First of all: Thursday, July 1st, was my baby boy’s 13th birthday. Okay, so Dylan’s not a baby anymore, he’s a teenager! I was sad that I couldn’t spend the day with him, but we called and spoke to him during the afternoon. He told us that Sarah had taken him to the theater to see Eclipse, and they’d bought an ice cream pie to share and celebrate with. I’m glad his big sister made his special day pleasant for him.*
Tiny Skagway, as seen from the ship's deck*
As for our cruise, on Thursday we made our final stop at an Alaskan coastal town. Skagway is a tiny little town with a population of about 800 people. The entire town is just 20 blocks long and 5 blocks wide! This was also the first town we visited that wasn’t pelted by rain while we were there.
As the “Gateway to the Gold Fields” of the Yukon, Skagway was a booming town of 20,000 people in the 1890s, the largest town in Alaska. The routes to the gold fields from Skagway were the shortest, but also the most deadly. Scores of men and thousands of pack animals died along the treacherous White Pass and Chilkoot Trail.*
Ed liked the Tlingit canoe and the beaver at the museum.*
Skagway was a pretty tough place itself. Crime was rampant and laws were mostly useless. The killing of villain “Soapy” Smith by hero Frank Reid, who died of gunshot wounds to the groin 10 Days later, is the most popular tale in Skagway.*
Mary was amazed by this quilt made from ducks' necks!*
Ed and I visited Skagway’s official museum and a museum featuring the history of ivory in the area. Then we found a quaint little shop called The Chowder House and ate some lunch there. After wandering through some tourist shops, at noon we jumped on a bus and headed back toward the ship.*
Ed enjoys chili in a bread bowl at the Chowder House, while I ate a chicken salad sandwich.*
Just across the pier from the ship is the White Pass Train station. Built in 1898, this train was the first method to carry gold miners to the Yukon with some degree of safety. Although the gold rush ended for Skagway in 1900, the train remained in use until 1982. It was resurrected for tourist use in 1988.
Beautiful scenery from the train (above and below)
The train passes through a tunnel blasted through the granite mountain.
Our 3-hour tour became a 4-hour tour when one of the engines lost power. We waited on the track for another engine to be brought in, and then we chugged on. I’d hesitated to spend so much money on this tour, but Ed insisted it would be worth it. He was correct!
Summit Lake at the summit of White Pass, 7 miles from Canada's border.
This narrow lake is separated by a sandbar, with each half fed by a different source.
One half is clear water fed by non-glacial sources, while the other half is
turquoise-blue because it's fed by glacial run-off.
As we headed back toward Skagway, the conductor advised us to greet
the passengers of the incoming tour train with this "traditional" moose-horn salute!
(Obviously, their conductor gave them the same advise!)
Our train passes over a trestle.
We passed this cemetary for gold prospectors as we neared Skagway.
The scenery was remarkable. The train climbed 3,000 feet in just 20 miles, crossing trestle bridges and passing through old tunnels blasted out of the granite mountain. Although the train’s track passes through Canada and the Yukon Territory, our tour ended 7 miles shy of the Canadian border before heading back to Skagway.*
I spent the first half of the ride standing out on the platform of our car. I felt like a kid again, holding onto the rail, feeling the wind whipping my hair, and staring down the sheer side of the mountain just feet from the track below. It was great! It was also very cold, but it was really great!*
Mary stands on the platform at the front of her rail car.
Ed preferred to ride inside the rail car, but he joined me on the platform
while we waited for the new engine to arrive.*
Due to the delay, we returned to the ship barely seconds before we were required to return. We sailed away from Skagway at 5:00 p.m.
Later last night, we sat next to a window at dinner and I saw my first whales! Luckily Ed has a sharp eye for wildlife. The whales weren’t exactly leaping joyfully out of the water the way they always seem to do for documentaries, but I got to see the top of a whale’s head when he spouted and the slap of another whale’s tail before he submerged. Pretty exciting stuff!
View from our dining room table where we spotted the whales.
I wasn't fast enough to capture them on film, though!
This will be my last post until we’re back on dry land, since I’ve about exhausted my allotted cruise line Internet minutes. Our honeymoon trip will continue for a few more days. I hope our hotel in Portland will have free wi fi so I can blog our visit to Victoria as well as our adventures in Seattle and Portland.
Note to anonymous: Do I know you? I’ve enjoyed your comments, but I’d love to know who you are!