Into the Wild

A taste of the Chilkoot trail

They came by the thousands...

They came by the thousands…

For ages the Chilkoot trail was used by Tlingit traders to exchange goods with the Athabascans. Chilkoot pass gained notoriety when 30,000 miners descended on the shores of the Upper Lynn Canal attempting the 35 mile trek to Lake Bennett, Canada. The gold diggers came from all over the world, some had sailed all the way from Norway, or New Zealand, circumnavigating the rough seas of South America entering the Inside Passage, landing in Dyea, an unruly boomtown that grew from nothing to more than 10,000 folks within 2 years. A false storefront, some tree stumps from the mile long pier, and slide cemetery are all that is left from the Klondike gold rush days.

Today, the Chilkoot trail is part of the Klondike Gold Rush Historical Park. They say it is the longest outdoor museum in the world, as the miners ditched or lost some of their 2,000 pounds of supplies on the way to the pass. Old cabins, stoves, cans, and other artifacts litter the path to the pass. Hikers pay $50 to hike the trail in 3-5 days, some race it in a day, which drops the price to $5, although running in bear country does not sound like a good idea to me…

Anyways. Before the hiking season starts on June 1, we got a chance to hike the first four miles to Finnegan’s Point. Here is what I got.

Lush fern foliage

Lush fern foliage

Board walkThe trail follows essentially the Taiya River, though steep hill sides force the trail initially up into the coastal rain forest. Lush ferns, devil’s club line the path. Soon, we encounter a board walk passing through beaver country, bear skat on the ground. The bottom of the bog is orange, brown from the tannin in the water. No fish, just beautiful reflections of dead trees, drowned by the beaver dam.

Devil's club, no touching!

Devil’s club, no touching!

Finally, we make it to Finnegan’s Point. In 1898, Pat Finnegan and his five sons built a bridge here across the river with the intent to collect tolls. Eventually the stampeders resisted his efforts to collect the tolls.

Today, there is a shelter, and nice wooden platforms for tents. So much for today. Time to turn back. Late May, spring is in full swing. I have seen the first green, red currants! It’s going to be a good year for high-bush cranberries, can’t wait.


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