On August 2, 2008 Gordon and Ross left the relative
comforts of home in Nova Scotia for another backpacking
adventure. This one was of shorter duration than the last,
two weeks as opposed to six months; but was to prove equally
appealing to the senses.
This description cannot begin without acknowledging the
organizational efforts of Steve Moores who did the planning
that made this trip come together. Many thanks are offered
to Steve for allowing us crotchety old guys to join Richard
and himself. Richard is a 15 year old whose enthusiasm kept
us moving through some long days; unless it was 8 0’clock
in the morning. Then someone; usually Steve, his dad, had to
take responsibility for starting him up.
I think the Moores have gained converts to their respect
and enjoyment of the Yukon.
Saturday August 2 – Waiting
Vancouver Airport is nice but after 9 hours Gordon and I
were glad to bid it farewell.
The sun was setting as we boarded for Whitehorse treating
us to beautiful pinks and reds in the west. As we flew north
I noticed the sky was brighter ahead as we flew into the
midnight sun. Just a hint of things to come!
Steve and Richard were waiting at the airport at midnight
with the rented Subaru to transport us back to the hostel
that was our home for the next two nights before we headed
off to Skagway, Alaska to begin the walk back to Canada.
Immediately Steve had to explain that the crack in the
windshield of the rented Subaru was there when he rented the
vehicle and unless we had the misfortune of hitting another
rock that created a hole in the windshield that would let
air through it would be fine with the rental company.
Sunday August 3- Missed Opportunity
I learned from Steve that the Yukon Marathon and Half
Marathon were happening that morning. If it were not for 18
hours in airports and on airplanes the day before I would
have loved to have jogged through the Half. We went down to
watch, ate buffalo burgers for lunch and gathered food for
the hike we would commence on Tuesday the 5th of August.
Monday August 4 – Tourists
Shari-Lynn joined the foursome for the trip to Skagway. She
had spent her weekend with Whitehorse friends and was now
eager for the hiking part of her holiday.
On the way to Skagway we stopped to explore the world’s
smallest desert at Carcross. We surveyed the scene and
concluded there is a smaller desert outside Kingston in the
Annapolis Valley. Still it was fun to run downhill on the
We went to Skagway to register for the hike. There we found
we were sharing this small town with the passengers from
three cruise ships and the coastal ferry. There were lineups
at the Red Onion the restaurant that started in 1898 as a
house of ill repute and now continues that tradition for the
benefit of tourists with wait staff who show a lot of bosom
in the costumes of 1898. Skagway is surrounded by snow
capped mountains and all land based ways into town are via
steep passes through the mountains. Although it is now the
focal point for tourists it was not the starting point for
the trip in 1898.
So we journeyed across the head land to Dyea and found a
cabin that could comfortably accommodate five and then went
touring about the abandoned site of the settlement that was
actually the start of the Chilkoot Trail. We drove down to
the marshy waterfront and discovered it was easy enough to
drive to the end. This was a fortunate decision because on
the way we passed a couple fishing but on the return we
noticed they had gone to their car. There were others in
cars too and we soon learned why. A grizzly bear was ambling
across the marsh 50 feet away to try his luck in the salmon
stream. Nobody argued with his intrusion into the humans
It was nice to get that introduction to bears while we
could be in the safety of our rental Subaru... This was our
first lesson in bear safety that would hold for the trip.
Essentially bears don’t like the presence of humans any
better than humans seem to enjoy their company. They will
stay away from you if they can. In fact the only bears we
saw on this trip were from the car that approached fast
enough that the bear could not get out of sight before we
When we could get out of the car we found artifacts that
mark the beginning of the world’s longest junkyard that
has been converted to a national historic site by two
The cabin had a bonfire that night and invited us to toast
smores and chat with other guests.
August 5 – Into the Forest
The morning brought the first day with backpacks on but we
were able to breakfast at the cabins in Dyea. The trailhead
was 200 meters down the road and we were able to park the
vehicle at the cabins.
The first day was a walk through temperate rain forest. We
meandered through old growth forest along the Taiya River.
There were occasional glimpses of glaciers and snow fields
across the river on our left. The trail was remarkably level
all day to Pleasant Camp, 10.38 miles or 16.7 kilometers. At
Pleasant Camp we were alone until late when another hiker
arrived. By then four of our group had taken the easy way
and laid out our sleeping bags in the cooking shelter.
Shari-Lynn was diligent and pitched her tent at a designated
Most other hikers were headed to the next site, Sheep Camp.
We later learned there was a scout troop in Sheep Camp so we
were pleased that we had made the right decision to stay at
August 6 – The Pass
The walk through rain forest continued for the 1.37 miles
to Sheep Camp. Then the climb started to become more
aggressive. No sighting of the pass until the afternoon but
lots of warm-up rock scrambling before the Golden Stairs,
the final assent to the Chilkoot Pass where Canada waited.
The first view of the Golden Stairs in summer tells you
immediately why most of those early photos of men climbing
the Chilkoot Pass were in winter because the snow filled in
the rocks and with the aid of fixed ropes the ascent had to
be easier. We on the other hand had to scramble over rocks
seeking all four points of contact. I was in the lead for a
brief period when I heard Steve say to Richard: “Wait for
me at the top.” Quickly those 15 year old legs bounded
past me and it was not long before he vanished over the lip
of the first stage of the ascent. The rest of us continued
to the top at a more sedentary pace befitting our years. We
found Richard again at the ranger station that marks the
entry into Canada contemplating the descent across the snow
field toward Crater Lake.
We learned from Rebecca the Parks Canada person at the
border that we had been treated to a rare clear day on the
Pass. So to honour the occasion Gordon took out his kite and
flew it at the border. The response from Rebecca the person
responsible for Canadian security at this outpost border
crossing was to run to get her camera so she could record
her own photo of this person flying a kite at her crossing.
The climb over and the rainforest behind us we descended
through snow fields to Happy Camp 10.12 miles 16.3
kilometers from where we started. On the Canadian side the
views open up and there is little in the way of vegetation
other than the annuals that patiently wait to poke through
the snow. Crossing snow fields was a new treat particularly
for young Richard who would slide on his hiking boots on the
downhill in the crystallizing snow.
When we arrived at Happy Camp it was crowded. We were now
in camp with the large group including the scout troop. As
we were setting up our tents a young woman in flannel
pajamas from the neighbouring site approached to ask that we
keep the noise down because she had a really hard day. Those
flannel pajamas must have been really heavy?
The tents were tied to the wooden platforms and supper
cooked for the five of us without further incident.
August 7 – Creatures of the Evening
Gordon and I were the first of our group out of Happy Camp
for the shorter journey (5.5 miles or 8.8 kilometers) to
Lindeman Lake. There was a bit of a rise to the bluffs
overlooking Long Lake where we stopped and Gordon flew the
kite again at the top of this bluff. We waited long enough
to dig jackets out of our backpacks and Gordon discovered
that his faithful Frog Togs jacket was no longer in one
piece. We sort of viewed this kite flying as a memoriam that
was interrupted by four hikers that included the lady from
the previous night with the flannel pajamas. They were
drying on her backpack. Even she half smiled at the kite
high over our heads. I think we have discovered that kite
flying is a giant step to peace and harmony.
Shari-Lynn, Steve and Richard arrived and we pressed on
together to Deep Lake and the falls/rapids that commence the
3 miles – 4.8 kilometers to Lindeman Lake. The roar was
constant by this torrent that in August is fed by the
glacial/snow melt. We are now getting back into boreal
forest of spruce and lodge pole pine.
We arrive at the Lindeman City campsite to find it is
actually two separate sites with separate cookhouses. We
eventually chose the one that is the greatest distance from
the warden for the illicit purpose of sleeping in the cook
house. Before committing to that strategy we explored the
site and found obvious remnants of the block layout of the
1898 settlement where craft were constructed for the voyage
to Dawson City.
After supper Warden Steyd came by and built a fire for us
in the stove. We were ready for a warm comfortable night.
Then the invaders struck. Mice were everywhere. The crowning
touch was when one invited himself into my backpack causing
me to violently toss the bag across the room so that he
would know he wasn’t welcome. The little varmint scooted
across the floor and the five of us scooted to respective
tent sites. Ever since the Appalachian Trail I have respect
for the insatiable appetite of these little monsters. A
Virginia mouse ate my favorite long sleeve shirt.
August 8 – Restaurant Food
Gordon and I were out of Lindeman first. There was a train
to catch in Bennett and we were aware that many folks from
the crowd at Happy Camp had pressed on to Bare Loon Lake so
that they would have a short hike to the train – 4 miles
– 6.4 kilometers compared to our 7 miles – 11.3
kilometers. It was not a problem as many of the Bare Loon
campers were still at breakfast when we passed through.
On the way we noted lupines in bloom in August showing us
that they are just now getting what in Nova Scotia would be
considered spring flowers.
The final walk into Bennett was on sand. That emphasizes
how arid the land is here at the end of the trail despite
the roar of the rapids downhill from where we walked.
When we arrived we discovered a large train station with a
restaurant that offered all-you-can-eat beef stew and pie.
Shari-Lynn, Gordon and I adopted the hiker’s rule –
never prepare your own food when someone else will do it for
The train ride was spectacular through the White Pass – a
completely different route than the Chilkoot. We passed over
scenic trestles and tunnels and it was a lot less work.
Coming into the Skagway station we passed by the Skagway
River that was teaming with salmon on their way back to the
place they were spawned to die. Some were obviously not
completing their journey as carcasses lay on the bank.
Later we were able to get seats in the Red Onion as the
cruise ships had left for the day and then headed back to
the hostel in Whitehorse and Shari-Lynn’s friends’
Text by Ross Mitchell
Photos by Gordon Warnica