Posted by: Talie Morrison | July 26, 2009

THE CHILKOOT TRAIL

Back in 1990, wintering over in Alaska, I read about the Alaska Gold Rush and the miners who climbed the Chilkoot Trail to get to the Klondike.

stairs150jpgI thought it would be a fun trip to follow in their footsteps.   Well it only took me 19 years to get around to it – but at last there I was on my way to Alaska again!   I was actually supposed to do this trip last summer (2008) with friends – I had already bought my plane ticket when I decided to winter in Antarctica.   So I had credit with Alaska Airlines which I had to use (or lose) before July 25th!

So the trail itself is 32 (or 33 depending on who you talk to) miles long.   It has been called the “meanest 32 miles in history” by students of the gold rush, and today some are calling that same area the “most beautiful 32 miles in Alaska and British Columbia” (quote from Chilkoot Pass by Archie Satterfield).   I think it is the latter – but then there were a lot of parts of it that were just in the clouds so I don’t know how beautiful they were!  Ah, well – it IS Southeast Alaska!

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My friend, Jaye from SantaBarbara, wanted to go to Skagway with me – not to do the trail, but to hang out in Skagway – so it was fun to have someone along.    We met up in Seattle and flew the rest of the way to Juneau.   One night in Juneau, and then a small plane to Skagway (what am I doing flying on a small plane again???? Yikes!)  But the views were tremendous!

With Jaye

Glacier

I planned a couple of nights in Skagway to be sure that I could pick up the permits, train tickets, and any last minute gear issues.    Skagway is a wonderful little town in SE Alaska – and it is really nice in the evenings after all the cruise ships and their 10,000 passengers leave!   The locals were great – I don’t know if I could be so cheery dealing with those kinds of numbers every day!

Chilkoot Sign

So all my bits and pieces tidied up, and off I go.   Jaye wanted to walk a little bit of the first day with me – so she went as far as the “lunch spot” and then turned back.   Yippee – I’m solo on the trail again!   I guess I am certifiably crazy to enjoy this so much!   Of course, around most every bend, I’m calling out “HEY, BEAR” – just to be sure I don’t surprise any of those guys!    And as soon as I meet people, the question always comes up: “Are you doing this ALONE?”   🙂

Bear Boxes

There are designated campsites along the trail.   Your permit specifies where you will spend the night – so there isn’t much guesswork involved.   All the campsites (except the first one) had platforms to put your tent on.    Since I was using a homemade “tarp”, sometimes it was a bit more challenging for me.   But I made it work.     Also at each campsite they have a designated place to store your food – someplace that “Mr. Bear” can’t get into.   There is also an area including a shelter where they ask you to cook – to keep all the food smells in one place.   So the fact that you are in bear country is evident all the time.

Chilkoot 4

My mileage each day consisted of 7.8 miles, 4.8 miles, 7.9 miles (over the pass), 8.5 miles, and a final 4 miles – thus completing the 32 miles in 5 days/4 nights.   I was sad that it was so overcast (and rainy) when I went over the pass – I just know that the views were spectacular on the other side of the mist!   🙂  There were lots of small snowfields to cross – a couple of them were a little scary, but not too bad – and I was glad I had my hiking poles.   (They are an important part of my gear – not only for hiking, but also for holding up my sleeping shelter!)

This is what the top looked like!

This is what the top looked like!

Into the mist 3

At the end of the trail – I met the Yukon-White Pass Train and had a (sometime scary) train ride back through the mountains to Skagway.   It is amazing the places that they laid train track along the sides of the mountains!   Beautiful and impressive!

As you can see the skies finally cleared for my last day

As you can see the skies finally cleared for my last day

Alaska is still green and beautiful (see the water droplets on the ferns?)

Alaska is still green and beautiful (see the water droplets on the ferns?)

So life is good – I’m back in Crested Butte for a couple of weeks – and it is still prime summertime here!   YEA!

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Responses

  1. hi tally!
    oh my gosh! what an amazing adventure! i am so glad you had such a great time!

    the contrasts of weather were so neat to see. great pictures!

    🙂 melissa

  2. Welcome home Talie! Love to see the pics and thought of you everyday you were on the trail.

  3. Hi Talie,

    very nice trip. Didn´t know that you´ve already posted it right before our visit in CB.

    Christian

  4. Hi Talie. I just found your website, and I love your write up on the Chilkoot Trail! What a great trip — it was wonderful meeting you! Keep me in mind if you ever feel like having someone join you on a trip. Judy

  5. Talie,

    What a great hike. I believe that my grandfather made this trip during the gold rush. My dad never talked about this much, since he was left behind. Thanks for the pictures.


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