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GOLD HUNTERS' PERILS


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Steubenville Herald / August 10, 1897

A Miner Describes the Journey to the Klondike.

CALLS IT THE DEVIL’S OWN TRIP.

Dangers of Chilkat Pass -- The Place That Puts the Yellow Fear Into Many a Man’s Heart -- Camping in the Snow and Climbing Ice Mountains.

“The trip is surely the devil’s own. The man who wants the Yukon Gold should know what he is going to tackle before he starts. If there is an easy part of the trip, I haven’t struck it.”

Thus wrote Edgar Mizner of San Francisco last May, while on his way to the gold fields. It is worthy of note that though Mizner wrote very disparagingly of the trip and of the men who made it he persevered through all difficulties, and is now at Klondike.

“At Dyea there were but two houses,” he continues, “a store, and of course a saloon. So, when we landed on the beach and got out upon the snow and ice, we had to ‘rustle’ for ourselves. We have kept on ‘rustling’ for ourselves from then on. We camped the first night at Dyea. It is a most enjoyable thing, this making camp in the snow. First you must shovel down from three to six feet to find a solid crust. Then you must go out in the snow up to your neck to find branches with which to make a bed, and then comes the hunt for a dead tree for firewood. Dinner is cooked on a small sheet iron stove.

“Well, next morning we started for Dyea canyon, ten miles off, and did our first sled pulling. The little pamphlets worked off by the enterprising merchants of Juneau will tell you that you can pull from 600 to 800 pounds. That is just a plain lie. I had on 300 pounds and nearly worked myself to death.

“There are many hundred dogs on the trail, and it is remarkable how much even a scrub dog will pull, but they are a great nuisance, and in the end I think they eat about as much as they pull. Many of the teams are odd in make up. There will be a little dog and a big man, two dogs and a man, two men and a dog, big dogs and little dogs “” everything from an Eskimo to a greyhound, or even a poodle, all pulling for all they know how, or being beaten for not doing so, until the yelping and howling of dogs and the cursing of men is heard all along the line of march.

“The second day we went up Dyea canyon. It is only three miles long, but seems full 30. This is true of all distances in this country. About 100 pounds is about all a man wants to pull up the canyon, as the way is steep and the ice slippery, so camps must be made short distances apart, as you have to go over the trail several times in bringing up your outfit. Remember, an ordinary outfit weighs from 500 to 800 pounds, and some of them much more.

“But the summit of Chilkat pass! That’s the place that puts the yellow fear into many a man’s heart. Some took one look at it, sold their outfits for what they would bring and turned back. This pass is over the ridge which skirts the coast. It is only about 1,200 feet from base to top, but it is almost straight up and down, a sheer steep of snow and ice.

“There is a blizzard blowing there most of the time, and when it is at its height, no man may cross. For days at a time the summit is impassable. We were detained ten days awaiting our turn to have our outfits carried over and for favoring weather. The wind howled continually and the snow fell most of the time, and we had to use much force in persuading our tent to stay with us. But at last came a fair day, and with the aid of 12 Indians, we lugged our outfits to the summit. We began work at 5 in the morning and had everything on top by noon. In this we were very lucky, as many have been many days doing the same thing.

“Once on top, we had before us a downshoot of a quarter of a mile at an angle of, say, 45 degrees. All we had to do was pack everything on the two sleds, turn them loose and put our trust in the Lord. An instant of flying snow, and our sleds shot out on the frozen surface of Crater lake. Others were not so fortunate. Many sleds upset or ran off the track and were buried many feet deep in the snow.

The remainder of the journey was an eventful one, and the travelers finally reached Dawson after many perils and privations. Of the goldfields Mizner writes:

“The Klondike has not been one particle overrated. I have seen gold measured out by the bucketful. Just think of a man taking $800 out of one pan of dirt. Mrs. Wilson panned $154 out of a single pan.

“Of course every particle of rich ground has an owner. So the newcomer has to depend on new strikes. Every day rumors of new discoveries reach here, which at once start stampedes, hundreds rushing out to stake claims. This rushing out is awful work. You have to race through deep, slushy swamps and fight millions of mosquitoes, climbing mountains covered with soft moss and thick brush.”

 

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