Prayer Flags over the Gold Rush Trail


The quiet peace on this late winter day makes me suspect history. Again we ski between the famous White Pass and Lake Bennett — both reputed choke points during the Klondike Gold Rush. Later we will cross the US Canada border and drop the precipitous 14 miles to Skagway, which tries hard for the summer tourists, to look like its 1898 self. Only these battered railroad buildings, just managing under great caps of snow, even hint of the famous rail tracks beneath.

During other visits here I could almost hear the stampeders’ cross cut saws reducing the forest. Today, perhaps stunned by the warm windless day and the cloudless ski, I think of little but the ski. Two days ago a couple hundred skiers raced each other on these trails. You can still enjoy the dragon crested replica of China’s Forbidden City they made of snow blocks. Tibetan pray flags still flutter their colorful warning at the summit of the steeper drops. We ignore caution and fly down under the flapping prayer then glide onto a large flat meadow to gaze at a nearby string of mountains. Concentrating on the mountains I ignore the single set of tracks made by a large running animal that marks the meadow.

After settling into the ski rhythm I start thinking of all the beauty we had seen on this trip but run out of time before cataloging more than today’s experiences. There was the Yukon River now being drained by open water that steamed in the morning sun. Later there were the mountains between the Alaska Highway and here, each dappled with shadow and light. We stopped briefly at Carcross with its views of Lake Bennett and Nares Lake. Open water on the later reflected a great hill that is spotted like an Appaloosa horse. Now there are this series of meadows decorated with the weathered skeletons of tall spruce.

Later we will board the ferry for the 6.5 hour ride along a mountain lined fjord to home. Without wind we can expect to see the reflection of each mountain lit up by spring sun.

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