Hiking the Chilkoot Trail: Dyea to Lindeman Lake Section

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

It was dubbed the World’s Longest Museum.

Overloaded and frantic to reach the goldfields near Dawson City in the Yukon, Canada, the stampeders of 1897-98 abandoned much of their gear along the Chilkoot Trail – especially during the first 41 km (26 mi) of the trail from Dyea, Alaska to Lindeman Lake, British Columbia.

Time and nature have had a lot of time to remove all traces of this crazy rush. Will there be much left to discover as we wander along the stampeders trail close to 120 years later?

They Called Them Cheechakos

Many of goldseekers taking the Chilkoot Trail from Dyea to Lindeman Lake and beyond were ill-prepared. They struggled get themselves and their gear up the trail, over Chllkoot Pass and down to Lindeman Lake where they could build a boat to go a little further. Old-timers called them Cheechakos. Cheechako is a Tlingit word for greenhorn.

Each stampeder was required to haul one ton of goods up to the scales at Chilkoot Pass. It took the average stampeder three to four weeks to pack his goods from the water’s edge at Dyea to shores of Lake Lindeman.

Interpretive signs warn that “your load may be lighter, but you face some of the same hazards. Weather can be extreme, especially on Chilkoot Pass. Start this hike only if prepared for severe conditions.”

Luckily, we’ve done this outdoor camping and adventure thing once or twice before – nobody’s calling us Cheechakos!

First camp for the Stampeders: Finnegan’s Point

Boggy sections still exist along the Chilkoot Trail today! (Photo: Brad Kopp)

In 1897, Pat Finnegan and his two sons established a ferry service. They later built a corduroy road – a road made of tree trunks laid down side by side – through the boggy areas approaching the Point and operated it as a toll road.

In the summer, this point eight kilometres (5 miles) from Dyea was the northern terminus of the wagon road. In the winter, stampeders could pull their sleds up the frozen riverbed. Finnegan’s Point was a convenient place to cache their gear and go back for another load. Our loads were lighter and we weren’t ready to stop for the night. We continued down the muddy trail to Canyon City.

Canyon City

Suspension bridge crossing the Talya River to the Canyon City ruins. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

Hundreds of tents crowded this ravine in 1897. It was the first major stop for most stampeders. Canyon City was a good place to cache goods before the steep climb out of the canyon. By spring 1898, two freight companies were building power houses for aerial tramways and stripping hillside to fuel boilers and build log houses.

Wood stove left behind in Canyon City. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

Within a year Canyon City would vanish. Before heading on to Sheep Camp, we took the spur trail across the swinging bridge to see signs remaining from the site of all the 1897 action. Rusted chunks of metal, pieces of glass bottles, decaying cabin logs and the rusting hulk of a boiler were found.

Old steam boiler used to power a tramway for hauling gear up to Chilkoot Pass. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

This tramway – which only ran during the last few months of the gold rush – was powered by the 50-horsepower steam boiler that was too heavy to take out when Canyon City died out. If you could afford the 7 ½ cents per pound freight charge, you could send your supplies over Chilkoot Pass via a tram. Most stampeders had to carry their loads from cache to cache.

Tripping Along From Pleasant Camp to Sheep Camp

Steep, rocky climbs are par for the course on the Chilkoot Trail. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

The trail from Canyon City to Pleasant Camp was described by one stampeder as “the worst piece of trail on the route, fairly muddy, with many boulders and with some short, steep ascents and descents in and out of small gulches.” For us, it was a little less muddy than the first day’s slog, but it did climb!

From Pleasant to Sheep – it was a transition from rock to muddy puddles for our crew.

Sheep Camp to the Scales to the Pass

The tramways that carried the wealthier stampeders’ supplies from Canyon City to Crater Lake paralleled the stream of men who had to shuttle loads on their backs. The brush has long since grown back around Sheep Camp, probably hiding a wealth of discarded supplies, but the occasional piece of rusted metal can still be seen. Tumbled piles of wood – the remains of the tram towers – can still be spotted on the hillsides.

Wooden remains of a historic tramway. (Photo: Brad Kopp)

A distinct change comes about at the scales near the foot of the climb up to Chilkoot Pass. It was here that stampeders re-weighed their goods. Professional packers could be hired to carry loads up to the pass, but they would sometimes charge up to a dollar a pound. Every ounce made a difference. As a result, the area became littered with excess gear.

Rusted metal artifacts below the pass. (Photo: Megan Kopp)

It took forty, 50-pound trips to carry the required ton of goods to the top of the pass. Climb up, unload, slide back down, reload, and wait. At times it took up to half an hour to break into the human chain of stampeders inching their way up the slope. With our single loads, most weighing under 50 pounds, it seemed relatively easy to pick our way through the boulder field to the summit.

After the pass and the final tram station above Crater Lake, the flotsam and jetsam of the goldrush era dwindles. The downhill leg of the journey on the Canadian side of the pass was little less punishing that the climb up.

The downhill hike towards Crater Lake. (Photo: Megan Kopp)

 

 

If You Go:

Read a little more about the trail description from the Parks Canada Chilkoot Trail National Historic Site.

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History Behind the Rocks: Exploring Yosemite’s Pioneer Past

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

Wawona means “Big Tree.” It is also the gateway to Yosemite National Park from the south. In the late 1800s, Wawona was Yosemite’s largest stagecoach stop. Today, most people zip by on their way to see Half Dome and Yosemite Valley – but there’s plenty of history behind the rocks!

Yosemite's white-washed charmer. (Photo: B. Kopp)
Yosemite’s white-washed charmer. (Photo: B. Kopp)

Take a little break and wander down the hill from the historic, whitewashed Wawona Hotel, to the Pioneer Yosemite History Center. Similar to Calgary, Alberta’s Heritage Park, Yosemite’s historic park contains a series of structures originally found in different locations and moved to a central location in order to more effectively interpret a period in time. All of the buildings in Yosemite’s Pioneer Village were found throughout the park and moved to Wawona in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Photo: B. Kopp
A tribute to the pioneers of the National Park idea. (Photo: B. Kopp)

The visit starts with a walk through the covered bridge built in 1857. Every visitor to Yosemite crossed this same bridge on their way into the valley. Explore George Anderson’s winter cabin. He was a local miner and blacksmith turned guide – and the first person to climb Half Dome in 1875.

But don’t stop there.

Dregnan’s Bakery building was originally connected to their home near the chapel in Yosemite Valley. The Wells Fargo Office was by travellers to make reservations, send telegraphs, or make long-distance calls. Blacksmith shops dotted the park during the era of the stagecoach. Horse-drawn stages were discontinued in 1914 as the automobile rose in prominence. There’s a Calvary Office (the original guardians of the area) and a Ranger Patrol Cabin, used as automobile check stations from 1914 onwards.

Wells Fargo Coach rides. (Photo: B. Kopp)
Explore on foot or see the sights aboard a Wells Fargo Coach. (Photo: B. Kopp)

Take the short detour – and discover a little of wealth that is Yosemite’s past.

If You Go:
A stroll through the village tucked in among tall pines is the perfect place to grasp the past on your way into Yosemite Valley. For more information, visit the Yosemite Conservancy.

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Mountain Meadows

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

Some places pull you in because of their beauty; others grab your heart because of the sheer magnitude of the story they hold. Mountain Meadows in Utah is not necessarily the most stunning of settings, one of dozen of open fields in the southwest dotted with sagebrush and juniper trees, but its story is gripping.

Mountain Meadows looks peaceful from today's vantage point. (Photo: B. Kopp)
Mountain Meadows looks peaceful from today’s vantage point. (Photo: B. Kopp)

We’re suckers for any roadside stop that lets us get out of the car and stretch our legs on longer road trips to a hiking or paddling destination. Cutting westward from St. George, Utah on our way to King’s Canyon, California, we saw the signs indicating an interpretive trail and couldn’t resist. A short path led uphill from the Mountain Meadows parking lot to an historic monument. Grabbing a quick veggie sandwich, we’re up the trail – and almost losing our lunch.

Massacre Meadow. (Photo: B. Kopp)
Mountain Meadow Massacre Interpretive Trail. (Photo: B. Kopp)

In 1857, a wagon train travelling from Arkansas to California on the Old Spanish Trail was attacked and laid siege by a party of Mormon militia and Native Americans. Fifteen of the emigrants were killed over the course of the next five days. On September 11th, the emigrants were convinced to give up their stronghold in return for safe passage to Cedar City, Utah.

It was a ruse. Less than a mile away, guns were pulled and 14 men, 12 women, and 35 emigrant children were killed. An additional 35 unidentified people lost their lives as well as nine cattle drivers. Once the massacre was over, 17 children under the age of seven remained alive. They were eventually returned to Arkansas. Sometimes history isn’t pretty, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored.

Granite memorial stone. (Photo: B. Kopp)
Granite memorial stone. (Photo: B. Kopp)

“Only he that has travelled knows where the holes are deep.”
– Chinese Proverb

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Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

Visitor information centres are our best friends. “Where can we go hiking?” It’s our standard refrain. And when they give us an option like McElmo Canyon, just southwest of Cortez, Colorado – we jump for joy.

Anasazi – okay, I know the term is no longer vogue, that technically I should be writing Ancestral Puebloan, but I love the way one rolls off my tongue and hate the way the other gets stuck in my craw – cliff dwellings on a bright blue day. What more could we ask for?

At the trailhead. (Photo: B. Kopp)
At the trailhead. (Photo: B. Kopp)

To reach the McElmo Canyon trailhead, we went south from Cortez on Hwy 491 and then headed west towards Hovenweep National Monument. The trailhead was nothing more than a pullout on the road – with a big sign saying “Canyons of the Ancients.” There are scattered remnants of ruins right off the parking area on Castle Rock – but proximity to the road has made these targets for vandalism. The resulting piles of rubble are not exactly inspiring. Hiking up the canyon a few miles leads to small, but spectacular, cliffside ruins.

Cliffside ruins. (Photo: B. Kopp)
Cliffside ruins. (Photo: B. Kopp)

Even without the ruins, the landscape is worth journey – because you never know what you might see along the way!

Tarantulas are common in the southwest. (Photo: B. Kopp)
Tarantulas are common in the southwest. (Photo: B. Kopp)

Although it is possible to continue six-and-a-half miles (one way) to Sand Canyon Pueblo, we opted for a shorter return hike. Next time we’ll take more time and go further afield. The monument has over 6000 sites – up to 100 per square mile in some areas. Who knew that Canyons of the Ancients had so much to offer?

Precision-built by Ancestral Puebloans. (Photo: B. Kopp)
Precision-built by Ancestral Puebloans. (Photo: B. Kopp)

If You Go: 
For more information, visit the Bureau of Land Management website.

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Pipe Springs National Monument

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

Travelling from St. George, Utah to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona, we were looking for a place to pull over to make lunch when we saw a sign for Pipe Spring National Monument. Washrooms and maybe a picnic table – perfect!

We didn’t know anything about the site, but with hunger sated and a National Park Pass already in hand, we thought we’d pop in and have a quick look.

Two hours later we managed to pull ourselves away.

Overlooking Pipe Spring National Monument. (Photo: B. Kopp)
Overlooking Pipe Spring National Monument. (Photo: B. Kopp)

A Mormon Tithing Ranch

Pipe Spring National Monument was established in 1923, but it started as a Mormon Tithing Ranch. Mormon pioneers in the 1870s often paid their tithes to the church with livestock – not cash. The Southern Utah Tithing Office often accepted cattle as tithes and the stock was sent to Pipe Spring.

In 1870, the Mormons began building a fortified ranch house at Pipe Spring. Master stone masons Elijah and Elisha Averett and dozens of workers laboured for over a year and a half to build Winsor Castle, named after the first ranch manager.

Catwalk joining the buildings of Winsor Castle. (Photo: B. Kopp)
Catwalk joining the buildings of Winsor Castle. (Photo: B. Kopp)

The “castle” is made up of two separate two-storey buildings that face each other. Rock walls at either end enclose the courtyard and join the buildings together. Large wooden doors on either end are wide enough for a wagon to pull through. One building was the home of the ranch manager and the other offered extra bedrooms, cheese and butter-making rooms built over the spring, and a telegraph office.

A Telegraph Office

When the transcontinental telegraph went through Salt Lake City in 1861, Brigham Young was inspired to create a communication network owned by the Mormon Church.  After 1864, Civil War-surplus telegraph materials were cheap. The Deseret Telegraph system was started in 1866.

The Desert Telegraph (Photo: B. Kopp)
The Desert Telegraph (Photo: B. Kopp)

Pipe Spring became a telegraph station in 1871. Sixteen-year-old Eliza Luella (Ella) Stewart was the first telegraph operator at Pipe Spring. From 1871 to 1888 at least seven women operated the telegraph instruments at Pipe Spring.

Interpretive panel photo of Ella Stewart - the first telegraph operator at Pipe Spring.
Interpretive panel photo of Ella Stewart – the first telegraph operator at Pipe Spring.

Pipe Springs National Monument

The Mormon Church sold the property to a private owner in 1895. In 1920 the newly appointed Director of the National Park Service, Stephen Mather, passed by the spring on a road trip. Mather believed that one day Americans would explore the West in their own cars and he believed that Pipe Spring would be a perfect stop in between Zion and Grand Canyon. It took him three years of lobbying – and money from his own pocket to help buy the Pipe Spring property – before it was declared a national monument.

When You Go:

  • Don’t miss walking the Ridge Trail. It’s a short climb up to the top of the low cliffs that overlook the monument. The views are spectacular.
  • Pipe Spring is 45 miles east of Hurricane, Utah on AZ State Route 389. For more information about Pipe Spring, visit the National Park Service website. http://www.nps.gov/pisp/index.htm

 

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New York City: A Literary Hit

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

Loving the New York City Public Library

Officially known as the Stephen A. Schwarzman building, the main branch of the New York City Public Library is a Beaux-Arts beauty. In 1897, the city provided the site – an old reservoir – and agreed to finance construction. Dr. John Shaw Billings – the library’s first director – sketched out a plan for the new building on a postcard.

It took 500 workers two years to demolish the Croton Reservoir and nine years to build the library.

Open in 1911, it quickly became known as the People’s Place.

I call it my kind of place.

Grandeur from the first step!
Grandeur from the first step! (Photo: Megan Kopp)

Inner Charms

Stepping away from the hustle of Fifth Avenue, the main entrance leads into Astor Hall with a jaw- dropping, 37-foot (11.3-metre) vaulted ceiling and white Vermont marble covering every available surface.

I gawk as only a literary tourist can.

The Map Division, on a wing of the first floor, contains more than 500,000 maps, atlases and cartography books – some dating back as far as the late 16th century.

I could stop right here and spent the rest of my time in the city, but the Rose Reading Room is calling.

Rose Reading Room - then...
Rose Reading Room – then…
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… and now. (Photo: Megan Kopp)

The Rose Room

If I lived in the city, the Rose Reading Room would be my office and Norman Mailer – a regular patron – would be my muse.

The Rose Reading Room is two city blocks long, providing seating for over 600 patrons at custom carved tables.

The room sits on top of seven stories of book stacks.

The collection includes such curiousities as a lock of Wild Bill Hickok’s hair, Charles Dicken’s letter-opener made out of his beloved cat Bob’s paw and poet E.E. Cummings death mask.

Cool marble walls speak volumes in New York City's Central Library (Photo Credit: M.Kopp)
Cool marble walls speak volumes in New York City’s Central Library (Photo: Megan Kopp)

Visit the People’s Place

Founded in 1895, NYPL is the nation’s largest public library system. The People’s Place is its crown jewel. If you’d like to visit this gem, it is located on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street; more information is available online.

Did You Know? 

  • There are 88 miles (over 141 kilometres) of bookshelves beneath the Rose Main Reading Room alone.
  • The library collection includes more than 15 million items – from the first Gutenburg Bible to cross the Atlantic to the original Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed animals to Columbus’s letter announcing the discovery of the New World and oh, so much more!
  • Literary lions Patience and Fortitude – named by NYC Mayor Fiorello La Guardia – flank the Fifth Avenue entrance.
  • During WWII, military intelligence used the Map Division to research battle plans.

“The world is a book,
and those who do not travel
read only a page.”
– St. Augustine

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Human History in Dinosaur National Monument: Josie Bassett Morris

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

There are countless colourful characters that make up the patchwork quilt of the past. Josie Bassett Morris was definitely one of the brightest in what is now Dinosaur National Monument, Utah.

Josie was one of the infamous Bassett sisters (her sister was “Queen Ann”), involved off and on with the Wild Bunch gang. Married five times, Josie decided at age 40 that she wanted a home of her own. She chose a little spot on Cub Creek, just off the Green River, in 1914. One year later, this spot would become part of Dinosaur National Monument.

Here she carved out a home in the wilderness. Josie heated her cabin with a wood fireplace and lit it with oil lamps. She planted fruit trees, tended her garden and reportedly took a neighbour’s cow or two now and again. Josie was tried for rustling twice, but never convicted.

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Josie’s Cub Creek cabin built in 1935 (photo: Brad Kopp)

In 1963, one of Josie’s horses pushed her and she fell, breaking her hip. She remained alone at her cabin with a broken hip until neighbours popped by for a visit a few days later. Josie was 89. She died a few months later.

An interpretive sign photo of Josie at her ranch.
An interpretive sign photo of Josie at her ranch.

Bib overalls, a broad-rimmed hat and  – I’m positive – a devilish twinkle in her eye. I’d like to have met Josie. Echoes of her spirit still resonate in the canyon country she called home.

If you go:
To reach Dinosaur National Monument, drive 13 miles (22 km) east of Vernal, Utah on Hwy 40 to Jensen. Follow 149 north for 7 miles (11 km) to the entrance.

You can visit Josie’s homestead 12 miles (19 km) down the Cub Creek Road from the Quarry Visitor Centre. Be sure to pick up a copy of the Auto Guidebook for the Cub Creek Road, “Tour of the Tilted Rocks.” Josie’s place is Stop #15.

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Human History in Dinosaur National Monument: The Chews

WRITTEN BY: MEGAN KOPP

Something always draws us to ghost towns and abandoned homesteads. The human history in Dinosaur National Monument was no exception.

Maybe it’s the stories that linger in the hand hewn wood of the old homes. Perhaps it’s the sense of discovery in finding a piece of the past. It might be admiration for the sheer grit and determination it took to carve out a place for themselves in the wilderness. For whatever reason, historic places garner attention.

An old chuckwagon sits rusting in the yard. (photo: M. Kopp)
An old chuckwagon sits rusting in the yard. (photo: Brad Kopp)

Checking Out Dinosaur National Monument

We drove down into the heart of Dinosaur National Monument in the northeastern corner of Utah searching for petroglyphs carved into sandstone walls. We eventually found them, but along the way discovered this historical nugget.

Remains of the corral. (photo: M. Kopp)
Remains of the corral. (photo: Brad Kopp)

Jack Chew settled at Pool Creek with his wife Mary and six of their 12 children in 1910.  In 1911, they were living in a one-room cabin. Imagine preparing dinners for the lot – root vegetables pulled from the nearby garden or root cellar, chicken fresh from the coop, eight hungry bodies gathered around a wooden table…

Jack and Mary’s son Rial eventually became sole owner of the property. Were the other siblings bought out? Did they decide that ranch life was not for them?

Under Rial’s direction, the Pool Creek ranch grew to more than 2,250 acres. Rial raised cattle and sheep on nearby pastureland.  Summers were spent at Pool Creek. Winter’s were spent in Vernal. This is where the kids went to school. What was the drive (or wagon road in Jack and Mary’s time) like back then? How long did it take them to get from the ranch to Vernal?

In the 1940's, Rial built the ranch house for his family. (photo: M. Kopp)
In the 1940’s, Rial built the ranch house for his family. (photo: Brad Kopp)

In 1966, Rial Chew sold 1,900 acres of the ranch that were in Dinosaur National Monument to the National Park Service. Today, visitors drive through the Chew’s homestead on the way to Echo Park. Interpretive signs tell the history of the family and their farmstead.

Black-and-white photos on interpretive signs show Rial Chew and his family in 1955.
Black-and-white photos on interpretive signs show Rial Chew and his family in 1955.

Chew family descendants now run the ranch located directly across from the Green River Campground on the Cub Creek Road.

Chew family property today. (photo: M. Kopp)
Chew family property today. (photo: Brad Kopp)

When You Go: 

Pool Creek is located in the heart of Dinosaur National Monument. To access, drive east on Highway 40 past the town of Dinosaur and take the exit north (left) past Canyon Visitor Centre. Follow the road up onto the plateau 25 miles (40 km) to the Echo Park Road.

Note: Echo Park Road descends a set of narrow switchbacks and can be impassable when wet.

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