there, Tom and I decided to go back on the trail and look for rusty shit. Not finding any, we decided to head off the trail and into the woods. This was easy to do, since we'd left our packs (with all that unnecessary stuff like bear bells and bear spray) back at camp. This led to the very first ever...
heard on the trail
unlike fat little Mary" Moran
If you look closely in the center of the picture, you can see the bear that was in the woods with us. It seemed to be trying to make sweet, sweet love to a tree and looked a little unhappy to be interrupted in the middle of wooing. Is it too hard to see? Should I zoom in and crop?
Why bother when the bear followed us back to camp? We found out later that this bear was becoming a nuisance in the area. Just to be on the safe side, I kept Tom between me and the bear as it wandered around camp and poked its nose in other people's tents. I've heard that you're supposed to make lots of noise to let the bear know you're human, so I occasionally leaned out from behind Tom to yell things like "I applaud your choice of a vegetarian lifestyle." (Note to Bethany: That is what it's like to see a bear in the wild.)
The next day was the long day. It can't be avoided, as the next camp was 8 miles away. 8 miles up and over the pass. It was time to stop and smell the little purple flowers.
This is not the hard part.
This is not the hard part.
This is still not the hard part.
Now we're talking. Tom and I were starting to scramble up the Golden Stairs. The prospectors got to climb up in the winter, when stairs were hacked into the ice and snow. We chose to go in the summer, so we had to climb over a 45 degree slop of boulders. I'm glad that it was foggy that day. I was cold by the time we got to the ranger hut at the top of the pass for lunch, but at least I couldn't see up or down. Seeing up would mean seeing the false summits and realizing just how much more I had to go.
Seeing down would mean seeing down. I've got a little problem with heights.
Near the top of the pass we found more relics (or, as we put it, rusty shit).
Reaching the top of the pass doesn't mean the work is done yet. Rather, it was time to put on my pant legs and keep hiking through an alpine terrain for another 3 or so miles. We were now officially in Canada. There wasn't much security at the border, but I don't think most terrorists would choose the Chilkoot Trail for a secret border crossing.
Happy Camp. So happy to be here. Our 8-mile day took us just a smidge under 10 hours to complete, which is average. Another family on the trail had to be helped by the rangers. It took some of them 17 hours just to reach the ranger hut, which is about 4 miles of hiking.
The sun was out the next day, and we stopped for a snack and break at Deep Lake.
I'll never understand why those crazy Candians haven't dominated the world yet. They did, however, managed to rig up an ingenious outhouse-on-wheels contraption. When the hole gets too full, you pull up a few boards, roll the outhouse forward on the rails a few feet and resume use. Clever! But in America we give you toilet paper.
Tom and Mary at Lindeman City! We had lunch here and waited for a group of nurses from Anchorage to catch up with us. We hiked at about the same pace, and were planning on tagging along with them to avoid a nuisance bear that had been stalking small groups past Lindeman City.
I prepared, packaged and cooked all the food, so Tom did all the dishes. How domestic!
After a few days on the trail, I was getting a little nasty, so I tried dipping my head in Bare Loon Lake (which is not glacier-fed, but still not quite warm). The end result was wet hair that was still greasy.
Tom went for a full swim, only because I was there with the camera. He swam to three different islands, and ate berries on one (strictly against the rules of Parks Canada). The rest of the campers regarded him as crazy for doing this. For swimming, that is. Not for eating the berries. I think everyone was eating berries along the trail.
Last day of hiking. Last day. Pretty scenery, lots of rusty shit.
The old church at Bennett City. No, Mom, it's no longer used and we did not get married.
Victory! The old Chilkoot Trail sign at the end! Too hard to read?
Try reading it in Canadian, eh?
The only way back to Skagway from Bennett was on the railroad. To Tom's dismay, this led to many choruses of "Chaiyya chaiyya."
The trail may be done, but the fun has just started! Tom and I spent some time at the Canadian Superstore (motto: We're not WalMart, but we try!).
Foreign foods are funny! We did stock up on lots of good stuff, though, like Crunchies, Wunderbars and generic HobNobs.
A very short book, I'm sure.
Back in America, the traditional surly American attitude was on full display. I defy you, sign!