Thursday, September 2, 2010

Chilkoot Pass

Last week I had the chance to work with the patrol wardens at the Chilkoot Pass Summit. After taking the train from Carcross we boated to Lindeman. The next morning we packed our gear and some extra material for cabin repairs along the way. It was the first sunshine in days and the hikers we met coming from the pass were all enthusiastic about their trail time and pleased to be past the steep climb and the rain on the coastal side.

My job is to prepare a backgrounder on the historic resources on the trail. Trail staff will gain more knowledge of the things they are protecting and learn stories they can pass on to hikers. Our focus on this trip is the Pass itself. During the day we revisit the sites, out of the snow for a few weeks this time of year. We do some repeat photography, reshooting gold rush photos to see what changes may have taken place. One striking element was the lack of vegetation in the old images compared to now. Perhaps the thousands of stampeders tracked in enough dirt, left behind enough organics and seeds to dramatically change the ecology of the Pass?

It is mid summer at this high altitude. The snow has only finally melted a few weeks past and the plants are frantically racing through their life cycle, sprouting blossoming and bearing seed in the very short time before the snow returns. The hillsides are a rich garden of pinks, whites, blues, and yellows. A hike along the shores of Crater Lake reveals old canoe landing spots and we can trace the old winter roads that dropped the tramway freight down to the lake. Further we find secret coves and delightful waterfalls. This is a lovely place on the rare days that the sun shines.

Evening is announced by the fog. A misty greyness settles on the pass and stays until well into the next day, the sun and wind eventually clearing the sky by early afternoon. We stay at the Summit Warden cabin, compact, efficient, warm and dry. It is a privilege to serve Canadians and visitors at a place such as the Chilkoot Pass.

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