The Yukon today, Canada's western territory, is an outdoor's paradise of more than 500,000 square kilometers (200,000 sq miles), almost ringed by rugged mountains, a broad central plateau and drained by the mighty Yukon River of Pierre Burton's Drifting Home fame. In the cold waters of Rabbit Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River, George Carmack discovered gold in the year of 1896. His discovery spawned one of the most frenzied gold rushes that the world has ever seen!
Between the summers of 1897 and 1898 about 40,000 men and women from all over the world challenged what was considered the quickest route to the Yukon, the Chilkoot Pass. The Pass actually is not in the Yukon as it transverses the Coastal Mountain range near Skagway, Alaska and runs through to Bennett Lake in northwestern British Columbia. From Bennett, another test of life skills faced those adventurers on a lake and water route northwest to the Klondike gold fields.
The North-West Mounted Police were quickly called upon to keep order among some of the roughest customers one could imagine! They also had to enforce a hastily enacted law that every person travelling to the Yukon had to carry at least a year's provisions which amounted to 900 kg (2,000 lbs) of supplies. Only the hardy could expect to make the grueling trek relaying their provisions over the Chilkoot Pass. Such hardships created a campfire and bar-room legend that lures modern adventurers to revisit the trail and marvel not only at the accomplishments of those early hardy gold seekers but also at the absolute splendor of this rugged land.
The Chilkoot Pass is 53 kilometers (33 miles) in length and runs between Dyea, 14 kilometers (9 miles) east of Skagway, Alaska to Bennett Lake in British Columbia. It is maintained for hikers and features several shelters and campsites. You can see many gold rush artifacts along the route which is best tackled between mid June and early September in order to avoid most of the sudden high country snow storms! The Chilkoot has an elevation gain of over 600 meters (2,000 feet) and is considered a difficult hike. Needless to say, those brave enough to test the challenge of this trail must be well prepared as the hike duration averages about 5 days. However, the rewards are great as one experiences an aura of history coupled with some of the most spectacular scenery to be found on this continent!
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