Rotting Away

Rusted cans poke out of the sphagnum moss, their visibility diminishing year by year as they become swallowed by vegetation.  A few yards distant, beyond the willows, lies a pile of spruce poles.  Brush grows amongst the pile, but the square arrangement is still discernible.  A former cabin.  A former home. Its logs now in a state of disarray.

Before the end of the 19th century, a fever gripped the nation. Gold was found in Alaska and the Yukon Territory, prompting thousands of men to rush north and claim their treasure.  The economy was floundering at the time, and with little to no work, many took the risk to venture north.  Their travel to the region was often an adventure in itself.  Travelling for months by sea, river and/or sled before finally reaching their destination.  They cleared land and built cabins out of local materials.  Isolated cabins soon became towns and outposts as more men moved to the country.  Strong determination and ambition were plentiful.  Knowledge of the area was not.  The harshness of the country became apparent that first winter.  Long periods of dark and cold engulfed the men as they dreamed of loved ones back home in warmer and sunnier abodes.  For some, that was enough reason to flee.

The work often wasn’t any respite from their other troubles.  Mining didn’t come easily.  The ground was frozen, requiring significant effort and time to thaw before materials were even able to be extracted.  Furthermore, after sifting through the gravel and sediment, the men came to find that gold wasn’t as plentiful as advertised.

Hardly a miner remains in the area today.  Most of the gold has been extracted.  Many of the early cabins were completely abandoned within a few years of being built.  Few signs remain from cabins of that era.  Some were cut down for firewood and other purposes.  Others were washed away by rivers.  The rest have been decomposing back into the landscape, the lower logs rotting away year by year.  Large snow loads and a lack of maintenance eventually cause the roof to collapse.  Rain and brush eat away at the logs.  In the end, the logs, cans and any abandoned goods are swallowed by the forest, erasing any hint of the brief flurry of activity and life within the region once long ago.

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