Walking on the White Pass and Yukon Railroad

by Mark Wynn

These are a few observations from my walk up the White Pass near Skagway Alaska. I was heading to Laughton Glacier 15 miles up the tracks. As I left Skagway I counted the first of at least 33 piles of bear shat! I was sure I'd see a bear and I started singing loudly of my bravery.

About an hour into the walk a little utility train sped by returning to Skagway. They didn't seem to concerned about me trespassing so I kept going. In another hour it shot back passed me. This time I glanced up to wave as it went by. I swear to you, two blonde Grizzlies were operating that thing. I clearly saw them both bare their teeth and paw at the air as they sped back up the tracks away from me. That explains all the bear shit. Seems obvious in retrospect. Those GODLESS MONSTERS work for the RR in Alaska! Has anyone seen the local Union Steward?

About three hours later as I wondered if somehow I missed my exit, down the track I heard a horn blow 3 times. I quickened my pace as I heard someone yell up ahead. As I rounded this bend an enormous explosion about 150 yards ahead of me shook the earth and sent a couple truck sized boulders bouncing across the tracks and down into the gorge with a tremendous accompaniment.

The stones quickly dropped out of sight into the spruce trees but I could clearly see the path of their egress down the mountain as 30 foot tall evergreens violently parted like a giant gorilla went charging down the hill. Of course I kept walking, it was just getting interesting. I reasoned with myself saying, "They're not going to like this."

Out of the mushrooming dust cloud one of the Grizzlies that passed me earlier in the utility train appeared laughing and saying in surprisingly clear midwestern English, "You gotta stop!" So I didn't get to Laughton Glacier, but as I turned back it said something a little threatening, "If we pass you on the way back we'll stop and get ya." Yeah, I bet you'd like that you fucking Ursus Horribilis...

I ended up 2 miles short of my destination but I did cover 26 bear-infested miles. As I made it back to Skagway, the curtain of night fell and I thought how lucky I was to have turned back when I did. If I had continued I would've had to walk back in the dark about three hours stepping in bear shit the whole way and my voice was already hoarse.

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