Hiking the Chilkoot Trail 2005

Chilkoot Trail profile Seasons: Summer and Fall
Difficulty: Difficult
Activity: Hiking, Backpacking
Length: 39 Miles to Log Cabin

Day 0: 22 July 2005.

Highlights of the day: Whitehorse in the summer. Ride in Dad’s Zodiak up Miles Canyon.

Into Whitehorse by 10h00 am. My sister Redd, her husband Jim, and I go shopping to get food for this hiking trip. Down to grocery store. Salami. Cheese. Spam-in-a-bag. Peanut butter. We buy way too much. We have to carry it after all. But hey. I know how hungry you get on the trail.

Get home. Start setting up tents to see if we really need to bring two tents on the trail. Chantel (my eleven-year-old niece) arrives for a visit. Decide we are taking Chantel over the trail. Have to get permission from her parents who are in Alberta.

We eat dinner and laugh a lot. For some reason Dad says to Chantel: Eeww. You’re gross!! Chantel immediately replies: You’re ugly. We all laugh hard, including Mum. Decide to go for a zodiak ride up Miles Canyon and wait for response from Chantel’s parents.

Chantel can come! Kludge together gear for her to carry. Guess we are taking two tents. Go get her stuff from where she is staying. End up back at my parents by 10h00 pm to start packing. Chantel ends up taking my ultra-light thermarest. I end up taking Dad’s ultra-heavy thermarest. Finish packing for the trip at 1h00 am in the morning. Great start!!

Day 1: 23 July 05. 4 glaciers. 1 bear. Elevation: 3 feet.
“Worry is a waste of the imagination.” –A sign just outside of Skagway.

Drove from Whitehorse to Skagway. Left at 7h40 am Yukon time. Got to Alaskan border 9h30 Alaska time. Chantel is sitting on my lap in the car. We have the seat belt around both of us. At the border, our pencil-sized bear banger is considered a firearm. The surly border guard confiscates it. He says they don’t allow firearms to be brought into the USA. How weird that they allow semi-automatic weapons in the USA, but we can’t bring a pencil-sized bear banger.

Get to Skagway. Redd, Jim, and Mum take the Whitepass/Yukon railway ride up to the Canadian border and back. Dad, Chantel, and I stay in Skagway looking for interesting pictures I could take with my little people. I buy Chantel some hiking boots and hiking socks because I don’t really want to be responsible for a twisted ankle or painfully blistered feet. Redd, Jim, and Mum return. We try to see a movie on bear etiquette. End up seeing a movie on the Gold Rush of 1897-98.

Had dinner. Mum and Dad drive us to Dyea, take a picture of us and our humungous packs, wish us luck, and drive away. We set up our tents and get our food organized into the bear bins that are provided. Head up to the ranger’s station to register in the campsite. On the way back, Chantel and Jim are ahead of us and seem to be just hanging about. There is a black bear around the corner (just where our campsite is).

Another camper tries to run it off. We decide to tell the ranger. In the mean time, we decide not only to put the food in the bear bins, but also our packs since they have the food smells in them and we don’t want food smells near our tents with us in them.

Bear comes back into campsite after we are all in our tents. I call out to Redd in the other tent to see what she’s doing. I guess I somehow figure that if I’m talking from my tent the bear might think it’s a talking tent and not come sniffing too close. I decide that we should have our shoes on because I can still hear the bear snuffling about.

Ranger comes back to tell us that we should probably congregate at the outhouse as an alternative refuge from the bear. Ugh. Have visions of the four of us on our first night of the hike holed up in the stinky outhouse taking refuge from a stinky bear. Briefly consider taking refuge in the bear bins with our food and backpacks.

Eventually, ranger and local police officer from Skagway run the bear out of the campsite. It is now safe (HA!) to go back to our tents for one last restful, peaceful, night before the hike.

Day 2: 24 July 05. 12. 5 km. 2 glaciers. 8 very smelly socks. 24 bridges. Elevation gain: 247 feet.

Dyea to Canyon City Left Dyea campsite 7h00 am Yukon time. Left the Chilkoot trailhead at approximately 7h20. A few breaks to adjust the packs and adjust to having the weight on our backs. Pushed everybody to arrive a Finnegan’s Point for lunch. Black flies are incredibly annoying but only bite if you stay in one place too long. Arrived at Canyon City at around 4h00. We are completely knackered. Don’t know how we are going to make the Pass. Turns out that Jim may be dehydrated. Get him to drink more and more water. Or maybe he’s just delirious from the pain.

Vision of the day: Jim sits down on a log to rest. His pack is top heavy and keeps going. We turn around to see him&emdash;back flat on the ground with his legs in the air. No wonder he has a headache!

Quote of the day: Jim says to Redd: I married you to become rich and famous. Now look where I am! Chantel says: Suck it up, Princess!

Day 3: 25 July 02. 6.4 km. 1 glacier. 11 bridges. Elevation gain: 750 feet.

Left Canyon City at 11h30 because I repacked everybody’s pack to balance loads more efficiently. Nothing of note. No bear stories. Just pain. We only did 6.4 km and gained 750 feet. How are we ever going to make it over the Pass?

Day 4: 26 July 05. 14.1 km. 1 summit. 8 bridges. 1 bottle glacier water. Elevation gain: 2800 feet. Total elevation: 3800 feet.

Sheep Camp to Happy Camp Left Sheep Camp at 8h30 am Yukon time. Arrive Happy Camp 9h00 pm Yukon time. Lunch at the Steppes. Spicy beans!!! Booster Juice my sister calls them. Help in getting up the Pass! Eat more. We need all the help we can get.

Chantel and I go first. We are goats on the boulders. Redd and Jim carefully choose each rock. Whatever it takes I say. Whatever it takes. One foot in front of the other.

Jim gets all the kudos today. By the time we get to Happy Camp, people know who he is. He wears jeans and an industrial strength rubber rain coat up the Pass. He carries his pack on his back, carries his walking stick in one hand, and throws my sister’s pack up the Pass with the other. For every rock my sister climbs, he climbs three making sure she is on the right one!!! To top it off, he’s afraid of heights. Adrenalin he tells me later. Pure adrenalin.

Chantel cooks soup for us at the ranger’s cabin on the Canadian side. She is so grown up. No complaints from her. She’s a great sport. I collect glacier water from the spring at the top of the pass for a friend in California.

At Happy Camp, everybody is relieved that we made it. We can barely speak. We have exchanged a few harsh words on the trail. Our feet hurt. Chantel runs around gathering information from everybody there. When did they start? How long did it take them? Did they see the icky horse bones on the Pass? Were they relieved to see the Canadian flag and the ranger’s cabin? Wasn’t it a difficult trip? Weren’t we lucky to be here? Were they happy to be in Happy Camp?

I negotiate with her to do the dishes from lunch at the ranger’s cabin. She can sleep in 15 minutes the next day. I find out later she is down by the river doing dishes and crying her eyes out? I feel terrible. But. She did the dishes. She definitely contributed to the trip.

Day 5: 27 July 05. 25.7 Km. 3 mountain ranges. 8 extremely sore feet. ~15 pain killers.

Am in a very pissy mood today. Have never hiked out from Happy Camp to the Log Cabin, but know what it’s going to take. Hike 10 Km before lunch. Have another 15 or so to go before we get to the Log Cabin. But we know there are people waiting for us, so we go. Go. Go. Go. Let’s go, Chantel. Pick it up. I set the pace and think I’m doing fairly well. Redd and Jim keep up. Chantel says (late in the day): I can’t keep up with you on these hills Auntie. Can you slow down a bit?

I keep going. Let’s go. We have to hike to the bottom corner of that mountain over there. What’s worse is that the railroad tracks are at a slight incline. We are actually hiking uphill again. We slow down. Considerably.

We give Jim some more pain killers: Excedrin. Caffeine and pain killers. He uses the momentum of his pack to keep his legs moving. Swing to one side, lift leg. Swing to the other, lift the other leg. We tell him to say with each step: Beer. Real meat. Beer. Real meat.

Happy Camp to Log Cabin Chantel asks if she can change into her pajamas when we reach the railroad tracks. I say she can do whatever she likes. She’s just hiked the Chilkoot Trail. Whatever it takes.

We break for a tiny bit. Jim keeps moving. Chantel follows. I stay with Redd to talk to keep her mind off her feet which are an incredible mess of blisters.

Suddenly, we see Chantel run ahead. She stops for a second, then continues to run. We immediately think Jim has fallen over and he can’t get up, but not the case. Jorden, Darryl, and Dad are on the tracks. They have hiked in to meet us.

Jim and Redd don’t give up their packs. Chantel and I gladly give up ours. Anybody who wants the weight can have it. Jorden (Chantel’s brother) takes her pack. Darryl (my brother-in-law) takes mine. Redd is determined to finish this hike. I think Determined (Stubborn??) is her middle name.

We get off the tracks around 9h30 Yukon time. We’ve been on our sore feet (and in Redd’s case, blistered beyond repair) for over 12 hours. Mum and Dad have sandwiches and beer for us at the cars. We get Redd off her feet. She’s shivering, dehydrated, exhausted, and slightly hypothermic I think. Get her shirt changed. Get a sleeping bag around her. Get her to drink some water and eat sandwiches. She’s Ok. Just a bit emotional at having finished.

We get home around 11h00 pm. Redd soaks in the tub. Jim eats real meat. I am just glad to be back. I take a shower before bed and discover it will take more than one to remove all the dirt, sweat, and grit. Tomorrow, I decide. Tomorrow.

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