Klondike Letters Project

Translating experience into memory through inspired creation.

Day 5 – Bennett and the White Pass

9 July, 2016

There is no sleeping in with the boy scouts in camp. They are up at 6:20, breaking camp, worried about the last 4 miles to the 2pm train. We all have a deadline today and some are more hurried than others. Thom and I break camp, but we linger over breakfast, and I take my paints to the lake to catch up on the postcards. It is noon in Canada when we finally begin our walk. We poke our heads into a rustic log cabin at the end of Lindeman – a cozy hovel that would require a lot of shoveling if the 20 foot drifts came down this low. This time the long sandy hill is not so hot and endless because it is expected. The viewpoint beckons and Lake Bennett is just as impressive as I remember, the wide U-shaped basin with brilliant hues of reds, greens and purples flowing into the blue lake. There is not much time for lingering. The train pulls in and announces its 45-minute stopover with a echoing whistle, releasing its day passengers for a quick look around the old church and cabins. Thom and I have the last of our tortillas and peanut butter near the tracks as 82 packs are loaded into the baggage car.

Final Day
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At 2:15 AK time, the train departs and we feel like first class travelers, watching the scenery fly by without our feet pounding the rocks or our packs pulling at our shoulders. White Pass is beautiful, starkly alpine in its interconnected lakes and lumpy granite plateaus. This is no easy route. I would choose to haul my ton of goods over Chilkoot Pass as well.

The narrow gauge track clings to the cliff on the other side and I think about the tons of dynamite Mr. Heney used to make this route plausible. This is the one financial venture that outlasted the stampede. We glide into the station in Skagway and our good-byes are hurried as our trail buddies grab their packs and find their shuttles to Dyea or a local hotel. The trail has come to an end, here where we began.  Like many of the stampeders, our bid for the Klondike became a loop. Or perhaps it is a spiral, seemingly circular, but rising upwards until sometime in the future we find ourselves shouldering our packs (hopefully with a bag of Tostitos attached) and heading out from Dyea to the Golden Stairs…

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