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.
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…
Back to Day 1
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Car(ibou)Cross(ing) – a boom town turned small town. More of a locals place, locals who make room for the train-scheduled tourists. That shore-hugging train ride along Lake Bennett brought me and my fellow smelly trampers out of the wilds and into this civilization. The Caribou Cafe feels new and modern in a comforting IKEA sort of way – i.e. functional minimalism in wood. Open, airy with lots of art on the walls. I understand why Steph recommended this place to me. 3 ladies in matching green sweatshirts chatter in German with the owner, Heike. They are guides of some sort but where are their tourists? Having an ice cream in on Main Street no doubt. I am pleased with my purple smoothie. This is clearly the place just enough off the beaten path that the interesting people rejoice in discovering, as I have.
And so the trail is over. A hotel and shower await me in Whitehorse. And hopefully a beer and something not cooked over a pocket rocket. I don’t think I will do any reflecting. That’s what the trail is for. And the art. We shall see what comes…
Read all the post from the Trail Journal.
I will never forget my first view of Lake Bennett. After a hot, buggy 4 miles with a heavy pack, I duck down a spur trail to a rocky overlook and there she is – the perfect picture of Canadian mountains lining a shining lake graces with sun. All the colors of wildness – purples, blues and greens with accents of rust and ochre. Such an inviting place.
I am done drawing for the day. I had my fill of artmaking in the morning exploration down a secret trail from Bare Loon to Lake Lindeman. In the perfect stillness of Bare Loon, all the hikers having hurried off to catch a train and a bowl of stew, I read and lunched and had a nap until it felt like time to go. I realize I am emotionally drained from this journey. It is time for a sabbath. There is always more art to make- always another page to fill in the sketchbook. Always one more person to talk to on the record.
However, Bennett is a beautiful place to end. The lake erases my hot and sweaty journey in an instant. I chase a canoe up the river for a “magic hour” photo. I share my sketchbook with Dane and my watercolors with Maria, the girl allergic to everything but art. Father and daughter play hide and seek around the shelter. We talk about movies and fairies and spirit dogs and horses. I keep my peanut butter in the bag, but sneak some chocolate (how can an 11 year-old girl be allergic to chocolate?) And still the lake is massively beautiful. 2 gulls harass a bald eagle perched on a pine. The best defence is a good offence. And now, bed!
Read More: Trail Journal Day 13