The Chilkoot Trail Redux

Hiking The Chilkoot Trail was one of the great hiking highlights of my Alaska->Argentina journey, in fact one of the best hikes I’ve ever done in my life. My memories are so strong that when I think about the hike, or look through my original photos I remember everything and everyone like it was just a few months ago.

Living this close to the trail now I knew a second hike was a certainty. Heather has never hiked the trail before, so it’s fun to be able to see the trail through my eyes for the second time, but also live through Heather’s eyes and experience as a first-timer.

I wrote everything that needs to be written last time, so I’ll let the photos do the talking and point out a couple of highlights. I recommend clicking on any photo below and using the gallery function. It’s a really nice way to see the photos in a larger size.

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These snaking bridges are awesome – they bend as you walk over them

We had been warned repeatedly of flooding and thigh-high water crossings because the Taiya river had broken it’s banks the day before we set off. We saw lots of evidence of flooding, though we manged to stay completely dry.

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There were tons of little waterfalls like this, which required little river crossings

Because we’re hiking in June, which is very early in the season, the trail was much quieter than when I hiked in 2009 – in fact there were only 4 other people in Sheep Camp when we arrived late and foot sore in the late afternoon – a completely different experience than the bustling camp I remember.

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Soon before the Golden Stairs we hit snow

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Just before the Golden Stairs

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Heather at the very top of the Golden Stairs

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Crystal clear views from the very summit of Chilkoot pass

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Soaking in the magically clear summit looking towards Skagway, Alaksa

Our summit day was spectacular and clear – so much so the ranger we saw at the top was in awe and said “uh… I’ve never even seen it like this before… and I’ve worked here for years”. We lucked out for sure. It’s amazing to hike the stairs and to be able to see exactly where I’m going without thick fog. I’m elated to have the opposite experience to last time.

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In front of a breaking-up Crater Lake, looking North to Canada

As soon as we dropped over the summit we basically went back to winter with very deep snow and frozen lakes. It feels like a different place to me, because we’re hiking at such a different time of year.

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Heather doing dishes at Happy Camp

One of my fondest memories of my original hike was sitting in the crammed shelter at Happy camp with many other soaked hikers and hearing  one comment on the name of the camp: “This is where happiness goes to die”. Again, our experience this time around is the polar opposite. It’s extremely clear and sunny and we laze around in the sun for the afternoon, even contemplating a quick dip – which we wind up chickening out on.

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Heather on the cool rocks

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Posing on the cool rock formations

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Trying to comprehend the size of it all

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Dan and Heather with some huge views

The weather holds and we have spectacular views the entire way down the valley. We checkout Lindeman cabin (where we stayed in the winter) and are eaten alive by mosquitoes while eating lunch, before moving along and camping at the now thawed Bear Loon Lake which has the perfect little breeze to keep away the bugs.

As with last time we hike out the now very overgrown cutoff trail, onto the tracks and back to the highway. We’re told that the very next day people are given fines for hiking on the officially closed trail. The third car to pass on the highway picks us up and drops us right back at our waiting car in Dyea. We must have good hitching karma.

I love this trail so much I know I’ll hike it again. And again.

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