Exploring the White Pass Trail

It took us 9 hours by bus to travel south from Dawson to Whitehorse. For much of the journey we accompanied the Yukon river, the route that many of the Klondike prospectors took to reach the gold field.Even after we reached Whitehorse for the night, we still had another 4 hours of bus and train travel to reach Skagway, which was where the Stampeders began their trek to Dawson in 1897. It was hard for us to imagine the arduous journey it must have been for them, especially since most of them did it in winter

Roz and Velma enjoying the bus ride

Though our bus trip was long, our journey was pleasant. This was some one of the most scenic part of our tour, and our bus driver kept us informed and entertained with his encyclopedic knowledge of the area and local music he would play. Some of our favorites were “North to Alaska”, “When you leave Yukon”, and Johnny Cash reading the “Cremation of Sam McGee”.

The Yukon River along our bus route

Photo opportunity along the Yukon

It was cold and foggy when we reached the summit where we boarded the narrow gauge train that descended the White trail to Skagway. We soon were creeping down the narrow canyon alongside roaring rapids and through thick temperate pine forests, jagged snow capped peaks towering above us.

White Pass and Yukon railroad

After the Stampeders reached Skagway by steamship from Seattle or San Francisco, the toughest part of their journey was climbing this very route we were coming down by train. Soon after the rush began, Canadian authorities, concerned about their safety, required each person entering the Yukon have one year’s supply of food and other necessities. This equated to nearly a ton of supplies for each man. This required up to 30 round trips up the steep Chilkook trail carrying 100 pounds or more on their backs each time. It took the prospectors nearly 3 months just to carry their supplies to the summit before they could catch a paddle boat for the 400 mile journey to Dawsons.

Stampeders on the Chilkoot trail in 1987

Others took pack horses up the longer but less steep White trail which we were following. Dozens of men and over 3,000 horses died on just this first part of the trip. Sadly, most of the productive claims had already paid out by the time they reached Dawson. It is said that only about 50 men got rich with gold of the 100,000 that made the journey.

We dropped our bags at our hotel and jumped on a bus for our most anticipated excursion of our trip—the dog sleds! In the summer, Alaskan huskies are trained for the annual Iditarod dogsled race. Here we were able to ride a specially designed wheeled dogsled pulled by a team of 14 dogs. They just love to run, and we amazed at their strength at pulling a 600 pound cart with 6 adults through the forest. The best part was being able to spend time with seven week old puppies to help them socialize.

One comment on “Exploring the White Pass Trail

  1. Josh J. says:

    What an awesome trip.


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