Monday, August 22, 2016

Chilkoot Trail ~ Dyea ~ Alaska

We will cross two borders today.  We have visited Carcross, Yukon and when we leave there will soon cross the imaginary border into the northwest corner of British Columbia.  We will then later cross a real border, with crossing guards that check our passports to go into Alaska to get to Skagway, AK.   The borderlines are very convoluted in this corner of the country but just follow the road and you won’t get lost.
Cloud capped mountains
Low clouds are the camera and my biggest obstacles of the day.  We are not getting too many raindrops on the window now but these beautiful mountains are well hidden behind the clouds overhead as we travel down the South Klondike Highway.

Yukon Suspension Bridge
The Yukon Suspension Bridge, located in British Columbia, was built in 2006 which makes it fairly new in this land of so much history.  It spans the Tutshi River Canyon and gives access to hiking trails on the other side.  I am not one to like walking across suspension bridges, my experience at Capilano in Vancouver proves it is even harder coming back, so this was the closest we got to it.

Rocky terrain on South Klondike Highway
The landscape was very different from what we’d been seeing.  The rock formation had the look of another planet, or at least a place we’ve never been.  The farther we got on this road, the more fog we were in, crossing into Alaska in the dense fog. 

Skagway, Alaska
We crossed the border into Alaska at Fraser, the fog cleared and soon after we got ourselves parked we set out to do some exploring in the area.  This view of Skagway was taken from the viewpoint on the road that took us up to the famous Chilkoot Trail.  

Taiya Inlet
The Port town for Dyea was a few miles out of town on the Taiya River.  The Tlingit people established Dyea as an access point to the interior.  The fishing village was on the transportation corridor to the Taiya Inlet and canoes were the only mode of transportation to other villages in the Inlet.

Dyea Historic Site
Before the Klondike Gold Rush happened, the Chilkoot Trail was an overland way to get supplies to interior villages.  The 53 km (33 mi) walking trail from Dyea, AK to Bennett, BC. reaches heights of 1,074 m (3524 ft) over the Coast Mountains. 

Chilkoot Trail
We did not climb the Chilkoot Trail.  We may not have even seen the actual trail as we were not planning on hiking so weren’t about to investigate further.  So much growth in the area, we couldn’t see the Trail for the trees.

Historic waterfront trail
We followed some signs but there was nothing left to see of Dyea other than the signs on the paths we followed.  Hard to believe but Dyea grew when the Gold Rush happened and once had a population of 5,000 to 8,000 people at its peak.  When the gold rush ended and new access was developed, the population was down to 3 people in 1903.

Chilkoot Trail Outpost
This route was travelled by over 21,000 gold-rush stampeders, as those fortune seekers looking for gold were called, when the great news of the Gold Rush became known.  The trail included the Golden Staircase which was 1500 steps carved from ice and climbed 184 m (600 ft) in just over one kilometer (.6 mile).

The challenge of the Chilkoot Trail was so difficult, it is hard to believe that so many stampeders were able to make that climb, with all the supplies they needed to take with them.  Many of them did not make it.  Click here to read more of their journey, it is fascinating.

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