The word "Skagway," the next port on our cruise, evoked visions of a rough, don't-dare-go-there town. I was wrong. I really liked Skagway, another bustling tourist town with about 17 jewelry stores. The gateway to the Klondike gold fields in 1898, now only 825-860 hardy citizens live there year round.
Skagway was not what I had imagined.
Saloons still abound--there were about 80 during the gold rush days.
This building fascinated me. Click to enlarge photo.
A public toilet next to main street. Hmm. Interesting.
We scheduled our tours for the day: a sight-seeing bus ride of Skagway and up the mountains to the Canadian line in the morning; a three-hour train ride on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad (narrow-gauge rails) in the afternoon. The bus tour was nice. The train ride was spectacular! If doing it again, I'd skip the bus tour and take the train, maybe even the five-hour train ride instead of the three-hour one.
In the picture above, we're chugging along the river in Skagway toward steep mountains and the Canadian border. We traveled across the White Pass and the trail gold seekers followed in 1898. My pictures don't begin to do justice to this majestic and rugged territory.
Once mid September arrives, the weather turns frigid. Unlike Skagway, many towns close down. The trains, with a heater in each car, are the lifelines to those hardy folks who live way back in the mountains. No roads exist in this wilderness, so if a mountaineer needs food or other supplies, he must contact the railroad and arrange for his goods to be dropped off at a pre-arranged location. Trains must push deep snow off the rails in order to keep the trains going. The railroad, originally used to haul ore from the Yukon Territory mines, closed in the 1980s but re-opened in 1988. It now carries over 430,000 visitors a year.
A shot of the train ahead of us. I stood between the cars to take it and the one below.
I braced myself against the side railing to shoot this and many more. Even though I didn't feel comfortable when I was between cars, I would have been sorry if I hadn't done it. Besides, I figured it would make an interesting obituary.
Can it get any better than this?
A rushing river.
Almost back to Skagway.
An unidentified passenger watching us cast off.
What a day! When I awake in the morning we'll be at Icy Strait Point. I'm so glad we took this cruise!
Labels: Alaska, Skagway, White Pass and Yukon Railroad