A Rewarding Experience? The Ruthless Pursuit of Gold, Part 6

Gold pans from the past

The trip to the Klondike was gruelling, to say the least.

The two passes into the Yukon were an experience of their own. Take, for example, the Chilkoot Pass. Its trail from Dyea to Lake Bennett was roughly 33 miles long. Prospective miners not only had to travel the distance by foot, but they also had to carry their "ton of goods" in order to enter Canada. Only the wealthy ones could afford packers!

Once they arrived at an area called "the Scales", at the base of their final ascent over the Chilkoot Pass, many gave up. They took one look at the steep incline, with its 1,500 steps carved into ice and its long line of prospectors toiling up the slope under backbreaking loads, and they either sold their goods or left them behind (One person's loss is another person's gain!), and headed back home!

Those who succeeded in making the climb then had to slide back down for another load-at least 25 times! After all, a "ton of goods" takes time to move!

Once in the Yukon, prospective gold seekers were faced with another challenge: finding enough wood to build a boat that would be strong enough to carry them and their goods down the Yukon River to the Klondike. Forests around the waterways had been completely stripped by earlier stampeders, forcing the prospectors to move inland to locate wood. The scene was so pathetic that it caused a certain Thomas Andrew Firth to exclaim in exasperation: "Those who arrived before us have stripped the land of all trees for as far as the eye can see. Some are living and building their boats so far inland it is impossible to imagine how they will ever get them to the water's edge."

Once the boats were built, the prospective miners had to wait until the ice began to break up on the river. Then hundreds of boats would crowd the lakes and rivers between the passes and Dawson City. River rapids posed yet another challenge. Very few of the stampeders had any boating experience. In the first few days alone, more than 150 boats wrecked, and at least ten people drowned.

But that's not the worst. When the gold seekers finally arrived at Dawson City, it was to find that the prospectors from the region, or "the locals" as they were called, had already filed most of the available claims!

At this point, many of the gold seekers returned home. They were disappointed, exhausted and empty-handed. Others decided to hire on with those who had been lucky enough to file claims, and still others stayed to start up their own business in Dawson City. Only one in five of the gold seekers ever actually mined for gold!

In the end, these men and women had faced so many gruelling problems that we could say they were specialists in facing trials. When asked to reflect back on their experiences however, most of them, including those who returned home empty-handed, reported that it had been the most rewarding experience of their lives. Not only that, but most of them went on to say that if given the chance, they would do it again! Unbelievable? Perhaps. It's true, nonetheless!

We all face trials in our walk through life. Some of us do so sooner rather than later, but trials and tribulations are an inevitable part of life. What will determine how well we go through them is our attitude. May we learn from the Klondike gold seekers, as well as from the apostle Paul, to see the opportunities that each trial contains. If we do so, our attitudes will change, and instead of fussing and complaining, instead of fuming and fretting, we will rejoice, for we will be anticipating the outcome!

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." (James 1:2-4 The Message)

No matter what, help is assured if we rely on the One who loves us above anything else: "The Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials." (2 Peter 2:9 NIV)

Do you see this high steep, icy slope? This means there must be a terrific slide down! Let's go for it! Better not forget the sled!

Rob Chaffart

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