Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Overrated/Underrated: Historic Trail

I am introducing a brief posting that I will go with from time to time called Overrated/Underrated.  It will examine places, people, and events in Alaska history that have generally been regarded as more important than they should be or have been ignored and forgotten.  In today's installment, trails in Alaska history.

Overrated:  Chilkoot Pass Trail

It is one of the iconic images of Alaska history.  A stampede of miners heading up over the Chilkoot Pass separating Alaska from the Gold Fields of the Klondike.  The image adorned the Alaska license plate for a while a few years back, and many consider it the real start of the Americanization of Alaska after decades of official neglect following the Alaska Purchase.  Still, the Chilkoot Pass trail has been oversold.  It was only used for a couple years before the railroad at White Pass was built.  Dyea, the boomtown at the Alaska end of the trail, quickly died out while Skagway, start of the railroad, continued on.  The Canadian government required so much equipment be brought in that most all miners hired help ferrying their gear over the pass.  The route is 33 miles, about half of that downhill.  The Chilkoot trail is now a popular hike for those who wish to retrace the prospectors of '98, but it has been oversold. 

Miners hoping to strike it rich head over the Chilkoot Pass into Canada

Underrated:  Telaquana Trail

In Alaska, with numerous systems and rivers and mountain passes, many of the historic trade routes of Native Alaskans are determined by geography.  Many of the highways follow these old Native routes to get between river systems.  Used for centuries, it is difficult to pick among these trails.  Still,  among these Telaquana stands out.  Located in Lake Clark national park, this trail was used for centuries by the Dena'ina Athabascans as part of a trail system connecting the villages and camps on the Alaska Peninsula.  The trail combines the gorgeous scenery of the Alaska Peninsula with the history of native peoples.  While the trail fell into disuse following European contact and diseases, there has been an effort to have Dena'ina elders impart their knowledge of landmarks of the trail for preservation.  These routes and trails of Native Alaskans still do not get the recognition they deserve, but hopefully that will change.  A great website is: http://jukebox.uaf.edu/lakeclark/html/whmap.html 

In the area of the Telaquana Trail

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