When one of your best friends is turning 60 and says, “I’m going to Alaska to climb the Chilkoot trail!” take a second before you say what I said, which was “That sounds great! Can I come?”
My friend had it on his bucket list to be on the summit of the Chilkoot Pass on August 3rd to celebrate turning 60. We’ve been friends for close to 18 years, so what better way to solidify our friendship than a multi-day hike in the wilderness!
The Chilkoot Trail is a 53-kilometer hike that follows the same route prospectors and stampeders used to get to Dawson City between 1896-1898 on what some would say is one of the last greatest gold rushes. Prospectors would need to carry an approved kit over the pass which consisted of a year’s supply of food which weighed close to a ton. If they reached the scales at the bottom of the pass (The Golden Staircase) and didn’t have the proper amount of supplies, they would be turned around. This was done to prevent starvation. Close to 100,000 prospectors made this trek to the Yukon, through Alaska.
It’s very neat to start a hike in United States and finish in Canada (the border is along the summit of the pass). They would have to go up and down the trail, back and forth with their supplies close to 40 times to get the ton of gear to Bennet Lake where they could hopefully build a boat to take them up river to Dawson City. Of course, they had to complete all of this before the lake and the river froze.
It was quite the experience to be on a trail that has over 130 years of history on it. As Loren and I made our way, we came upon artifacts from the stampede, such as shovels, kerosene cans, saw blades, even 300-pound stoves. We couldn’t help but feel small and like a couple of pansies as we walked the steps of the trailblazers before us.
There are so many stories to be told of the Klondike, but the thing that really caught me was how many people were ready to drop everything and leave all they knew for the idea of adventure in the last frontier. Some people arrived in Dawson City so fatigued and worn out they never even made it to the gold fields they just waited for spring and turned around and went home.
As I walked this trail, I thought to myself: Am I on a great journey in my life, an expedition? … Or am I waiting for a gold rush…? I think we all ask ourselves that question from time to time.
Do we wake up excited on our journey or are we still digging for the next best thing? I don’t believe there is a wrong answer to the question, that is so long as you actually ask yourself the question and give an answer… And remember, you get a few marks just for spelling your name right!
After 4 days and 3 nights, we completed our journey on the Chilkoot Trail and were picked up by our wives in Bennett Lake by the White Pass Train.
At times in my life, I’ve wished I’d not said anything, or talked big like I was going to do something, just to procrastinate in the planning phase and say, “That’s too bad it didn’t work out! For sure next time I’ll go.” … And not just because I’m in pretty good shape these days… I was glad I said yes.
What adventure are you inviting yourself on today or haven’t responded to yet…? Maybe you’re waiting for the right gold rush to come up or you’re happy with the expedition you’re currently on? Whatever the case, we hope you are asking the question and enjoying the journey.
To the trail behind us and the trail ahead.