The Gold Rush began in 1896 with the discovery of gold in Canada’s largely uncharted Yukon territory. Word traveled fast, and within a year the northern reaches of Canada were swamped with people seeking their fortunes.
That caused a serious problem. People needed supplies to survive, and they needed a lot of supplies to survive the rocky, cold, hard trek in the North. Unfortunately, there was a distinct lack of grocery stores along the way. That meant that the small towns along the way were in danger of being overrun and being depleted of food.
The Canadian government enacted a provision that every American crossing the border for gold mining needed to bring their own supplies with them, and they needed to have enough to last them an entire year. That meant that a trip to the Yukon wasn’t just one-way—in some cases, people covered more than 1,610 kilometers (1,000 mi) back and forth between Alaska’s starting point of Dyea to their campsite at Bennett Lake. The two spots were only 53 kilometers (33 mi) apart, but a year’s worth of supplies was heavy and required way more than just one or two trips with a backpack.
The Northern Pacific Railroad put out a brochure with recommended provisions: 181 kilograms (400 lb) of flour, 4.5 kilograms (10 lb) of both coffee and tea, 34 kilograms (75 lb) of dried fruits, 56 kilograms (125 lb) of beans, and non-food supplies like tents, oil blankets, mosquito netting, axes, pitch, a stove, 60 meters (200 ft) of rope, and enough winter clothing to survive months of brutal temperatures.