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There is little left of Dyea today, but well before the gold rush, it was a Tlingit settlement and fur trading post. Its location, right beside the convergence of the Taiya River and Taiya Inlet, allowed boat and canoe access to trappers and traders plying the region's other natural riches.
For us, it is a welcome sight; even though we've only walked about 8km, the long drive from Whitehorse to Skagway, then getting all our supplies sorted, has made it seem a bloody long day.
Crossing the Taiya River to Canyon City
The first 25.5km takes trekkers from sea level up to the alpine tundra around the Chilkoot Pass itself an altitude gain of almost 1100m.
The tramways operated between The Scales and the summit, with the transport companies running stampeders' goods and equipment all the way over the mountains to Lindeman, where they could be loaded onto boats for the trip across Long Lake and beyond.
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At the time, it was the best known and shortest way from the north west coast across the mountains to the Yukon River and then to Dawson City and the gold fields.
The only interruption to the forest comes when we skirt along some boardwalk, over the tranquil Beaver Ponds, which belies its name with its impressive size. Drowned trees and large expanses of dark tinged water break up the forest's green in this section.
The Chilkoot Trail crosses an international border and, as a result, straddles two different park systems. In the USA, it's in the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park; in Canada, it is part of the Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site.
two fellow trekkers: Rob, a Canadian, and Birgitte, a super fit, 60 plus adventurer from Germany.
Skagway is the gold rush town. Even now, more than a century later, the town retains that sense of adventure. Its location helps. In south east Alaska, on the coast of the Alaskan Panhandle (named for its pan like shape on a map), with deep sea access, Skagway was the staging point for prospectors from all around the world.
On our first day, however, we are taking it easy our destination, Finnegan's Point, is only 7.7km from the trailhead.
rammed home to me as I take yet another break, well out of breath, midway up the Golden Staircase, the steep, rocky scramble to the pass summit, on this windy, cold summer's day. And I am carrying a hell of a lot less weight than the stampeders' old imperial tonne
We quickly deposit our food and other odorous items in the bear boxes (both black bears and grizzlies are found in this region), set up our tents as the rain descends, then kick back as Niall conjures up some nosh in the camp site's permanent kitchen tent. Tomorrow, we go higher. After, that is, one small diversion
This railroad effectively killed Dyea as a town and it also meant prospectors no longer had to risk their lives on the Chilkoot Trail and its high pass to get to Bennett. Still, there are far less beautiful spots to start a trek.
They were exciting times then, as they are now, for me, Ruby Range guide Niall, and my Blue New Balance Women's
Fittingly, as we disembark and load up our backpacks at the trailhead beside the Taiya's rushing waters we spot two canoes, laden with camping gear, coming down the river. The meeting of travellers on land and water is an unintended but amusingly apt nod to the adventurers who explored this region in the past.
This ruling meant desperate adventurers had to drag, slide or carry their supplies, tied to sleds and on their backs, through the north west coast's dense rainforest, before slogging through snow on the way to and then up the steep Chilkoot Pass (1074m).
Heading out on Alaska's Chilkoot Trail
THEY CALLED THEM 'stampeders' desperate men and women of the late 1890s who abandoned their everyday New Balance 610 Steel Toe
We've just lobbed in town, having driven from Whitehorse, the Yukon Territory's capital, across the US/Canada border into Alaska to reach the 53km Chilkoot Trail's starting point, not far from the now abandoned town of Dyea.
It wasn't easy; Canada's North West Mounted Police (today's Mounties) strictly enforced a "ton of goods" rule, ensuring prospectors had enough supplies to prevent starvation during the region's unforgiving winter.
Finnegan's Point once hosted an enterprising Pat Finnegan and his sons, who charged prospectors a toll for use of a bridge and small road. At one point during the height of the gold rush, there was a saloon/bar, restaurant and blacksmith on site. Like the gold, though, the camp was short lived, lasting not much more than 12 months before being abandoned.
For years, aboriginal people had used the location in the mouth of a canyon as a camp site, but with the rush for gold it was transformed into a bustling settlement, thanks to the various freight companies who set up tramway powerhouses here.
Both names are a mouthful but fitting when you consider the size of the surrounding landscape and the heights reached over what is a relatively short distance.
This first section is a more than pleasant introduction, as we travel through lush temperate coastal rainforest for most of the way, with the sound of the river for company.
The township's heyday, however, was during the gold rush, when it expanded to a transient population of about 10,000 before the completion of the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad, which connected Skagway and Bennett.
lives and rushed to the Yukon, in Canada's far north, in search of riches. It was the Klondike Gold Rush and the fastest way for these fortune hunters to chase their dreams was by traversing the Chilkoot Trail, an old, indigenous trade route (used by the Tlingit First Nations people).
This resulted in a brief, but impressive township of 1500 people, with taverns, restaurants, doctors and even electric lighting being installed throughout Canyon City. Like Finnegan's Point, Canyon City was short lived; once the Skagway to Bennett train Orange New Balance Baseball Cleats line was completed (and the railroad bought up the various tramways), the township, like the Chilkoot Trail itself, was rendered largely redundant.
Usually, they sailed via the Inside Passage, then stepped off the ship and heeding the siren call of the far off Klondike gold fields pointed themselves straight at the Chilkoot Trail.
hiking the Chilkoot trail
It is overcast the next morning as we step back on the track. The gloomy light adds a certain atmosphere to our visit to the remains of Canyon City, reached after crossing a suspension bridge over the Taiya River. The walk to the former settlement is a quick diversion much like the story of Canyon City itself.
History of the Chilkoot Trail
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