Wednesday, Sep 7, 2011
During the first week of August, local Skagway, Alaska, teens experienced the park in their own backyard while on a five night backpacking trip over the historic Chilkoot Trail in Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
The trip included six local teens and three group leaders from the Skagway Recreation Center. Also participating was the park’s 2011 “Teacher-Ranger-Teacher” and the park education specialist. Park staff provided natural and cultural resource education and taught “Leave No Trace” principles. Alaska Geographic and White Pass and Yukon Railroad were important partners, supporting the trip with funding and transportation.
The hike was a big success, and personal impact of the trip was shared by teen Kelly Nemeth as she virtually linked her experience to Facebook friends: “Going on the Chilkoot tomorrow! I may be 120 years late, but Klondike Gold Rush here I come!”
The hikers followed in the footsteps of the Stampeders of 1898, which they found physically challenging at first, followed by a sense of accomplishment after completing the rigorous 33 miles.
“This trip was a great way to experience the beauty and history of the area,” said group leader Elizabeth Meyer, “all the while enjoying each other‘s company and learning what we’re all capable of doing.”
Teacher–Ranger-Teacher Jaclyn Pace shared her impressions this way: “The teens really amazed me. They were so self-sufficient. They seemed to gain an intuition along the trip of what was needed not just to survive, but to be comfortable in the outdoors. They definitely gained a new perspective on their home as well as the Klondike Gold Rush.”
The group also participated in a service project, volunteering 40+ hours to the Klondike Gold Rush NHP trail crew. Additionally, the group participated in the Parks Canada artist in residence program. The teens had the great opportunity to create a piece of artwork to remember their experience.
Klondike Gold Rush NHP is a unique park. The Skagway Unit is situated within the National Historic District of Skagway, Alaska. Local residents often live and work in the Skagway Historic District, so they are essentially living and working in the national park. The park is also comprised of two other units preserving the historic routes that the stampeders used during the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. One of these routes, the Chilkoot Trail, is very well known and has 2,000 recreational hikers annually. The trail is 33 miles and stretches from salt water coastline to inland British Columbia, Canada.
The trip was inspired by a discovery made by a seasonal ranger in the spring of 2010. While conducting a high school program, the ranger learned that only a handful of students had hiked the Chilkoot Trail. The teens were not experiencing the park in their own backyard. This prompted the park to partner with the Skagway Recreation Center (SRC) to help the teens have this experience. Park staff and SRC staff worked for a year and a half to organize the hike.