This summer I’ll be back on the Chilkoot Trail from July 5-9! I’m excited to revisit my memories 4 years later and see how the trail has changed and how it has remained unchanged. Even more, I am looking forward to meeting new travelers and maybe even running into some ghosts from the past.
While I will only be on the trail for 5 days this time (a much faster pace than my 2 week journey in 2012), the Klondike Letters Project will continue all summer with postcards at the top of the pass. If you are hiking at any point this summer, be sure to stop for a moment and record a memory for your future self. What will you put in this space?
The Chilkoot Trail opens for the summer today! Happy Hiking!!
Belly full of warm soup which is nicely spreading through my body, extending down to my fingers. Listening to the windows rattle, slightly dreading going back out… what I want to remember is the look on Yanik’s face as he reached the summit, and hearing the enjoyment (excitement!) in his voice as he said that this was his favorite day thus far. I want to remember to see the world like that: always fresh, always seeing. Huzzah!
In February, 1898 Mike Mahoney aka “Klondike Mike” made a deal with Hal Henry. He would escort the Sunny Samson Sister Sextette and their luggage over the Chilkoot Pass and down to Dawson city for $3000 plus a share of the musical group’s proceeds once they started performing in the Dawson Saloons. The six blonde and virtuous sisters were sure to be a huge smash in the rough Klondike frontier, where feminine charms were worth their weight in gold.
There was just one problem – the sisters insisted on bringing their accompaniment piano. Klondike Mike, a strapping Canadian farm boy and champion boxer turned stampeder, duly hoisted the entire piano onto his back and went step-by step up the Golden Stairs and into Klondike fame. Fortune eluded him, however, because the Canadian customs officer at the top of the pass, seeing the piano, asked what he was about. When he heard that 6 delicate, ill-equipt showgirls were coming his way, he was aghast (this was only his second day on duty – he had yet to see the sort of folks trying to get to Dawson). Certain they would die on the trail! He refused to let the party continue any further.
Fuming, Mike stormed back to Skagway and left the piano atop the pass, where eventually someone hauled it back down and sold it for a tidy profit.
Animation: Corrie Francis Parks
Banjo Pickin’ : Ranger Kyle Kaiser
“Saloon Piano Gem No. 1” by Black Keys Bob Stevenson
References: The Hougen Group – Yukon Nuggets and Klondike Mike: An Alaskan Odyssey By Merrill Denison
Interviews recorded at the top of Chilkoot Pass.
This is part of a series of animated postcards from Chilkoot Pass. Read more about the project here. These mini-documentaries are rooted in reality, with live interviews and photos from the Chilkoot Trail providing a catalyst for my personal memories and playful reinterpretations of history. As an artist, this is about as fun as it gets!