The miner entering the remorseless country should go prepared for an encampment of six months or a year, and should consider that he is going into a daily war with hunger and cold, and that he is to be isolated, in all likelihood, from stores and goods of almost every sort, and especially from all delicacies and medical supplies. Every man going to the Klondike should be sober, strong, and healthy; he should be sound of lung and free from rheumatism and all tendency to liver or heart diseases. He should be practical, able to adapt himself quickly to his surroundings.
The climatic extremes make it necessary to prepare for very cold and also for very warm and wet weather. The outfit of clothing should consist of comfortable woolen underwear and of very warm outer garments which can be laid aside at will. Above all, it will be necessary to take rainproof coats, tents, and waterproof boots. The miner works a large part of his time in snow or water. Bedding should be plentiful, and the sleeping-bag, such as is sold on the coast, will insure warmth at night.
If the prospector should decide to go in light, depending upon the trading points along the river for his supplies of flour, bacon, and sugar, he should carry in dried fruits and vegetables and other foods likely to prove preventative of scurvy, biliousness, and other diseases which arise from a monotonous diet. It is probable that bacon, flour, and other common necessaries will be in full supply by the 1st of July, though at a high price.
Any man who takes due thought concerning the dangers of the Yukon is exceedingly loath to advise another concerning the route by which to enter. It has been my aim here to present all the routes without bias. Each is advocated strenuously by the business men who will profit by the travel over it, and the statements of these must be taken with a due allowance. The Ashcroft “telegraph trail
seems to be the most feasible overland route. The Edmonton way is longer, runs through a colder country, and is less likely to be traveled. The Dalton trail has many advantages, provided one has means sufficient to purchase pack horses and cares to wait until the grass is grown sufficiently to feed his horses en route. The Chilkoot Pass and White Pass routes have been much written about, but the miner may safely depend upon finding them much more difficult than any published report describes them to be.
I will close with a word of general warning, first from Mr. William Ogilvie, who says: “Now, lest you get excited and drop everything and fly there, let me tell you emphatically, yes, emphatically, that all the Klondike region I speak of is located, is taken up, and if you now have money enough to purchase an interest in any of the one hundred claims mentioned on the Bonanza and the forty odd on the Eldorado, you have money enough to stay at home; and, in all human probability, would add more to it, and enjoy it much more, and benefit by it much more, socially, physically, and morally, than by bringing it into the Yukon. My experience is, and I have had considerable, that the man who stays at home and plods on the farm or in the shop or office, in the vast majority of cases, is better off, healthier physically and morally, and has answered the end of nature or God vastly more completely, than the man who devotes his life to the calling of the everyday placer gold miner. Somebody must do it; but I assure you, if you are viciously inclined, there is no calling in which you can waste your life so completely and fully in every sense of the word.”
To this may be added the reports of men who have wintered and summered in this cruel and relentless land. For nine months in the year it is necessary to melt ice in order to get water to drink or to cook with. It is exceedingly difficult to obtain dry wood with which to build a fire. It is exceedingly laborious work to get together the logs to build a cabin, and in some locations it is absolutely impossible. When the snows begin to melt in the spring, water is everywhere. All work is suspended in many mines, while summer rushes over the land. There is scarcely any spring. The discomforts of the dark and sunless winter give place only to the almost intolerable discomforts of the summer. In short, the Yukon country is a grim and terrible country, and the man who goes there to spend a year is likely to earn with the ache of his bones and the blood of his heart every dollar he finds in gold. He should go like a man enlisting for a war. He should be able to pass the examination which is required of a soldier in the German army, or of an officer in the mounted police of the Canadian government. It is no place for weak men, lazy men, or cowards.
Click pictures and drawings to download higher-resolution versions.