Klondike Letters Project

Translating experience into memory through inspired creation.

Tag: sheep camp

Those Who Have Passed

What a hike!

How did the prospectors get a ton of goods over this pass? It took me 5 1/2 hours from Sheeps Camp with only 45 lbs and in good weather. The tenacity of those passing this way in 1897-1898 was incredible. Those hauling, engineering and building the tramway were incredible too. We seem so small in comparison.

Growth and Sunny Days

A beautiful season on the trail ~ so much growth and sunny days.

Just had a heart-filled visit with Aric at Sheep Camp and slept in the new wall tent, surrounded by re-purposed timber. New history there. I am off to Lindeman today and then home.

Thank you Chilkoot Trail for another sweet hike and season!

Day 2 – Summit in the cloud

 

Postcard from the trail

Postcard from the trail

6 July, 2016

To the summit and back with light packs. On the trail at 6:30 – a later start this time but we seem to be on track with the rest of the camp, passing a few groups and making it to the top ahead of nearly everyone in just shy of 3 hours. The white cloud is here to welcome us, ebbing and flowing with the 39 hikers and day runners (this must be a new fad) coming up the Golden Stairs and through the pass.

After our arrival a familiar face comes through the door. It is warden Stephanie with thermoses of hot water for the coming hikers! Canadian hospitality abounds. We hang out and talk to hikers. Hot cocoa and tea is welcomed and postcards are written in return. Thom and I learn about bear bangers and the recent rogue bear issues at Lindeman. Soon the last group of hikers has hurried off into the mist, but we linger, hoping for a break in the weather.

Golden Stairs
Golden Stairs
I remember this view
« 2 of 13 »

At 2:30 the cloud breaks and Canada apprears. Lo! There is a lake below! Blue and extending in long fingers with little rock islands and secluded swimming spots – if you can brave the icebergs! We linger a while longer, enjoying what the hikers did not have the luxury to wait for. Then down the golden stairs. How many people in modern times have walked down these stairs. A handful of rangers and trail crew. The occasional runner or hiker going salmon-like against the flow. A bear, heading to the coast. Not too many see these views of waterfalls and hanging glaciers on both sides of this steep valley. The way up is always looking forward to the top of the stairs. But going down, the valley expands on all sides.

Back at camp at 6pm to meet Annie, the ranger, and a flurry of preparation and activity from those who are going into the unknown. We get lots of questions and try to set at bay the worst fears with fresh information from the trail ahead.

ranger

Over dinner, Thom and I peruse the journal of a 19-year young man from Chicago who joined the stampede in 1898. Travelled by rail through the great state of Montana ending in Seattle where he and his buddy bought their kit and booked first class passage to Skagway for $50 (“avoid steerage at all costs”). Gear hauled by wagon and tram to the Scales, then packed over to the lakes… rugged work for a city boy. They arrive at Dawson City on July 26 to find “no employment of any kind, no claims to be had, nothing can be done without a permit, not even cutting a tree to build a cabin.” With no prospect of surviving the winter, much less make his fortune, by August 14th he was working his way home as a cook on a steamboat down the Yukon and back in Seattle safe and sound by September. Smart cheechako. It is nice to have the luxury to go home, even if you end up in steerage on the way back.

Read Trail Journal Day 3

Back to Day 1

Day 1 – Dyea to Sheep Camp

Day 1 - Dyea to Sheep Camp

Postcard from the trail

5 July, 2016

14+ miles! The trail is drier his time around. No wet feet and dive bombing bugs either. The little green things still grow but seem a little crispier and many of the flowers I remember from last time have already faded. In their place are ripening berries, oblong ones that hang under leaves and turn from white to deep burgundy, tasting like watermelon. And sour blueberries, that tempt only the bears. Judging from the fresh scat in the middle of the trail, they have been feasting.

Golden Stairs
Golden Stairs
« 1 of 13 »

Without an overnight at Canyon City, Sheep Camp is far away. My joints are a bit more worn and unconditioned for such a pounding, but my pack it lighter and i have company! Thom makes me sit on a rock step in the middle of the trail and take off my boots for a 5 minute foot rub that is heavenly – and gets me the last 4 miles of up and down. Plus he brought Tostitos! We arrive late after most of the camp is in bed and find our cozy spot in the thick undergrowth. Erica has left me some tastily items in her food box at the ranger station so we have our own feast on Indian curry before sleep overtakes us.

Read Trail Journal Day 2

Day 3 – Summit and Back

Day 3

27 June
Sheep Camp

4:20am
bestofchilkoot014I roll out of the tent to find most of Sheep Camp vacated. I guess they all took Ranger Matt’s admonition to be on the trail no later than 5am very seriously.

4:45am
I hoist a light(er) pack on my shoulder. The mosquitoes seem to know I am the only warm-blooded creature left in camp and they flock around me. I stride out of camp quickly. I have people to beat to the summit!

Soon I begin passing hikers (much to my relief) with a cheery “Good Morning!” Everyone seems awake and in good spirits. Getting up at 4am is not so bad when it’s been daylight for an hour already. We quickly leave the trees behind and walk through scrubby boulders, water gushing from every crevasse, rock and snow patch. Water everywhere! Waterfalls on all sides tumbling down sheer cliffs in white ribbons. It is a Dolby 5.1 waterfall soundtrack!

5:40am
The snow begins. I traverse across snowfields, over patches of rocks and back onto the snow, passing a few more groups. We all follow the orange stakes marking the safe path across the snow bridges, occasionally hearing the hidden rivers rushing under our feet. The mist closes in as I climb higher, obscuring the cairns and stakes ahead so I my only guide at certain times is the steadily rising terrain of Long Hill…

I pass bits of rusty iron, mechanical parts, an old tea kettle, rusted, twisted cables poking out of the snow. What else is buried underneath there?

bestofchilkoot015

6:45
The Golden Stairs – I catch up with the family from Fairbanks. The stairs have shed their snow faster than the rest of the trail and it is pure scrambling from here. Big boulders and smaller rock piles intermingle. The rocks are wet from the mist and soon my gloves are soaked. I love scrambling, so this is no big deal for me. Still, I test each foothold carefully. A loose rock could mean a nasty bruise or worse. Up, up, up! Soon I’m at the top where a rock monument lauds the brave souls that inspired all of us to come on this trail.

7:40
I find the summit shelter through thick fog and let myself in, a couple from Spokane on my heels. The empty warden’s cabin, 50 ft away, is barely visible, but there is no wind so the whiteout is more eerie than threatening. After morning report on my radio, I begin boiling water for the coming crowd. Soon the flood begins and in a matter of minute the hut is full of bodies still steaming from the exertion of the climb. Glasses and camera lenses fog immediately and become useless. Happily, people reach for postcards and pens, eager to put down their thoughts before the feelings of being “at the top” fade. The steady stream of people continues – hot drinks, snacks are shared. Worried wonderings about the slower members that haven’t shown up yet (Miles lost his gloves, Ben fell through a snow bridge) turn into adrenaline-pumped stories when their smiling faces come through the door. The trail crew breaks out a Nalgene full of “black tea” which looks suspiciously like whiskey. There is more snow melting over cookstoves. Others begin to head off downhill with a happy song.

11:30
bestofchilkoot019The hut is empty and I wait for the last 3 hikers – the 3 ladies from my first night at Canyon City. The clouds lift their skirts like a Dawson dance hall girl and I get a peek at Canada. I walk back with the camera and see my lady friends breaching the stairs with cheerful smiles. “A good attitude and lots of prayer,” gets them to the top. More hot water, chili chocolate and postcards!

12:10
Alone again – the snapping flag and vibrato notes of some unseen twisted metal singing in the wind on the crags above me are the only sounds. I am dragging my feet, finding excuses to stay in this forlorn landscape, which is opening up before me in a private beauty. Another warm meal, more photos and recording, eventually it is time to go down… it is sunny below the Golden Stairs.

As with any residency, what this provides is the gift of time – time to wait for the clouds to clear, time to experience change, time to sit still…
My understanding of the trail is utterly unique because of this.

More pictures and drawings on Flikr: The Chilkoot Trail – an artist’s journey

Read More: Trail Journal Day 4

Day 2 – Canyon City to Sheep Camp

Day 2

26 June
Sheep Camp

A pleasant pack to Sheep Camp. A leisurley pace and my pack was not feeling quite as heavy as I expected it to. Day two is usually when your body realizes that yesterdays’s ordeal with a ridiculously heavy pack wasn’t just a one time thing and it either starts an open rebellion of aches and pains or reluctantly settles into a quiet groan for the long haul. My body luckily seemed to be opting for the latter.

bestofchilkoot011
Obligatory stop at the old boiler, crossing a fabulous swing bridge and following a winding path through ferns and flowers devouring rusting remnants of the boom town of Canyon City. If carnivorous is to meat, then what is to metal? Ferrivorous? The boiler was much bigger than I had gathered from the pictures on the web. I guess this one wasn’t worth hauling out. How much of these ghost towns were dismantled and packed out to be reused and resold in the newly booming rail town of Skagway, and how much is buried under these thick blankets of moss waiting for an archeologist 1,000 years in the future to carefully excavate them, speculating on the ancient days when their tropical beach town was a cold and icy canyon?

trailart003

A pleasant view from Pleasant Camp

See the entire album on Flikr: The Chilkoot Trail – an artist’s journey

Read More: Trail Journal Day 3