Aki is spending the weekend with friend Zoe so the human couple in her life grabed an early ferry for Skagway, Juneau’s closest portal on to the North American road system. From there we drive up the dramatic White Pass and stop for a ski near the Yukon/British Columbia border.
The road took us past avalanche zones that recently deposited great amounts of snow on the highway. The “Do Not Stop Avalanche Zone” signs confirm that it may soon happen again.
It’s above freezing and sunny when we climb into the skis and cross the White Pass Railway right of way to a ski trail undulating through a Lodgepole Pine forest. Plaster white mountain domes appear above the forest on every horizon.
We turn back after reaching a long flat valley seasoned with scattered pines. It reminds me of Juneau’s own high pine meadows, framed as they are with rugged white mountains.
Skiing farther would take us to the ruins of the winter community formed by the thosands of men that rushed to the Klondike gold fields over one hundred years ago. After hauling thousands of pounds over the Chilcoot Pass they spent the winter of 1898 here sawing Ponderosa Pines like these into rough lumber for rafts or boats. When the ice broke on nearby Lake Bennett they loaded a year’s worth of gear into makeshift vessels and floated down to the Yukon River and then on to the Dawson.
From this meadow’s edge in 98 we could have heard these anxious men struggle with axe and whip saw. Today it is all a sun drenched snowy silence