The first time I hiked the Chilkoot was with my friend Lisa and my parents. It was 25-30 degrees Celsius the entire time. We hiked in shorts and t-shirts, which weren’t always deemed necessary, replaced with only sports bras. The entire time the sun shone in a big blue sky – weather could not be more perfect. For that reason, I thought that it might be best to never, ever dare to repeat the trail. It simply couldn’t be better, so why mar a good memory?
But a couple weeks ago, when Jenn and Julie were planning their Chilkoot hike, the Mr’s interest was piqued. Fifteen years ago, he’d come to the Yukon with a plan to hike, but it never happened. Interest quickly turned into a plan, and on Friday, September 7th we found ourselves driving towards a rainy Alaskan coast.
The Chilkoot officially closes the first week in September, this means no wardens, no wood, no markers, questionable weather and very few hikers. We figured that last bit makes up for all the rest.
We arrived in Skagway just past noon. The steady, cold rain, didn’t exactly inspire a speedy departure. Instead, we used our time in Skagway to buy essentials: a down coat and alcohol flask; and eat a huge lunch at the Brew Pub.
Finally, at around 3:00 pm, we made our way to Dyea and the start of the trail head. We took out every piece of rain gear we had packed – put it on, and set down the muddy trail.
Our trail plan was simple: go fast, go light. Tony had the biggest/heaviest bag at about 30 lbs, I carried just under 20 lbs, and Starbuck got off easy with 5 lbs of kibble in his new pack. Day 1 would take us from Skagway to Pleasant Camp, approximately 17 km down the path. We rolled into Pleasant at around 7:00 pm, perfect time to start a fire in the warming hut and make some dinner.
Leaving in the arid climate of Whitehorse, we weren’t completely prepared the high humidity of coastal Alaska. I learned some very important lessons. Lesson #1: wet wood does not burn well. Lesson #2: a wet wood fire does not produce much eat. Lesson #3: hanging wet clothes over a wet wood fire, produces slightly warmer wet clothes. Lesson #4: a wet dog sleeping next to a wet wood fire makes a slightly smellier wet dog.
But, despite the wet weather, the company made up for everything. We had some delicious dinner, waited until it got dark, and determined that no more hikers would be staying at Pleasant that night, pulled out our thermarest and had a nice snooze in a semi-warm, semi-dry shelter.