trip by land route to Alaska, first suggested by his publisher,
appealed to Garland as a return to the frontier challenges faced
by his parents' generation.
On the high trail (USC Garland
seekers almost universally approached Alaska and the Klondike by
water, either through the Inside Passage, north from Seattle and
Vancouver, past Juneau to Skagway, or less arduously but at the
cost of adding another 2000 miles to the trip, by following the
Alaskan-Aleutian coast all the way into the Bering Sea in order
to ascend the full length of the Yukon River across the breadth
of Alaska into Canadian territory. The Skagway climb through Chilkoot
Pass took sixty-five lives in an avalanche that spring, just about
the time Garland crossed from Minnesota into Canada, attempting
an altogether different route.
Ernest Shaw (USC Garland Collection)
thought he was the man to make the trip overland through British Columbia,
by a side-door, as he says, in spite of the lack of roads or trails.
Among the Garland archives at USC are issues of the Spokane, Washington,
newspaper he must have read from the winter of '97-'98, touting the
possibilities of heading north into British Columbia and following
various water courses into the gold regions. Needless to say, these
routes were unmapped and largely untried. A mid-19th century effort
to string telegraph lines to Alaska had been abandoned; and the rugged
terrain, which would later prove daunting even to the builders of
the Alcan Highway, was very sparsely populated in Garland's time.
"I believed that I was about to see and take part in a most picturesque
and impressive movement across the wilderness. I believed it to be
the last great march of the kind which could ever come in America,
so rapidly were the wild places being settled up."
He was soon
disillusioned. At one point, scarcely more than midway toward his
goal, Garland wrote, "As I now re-read all the advance literature
of this 'prairie route,' I perceived how skillfully every detail
with regard to the last half of the trail had been slurred over.
bridge (USC Garland Collection)
had been led into a sort of sack, and the string was tied behind us."
It was the outfitters and suppliers who stood to gain most by rumors
of a new route; a year later the stampede was over. The profits made
by ship and hotel owners along the coast, and by the horse-breeders
and suppliers of provisions and equipment supposedly exceeded the
value of all the gold brought out by the prospectors.
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