Group of Canadians recreates Gold Rush journey

Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2002

WHITEHORSE, Yukon Territory - Five Canadians have concluded a three-month trek to recreate the Gold Rush of 1898 from Dyea, near Skagway, to Dawson City.

The five then spent time looking for gold around Dawson before the trip's official end Sept. 2.

They endured the arduous journey for a segment of a reality series to be aired early next year on a Canadian cable channel, History Television. The segment is titled "Klondike: Quest for Gold."

The show had the group recreate the journey the original Klondikers were forced to endure - without modern aids.

"Klondike: Quest for Gold" is a follow-up to the reality show "Pioneer Quest," where people had to recreate the life settlers went through in the 19th century, creating a new life in the Prairies.

For the five Klondikers, once they got to Dawson, the money wasn't found with a gold pan.

The only woman of the group, Andria Bellon, 34, of Whitehorse, worked at the Westminster Hotel in Dawson for part of the three weeks the group was in the capital of the Klondike. While working there, she was paid in gold nuggets, specifically 34.9 grams.

"I mined the miners. That's the way ladies did it back then," Bellon told the Whitehorse Star.

The four men spent time mining a claim on Last Chance Creek outside of Dawson.

Rick Unrau, 39, of Penticton, B.C., was the member of the group who is a prospector by trade. He said they found a lot less gold from 18 days of panning, compared to Bellon. Specifically, the group's pans discovered 8.4 grams of gold.

The trek began when they were dropped off in Dyea, near Skagway, on the beach with their equipment.

"The production company said, 'All right, go nuts,' " said Dave Delnea, 22, a photographer from Hope, B.C. "We figured it out for ourselves."

The trio started up the Chilkoot Pass with the same amount of equipment stampeders had to carry in 1898. At that time, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police required each person bring enough supplies for one year.

For the fivesome, that meant hauling a total of 3,000 pounds.

After reaching the summit on the pass the group eventually made it to the Canadian border where, like the stampeders had been in 1898, they were greeted by mounties, who checked to ensure they had enough equipment.

The Klondikers then headed north by boat to Dawson. All through the adventure, the group wore period costumes.

As for food, there wasn't much selection.

"We had beans, beans, beans, beans and beans," Bellon said. "And for dessert, we had beans."

The group also had to put up with blistered feet, which were treated with whiskey.

Despite the hardships, all said they enjoyed the experience.

"We'll never forget it, there's no doubt about it," Unrau said.

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