Day 1 adventure is here.
We adopted Starbuck as a 9 month old puppy from the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter. He had originally been rescued from Ross River, a small Yukon community, when his litter was found underfed and under-loved. He, along with his brothers and sisters were adopted quickly. Starbuck was the only one returned to the shelter.
Had Starbuck stayed in Ross River, he may have been in a dog team – and he would have almost certainly lived outside. But, Starbuck ended up with two professional yuppies with no kids. What does this mean? Instead of running around the Yukon surviving on fish scraps and fighting for a dry corner – his owners carry a dog sized blue sleeping foam and mini-tarp across the Chilkoot, before paying for him to join them a float plane home. Life is tough.
For a brief period of time it appeared as though, we would at the very least make Starbuck carry his own food. Food, which he was too excited to eat. In the end, he much preferred the hot dinners we packed, who wants kibble when you can eat beef stew.
On Day 2 a wet Starbuck woke up, eager to hit the road. So eager, that he squirmed around like a lunatic when we tried to get his pack on. Despite his insistence that we start at the crack of dawn, he started the day with a bit of a limp. It took us 3 km to realize, that the pack was on wrong, and rubbing against his front limb – an action that automatically meant unlimited cheese treats for Starbuck, supplied by guilt. I had hoped to enjoy a couple Babybel, but whatever…
We made it to the Scales in good time – possibly helped by the fact I was carrying 1980 lbs less than my gold rush counterparts. There we met the only other hikers we would see all weekend – Dorothy and Don and their dog Sammy. One of the few problems with hiking off season is the markers that are normally found leading up the Golden Stairs. The Parks Canada staff had kindly sent me the GPS coordinates for the pass, but the GPS was broken and I was – as usual – overconfident when it came to memory.
The four hikers and 2 canines headed up the pass. The wet boulders were a challenge for Starbuck’s paws, but he made his way up the rocks, with only the occasional slip into a crevice. Without the markers, we picked our own way up the rocks, with every other route looking 20X better than the one we were on. We got most of the way up the summit before realizing that we were too far to the right and that we had some big boulders to climb around to get back on course. This wasn’t a big deal for us bipedal, tall humanoids, but turned out to be more than Starbuck could handle.
The worst punishment in the world for a spoiled little black dog, is to be apart from his owners/supply of babybel cheese. Each time we’d climb across boulders too big for the dog, he would start to cry and shake and cry some more. We tried to find an alternate route, but there was no way to get across. After 15 minutes of looking around, the Mr. had resigned our fate to a return to Skagway. I had not carried a freaking dog foamie 25 km just to turn around again. So, we crawled on the rocks, and through the power of teamwork (aka Mr. shoving the dog into my hands and me lifting him over the biggest boulders) we managed to get the dog onto the right trail.
This adventure was not without emotional scars. The 15 minutes of dog crying was enough to give up $20 worth of homemade beef jerky from the Deli. It was also the end of Starbuck having to carry anything. All this in spite of the fact that the minute we hit snow, he was in puppy heaven with any residual trauma clearly forgotten.
From the summit, we made great time to Happy Camp, where I enjoyed a delicious lunch of crackers, that would have been very tasty with some cheese and meat. All day, we had narrowly avoided the rain, watching it creep behind us and limiting any prolonged breaks.
The views on the Canadian side of the trail are phenomenal, and while we were entertained by vistas of mountain lakes, Starbuck was entertained by fat ground squirrels with limited dog experience. We passed through Deep Lake campground, a beautiful space to pitch a tent in nicer weather, but the rain was quickly approaching and a warming tent was worth some extra hours of walking.
Finally we got to Upper Lindemann and an amazing little cabin with a strong stove and dry wood. After 10 hours, and 25 km of walking I was ready to get warm and dry. Starbuck wasn’t as convinced that we should end the day, but eventually agreed upon promise of Beef Stroganoff. At least if something happened on Day 3, we’d have plenty of kibble to eat.