As well as the daunting Golden Stairs, Richard Harrington and I both saw the same rusting steam boiler and cookstove on the Chilkoot Trail.
We wrote about our experiences hiking the Chilkoot, the most popular route for Klondike gold rush prospectors, more than 40 years apart. His story about the trail, which begins in Alaska and ends in British Columbia, appeared in the magazine in 1974 [Read it here]. Mine will be in a 2016 travel issue (although this photo essay provides a sneak peek)
A National Park Service ranger told my group, travelling with World Expeditions’ Great Canadian Trails division last July, some people refer to the trail as the “world’s longest museum.” That’s because old boots, saucepans and boat parts are still left on the trail from 120 years ago when 100,000 prospectors attempted the harrowing journey to Dawson.
Seeing those artifacts on the trail, it almost felt like I was one of the first people to see them after they were abandoned them more than a century ago. Reading Harrington’s piece reminded me countless people have already witnessed this part of Canadian history.
Nowadays, about 3,000 people hike the full 53-kilometre trail each year, taking on average four to five days to hike from Skagway, Alaska, to Bennett, BC. In Harrington’s piece, he wrote that at least 100 hikers were on the trail each summer.
As harsh memories of the gold rush were glamorized, more hikers wanted to retrace the route, Harrington wrote. So creeks were bridged and shelters were built starting in 1960, when the Neighborhood Youth Corps of Alaska began clearing part of the trail.
With permission from BC, the Yukon government hired inmates of its correctional institute to cut brush, build 61 bridges and a shelter, Harrington wrote. In 1973, BC agreed to transfer land between the Alaskan border and Bennett Lake to Parks Canada.
“Preservation of the Trail of ’98 is most fitting,” Harrington wrote, referring to the gold rush’s peak in 1898. “What chapter in Canada’s story can compete in colour and romance with the Klondike Gold Rush?”