What did the Chilkook mean to me?

This tremendous, arduous, adventure is still top in my mind. I can’t believe I actually finally went to the Yukon and completed such a difficult journey.  I watch videos and view pictures and think that it should have been easier than it was for me.  But then I remember that I am indeed 55 years old, have never done a hike like this before, have not carried a heavy backpack since I was 23 years old, and suffer from arthritis.  So I suppose I did alright.  The Chilkook has been a journey done only in my imagination since I was a young student studying western Canadian history.  I was captured by the haunting pictures of Stampeders lining up to complete the Golden Staircase; of stories of eggs being sold for $2 a dozen (a price that at that time would have been like highway robbery); of hardship and treachery; and of innocent hopefuls being scammed by those wanting only to make a quick fortune off the backs of the naive.   I have wanted to go to Yukon to see it for myself. To view the endless expanses of nature seemingly untouched has been on my bucket list since I was young.    I am overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment for finally having reached my goal.  I feel empowered to do more.  I have accepted that whatever I try, I will most likely be the “Leader of the Back” (one of the slowest ones on a trail), but I am OK with that place.  It doesn’t matter to me that I am slow or trudging; it matters  more that I set a goal and accomplished it.   Of course, not being near the back would be an awesome bonus, but really, the gold comes from just finally meeting my dreams.

 

The picture of the “Golden Staircase” below illustrates the hurdles to cross for those who ventured through the goldrush.  It also symbolizes my personal struggle to finally reach my dreams.  You can see the “Golden Staircase” path just to the left of center on this photo. The trail has a small patch of snow on it’s right side.  Image

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North to Alaska…

I can’t believe I am finally doing it!  I am leaving “on a jet plane” tomorrow, July 14, for Whitehorse. Once there I will take the historic White Pass and Yukon Railway to Skagway, and travel toward the beginning of the infamous Chilkook Trail.  I will finally venture forth on an extended hike, staying 5 nights and 6 days on the trail.  I am a little nervous about packing. My pack is already feeling quite heavy, but I don’t know what I can omit.  I know from experience on the outdoor ed trips that I get very cold at night, so I need layers.  But, I also don’t want to over-pack.  Every ounce truly does make a difference.  I still have to pack my share of food and supplies.

Nevertheless, I am thrilled that I am finally going north. I have wanted to visit the Yukon since my early 20’s, when I really started to love my Canadian history.   I know I am only going to experience a tiny taste of the north, but it’s a start.   If this trip works out, maybe I can find another adventure a little further north or in the Yellowknife area next year.     Yahoo,…. here I go!

This photo, of the thousands of gold-seekers, to me is one of the most poignant pictures in Canadian history.  I have felt a strong sense of compassion for the thousands of unprepared dreamers who risked everything for the dream of gold and adventure.  This  picture represents the many stories I heard of the profiteers who made a fortune off these naive trekkers, selling them goods at unworldly prices, and tricking them into buying products they would never use.  These stories are what I remember most about the Chilkook Trail, or the Yukon Gold Rush Trail as I recall it being named.  In just a few short days I too will stand on the peak of the Golden Staircase.  I can hardly wait! check one more item off my bucket list!Image