Skagway - part two.... The
train ride and the story of the gold rush trails
I love trains so this was a must. This train goes
up the White Pass Trail route. Only those who
back pack and actually hike the trail themselves
get to see the Chilkoot trail. The rest of us
go up White Pass by train or car.
The White Pass and Yukon
Railroad is a narrow guage railroad.
Here is the coupling area
between the cars.
There were many twists
and turns and steep grades along this 20 mile
stretch of track.
Lots of narrow trestles
over steep gorges.
And two very dark tunnels
through the mountain side.
And here is what I really
came to see and learn more about. The trail itself.
Or - I should say - the trails. This is the White
Pass Trail marked "Trail of 98" which
I saw during my train ride. All of these pictures
are of the White Pass Trail.
The Chilkoot Trail (that
only hardy back packers get to see today)
started in the town of Dyea (west and north of
Skagway) and was the original choice of most Rushers.
It started farther north and was about 21
miles long (making it shorter than the White Pass
Trail). But the Chilkoot was very very steep.
Pictures of the Chilkoot at the museum
reminded me of a black diamond ski run. That's
how steep the angle looked.
Every person on the trail was required to bring
certain items (weighing up to one ton) that
would make it possible for them to live once they
reached their destinations. All of those supplies
had to be packed up this steep, long grade - by
humans, horses, dogs. At one point in time a huge
avalanche killed many people on the Chilkoot.
As a result of the avalanche, the White Pass
Trail out of Skagway became more popular. Political
and economic interests also pushed for making
Skagway the hub of activity. Although the White
Pass Trail was longer (about 30 miles) it had a
much easier grade.
The path in these pictures is only three
feet wide. We were told that the entire length
of the trail was this width.
During the height of the
stampede the trail was so packed with people
and horses that if someone stepped off the
trail they would have to wait up to six hours
to elbow their way back onto the trail.
My mind just reels with
the thought of the hardships endured due to the terrain
and the weather. And the trail to the summit
was only part of the gold rush trip. Once
the summit was reached, there were many many more
miles to go both by boat and on foot to reach
the Yukon and the promise of gold.
I had lots to think about
on the way back down the mountain to Skagway.
It was a great trip. I'm
so glad I visited Skagway and tasted its history.
I'm still thinking about it.
M/V Royal Sounder