Chilkoot Departure: Day 1: Dyea to Canyon City

The hiker shuttle swings by the hotel 5min early and we are not there…luckily, the driver swings back and picks us up at the allotted 9:05am time. Otherwise, it’s a 15km walk from Skagway to Dyea. Six people, including us, will start the hike today. The road skims north along the shore line, a bald eagle cruises the low tide flats. A seal spy hops from Taiya Inlet. Only rotting pilings and some ramshackle wharves indicate that there was ever a harbour or town. The park ranger gives us the due diligence lecture about bears (‘don’t eat in the tent’, ‘keep a clean campsite’, ‘make noise on the trail’ etc) and issues the permit. By 9:45am under a light drizzle, we are on the trail. Yeah!

Tonight’s camp destination is Canyon City, 12km / 7.5 miles away. After a steep initial up and down, the trail widens under a dense tree canopy. It appears to be an old logging road, flat and wet but cleared of all deadfall. Rather dull walking but I don’t mind given the challenge ahead – my mind drifts around, listening for the whispers of by gone ghosts.

The trail varies: winding between mature trees, crossing split log boardwalks, a welcome dry stone lined section, but more likely water sogged rotting codroy. Lush under grown deadens the sound of other hikers – and also wildlife. Bear bells tinkling away, we don’t see any bears but somehow I manage to step in a pile of shit. It squishes deep into the lugs of my hiking boots a hiking hazards a west coast rain forest!

At Finnegans’s Point we stop for lunch. The river views are unspectacular, a reflection of the grey sky’s overhead. There is a tent on a wood platform with a wood stove inside which the Parks service has set up as an alternative to camping at Canyon City 90 minute walk ahead. The grounds strewn with dented oil drums, rusting metal bits, is this log building is the remnant of a saw mill – or a Klondike remnant? Old telegraph wire dangles limply from the trees.

At Canyon City, the bouncing foot bridge crosses the Taiya River into Canyon City ruins proper. There is no camping here but it’s a great place to explore. Abandoned cast iron stoves, collapsed cabins, broken crockery, rusting tin cans, and unidentifiable bits litter the underbrush. Canyon City has the luxury of electricity, generated by this steam boiler.

Interior of  Canyon City shelter. Most welcome was the wood stove – like everyone else, I peeled off the sweat wet layers and dried off. It was obvious that some hikers were not prepared for the rain, given the drying sleeping bags. It was a Scottish group who came up on the Inside Passage – they were cooking smelly tuna, yuk. I was happy to sit on the outside porch and watch the rain drip.

Today’s walk of 12.1 km / 7.5 mile took about 5 hours including stops.