I’ve started training to hike the Chilkoot Trail this summer, from Alaska into the Yukon.
Compared to The Long Trail’s 273 miles, the Chilkoot is short. The trail is only 33 miles, but it makes up in steepness and exposure what it lacks in length.
Shortly after securing my permit in January, I purchased a pair of waterproof hiking boots, which I’ve been breaking in ever since. I’ve also been reading about the history of Alaska, starting with a story of the Yukon Gold Rush at the end of the nineteenth century. That’s when the Chilkoot was crowded with prospectors crawling up the Golden Staircase – steps carved into the snow up the last pitch of the pass.
It’s possible we’ll run into some snow, even in summer, but most of the trail will simply be steep. There’s a three-mile section where the trail rises 2,500 feet.
I live in a narrow valley, and almost every walk from my house involves hiking uphill. But the Chilkoot represents a new order of ruggedness, so I’ve started training by climbing the steps at the Harris Hill Ski Jump in Brattleboro.
The 90-meter Harris Hill Ski Jump was built just north of downtown in 1922, and has been hosting international competition during Winter Carnival ever since. During one weekend in February, spectators arrive bundled in warm clothing to watch athletes slide down the jump and soar.
The entire flight lasts only moments, but while the jumper is aloft, time seems to stop.
There is no way I will ever try this.
But I do like the jump for another reason: the nearly three hundred stairs that run along side it. I’ve been climbing this stairs to prepare for hiking
It’s a workout, and I only climb to step 187.
I don’t walk down, because I don’t like heights. Instead, I descend a wooded path that brings me back to the bottom.
And then I climb the stairs again.
Call me a glutton for punishment, but I climb the stairs three to five times.
I know I need to add descending the stairs to my regimen. A glance at the profile of the Chilkoot Pass makes it clear that the descent is no cake walk.
As I huff my way up the last rep, I think about turning around and descending by stair. I haven’t done it – yet. So far, the last ascent of every session, I climb all 300 steps to the top for the rewarding view, then cool down as I walk back through the woods.
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Jane O says
Holy smokes! Happy camp does indeed look like a happy place. Good for you!
Deborah Lee Luskin says
Yes, I expect to be quite happy (and tired) when I reach Happy Camp!