In Search of the Midnight Sun - Chapter 2
July 29/30, 2008
Arrived in Whitehorse and planned a couple days to recoup and renew our groceries, laundry, body and soul and plan the next phase of our Alaska trip. A trip to the visitor’s center and a look at the weather confirmed our original plan to head south to Skagway if the weather looked good and north if not. The idea being we would go down to the coast first and take the ferry from Skagway to Haines and carry on through the south area of Alaska and return via Anchorage, Denali, Fairbanks and Dawson City on the north route. While in Whitehorse we toured the Klondike - the largest paddle wheeler to traverse the Yukon River. We walked the suspension bridge over the Whitehorse Rapids and visited guess where - Walmart!
July 31, 2008
Our original plan was to golf this morning before leaving for Skagway but it rained during the night so we decided it was too wet. The drive south on the Klondike Highway was spectacular. What a diversified geography in 160 km from Whitehorse to Skagway - mountains, lakes, desert and a rocky, mossy area that
reminded us of Newfoundland. Emerald Lake is amazingly beautiful. The desert sand dunes of Carcross are quite a surprise in the middle of the mountains. Tormented Valley is really strange. It is an area of subalpine between the treed area and the true alpine above treeline. It is rocky covered moss with stunted trees call mopheads - the result of the trees being covered with snow on the bottom parts and wind sheared at the top. The summit was socked in with fog so I’m sure we missed more spectacular scenery. Skagway was also a surprise. In a town of 800 permanent residents in winter, there were four cruise ships in town so walking space was at a premium. Kind of puts a damper on your expectations of a small, old fashioned, gold rush town. We did a walking tour (which was free from the Visitor’s Center) of the town with a Park Ranger who told us the history of the town and the gold rush. We also braved the maddening crowd at the Red Onion Saloon for a drink and a brothel tour. That was fun and interesting (see picture). During the gold rush in 1898/99 there were 80
saloons in town. Now there are two but there must be 80 shops.
August 1, 2008
First thing this morning we found another campground. The Mountain View Campground we were at put us about 50 feet from the White Pass and Yukon Railroad which had a number of trains chug by. The railroad is strictly a tourist attraction where they take passengers up the White Pass which was to be used during the gold rush but the gold rush was actually over before it was completed. The advertised WiFi wouldn’t work either - but hey were roughing it so that’s ok. But, when I went to have a shower in the morning, I fed the coin timer a quarter and got enough water to get all soaped up. The timer ran out and then the machine would take my quarters but wouldn’t give me any water! You can imagine how impressed I was - not roughing it that much! We moved to the Garden City RV Campground which is much neater and cleaner, the WiFi works and there aren’t any trains.
We drove to the Skagway cemetery to see the gravesites of Soapy Smith - self-proclaimed dictator of Skagway
in 1898/99 and Frank Reid - the man who shot him.
We then drove to Dyea where the famed Chilkoot Trail began. The whole trail was 33 miles long and the actual mountain you see the sourdoughs packing over was about 18 miles from the beginning of the trail. However, they were required by the NWMP at the Canadian border, which was near the top of the Chilkoot, to have 2000 lbs of specified supplies per man to last a year. Horses, sleighs and wagons could get them part way on the trail but the pass could not be traversed by animals. Many natives were hired as packers but some had to pack their own supplies up the trail, doing as many as 50 trips! Of the 100,000 gold seekers who arrived at Skagway, only 40,000 actually made it to Dawson. And all the claims had already staked before the news of the gold rush even hit the papers in the US.
We went to the historical museum in Skagway and in the evening to “The Days of 98 Show”. Excellent entertainment.
August 2, 2008
We are still in Skagway - and would like to leave, but
we have been waiting for a clear day to take the White Pass Railroad trip. We did a two mile hike up the mountain to a small lake and have been using our bikes to get around Skagway so we are definitely getting our exercise. It finally cleared in the afternoon, except for the mountain tops and we enjoyed a very scenic three hour trip to the summit of White Pass. It has been cooler here (15C) than Whitehorse which was about 22C, but there have not been any bugs at all on our trip. A special treat has been watching the king salmon which are coming up Pullen Creek (right near town) to spawn. Today they opened the creek for fishing but since we are leaving tomorrow we won’t bother getting a license. We take the ferry to Haines, a one hour ride, at 7am.
August 3, 2008 - to be continued Chapter 3
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