Copyright © 1997 The Seattle Times Company
Sunday, June 29, 1997

Gold for the modern Klondiker
by Ross Anderson
Seattle Times staff reporter

What did Mont Hawthorne and thousands like him get for their efforts? Why this Herculean struggle to reach a virtually unmapped wilderness where the richest claims were staked out long before most fortune-seekers left home?

What was this stampede about?

That's why we're going back -- me and Mont and my dog Pedro. To see if we can figure that out.

Maybe it was simple greed, a need to get rich quick. Maybe it was desperation. Maybe it had to do with the raw beauty and challenge of Mother Nature, with that foggy notion of Frontier and The American West. Maybe it was the mystery of the unknown, an age-old love for adventure.

Whatever it was, Mont seemed to understand. It kept him moving for some 80 years -- from the family farm in Pennsylvania to the plains of Nebraska. Then to the Black Hills country, on to the mines of Wyoming and across the continent to San Francisco. From there it turned him north, up the coast to Astoria and Puget Sound.

And, finally, to Alaska, the Yukon and the Klondike.

It's a powerful thing, Mont says. But he can't explain it. He knows the feeling but not the words.

Gotta go and see for yourself, he says. You gotta steam up the Inside Passage, where the glaciers slither down the mountains to meet the Pacific Ocean. Gotta step off the boat and resist the sinpots of Skagway, hoist a 60-pound backpack, climb Chilkoot Pass in a 40-mile-an-hour gale. Gotta ride the big water through Five Finger Rapids.

You do it, says Mont. And then you'll understand why I did it.

So there you have it. Mama, we're goin' Up North.

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Copyright © 1997 The Seattle Times Company