The Chilkoot Trail served as one of several trade routes into the interior for coastal Tlingit, who would trade eulachon grease and dried fish for fur and skin clothing. In 1880 the US Navy negotiated an agreement with the Tlingit to allow prospectors to use the Chilkoot Trail. Within short order it became the primary route for miners to make their way into the upper Yukon River basin.
What do I remember of this day? The amazingly great weather, fall foliage and berries, and a comfortable cabin at Sheep Camp.
I wake up to a perfect blue sky. No need for a rain jacket today. Nevertheless, the sun remains shielded by the mountains for most of the morning. I can see my breath walking for the first hour. Looking back I see the Chilkat mountains basking in the bright sun light. No clouds as far as I can see.
I am still surrounded by coastal rain forest. Many leaves have already found their way to the ground. Highbush cranberries (Viburnum trilobum) everywhere, a welcome refreshment on the way up. Plump, and tart. The berries remind me of the salmon roe I tasted earlier in the season. Once the outer skin pops, boom, an explosion of flavors.
I am not the only one, who enjoys this treat. Apparently a squirrel had the smart idea to store some berries on a bed of tree moss. A week ago, we found mushrooms in the trees. Same idea… I guess the squirrels here know how high the snow can get in this valley.
The berries themselves can stay on the bush throughout the winter without dropping to the ground. That’s why we sometimes see cranberry bushes in the spring that have berries from last year, and flowers from the new year at the same time. The fall foliage of this plant is also pretty to look at.
It’s a short walk from Canyon City to Sheep Camp. In the summer this must be quite a scene. There is a ranger station and a daily evening lecture. Not so in the off-season. It’s all quiet here, except for some distant water falls. Three warming tents to choose from. Mine has a wood stove. I collect some dead wood and chop it into pieces. Once the sun sets the temperature plummets pretty quickly. It’s a bit of a challenge to lighten the wood, apparently it’s not as dry as I thought. I read horror stories in the log about hypothermic hikers in the summer. Imagine being in here, wet and cold, trying to light a fire knowing that you have to spend the night in your tent. Rain and wind seem to be norm in the summer.
Well, my fire finally catches. It may not provide a lot of heat, but the crackling sound has undeniably an effect. I crawl into by Feathered Friend and call it a day. Tomorrow is supposed to be the biggest day on the hike. 8 miles or so to Happy Camp, across Chilkoot Pass. According to the park rangers the orange trail markers have been pulled on the American side. So far it was pretty easy to find the trail. It may have been covered with wilted leaves, but the opening in the woods gave it away. Tomorrow the trail will be above the tree line, so it may be a bit more challenging. Fresh snow may cover the trail…
As long there is good visibility, I am not worried.
“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”