Prior to that in 1887 William Moore landed at Skagway Bay and went to work establishing a settlement and discovering an inland route called the White Pass. His rival John Healy had a trading post three miles west at Dyea inlet an area where the natives lived and was the start of a steep pass called Chilkoot over the mountain range and into the Yukon interior.
All the people were in a hurry to get to the gold fields. Many chose Chilkoot Pass. It was shorter by ten miles but it could only be traversed by foot. All 1200 pounds of goods per person, required by the Canadian Mounted Police, had to be hauled over the pass on their backs. This required making multiple trips from station to station. First transporting one load, caching it, and going back to pick up another load. This trail was also the steepest of the two and only navigable by foot.
White Pass also called Dead Horse Trail was forty-five miles long not as steep but just as treacherous with switch backs through boulders, five water crossings, and a climb of less than a mile that took a person straight up over 300 feet. The newspapers published misleading information about the trail, saying, while being longer and more time consuming, could be crossed with horses, wagons, or dog sleds.
So imagine the dismay of greedy men and women who arrived in Skagway expecting to use a wagon and discover they could not. The trail was so narrow when there was no snow that horses hooves would be caught between boulders on the trail or between rocks in the streams they forded, breaking their legs. If the horses were fortunate to not suffer from a broken leg, the packs were so heavy and lopsided the animal might fall over the edge of the narrow trail into jagged hundred foot precipices. The fortunate horse was put out of their misery. But some avarice fortune hunter's didn't take the time. They just began packing the load themselves.
Also many of the fortune hunters had never handled horses or had little contact with the animals. This inexperience was dangerous. Bad handling of a horse could not only harm the horse but the other travelers packed along the narrow trail.
|White Pass- The trail became too narrow for travois|
This trail wasn't kind to humans either, but they made the choice to venture into the Alaskan gold fields the animals did not.
The reason I've been reading all this information is for the book I'm writing. My character, Jeremy Duncan, provides a packing service over the White Pass. His animals are his bread and butter, so you won't see him pushing them to the limit or over-packing them. But the city girl who has paid him to take her to the interior to find
her brother will be appalled by the sights and smells(yes, there were so many decaying horse carcasses along the trail that it became necessary for those traveling the trail to use bandannas to cover their mouth and nose and the drinking water down at the town was no longer safe to drink)
As always when I discover an injustice, I have to include it in my book, hence the thorough research into this trail.
Photos were copied from Wikipedia.