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  • The cabin in Dyea was all that we hoped it would be: accessible by road, yet adjacent to trails, vistas, and wildlife habitat. During the Yukon Gold Rush, Dyea was briefly a boom town, serving as a landing for stampeders and their supplies as they began the arduous land journey up the Chilkoot Trail, driven by desperation and gold lust. Evidence of that bustle has been nearly erased by time and Pacific rainforest decay. A few metal implements rise up from the clubfoot moss along the first leg of the trail, and stumps of pilings where the pier once stood congregate at this north end of the Taiya inlet like a queue of huddled hermits who keep their distance from one another.

    Fifteen minutes down the road in Skagway, history is resurrected every time a cruise ship lands. These ships are gargantuan, dwarfing the Inside Passage ferry ship that I’d seen as enormous. In a town with a year round population of less than a thousand souls, each cruise ship discharges thousands of passengers, and the pier funnels them toward the line of shops selling gold and diamonds and furs and lesser treasures.

    Back in Dyea, artifacts seem especially drab and timeworn in their juxtaposition with the living. Between the moss-covered remains of an old trading site and the stumps of the pier, a vast tidal flat projects into the inlet. Every afternoon, a pair of adolescent bears frolics there like overgrown puppies, swiping at salmon in the gullies. Eagles perch on driftwood, vivid totems becoming weightless as they leave the ground for better vantage points. Harbor seals, also in thrall to the salmon run, pop their heads above the inlet’s surface, their large dark eyes curious and gleaming. Irises have blossomed at the edge of the flats; their seedpods wait to burst open, and now the fireweed spikes magenta above the grasses. Like ghosts eluding the living, the artifacts of our grasping history escape us, swept away to the vanishing point.
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