- "There is mud. It is just one notch below beastly."
- "There are bears out there and they are hungry. Don't leave candy wrappers in your tent or the bears will eat you." *
- "Make sure you pack your passport, headlamp and a credit card - the medivac helicopter tour is $1600 to the Skagway clinic and $25,000 to the Juneau hospital."
From there we drove the nine miles from downtown Skagway to the trailhead in Dyea. The weather looked great so we dressed in swim trunks and running shirts. Mr. X also had convinced me to wear imitation crocs to deal with the mud formerly known as beastly - anything to keep my boots dry.
The first five miles were flat because they were part of the old road. Oh, except the very first part which is called "Saintly Hill". I was expecting Thunder Mtn. It was much more like The East Glacier trail - rooty, mossy and quite lovely. We saw a few artifacts, such as rusty tin cans, along the route. We crossed standing water on planks similar to the ones in Juneau. We also crossed planks over very dry ground. Eventually we found the mud and were unimpressed - I wore crocs for this? (I really am suspicious 'cause I didn't see a single skunk cabbage on the whole trip)
At Finnigan's point we spotted the Irene Glacier but the bugs were so bad we kept hiking. At Canyon City Campground we stopped for a lunch of crackers and cheese, meeting a couple guys from Alberta one of which had driven 25 hours to get to Skagway.
From Canyon City the trail becomes more rocky and winds up and down boulders and canyons. We spotted another glacier which was pretty dramatic, but the sun on the rocks was starting to heat up like an oven - keep hiking, I said.
Eventually we reached Pleasant Camp where we had planned to stop for dinner. It was too early though so we pressed on. Soon we crossed the river on a suspension bridge and slowly made our way to our destination for the night: Sheep Camp.
Sheep camp is on a hillside right next to the roaring Taiya River, in a forest of alders and cottonwood. After depositing our food in the bear lockers and putting on some long pants because the horseflies were everywhere, Mr. X made a beeline for the campground, ignoring the obviously excited, beaming man standing on the bridge. By the time I got up the man, he had gathered his thoughts; in heavily accented English he said, "You have not much luggage. It is gut, very gut."
After setting up camp we headed to the shelters to heat water for our mountain house spaghetti. The same man found us again and asked, "You are minimalist so did you bring with you fire?" Yes, we brought a small stove we told him. He quickly left; I think he was disappointed that we weren't actually minimalists.
Shortly after dinner Mr. X laid down for a nap and I went to the ranger talk. Pete hikes the pass every day, and he promised us a great summit day on Wednesday. While the ranger in town was supposed to freak us out about the bears, I could tell that Pete's job was to make us feel confident. After giving us a trail report he gave us a little history lesson and provided pictures of the camp one hundred years ago without trees.
After the meeting, Mr. X and I had a quick snack of trail mix, discussed plant succession and then headed for bed.
At 11:15 I had to use the outhouse, but I didn't want to get all dressed. So yes, that was me streaking past...in my long johns.
Speaking of outhouses...the facilities on the US side are composting toilets so after doing your business you add a scoop of wood chips/dirt. The ranger in Skagway intimated that these toilets were better than the Canadian toilets but I definitely disagree; I had to really focus on not retching. The US did provide tp and hand sanitizer though (as if that makes up for it).
*There has never been a bear mauling on the Chilkoot trail, at least not as long as it's been a National park. There have been bluff charges and bears in camp but no one's ever gotten hurt. They'd just really like to keep it that way.