Chilkoot Trail Adventure - Skagway, Alaska
We had a fabulous time on the Chilkoot. The following posts are a collection of photos and stories of our adventure. Our trip had been in the works for some time. I'd been busily calling various places to try and find the best deals as the itenerary took shape. We managed to find a combination of a time slice that worked for everyone's schedule - and as a bonus it fit within the timeframe that I've been told by some of the locals as being the best time to attempt it. So the dates were set... July 15th to July 24th. It was to be a 9 day adventure. The plan was to 1. Fly Air North to Whitehorse, 2. Get a van at the airport, 3. Spend the night in Whitehorse, 4. Drive to Skagway/Dyea, 5. Spend the night in Dyea, 6. Hike the trail, 7. Relax in Dyea, 8. Drive back to Whitehorse and spend more time checking out the sights, 9. Fly back to Vancouver out of Whitehorse.
Day 1 - Vancouver to Whitehorse
The Chilkoot team consisted of Jim, Rich, Stephen, and I. We began our day by heading over to the Vancouver airport, checking in, and then relaxing while we waited for our flight.
Here's a shot of our plane. One of the flight attendants offered to go out on the tarmack and take it for me!!!! This is a perfect time to give tons and tons of kudos to Air North. <begin plug>Every experience we had with them was incredible. They were very friendly, efficient, and gave excellent service. The added personal touch was very much appreciated. We were continually amazed at how they went above and beyond to service us. We all commented on it a number of times and would definitely fly with them again.<end plug>
We got lots of cool shots from the plane. It was nice heading north for a change. The majority of my flights head south.. Jim also managed to snag a pic of the Chief!
Here are some other cool shots I nabbed as we got closer to Whitehorse
Here's a cool shot of Whitehorse Jim took
Yay! Made it to Whitehorse!
Time to get that van!
First thing I noticed was the traffic lights! I had to get used to these!
Nice! Arrived at our hotel, the Gold Rush (Best Western). HB and Rich went for a walk, and Jimbo and I checked in.
Got a decent view from our room
Interesting lobby decor
We then wandered around Whitehorse to take in some of the sights
Rich, are those your wheels?
This guy really made the rounds of the town. We didn't actually see anyone buy any ice cream, but it almost felt like he was following us. Something straight out of Stephen King.
More shots from around Whitehorse
Time for some dinner. We found the Klondike Rib & Salmon BBQ. This place has great food!
We then headed back to the room to veg for a bit and digest. Jimbo and I eventually got restless so we headed out for a bit. What trip to the Yukon would be complete without a stop at the good ol Canadian Tire. Yay! Got our fuel.
We then went for a drive a ways up the Alaska Hwy. We eventually turned around though. Didn't want to go all the way to Dawson!
We continued through the town and then decided to see what was on the other side of the bridge over by the SS Klondike. We found ourselves following a road that eventually became gravel. We then stumbled across a little treat - the Dam.
While eyeballing the dam, I noticed a small trail that went up the side of the hill. We decided to follow it. Score! Nice views! We found signage indicating that it is the Yukon River Loop Trail. As you look at these photos, note that it is already 10pm and later!!!! Daylight in Whitehorse is amazing.
We finished our hike and made our way back to the hotel. Before turning in, snapped a quick shot out the window. This shot was taken at 12:15 in the morning!
Day 2 - Whitehorse to Skagway Road Trip
We started out our day with a nice hearty breakfast at Ricky's
Check out RV land at the Walmart!!
On the way out, we stopped in at Miles Canyon
We finished our play time at Miles Canyon, and then it was time to once again hit the highway. Along the way, we stopped at a viewpoint called Emerald Lake
The Alaska Highway is full of cool tourist stops. The next one that we came across was the Carcross Desert
The next viewpoint along the highway is Bove Island
And then we hit an old mill. The Venus Mill was built back in 1908 and was used for mining silver ore.
We continue along the highway, eventually hitting the Yukon/BC border.
Sweet! We're approaching Log Cabin. This is one of the entry/exit points for the Chilkoot. We're getting our first tastes of the area that we'll be hitting.
The trip through BC was short. We're already heading for the Alaska border.
The last of the viewpoints along the Klondike Highway before the border is the Moore Creek Suspension bridge
You could also make out the White Pass route across the canyon
We arrive at the US Border
On the outskirts of town, we take a brief stop at the Gold Rush Cemetery. Checking out graves like the infamous Soapy Smith and Reid.
An Alaskan tour company entertains a group of tourists with the story of Soapy Smith and Frank Reid in front of Reid's tombstone
The next thing to check out is Reid Falls in behind the cemetery. I was quite pleased to check it out as I didn't have time last year when I visited Skagway
Some old derelicts at the train station
Good ol downtown Skagway was our next stop. Look at all those cruise ship tourists running around!
Oh baby! Have to check out the trailhead office. We may as well register while we are here too. Boy, we picked a busy time!
The White Pass train cruises into town
We then head over to the pub for a few beers and some dinner
After a few beers, those manequins are starting to look pretty good eh Jimbo?
We made our way back to the van... Now its off to Dyea. The route to Dyea actually takes you up above the city of Skagway. I remember stopping here last year so I knew the guys would enjoy the last view of the city we'd have for the next 6 days.
The last several KMs of the road to Dyea were on gravel. A short while later, we made it to our resting spot for the night - the Chilkoot Trail Outpost. They're right across the street from the campground. They have a great facility!
We had bunk rooms the first night
Day 3 - Dyea Trailhead to Canyon City
The next morning we rose nice and early. We headed over to the main cabin to have breakfast. They serve a great breakfast there! Nice way to start a morning.....
Once we finished breakfast, we packed up and got ready to go. HikerBoy decided to take off for the trailhead, so I figured I'd give the guys a lift to the trailhead and rub it in. hehehe
I made my way back to the Outpost, dropped the van off, then hussled back. We then got our photo taken at the trailhead.... then its off to the hike.
The initial part of the trail worked its way upwards through the forest. It wasn't as bad as everyone has been saying. I kept hearing stories about not going to fast initially. It was a nice hike though.
There were several points where it ascended and descended. We crossed a bridge before hitting a level point.
There's been alot of flooding in the area because of beavers. A nice walkway was constucted that provided us a quick way of working our way along.
The next section of the trail passes through private land
One of the first broken down cabins we come across
We hussled along the trail with Finnegans Point on our minds
We reached Finnegan's Point and it was time for a quick break and some grub
We continued along after lunch eventually coming to a bridge that had been broken down. We took a detour.
We're getting closer to camp. Just another hill to get over. We stopped up at the top for a quick break.
We get to Canyon City campground and find a spot to park our butts.
Now that the tents are set up and the food is cached, we can take a little break
Nice shelter at the campsite
Jim and I made our way from camp to head out and check the original Canyon City ruins. A suspension bridge takes you across the river towards the original city.
After the bridge, we made our way a short distance along the river
We came to a relic stove
We made our way further in to the ruins to find large steam boiler. It had a whopping 50 horsepower!
Some of the piping was quite large too!
We also ran into a geologist while at Canyon City who was doing studies to analyze the area and determine the causes of the floodings
There wasn't much left of the city, with the exception of a broken down building
Some beautiful wildflowers in the area
We headed back to the camp to relax and enjoy some chair action
Jimbo and I got restless and decided to hike up to the top of the falls on the cliffs above
On our way back down, we got some cool arial views of camp
A little dinner now that we've worked up an apetite, then some bear bagging before dinner
Day 4 - Canyon City to Sheep Camp
Day 4 of our trip - day 2 of the trail - was our journey from Canyon City to Sheep Camp. That leg is only about 7 KM.
The day was high overcast with a few blue holes punched through when we rolled out of our tents and sat down to breakfast. Jim hadn't slept well at all that night and it clearly looked like he was having to force his breakfast down. Upset tummy, sore throat, and lack of sleep... Jim wasn't looking good. It was fortunate that this wasn't our summit day because I doubt he would have made it in the condition he was in.
Jim and I headed out of camp just after 8, with plans to meet up with Rich and Stephen at Pleasant Camp, two-thirds of the way to Sheep. The two of them had headed out a few minutes ahead of us.
Hey, who put this hill in my trail!?
This was a perfect day for hiking. The air was so fresh, with a slight breeze and magnificent scenery. I seem to remember there was always a glacier or two in view somewhere along the trail
We got to Pleasant about two hours later and met up with Stephen and Rich for a few minutes before they headed off again.
After a quick break, we headed out for Sheep Camp. We were pretty much the first arrivals, and after quickly setting up camp, Jim pretty much collapsed on the bench by the picnic table and warming hut.
Stephen went to soak his feet in the river for a bit, then after lunch we kicked back to relax in the afternoon sun for a while
After vegging for a while, Stephen, Rich and I decided to head out for a bit of exploration towards the summit - trying to see what we were up against for the next day. Jim took the oportunity to have a little five-hour nap. A little over a kilometer further down the trail we came across the ranger station, and just beyond that the original location of Sheep Camp, complete with a cabin full of artifacts and displays.
By dinner time the crowd at camp was growing. The picnic table was a popular place to be as we all gathered to cook up some grub.
Ranger Kip, who had been working around camp for most of the afternoon, put on a presentation at seven o'clock that evening. He was actually pretty entertaining as he described the differences between the various trees of the forest, the Sitka Spruce for example, and the wildlife, edible berries and history / geology of the area. Some of the ladies later nicknamed Kip "Ranger Dick" as he was flying low during the presentation - LOL.
Stephen decided to turn in early as we'd decided to beat the heat by being on the trail by six-thirty the following day. Summit day is the toughest day of the trail, covering "Long Hill" up to the scales and then the golden stairs. Lots of talus to scramble across, and then once you reach the summit there's about six more K to go to reach Happy Camp. All tolled it's about fourteen kilometers - or nine miles. It was looking like the weather was going to hold for our summit day, so we wanted to beat the heat with an early start.
Jim decided we should have a little fun with one of the signs laying around. Hey Hiker Boy - how long are you going to be in there? We gotta go!
Time for a little more exploration before bed...
Day 5 - Summit Day
(Sheep Camp to Happy Camp)
We got up nice n early to get on with the day. We wanted to be out early so we could beat the heat - assuming that the sun was going to come out. We also heard that it is a good idea since some of the snow fields soften up alot later in the day.
We woke up at around 5am this morning to a relatively overcast day. After just over an hour, we were set to head out. We were the 3rd group out of camp.
Here we do the last minute prep before heading out
A short distance later we passed the ranger cabin
Then another log cabin showing more artifacts from the sheep camp area. This was of particular interest to me since I didn't see it on the dayhike before (I was sleeping in my tent trying to get rid of my fever)
Here's a sled that was commonly used to transport goods during the winter season back in the late 1800's
Going through the valley, there was lots of waterfall action
An unmarked tombstone made of wood
The hike progressed generally upward. We soon came to a small boulder field
First signs of blue sky about 2.5hrs into the hike
We continued to wind our way up the valley, occasionally looking backward. The snaking nature of the valley with the regular elevation gain changed the views ahead and behind frequently
This is one of the glaciers we checked out along the way - the views of it got better and better throughout the day
We're almost at the scales!
We hit the spot where the start of the trams used to be. If you look on the hillsides, you can see glimpses of debris
We continued to climb a little further and finally.... we were at the scales - the base of the golden staircase
At the base, there were lots of artifacts to photograph
Yeah! The base of the golden staircase!
Let's go for it - who put that wall of rocks in our way?
Whew! That was fun. Oh wait... False summit! Doh!
Remants of the old tram
A little further up, there is a plaque dedicated to the stampeders of 1897
There was a touch more of a climb and then finally! We're at the summit!
The McHale trio!
We enjoy the beautiful views at the summit, finish our photo taking, and then make our way down the snow field on the other side
Time for a little break at the ranger station and the shelter
The ranger at the top raises the Canadian flag
Jim and I decide to search for the illusive camera that Patrick (pathfinder) has left for us. We search around the buildings and eventually find it. Awesome!
It really has been really cool so far. In all the guestbooks along the way, pathfinder has been leaving us little notes. You're awesome Patrick!
Hanging out in the cabin
Well, enough rest. Time to head out.
Gorgeous views of Crater Lake
Look at that sawblade
The trail from the summit is another good 5kms. It seems like quite the walk when you've already been hiking for a while. We travel along varying terrains by various waterfalls and smaller unnamed lakes
We can see it at long last... Happy Camp! We wander around the camp looking for the best spot to set up. Each of us finds a nice spot and then we drop our gear. After we get our tents set up and hang our gear for drying, we veg out for a while. I laid in my tent, while Stephen went and soaked his feet in the creek. A little while later, its time to kick back more and make a little something to eat at the shelter.
Don't they look happy?!?!?
The dog made it over the summit. I had to reward him with some beef jerky.
The rest of the evening was pretty subdued. We relaxed at the cabin for a bit as more groups rolled in. We got a little worried about the one group of the parents and their daughter, but they eventually made it in, and still in good spirits 16hrs after they began. I felt for them - being on the trail for that long would take its toll on anyone. We finished the leg in roughly half the time at about 8hrs. It was a good solid day. It seemed a little long after the summit, but it was nice to finally reach camp. Camp was quite nice despite what I've heard about it. Only thing that annoyedme at camp was all the bugs - tons and tons of skeeters, black flies, and no-see-ums.
The hardest days are behind us now. We basically figure we can coast our way through the rest of the hike. I'm glad to see it behind us. I'm not too much worse for wear physically, although my throat is still in pretty bad shape. Only another 3 days and then I can see a doctor.
Day 6 - Happy Camp to Lindeman City
Both Jim and I had nice views from our tents. (Had to include the photos)
We had decided last night that we wouldn't get up extremely early today. Why not just take it easy and coast along to the next campsite.
I got up still reasonably early and headed over to the hut to have some breakfast. Stephen and Rich were already having theirs, and Jim was busily packing up his stuff. I figured since we weren't in a rush, that I'd leave mine for later. After breakfast, Stephen got a little restless and wanted to head out. So he left a little earlier than us with Rich.
I continued to pack up my gear and Jim indicated that he might check to see if he could put together a bigger hiking group. He talked to Heather (flip flop girl), Deb, and Brenda. BTW, we called Heather the flip flop girl because she hiked the whole thing in flip flops! An amazing accomplishment.
Once we geared up, it was time to head out.
View of Long Lake as we hike to Deep Lake
Deep Lake off in the distance
Hike with Stephen and Rich, or with the girls? Tough choice.
We had a quick break at Deep Lake before continuing along to Lindeman
Other side of Deep Lake
Relic of an old boat
We then hiked through the gorge
We arrive at Lindeman and are presented with lots of choices
Rich came over and greeted us and showed us where they had set up camp. We all followed Rich over and planned where we'd put our stuff. We then relaxed at the picnic table for a while and had some grub. A little while later, we made our way over to the interpretive cabin to check out some history and collect our certificates
The ranger's cabin & the ranger
The cooking cabin
The cabin sure wasn't built for me!
And the "other" cabin
After hanging out at the cabin for a while, a few of us decided to hike over to the cemetery on the hill
After the cemetery, we checked out the other side of Lindeman. At this side, there is the Upper Cabin, tons and tons of artifacts, and a beach area that has a little bit of sand. The rest of the group headed back, and Jim and I were left to explore the area.
Jim and I then got the idea to start hiking towards the Bare Loon campground. We followed the signage to head there and came to a bridge that would put us on the other side of Lindeman.
Couldn't resist a shot of these needles that had turned
We hiked as the trail took us higher up above the camp. It presented us with nice views - we could even see the ranger cabin and our tents
The trail continued upwards into the forest. We figure we went about 1/2 way to Bare Loon and then decided it was time to head back. We retraced our steps and arrived back at camp. After a little R&R and chatter at the cabin, we turned in for the night.
Day 7 - Lindeman City to Bennett Lake
We wanted to be up reasonably early this morning as we didn't know exactly how long it would take us to hike out to Bennett. Quite a number of the groups who were originally slated to stay at Lindeman, ended up hiking on to Bare Loon. I guess they were a little worried about the hike and wanted to ensure they would make the train at 1pm. We started out on the trail at about 7:15. Stephen wanted to get a head start, so he left at about 7. Jim and I knew what to roughly expect as we had already hiked part of the trail last night.
At the top of the first set of hills we caught up to Stephen. We then motored along the trail rising and falling in elevation. A short while later, we came to the Bare Loon campground. We were making pretty good time. We felt that the campground was a little on the exposed side and lacked the resources that Lindeman had. We were glad we stayed where we did. Not to mention the fact that we could see all the rain clouds converging on the Bare Loon area as the clouds whipped past us and accumulated several KMs down the Lake.
About 1/4 mile past Bare Loon, we arrived at the cutoff point. This is the point where you can either choose to hike to Bennett, or you can take the cutoff trail that takes you to Log Cabin (along the Alaska Hwy)
Look at that fungus!
Lindeman is one long lake. As we gained and dropped elevation, we got different views of the lake on our way to Bennett. I can see why it was preferable to take the lake rather than hiking.
Jim dropped back for a while to get some alone time and the three of us hiked together for some distance. As we got a little closer, Stephen asked me if I wanted to power out the last bit. I jumped at the offer and motored ahead of the group. I quite enjoy power hiking and getting a little time to myself too. I ended up passing a couple groups on the way and eventually came to a little private cabin. At first I thought I might have already been at Bennett, but no such luck.
Right after the cabin, I entered a sandy area. It was tough to walk in and reminded me of the West Coast Trail trip we finished just a few weeks prior.
There were several little signs en route to ensure that you stayed on course.
As I came to the end of the sandy area, I noticed a small graveyard on the hill. I figured I'd go and check it out and get some pictures. It was similar to graveyards we had seen already. This one had several NWMP markings in it as well.
I made my way back down the hill and back on to the main trail. There weren't as many artifacts along this area, but occasionally you would see a few like these.
I continued along the trail. Off in the distance I could start to see Bennett Lake. I noticed off to my left the land rised above to the bluff so I decided to head over and climb up. I had a really cool view of Bennett from the bluffs. Also, there was an old chair up there, perched on the bluff overlooking the lake.
The trail then dropped gradually till I reached the site of Bennett.
Old St. Andrew's Church
From the Bennett campground, you could see the railway station down below in the distance
For those who want to start the trail in the opposite direction, the Chilkoot Trail is that way
I made my way down to the station
Within about 20 minutes or so the rest of the gang showed up at the station and we nabbed some photos of each other.
Here are some shots from inside the station. The station had a number of informational signs and a couple turn of the century exhibits.
You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain
Too much love drives a man insane
You broke my will, oh what a thrill
Goodness gracious great balls of fire
Our train rolls in and the hikers begin to accumulate. One group actually had kyaks delivered to Bennett. They're going to go down the river to Whitehorse. About another 3-4 days.
We get our packs loaded in the pack car, then make our way to our car. Somehow we ended up at the end of the line getting on, but we still managed to score good seats. Jim, Rich, and I were in the inside car, Stephen went to the outside car.
And we're off!
Near the border, we met up with another train. This looked to be the train that the cruise ship tourists take to the border. We looped around and got off the train we were on and boarded the tourist train back to Skagway. We still had our own cars so we wouldn't stink out the tourists with our days of B.O.
Our new digs were pretty nice
Here we cross the NWMP post
The summit of the White Pass
From the train, you can still make out parts of the old hiking trail (the trail of 98)
We passed through a tunnel. Got a photo and think I blinded most of the people in the car
Old railway crossing at gulch
We had some amazing views along the way
The border crossing at the Alaska Hwy
The last stretches to Skagway
We arrived at Skagway and russled up Dyea Dave so we could get a ride to Dyea. We managed to get on the first shuttles with another guy we had met on the trail. Our gear went in one vehicle, and we went in another. We managed to squish ourselves into one vehicle, Jim rode in the back.
We made it back to the Chilkoot Trail Outpost. We snagged our rooms and unpacked our gear. After getting some of our stuff together, we went to the cooking cabin. At the outpost, they fix up a picnic basket for you that you then cook up. I was hungry and ordered two meals! The rest of the guys ordered double meat. Stephen did an awesome job BBQ'ing our dinner. Thanks Stephen.
That is one fine looking meal. Had all the food groups. Chicken, beef, and fish.
We sat around the fire for a bit as well. Made a few smores and kicked back with a few people who were to head out on the trail tomorrow morning. We weren't really in the mood to chat about the trail and give people the skinny on things so we headed back to our cabin. We hung out for a while, relaxed, and watched the news. I was really looking forward to getting to Whitehorse. Tomorrow I get to go to see a doctor and hopefully get some medication.
Day 8 - Dyea to Whitehorse
We got our stuff packed up, checked out, and drove the van back to Skagway. We spent a little time doing touristy stuff and gift shops before heading out.
Hey! The trailhead office. Let's go bug ranger Anita
The museum in Skagway presenting "a ton of goods"
We saw this sign on the way to Skagway. Couldn't resist stopping to take a photo of it on the way back.
We made it back to Whitehorse and headed for the nearest clinic. I saw a doctor and got a prescription. Then made a b-line for Shoppers Drug Mart. mmmmmm meds
Time for some lunch. mmmm poutine
A little more touristy stuff and shopping while we're here
Time for dinner. The guys headed to dinner and I went back to the room to get some of my medication. Did a quick call to Natalie on my way back.
Guess where we had dinner? You guessed right. Back to the Klondike Rib and Salmon BBQ
Tomorrow we have another day in Whitehorse. Haven't quite decided what we are going to do yet, but we have lots of things to choose from.
Day 9 - Exploring Whitehorse
We were up and decided that we would grab breakfast at the Ricky's again. After breakfast, we made our way to the Beringia Museum. Near the parking area, we saw some large wooly mamoths. After a short period of convincing, Jim let me give him a boost on to the big one. Ride em Jimbo!
I took a crack at riding one too!
Heading into the museum
Misc shots from inside the museum
We had bought a double museum pass, so it was on to the Transportation museum next door
Here's a shot of me pretending to hike the Chilkoot. hehehe
A few more shots from inside
And a few more from outside
We entertained the thought of taking the boat tour up the Klondike river, but then decided we didn't want to be locked in for that much time
Earlier in the day we hit the Walmart. Stephen had to get himself a pair of Sponge Bob underwear. Nice moon Stephen!
At around 6pm, we headed over to the pub to meet up with the girls that we had met on the trail. It was nice to see them again and chat about the trail more. We also had some signed certificates that we had got from the ranger that we wanted to give to them.
Deb presented us with a big cinamon roll
After dinner we rushed off to the Frantic Follies show. It was a great show. Very entertaining.
The show was a really nice way to end our last night. We headed back to the hotel after the show as it was to be an early morning to catch the plane back.
Day 10 - Whitehorse to Vancouver
The next morning we were up nice and early. We headed off to the airport and checked in. We then got to relax on the plane a bit for the ride home.
The flight back went pretty quick. As we approached Vancouver, we made a long rounded detour over Burnaby, then Surrey. Normally I fly in from the South so I don't experience this. It was cool to see our neighborhoods below.
Nice landing! We're home!
Grab our bags and then head out.
It was a truly fantastic trip. Something that I will remember for a long time to come. It was a nice balance between being out in the wilderness and doing some sightseeing. We travelled by so many different means of transportation. That made the trip really interesting. The amount of history on the trail inspired me to buy and read more books on the gold rush and that era.
I had a great time with the rest of the Chilkoot hiking team - Jim, Rich, and Stephen. You guys helped make the trip most memorable.
Looking forward to the next epic adventure!