Klondike Letters Project

Translating experience into memory through inspired creation.

The Klondike Letters

 Support Klondike Letters

It has been nearly five years since I first shouldered my pack and left Dyea, Alaska with eyes set on the Canadian border. Hiking the Chilkoot Trail was one of the most memorable artist-in-residences programs I’ve experienced, and one that has left a lasting impact on me and the thousands of other hikers that climb the Golden Stairs each year. In the not-so-distant past, this trail was the access route for stampeders on their way to the Klondike gold fields. Today it is part of Klondike Gold Rush International Historic Park managed by the US National Park Service and Parks Canada.

The Klondike Letters Project

My project was to create a memory archive of the people hiking the trail. At the top of Chilkoot Pass, on the boarder of the US and Canada, I asked travelers to write a postcard to their future self. 175 people participated during my two-weeks on the trail. One year later, when the words and images of that journey had lost their sharpness and faded in the mind, I mailed those postcards to the writers as a vibrant catalyst for our memories of the Chilkoot.

Last summer I returned to the Chilkoot to hike the trail again and set up an ongoing project that would outlast my few weeks on the trail. 735 hikers wrote a postcard from the top of the pass! This project has grown and now I need help for it to continue!

The cost of printing, postage, and hours of cataloging are adding up. To maintain this public memory archive of the Chilkoot Trail, 70 generous backers raised $3,842 to support the 2017 season on the trail, but we hope to raise even more so the project can continue into 2018 and beyond.

Why this matters

On a deeper level, this project is about why we seek out places of wildness and what we experience there. Though the stampeders were seeking gold in the Klondike wilderness, the vast majority didn’t find their fortune. From their letters and diaries, we can see they did find other things: adventure, suffering, love, an insight into human nature at its best and worst. In moving through these far-reaching public lands we encounter something we can’t experience in our daily life, a moment that is going to change us in some small but hopefully significant way. Ultimately, this is what makes these places worth preserving.

Would you be willing to donate $2 or more to sponsor a postcard for a Chilkoot traveler? The opportunity to stop and record a moment of time in one of our historic, wild places is a gift you can give to some future traveler. If you can give more, we have some delightful and artful gifts offered as a “Thank You” for your support. See the shop for all the details!