Saturday, September 19, 2015

Adventures On the Husband Bench by Stuart R. West

The "husband bench" is a particularly uncomfortable piece of pseudo-furniture situated near the exit of department stores. The intention of the bench is to get the non-shopper out of the way so the shopper of the couple can go about their business, unimpeded by the whining other half. Married or dating, male or female, straight or gay, it doesn't matter; in the grand equation of life every couple is comprised of a shopper and a complainer.

The heinous bench is generally very cold and sterile, a terrible place to reside. And it's usually located  out of sight of the check-out aisle, presumably so the waiting person won't try to hasten the shopping partner's progress with impatient can-we-leave-now? hand gestures.

My last visit to the husband bench was an eye-opening, yet soul-deadening experience. I took my seat, my back freezing against the wall. Next to me, a tired looking man in a ball-cap eyeballed me, nodded, a weak brotherhood of sorts solidified in mutual suffering. Then we both went back to studying our feet. Soon, Ball-Cap's eyes lit up. His time in purgatory had ended as his significant other approached, bags in hands. The changing of the guard. The torch had been passed to me to take on elder statesmanship of the husband bench. I gave him a farewell smile. But not too big, because I knew my tenure in tedium had just begun.

A young guy strutted up, full of energy and cockiness. Didn't take long for his youthful vigor to slip into despair, like watching air leak out of a balloon. I gave him a knowing shake of the head, signifying that yes, this is awful, but soon it'll all be over, hang in there. Unless, of course, a blue-light special in aisle four is announced. You never know.

After an eternity of waiting, celestial trumpets sounded! A glorious spotlight framed my wife coming around the corner! I turned to the young guy and said, "now, you're in charge." He understood. Grimly.

But while I was waiting, studying my fellow sufferers, I began to wonder about them. Maybe they weren't there waiting for significant others. What if these men had a hidden agenda? Meeting on the husband bench for a nefarious purpose, a place where no one would ever suspect skulduggery.

From this simple premise, my new suspense thriller, Secret Society, was born. The book begins with two very different men meeting in a mall on a "husband bench." And from there, the action, mystery, dark humor, thrills, chills, intrigue and a clown car's worth of serial killers never lets up. It's a clowder of cats and mice thriller about a very insidious corporation that sponsors serial killers. For a price. A very big price. Pity poor Leon Garber who's crossed them.

People always wonder where my ideas come from. I point to the "husband bench,"  and say, "Here. What happens on the husband bench, stays on the husband bench."

Secret Society just released this very day from Books We Love publishing.
Out now: Ghosts of Gannaway, a historical ghost tale based on true events (sorta).
Stuart R. West's Books We Love author's page.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Vacation Time! by Nancy M Bell

Tomorrow I leave for a 15 day cruise to Hawaii. I've never been to Hawaii before, although we have taken numerous cruise vacations. It got me to thinking, how important are vacations and taking breaks to the writing process. While deadlines loom over my head, should I take the laptop with me and devote some time each day to my WIP? I'm of two minds. One part of me wants to throw caution to the wind and just let the trade winds wash my blues away. The more practical side of me says, there are 10 days at sea, it should be easy to complete my novella and get some work done on my romance. What to do, what to do.

So I will be sitting on my balcony watching for dolphins and whales and writing about the Alberta prairie. Hmmmm. Sounds good in theory. But will I follow through? That remains to be seen. I do think that a break is good for the soul and for the creative process. However, I need to balance that against the need to stay in touch with my characters and not letting my muse decide to take a VERY long vacation which would leave me staring at a blinking cursor with no words to write. That being said, the beautiful sunsets and lush scenery of Hawaii may inspire brand new stories.

On to more practical things. Sometimes getting ready to go on vacation is hardly worth the effort! I have been cleaning the house madly because the dust bunnies and dog hair bunnies will breed like crazy while I'm gone. Then, I've had to find temporary fosters for my six foster kittens and my medical foster dog. All the arrangements and dropping off and setting up things so the hand off goes smoothly. Sometimes by the time I get ready to leave, I'm exhausted and stressed out. Then there's the airport stress, and security check. I always feel guilty even though I'm anal about not having anything on me that would send up a red flag. I must look dangerous because I inevitably get pulled out of line for the 'full meal deal' security check. I walk with a cane for heaven's sake! Like I could outrun anyone and the cane goes through the X-ray. Go figure. They say it's 'random' but a couple of years ago, I flew four times in short order and three of those times I was pulled out for the 'full meal deal'. Not so random, I'm thinking.

The world we live in is so changed. Used to be you could just walk on and off the ships, now you need your passenger ID card and you have to go through X-ray security every time you get back on the ship. The times they are a'changing. I'm looking forward to the food the most. Princess lines has the best food in my opinion. Last year we sailed with Holland America, a last minute thing, we went to Alaska. The food in the dining room was only passable. I asked for the cheese tray one night and they brought a few pieces of cheese, no fruit and no crackers. Say what? I asked for some crackers and the waiter looked at me like I had two heads and then brought me some soup crackers in cellophane. Needless to say, we won't be sailing Holland America any time soon.

I am looking forward to seeing Hawaii and buying gifts for my grandkids. Perhaps some gifts for me too??? LOL

My next post on October 18th will be full of news and anticipation of Surrey International Writers Conference. It takes place the following weekend and I'm looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. I've been accepted as a presenter in the Unconference on Friday afternoon. During my fifteen minutes of fame I will talk about using horses in your stories. The ABC's of Horses. Nothing worse than reading about a horse 'lapping up water', horses don't 'lap' they suck up water using their teeth to strain out floating things.

Keep your eyes open for the next book in the Longview Romance series. It's called Come Hell or High Water and continues the story of Michelle and Cale that began in Storm's Rescue. Of course, Storm the three legged dog is along for the ride. See you next month.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Developing Characters With Astrology - Virgo by Janet Lane Walters #Characters #amwriting

Now we come to Virgo and the traits to choose from for the inner person, the outer person and the emotional person

A Virgo Sun hero of heroine will have this sort of inner nature. They are modest, thoughtful, serious and industrious. They have a great desire for knowledge. They learn quickly and have a good command of language. They don't show their age which can be an asset or not. They have a quick temper but aren't fighters. They love order but can often get caught up in counting the trees and never see the forest. They are ambitious. They are given to worry. While idealistic they are also practical. They can be frugal and also speculative. There's a little bit of dichotomy in their nature.

Virgo Ascending - the face shown to the world. They come across as conservative and industrious. They desire wealth but have difficulty saving money. They aren't easily content. They learn quickly. Here is someone who often looks younger than they really are. They can be undecided and can lack self-confidence. They can be diplomatic and try to avoid drama.

Virgo Moon. With the moon in Virgo, the emotional nature shows someone fascinated with the occult. They have a good memory for details. They are quick and unpretentious. While talented they are quietly ambitious. They have many friends. They can have secret sorrows they keep close to their chest. In their lives, change is a constant.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Where I Get My Ideas by Roseanne Dowell

I'm often asked where I get ideas for my books.
The answer is really quite simple. Everywhere. The idea for Trouble Comes in Twos came from a visit to Locust Grove Cemetery in Twinsburg, Ohio. I have a thing for cemeteries. Not sure why, but ever since Junior High, I've loved going to cemeteries and reading the headstones, especially the old ones.
What sparked the idea for Trouble - Twinsburg was named for identical twins, Moses and Aaron Wilcox.The actual cemetery is set way back from the street, down a long drive. We almost drove past it and only saw it because we stopped at a traffic light.

A cemetery vault  sat to the left of the drive, not far from the street.. Bodies were stored in vaults during the winter when the ground was too frozen to dig the graves. We paid several visits to the cemetery before I actually saw inside. Now it's used to store tools and such.

As I walked around the cemetery reading the gravestones, I came across the headstone for Moses and Aaron Wilcox. I
loved the wording on the headstone, so different from the inscriptons today. It reads: Moses and Aaron Wilcox who died Sept. 24 AD 1826 AE55   The former of them was born before the latter and survived him 19 min 35 sec. They married sisters and always continued together in business and for last 25 years were members of the Congregational Church. In 1812 they visited this town held and purchased 4000 acres of it and at their request was named Twinsburg. Their remains now lie deposited in one grave beneath here.
The twins were so identical only their closest friends could tell them apart.They held all their property in common, married sisters, had the same number of children, contracted the same fatal ailment and died within hours of each other.
Next to the cemetery is a home for seniors. As I stood in the far corner of this solemn place, it occurred to me how lonely and desolate it was even though it was in the middle of town.  On the other side of the cemetery is a strip of stores. As I stood there, looking at the graves, an idea began to form.What if someone was murdered there? How long before someone found the body. Most of the graves are from years earlier. How many visitors came? By the time I arrived home, I couldn't wait to start writing.

Trouble Comes in Twos is available from Amazon
After a five year absence, Kate Wesley returns to Twinsburg Ohio to open a florist shop. She’s content with life until Mark Westfield enters the picture. To make matters worse her ex fiancĂ© is back in town, looking to pick up where they left off, and she’s attracted to both men. As if her life isn’t complicated enough, she finds a dead body in the cemetery, the twin sister of the victim shows up and another body is discovered. Can Kate sort through the confusion her life has become or will she become the next victim?

You can find all of Roseanne Dowell's books at:
clikc on picture below

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Cover clones, movie posters, and a cover artist's opinion by Michelle Lee

WARNING:  The post ahead contains my opinions.  Read at your own risk. : )  
And hateful emails will not be read - so don't waste your time sending them.

As a cover artist, one of the things I have to try and balance is the overall look of the covers I create, the designs of the author, the needs of the publisher, and the limitations of stock art.

Let's face it - despite what a lot of people thinks - most publishers are switching from doing photo shoots for each cover to using stock art.  This includes a lot of the big boys in NY.  I have only seen a few authors, generally the big names, still getting individualized photo shoots.  The rest are using stock art.

Now this can be a good thing - since it makes costs a lot more manageable.  Instead of $200+ for an image for a cover, you are looking at $20ish for two to four images.

But it can also be a bad thing, since each image is available to anyone who wants to use it, which can results in some images being used on multiple covers.

Yes - this can be frustrating for authors, and for readers, but realistically, it is simply the way it is.  As a cover artist, I do my very best to make each cover unique in and of itself, including using more than one image per cover.  (There have been a few times, generally where I was requested to use just the one image, and add text, or where adding more images made the cover cluttered - but those are few and far between.)

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of articles out there now shaming cover artists for using images found on too many other covers, as well as warning authors of the dangers of stock art, etc.  It is the shaming of cover artists that I am going to address today.  I get having a pet peeve ... but many of the things cover artists are blamed for are often outside of our control.

I saw one post where it plainly said that if a cover artist uses an image that is already used on an existing cover - they should be ashamed of themselves.  To this I would say, how many books are published each and every month - in let's say - the romance genre alone?  How in the world am I supposed to go through each of the covers and make sure that an images hasn't already been used.  Yes, it is easy (sometimes) to find repeating images - but in most cases, it's not. So how am I supposed to find each and every image that has been used to make sure I don't use one of them?

I saw several posts that said basically that if a cover artist uses a repeated image they are robbing/lying to the author.  Most authors I know are aware that their covers are created using stock art.  In the BWL forms, in fact, we expressly state that we will be using stock art, and ask the author to select images that appeal to them.  For the commissioned covers I create via Stardust Creations (shameless self-promo plug there - visit me for your cover art needs LOL), I also warn authors I will be using stock images, and encourage them to find images they like and I will purchase rights to use them and craft a cover from them.

This website tagged one of my BWL covers in their image ... and it wasn't the poster that basically slammed cover artists, it was a few of those that commented.

Here's another image example - this time without one of my covers.

Suffice to say, stock images are not exclusive images.  Exclusive rights to images are expensive, and most publishing houses, even the big boys in NY, do not go that route much any more.  So yes, as a reader, there will be a little bit of frustrating every now and then as you look at a cover, see a familiar image, and have to double check to make sure you don't already own the book.  I have had to do this myself from time to time.  BUT, the trade off for this is that small presses are able to open, and survive, and authors who the big boys in NY rejected are able to make a go of it, which means more options for me - as a reader.  I like getting to pick what I want to read, rather than just what the big boys say is sale-able.  The whole paranormal romance genre, at one time, wasn't something the big boys would touch - yet look at how popular it is?

How many of your favorite authors have mentioned on their websites they were rejected by the big boys, so they went small press or even (gasp) the indie route?  90-95% of the books I read, and I read about 35-50 a month, are small press or indie.  They are available because small presses can operate because of stock images sites, and other lower cost options for product production, then were previously available to them.

All that said, I am curious that cover artists have been slammed - a lot lately - but Hollywood hasn't.  We may reuse a stock image seen on another, but Hollywood creates poster clones all the time and no one says anything.  By this, I mean with all the individual options available to them, the ability to shoot whatever pose they want with the actors and actresses, all of the movie stills to use, they still often create posters that look like other posters.

Case in point ...

For this one, not only did they use the same colors and basic image layout they used the same FONT style and color.

Want more?  Check out this YouTube video devoted to them.  I like the comparison at 57 seconds - the cult classic Army of Darkness and whatever that other one is.  (No nasty emails please!)

So why are we held to an insanely high standard that no one can really meet?  I mean, come on.  I know the frustration of seeming the same images used, I get frustrated sometimes because I can't find images to use but ones that I know have been used, but this 'clone' phenomenon isn't new and it isn't limited to cover artists.

So come on, give us a break already.  Most of us don't try to mirror each other, it just happens.  And limited stock art options aren't really our faults.  We do the best we can, with what is available.

~ Michelle

Monday, September 14, 2015

Life really does imitate Art by Sheila Claydon

Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life . . . Life holds the mirror up to Art, and either reproduces some strange type imagined by a painter or sculptor, or realises in fact what has been dreamed in fiction. Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde isn't the only writer who said so but his quote is possibly the best known.Until recently I shrugged and laughed whenever I heard it because hey, it's just a cliche isn't it? Well actually, no it's not. Why do I say that? Well in a very small but personal way, I've just experienced it.

In 2013 my book Mending Jodie's Heart was published. It's set partly in London but mainly in the North West of England, which is where I live. The idea for the story came when I took my dog for his daily walk and discovered we could no longer use the local bridleway. This narrow sandy path that wound its way through tangled woodland and past a derelict, boarded-up farmhouse had been closed. The untidy briars and bushes that partially hid the entrance had been cut down and in their place was a shiny new gate complete with padlock and a 'Trespassers will be Prosecuted' sign.

Someone very wealthy had bought the old farmhouse and the adjoining fields and woodland and then discovered that a public bridleway skirted his estate. Anxious about the effect this would have on the safety of his young family his decision to close it off was understandable. What he didn't do, however, was consider the locals...walkers and riders alike.  It had been a shortcut to the beach ever since anyone could remember and they campaigned to have it reopened. Eventually the wealthy new owner capitulated. He re-opened the bridle path and protected his privacy instead with wire security fences which were eventually hidden by a thick laurel hedge.

Why am I telling you this? Well the writer in me was already intrigued. Why would someone, however wealthy, close off a well used footpath without considering the effect it would have on local people. Did he have something to hide?  And what was he doing building a swimming pool before knocking down the old farmhouse and building a new house of his own? And what about the trailer that had been erected. Did he live in it or was it just a temporary estate office?  There were a lot of common-sense answers to all those questions but I didn't want to hear them because Marcus, the imaginary hero of my book, had begun to inhabit the house. Not long after that he met Jodie and her horse, and thus Mending Jodie's Heart was born.

By the time it was published the new house had been built and the wealthy man and his family had moved in. Nobody knew what it was like though because by then, like Sleeping Beauty's castle, the estate was surrounded on all sides by high banks, expensively planted laurel, new trees, and the insidious creeping tangle of briar and seaside plants that had been there before and were determined to find their way back. Happy with my own imaginings I didn't care. I'd never wondered what the house was actually like inside because in my mind it was as I'd imagined it when I was writing the book. As far as I was concerned it belonged to Marcus and Jodie, and when several local fans of my books told me they felt the same way I was delighted.

Then the strangest thing happened. The wealthy owner put the hidden house up for sale and naturally curiosity got the better of me. I went onto the sale site on the Internet to check it out, and that's when life really did began to imitate art because it WAS Marcus' and Jodie's house. Every room I'd imagined was there, including the music room, the stage, the separate annexe for Luke, the wonderful master bedroom, the stables...everything, right down to the decor.  There was even room for Jodie's horse therapy school. To say I was astonished was to put it mildly. How could I have imagined this house down to almost the last detail when the last time it was visible to the public it was still a half built, empty shell. Or was it the other way round? Had some magic conveyed my thoughts to the wealthy owner, someone who I've never met. 

For a few days it had an unsettling effect then I began to wonder about other places in other books. Do they exist somewhere outside my imagination as well? It's an intriguing but slightly scary thought because, if they do, then what about the people who live in them...who are they?

Find all Sheila Claydon's books at:

You can also visit her blog and find her on Facebook

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Hiking the Chilkoot Trail by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

I am so happy to say that some of my children and grandchildren will be joining me in hiking the Chilkoot Trail-the trail the Klondikers took to get to the Klondike gold field at Dawson City in the Yukon. My husband and I hiked the trail in 1997, on the hundredth anniversary of the gold rush. We were in the Yukon and Alaska so I could research the state and territory for my travel book Backroads of Alaska and the Yukon.

     Many of the first men and women who went to the Klondike in the first year starved and froze because they hadn't brought along enough supplies. To combat that, the Northwest Mounted Police decreed that the prospectors had to have 907 kg (2000 lbs) of  provisions in order to cross the border from Alaska into British Columbia and then onto the Yukon. The NWMP set up a scale to weigh each person's supplies before letting them climb the Chilkoot Pass.

     My husband and I each carried about 16kg. (35 lbs) on our five day hike up to and over the pass.

     The following is what I wrote in the book about my hike. I imagine there have been many changes in the twenty years since and I am looking forward to making a comparison of the differences between my two hikes. And there have been a few changes with me. I am twenty years older and twenty pounds heavier. I'm looking forward to making a comparison of my abilities and endurance between the two hikes.


    Hiking The Chilkoot

The Chilkoot Trail was called the `poor‑man's route'. It ran from Dyea to Bennett Lake following an old native path. Because of the isolation and cold winters the NWMP decreed that each man had to have at least 907 kilograms (2000 pounds) of supplies before they would allow him to enter the Yukon and continue on his journey.

     The men had to haul those supplies up and over the summit. Some were able to hire natives to help but many had to do it themselves. They would carry as much as they could up the `Golden Stairs' (steps cut into the solid snow of the pass), then slide back down to their cache and begin again. Most made 40 trips to do so. Once a miner got onto the steps he didn't dare get off until the top. If fatigue forced him to step out he seldom managed to make it back on.

     By the spring of 1898, three trams had been built to help haul the loads up the Chilkoot. Also in the spring the people who had made it over the pass during the winter and had camped at Bennett Lake made boats from the trees around the lake. Over 7100 crafts set sail down Bennett Lake beginning the 900 kilometres (560 miles) journey to Dawson City. Records show that about 30,000 people travelled from Bennett Lake to Dawson City in 1898. By the time they got there the best claims had been staked by the prospectors who already lived in the area.

     The trail closed in 1900 when the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway was completed.

     The 53 kilometre (33 mile) long Chilkoot Trail is called the `Longest Museum in the World'. There are 10 campsites along it so when you book your time you will have to decide how many kilometres you wish to hike each day.

     Most of the people who started for the Klondike were Cheechakos, a native word for `greenhorn'. It was after a person had spent a winter in the north that he or she became known as a Sourdough.

     The trail starts out with the Taiya River to your left. You will be continually climbing and descending beside it until you reach Sheep Camp. And until Sheep camp you are walking through a rainforest with tall trees creating a nice, cool shade on hot days.                                                              You will climb over tree roots, stumps and rock and in places there is a drop so make sure your pack is secure and doesn't wobble. You cross a number of bridges, made of metal, split logs, planks or boardwalks. If you are here in June or early July there is two places where you will want to put on your sandals. One is to cross some water over the path and the other is through a mud bog.

     For about 1.6 kilometre (1 mile) you will be going through private land. There are signs up so watch for them. On the private land you will come to the remains of an old vehicle and a building. The trail is as wide as a single lane road for a short distance.

Soon after leaving the private land you reach Finnegan's Point, the first campground on the trail. It is 8 kilometres (5 miles) from the beginning. There is a shelter where you can dry out your clothes if it is raining and cook your meals. Once you have washed your dishes drain the water down the screened in pipe for gray water and scrap any food particles off the screen to be put in your garbage. Make sure you hoist your food and garbage up on the bear pole to keep it from attracting bears into the camp. Never keep any food with you in your tent.

     This point was named after Pat Finnegan and his two sons who set up a ferry service here in 1897. Later they built a road through the damp, boggy areas and charged a toll. This worked only in the summer because the prospectors pulled their goods on sleds on the frozen ice in the winter. This point was also used as a cache where the stampeders left their first bundles of supplies while they went back to Dyea for the rest.

     There is a spot on the Taiya River here for you to relax, take off your boots and soak your feet if you wish.

     4.8 kilometres (3 miles) from Finnegan's Point you come to Canyon City campsite. The shelter here is log and it has a verandah with a table for you to eat outside on a pleasant day.

To reach the actual site of Canyon City, continue down the trail 0.8 kilometre (0.5 mile) past the camp until you reach a sign with the distances to places: Canyon City Shelter 0.5 mile; Dyea 8 miles: Sheep Camp Shelter 5 miles; Chilkoot Pass 8.5 miles.

     Follow the path to the left, cross over the wooden bridge and then the suspension bridge and you will reach a sign that states: Canyon City Historical Site. You are now walking where Canyon City stood over 100 years ago. You will pass an old, rusted, cook stove and come to a huge, rusted boiler. This 50 horsepower steam boiler was used to operate an aerial tramway between here and the Chilkoot Pass. It cost 16.5 cents per kilogram (7.5 cents per pound) to send goods over this tram and not everyone could afford it.

     Stamped on the boiler is: Union Iron Works SF 1886.

     Pleasant Camp is 4.5 kilometres (2.7 miles) from Canyon City. The climb out of the canyon between the two camps was thought to be the worst part of the trail by some stampeders.

A little ways past the camp you cross a suspension bridge over a series of cascades. And in 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) you reach Sheep Camp beside the Taiya River. At this camp, the last stop before the Chilkoot Pass, a ranger gives a talk about the conditions of the pass at 7:00pm Alaska time. Other words of advice are to leave by at least 7am, drink 2 litres of water on the trail and expect to take 10 hours to reach Happy Camp.

     When you leave Sheep Camp the ground is level for the first ways and you come across a building that looks almost like a train station. After you begin climbing there is an old log building with glass windows, little patio and cooking utensils hanging on the wall. You are climbing mainly on a path but sometimes over boulders and you start to come out of the trees and into alpine meadows.

     When crossing the boulders watch for the piles of rocks on them that mark the trail. If you keep your head down and don't watch you could get off the trail and become lost.


SIDEBAR Helpful Hints

You can expect snow, rain, wind, sun, mist and cloud no matter what time of year you hike the trail. When travelling over snow bridges undo the belt on your pack so that if you fall through you can get out of your pack easily. Do not walk close to the boulders sticking out of the snow. The sun heats the rock and the snow beneath the top layer melts leaving an overhang near the boulder. This overhang will collapse if you get too close. Stop near a boulder and listen. You will hear the water gurgling around it.

     When a group is walking through an avalanche area spread out.

     Bring sandals to wear around camp and also to put on when crossing wet areas or streams to keep your boots dry. Have a rope for hanging your food and garbage out of reach of bears. Carry an extra set of clothing in case you get wet or cold. Never wear blue jeans as they will chafe your legs and prevent freedom of movement.

     The bears like to use the trail so if you see one on it get far off into the trees and let him have the right of way.

     Some who have hiked the Chilkoot Trail and climbed the Chilkoot Pass have loved it, while others stated that it was the worst trail they had ever been on. You will have to decide for yourself.



     Up until mid‑July and beginning in September, you could be walking on snow the higher you go. It is a 6.8 kilometre (4.2 mile) climb to the Scales. This is where the prospectors who had hired professional native packers had to reweigh their goods. The packers wanted more money, up to $2.20 per kilogram (1 dollar per pound) to carry the supplies up and over the pass. Consequently, many items were left behind and some still can be seen today.

     From the Scales you can see the Chilkoot Pass down the valley and you cross alpine tundra to reach the base. On the other side of the Chilkoot is Peterson Pass, a longer but easier alternative to the Chilkoot which was used by some Klondikers.

     Those who travelled the trail in the winter climbed the 'Golden Stairs' cut in the ice and snow up the side of the pass. Those who came in the summer, when the snow was melted, had to traverse over the huge boulders and loose rock left from a slide. This is what you will be climbing on.

     The climb is steep and you must lean forward. If you straightened up the weight of your pack could pull you over backwards. Some people go slowly working their way from solid rock to solid rock, while others hike up it like they would stairs.

     Watch for mountain goat either across the valley or beside the slide and for the Rufous hummingbird flitting about. It is attracted to red clothing. If you are not afraid of heights, stop and look down to see how far you have come.

     Near the top you reach a plateau, then you climb a bit more to the top. On the plateau look up to your right and you will see a cairn marking the border between Alaska and BC.

     When you reach the summit you have climbed 823 metres (2700 feet) from Sheep Camp. At the summit is a shelter and outhouse. Stay only long enough to warm up and eat because it is still a 6.4 kilometre (4 mile) hike to Happy Camp and storms can come up suddenly at the top.

     As you hike down the Canadian side of the summit you have the most magnificent view of Crater Lake, alpine tundra and mountains. The wind blows almost constantly here and there are a lot of streams to cross. Some have rocks to hop on while at others you just have to look for the shallowest spot. Again, depending on the time of year you could be walking on snow in places.

     Watch for the short colorful flowers‑‑purple, white, red, yellow, pink‑‑and the grasses of the alpine tundra. Don't walk on the tundra; it is not easy for the flowers and grass to grow here.

At Stone Crib there is a pile of rocks that anchored the cables for an aerial tramway on this side of the summit. Here also is a large saw blade from a sawmill that someone decided he didn't need any more.

     If it was cloudy on the Alaska side of the summit look back as you are walking and you will see the gray cloud hanging over the summit as if it was stuck there. It doesn't get any closer but sometimes mist rolls this way from the summit.

     Happy Camp is on a river between Crater Lake and Long Lake. The food cache here is inside a section of the shelter. For a short distance after Happy Camp you will be walking on loose gravel. When you reach a sign pointing for Deep Lake turn in that direction. You will climb and soon be up above Long Lake. There were ferries on Crater, Long and Deep lakes for those who could afford the price.

     You hike up and down hills then suddenly you'll come over a rise and see a lovely lake, a bridge over a river, trees, and a camp in the centre of the mountains. You cross that bridge and reach Deep Lake Camp. A wagon road ran from here to Lindeman City and you can see some old sleigh runners.

     When you leave Deep Lake Camp as you walk beside the lakeshore watch for a metal boat frame. After you leave the lakeshore you follow along Deep Lake Gorge.

     The further you go the more trees there are. It is very beautiful and peaceful in here as you walk through the tall pine trees and reach Lake Lindeman Camp (4.8 kilometres (3 miles) from Deep Lake Camp. There are two campgrounds‑one close to the lake and one further away. You might want to take the one further away because the wind coming off the lake can be strong and cool.

     The Klondikers set up a tent city here and some built boats during the winter for sailing across Lake Lindeman. At the other end they portaged around the rapids between Lindeman and Bennett lakes. Others carried their supplies along Lindeman Lake and built their boats at Bennett Lake.

     Do not disturb the historic sites at Lindeman and plan to visit the tent museum near the river. As you are leaving Lindeman Camp, there is a small, roof‑covered panel with a drawer. Inside the drawer is a book for you to record your name, the date, the number in your party, the number of tents and where you are going from here. This is so the wardens can keep track of who has passed through in case of an emergency.

     Watch for the Rufous hummingbird along this part of the trail. If you are wearing red, one might come and hover over you then dart off to sit in a tree. Keep your camera handy.

     If you like the haunting call of the loon plan to stay at Bear Loon Camp 5.1 kilometres (3 mile) from Lindeman Lake Camp. Shortly after Bear Loon is the cut‑off to the tracks of the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway. Many hikers only go this far along the trail and hike along the tracks to Log Cabin. Although this is a popular way of getting off the trail, the railroad warns that you should not walk on or beside their tracks. If you do decide to walk to Log Cabin find out the schedule of the train. And even if there is no train scheduled, watch for speeders carrying the maintenance crews.

     Bennett Lake campground is 6.4 kilometres (4 miles) from Bare Loon. This was where the two long, tired columns of Klondikers met and spent the winter. And an instant tent town was established. In the spring the stampeders built boats for the sail across the lake and down the Yukon. Bennett grew after the railway reached it from Skagway in 1899 and it had warehouses, shipping offices and steamer docks.

     The St. Andrews Presbyterian Church was built in 1898 by volunteer workers and it is the only gold rush building still standing in Bennett. There is also a train station here.


SIDEBAR  907 Kilograms (2000 Pounds)

     There was a list of items, deemed necessary by the NWMP, that the Klondiker needed before being allowed into Canada to continue his journey to the gold rush. Depending on what you read the lists vary as does the amount of each food item. The following is an inventory without the weights.

     Clothing: flannel over shirts, pants, sweater, stockings, wool socks, underwear, overalls, mitts, leather gloves, coats, vest, mackinaw, moccasins, rubber boots, high land boots and stiff brim cowboy hat.

     Sleeping accommodations: sleeping bag, wool blankets, waterproof blanket, rubber sheet and tent.

     Food: beans or split peas, flour, bacon, rolled oats, butter, rice, sugar, cornmeal, condensed milk, coffee, tea, salt, pepper, baking powder, baking soda, yeast cakes, mustard, vinegar, beef extract, ground ginger, hard tack, Jamaica ginger, citric acid and evaporated peaches, apricots, apples, onions and potatoes.

     Cooking Utensils: coffee pot, pie plate (for eating off, not for baking), cutlery including large spoon, fry pan, cup, saucepan, pail and sheet iron stove.

     Toiletries: wash basin, soap, towels, toothbrush, medicine chest, handkerchiefs, mirror and comb.

     Panning Equipment: pick and extra handle, shovel and gold pan.

     Building Equipment: axe and extra handle, axe stone, nails, pitch, chisel, tape measure, rope, single block, rivets, saws, plane, files and hatchet.

     Miscellaneous: canvas sacks, matches, buttons, needles, thread, pack straps, knife, compass, candles, candlewick, dunnage bag and mosquito netting.



Making Arrangements

The Canadian government has a policy of limiting the number of people to cross the border into Canada via the Chilkoot Trail to 50. This was done to preserve the fragile tundra on the Canadian side. When you register you will be charged a reservation fee and be told where you can pick up and pay for your back country permits which you will need before starting the trail.

There are many options for getting to the trailhead and getting back to your vehicle once you have completed your trek.

1. You can leave your vehicle at the Dyea campground and at the end of the trail take the charter boat across Bennett Lake to Carcross. From there you can catch the highway bus to Skagway and take the shuttle bus back to Dyea campground.

2. You can leave your vehicle at the Dyea campground, make your hike and then follow the railway tracks out to Log Cabin where the shuttle bus will take you back to your vehicle at the campground.

3. You can leave your vehicle at Log Cabin and ride the shuttle bus to the Dyea campground. When you hike out to Log Cabin, your vehicle is waiting for you. (Remember that hiking the tracks is not recommended by the railway.)

4. A fourth option is to find out when the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway train is making a scheduled trip to Bennett Lake and arrange your hike so that you will be at Bennett Lake when the train arrives.

Brides of Banff Springs by Victoria Chatham

AVAILABLE HERE   VICTORIA CHATHAM is a young-at-heart senior who has written short stories, newspaper and magazine articles on a...