On my last post, I mentioned that I was going to Canada.
I did it, I went there and the way I got there was by
Trekking across the Chilkoot Trail
33 miles -- 53 kilometers
Into the wild
through five different ecosystems
after the main season ended for doing the trek.
On September 14, it was a dull early morning where I woke up, hobbled out of bed and picked up all this gear.
Got my hiking backpack, 20 degree farenheit sleeping bag and dry sack, extra pair of clothes, camelback, water, rain jacket, food, hiking shoes, extra socks, flashlight, first aid, pepper spray, passport, and of course, my tambourine and I was out the door. Carried on all my baggage onto the ferry, fell into a light sleep for the next few hours and awoke to a whale announcement from the people sitting behind me. I jump up and see a small pod of orcas for a split second and then go back to my stuff and drink my protein chocolate malt drink I brought to attempt to energize and prepare me for this beast I was going to attempt to conquer in the next couple days.
I had never heard about the Chilkoot trail until about 3 weeks prior to this trip. I was planning a trip to venture into Canada for the first time since I am living so close to it at the moment and my destination was the capital of the Yukon Territory, Whitehorse. Not completely sure on why I decided this, simply because it was a place that seemed safe and easy enough to get too. I posted a advertisement for whitehorse members of couchsurfing.com to see in hopes of finding a free place to stay whether it was a floor, porch, or couch to stay on since I am traveling on a low budget. I had one person reply, Steve, saying I could stay with him. He asked if I would bring his car back to house and I could stay there because he was going to do the Chilkoot Trail with a former couchsurfer of his and needed his car to get back to his house, then he suggested that if I would like to come along on the trail, I was welcome too.
Like I said earlier, never even heard of the Chilkoot Trail, but after he extended an invite, I used the magical world of google and discovered this looked like an adventure I could not turn down. I sent him an email and said I was in. As September 14 crept closer and closer I made preparations for this hike. After all, this would be my first big "hike in and camp along the trail," kind of hike and it was 33 miles (that is 53 Kilometers!) Holy Crap...This could be my "turn into a badass moment while I'm here in Alaska!"
I get to Skagway and meet my fellow hikers for the first time. The couchsurfing friend who we will call the canadian, and the japanese traveler on a working visa in Canada. We go eat to boost our energy and begin the hike at about 4:30 pm on Friday evening. As we begin there is a light rain and in my head, I'm telling myself, "this is crazy," "I don't know these people at all and I just met them," and "What am I getting myself into?" Man, was I in for an adventure.
In the first few miles of the trail there was bear tracings everywhere. They must poop every step that they take! The trail folows a river most of the way and I glance at an opening as we are walking and see two big grizzly bears walking through the water, luckily in the opposite direction. One plunges into the deeper part of the water and comes out with a salmon in its mouth and the other keeps walking downriver. I point and am speechless as I try to tell my fellow two hikers what I see. It finally comes out as "uh, bears, two, um there, grizzlies, shhhh." I was a little in shock okay, because I have not had beary good luck at spotting bears. We watched for a few minutes and then continued on our way. Literally, five minutes after we continue walking along the river we hear two big bear snarls straight ahead of us and my brain goes to "Oh Shit!!!" I was a bit nervous, but then the trail veered across the water due to a bridge and we crossed to the other side, not that it made us any safer because grizzlies can swim, easily, across the river. We keep walking and feel better that we are on the other side of the river from where the bear snarls came from. I'm in the lead trekking through the woods and then I turn a corner and see two big eyes staring at me about 40 feet ahead of me on the trail as it starts to turn. Then I see two big brown grizzly bears ahead of me and put my hands out and start backing up whispering whats ahead of us to my fellow hikers. We start to make noise and hope the bears go to the side of the trail instead of the same direction we are going. It was a mama bear and her lil babe who was kind of turning into a fatty. (Not a good combo). Lucky for us, that was the last of the bears that we saw on the trail and that was all within the first two miles of the Chilkoot. I was not looking forward to sleeping with these things wandering around me.
So many cool mushrooms on this trail. Check it, its mushroom head toad, from nintendo.
We get to the first camp, Finnagins point at about 5 miles into the trail and debate whether or not to press forward since darkness was creeping on us. We decide to move forward and in the end, that ended up being an unwise decision. We got lost, it got dark, pitch black dark and the only one who brought a flashlight was me. After trekking two miles forward, we decide to turn back and head to Finnagins point again because we felt like we knew the way back to it. We were all pretty grumpy and nervous by this point and began the long search attempt to find Finnagins. As we get closer to the camp, we come across 3 hikers, some young lads from Minnesota and one of them is a trail worker by day and knows the trail "hallelujah!" I asked if we could follow them to Canyon City because they had two more lights and three people and that would bring us to about mile 8 of the trail for the night. They let us join and we finally make it to Canyon City Camp at about midnight. We fall into a slumber in the survival cabin at the camp and I slept on a table in my sleeping bag cacoon.
Canyon City Camp, leaving it.
Next day we sleep in a bit, but not long and begin the journey up and over the summit. What we didn't know is that we might not make it up and over the summit. We pass two camps and after eating a decent lunch at Sheep camp, we begin the brutal incline through the "rocky staircase of hell" (that is my description of it). As we get higher in elevation a fog starts to roll in, the wind picks up, the rain starts pounding a bit more and eventually turns to a slight snow at some points and we are lost. We take a wrong turn to a wrong peak after coming so high up the mountain and well, we are basically screwed. The orange poles were taken out of the trail since the official season ended the last day of August, so that made it really hard to find the trail. We tried to look for the rock stacks that were marking the trail earlier and well, finding a rock stack in a freakin' rock stack is basically impossible, or nonexistant.
Some of the rocky staircase of hell as the fog rolls in.
After getting soaked to the bone, feeling my emotions get to an ultimate high and thinking thoughts like, we may freeze to death, we may get stuck up here (we were too high to turn back, the rocks were extra slippery since we had got so high, and the wind was nearly blowing us over already). We started to follow the old gold rush tram cords we found in the rocks and ended up finding our way after being on the top part of the rocks for about 3 hours. We somehow were able to find the top of the chilkoot trail after several attempts and I have never felt so relieved. We got to the survival cabin at the top, not ment for people to stay in, it's right on the border of the US and Canada and shedded our wet clothes, cooked our mountain meals and hopped in our sleeping bags. We were soaked to the bone and shivering more than I thought possible. I was worried about the Canadian getting hypothermia because he did not pack any extra clothes. I gave him my fleece and got my extra jacket from my drysac and the japanese girl gave him her extra pants that were dry. We were unable to have any kind of fire or heat source in the shelter, but at least we had shelter from the wind and the rain. Before I fell asleep that night I felt so humbled that we had found shelter and hoped that we would make it through the night of mass fog, rain, snow, and wind at the top of the Chilkoot.
Top of the Chilkoot, at last.
Clearly, since I'm writing this, we made it through the night and I am so greatful for that and so glad to be alive. We began our trek down the trail with all of our soaked clothing and extra heavy bags (due to getting rain and water on them). We had a long day ahead of us, but had our eyes set on Lindyman Camp which was a good 10 miles away. Although the walk to Lindyman was difficult, very hilly, it was a very beautiful hike and it had plenty of fresh water to fill our empty waterbottles up with. It was also, freezing cold. There was still plenty of snow at the top of the trail and coming down from it. There was not much said during the hike, we were all pretty silent for most of it. My thoughts were, I can't believe we made it through last night and found the trail, we are sooooo damn lucky. It took us quite some time to find the right way, but we found it, we didn't get hypothermia, and were alive. We may just have a chance at finishing this trail alive and well.
One of the pretty views.
Another dazzling view from the hike to Lindyman Camp.
Picking blueberries along the trail.
Lindyman camp was my favorite camp, there were other hikers, like four of them, and a beautiful lake, wood burning stoves in the survival cabins, and a river. The only bad thing about this campsite was the damn weasel that kept running all around and under the shelter throughout the night, making me loose any chance of sleep I would have got. Damn Weasel.
Leaving Lindyman Camp.
Hiking along the railway from mile 37 to mile 33 to finish this biatch!
What we didn't know when we finished the trail was that there was some miscommunication between our ride and us. They did not show, I had to hitch hike to Canada Customs and call the Canadians neighbor to come get us and then we waited. But before the hitch hiking, we walked a good 3 miles on the road and waited for two hours for our ride in the wind and rain in the middle of nowhere.
To be Continued. & edited.
This hiking adventure was intense and amazing and brought out emotions I have never felt before.