[excerpt from Alluring Alaska]
Our cruise took us to Skagway, where we strode the plank walkway of the main street. Shops selling souvenirs and gold have replaced the bars and saloons of 1898 when Skagway was a Klondike Gold Rush Town of 20,000 men and women eager to strike it rich.
We rented bikes and rode 10 miles to Dyea, an abandoned town at the trailhead of the Chilkoot Trail. Our ride along paved and gravel roads rose and fell along the shoreline, and we arrived in Dyea after an hour. In a gravel parking lot, a display depicted the blueprint of the ghost town. As we made our way down the forested and dirt streets (some now grown over), we tried to imagine what it must have been like for the green horns in search of gold.
They would have been required by the Canadian Mounted Police to transport one-year’s provisions over imposing Chilkoot Pass. The prospectors carried as much as 1,000 pounds on mules and horses, until reaching the trail’s most notorious stretch, the Golden Stairs, a 30-degree grade just below the summit.
Once there, they descended to Lindemann or Bennett lakes, where they built boats and floated 550 miles to the gold rush fields in Dawson City. They endured all of this in the hardened hope that they might strike it rich -or die trying.
When the narrow-gauge White Pass & Yukon Route railroad was completed in July 1900, Dyea faded into a ghost town. All that remains now is the facade of a storefront.