Skagway, Alaska

I can report that Skagway was our most satisfying destination in Alaska.  Skagway is at the northern end of the Lynn Canal and its claim to fame is that it was the jumping off point for prospectors rushing to the Klondike Gold Strike in Dawson in the Yukon Territory of Canada.

Apparently the USA was in a recession in 1897 when the news of the gold found in the Klondike cause a stampede of prospectors to go north to find their fortunes.  It is said that the hardship these men and women faced was nightmarish.

Our ship tied up to the ore dock at Skagway.

The City went to sleep shortly after the rush was over in 1898 and is now preserved as a living museum of that brief era.

Skagway is also host to the White Pass and Yukon Railroad.  The railroad was built between 1898 to 1900 in anticipation of hauling freight and passengers with the gold rush but before it could be built - the gold rush petered-out and the line found other use hauling freight, ore, and passengers for almost 90-years before it needed a new reason to operate.

The rail line operates in impossible conditions during the winter.  Snow measure in dozens of feet cover the tracks.  This plow was build specifically for the rail line and was in use for many years before retirement in the 1980's.  It is now fully restored and operational.  Apparently it makes a ceremonial run every winter through town throwing snow off the tracks.

The National Park Service has restored one of the local bars with a very accurate restoration.  Even the wall paper is accurate.

We were inspired to take a self-pic of ourselves in the bar.

The restored bar had very good displays including pictures from earlier years.

The pictures told the story of the birth and wild early years on the way to Klondike gold.

Not told were other stories about the harsh treatment of the prospectors.  The prospectors were told to get off the passenger ship where ever the land was regardless of where the tide was.  Often the guy would take one load of his grub across the mud only to find the tide had rolled back in covering the rest of his stack of materials.  There were no wharf back in 1898.

Others tell stories of how the men would carry their stocks up the trail to White Pass as the Canadian border only to meet the Canadian Mounted Police with the stipulation that they could not enter Canada without one years supply so up and down they went carrying the thousand pounds of supplies necessary for entry into Canada.

For us - the trip to the top would be a lot easier.  We went by helicopter.

We lifted off the ground and turned to face south on the Lynn Canal alongside the Norwegian Sun.

The pilot effortlessly gained altitude and swung around back north giving us a great view of our ship and Skagway.

We enjoyed the flight.  My first time in a helicopter.  I was impressed by how smooth the ride.

We climbed across the first mountain and had a look at the East Fork of the Skagway River traveling down from Denver Glacier.

We crossed another mountain and flew up next to the edge of the glacier.  The pilot was great flying very close to the rocks on the right hand side of the picture.

We came closer and closer to the edge of the blue ice.

Until finally we were directly on top looking down into the crevasses.

The pilot then swung around, headed back down the glacial canyon, around the next mountain, and up into the area that we would hike.  From this vantage point we had a great view of the railroad tracks that would be our starting and stopping point.

We eased down for our landing and more detail of the region came into view.

We landed at Glacier Station.  This location has a landing pad for the helicopters and is a work station for the railroad.

The helicopters left us behind and we readied ourselves for our hike.

We had signed up for a four mile hike.  Turns our it is two mile up the glacier trail and two miles back.

Its a real trail complete with a Forest Service check-in station.  Our guides stopped along the way to explain plants, animals, and geology.

The trail was highly modified with many reaches having log paths in place.

We were way up in the forest.

The river coming from the glacier was moving fast.


After walking for a while we began to understand why it is called a "rain forest".  Everywhere you looked there was vegetation.  Technically its a temperate rain forest as opposed to a tropical rain forest.  Still, it was wet and lush.

As we neared the top of our two mile trek we moved into a different environment.  The trees were smaller and the rocks close to the surface.  Apparently those short brown willow trees are a favorite of the moose - there were droppings on the trail.

At the end of the hike we found this insane rubble scape of rock with a stream of water flowing through.

The top was eerie.  Way back in the clouds and in the rubble was the glacier.  The guide explained that the glacier had recently receded (last 50-years) from this area and thats why the trees are smaller and its not really a forest up here.

Susanne found a goat resting on a rock ledge far above us on the east side of the glacial canyon.

The goat is that little white speck on the rock in the middle of the picture.  This was a long way up the side of the hill.  The guide said that the goats greatest enemy on the cliff is falling followed by having an eagle swoop down, knock them off the ledge, and pick off the remains at the bottom of the hill.

Time to head back down the hill and catch the train back to Skagway.  Sorry but that fuzzy picture shows the train tracks clinging to the side of the hill.

And here comes our ride back into town.  Sure would be a long walk back to town if that train broke down.

We were very happy to be boarding the train for the ride down the hill.

They saved the last car on the train for the hikers they pick up from Glacier Station.

The inside of the train is nice and those benches were appreciated after the hike.

And this kind gentleman provided liquid relief for the weary - four times in a row.

We did see some scenery on the railroad train trip back down the mountain.

More scenery - this time crossing the East Branch Skagway River - as seen from the helicopter earlier.

Can't stop - just too beautiful - too impressive.

And then we were looking at the train brochure - and our conductor is on the cover picture.  So impressed I asked that he pose with his picture.

The packers took good care of us.  I got on the wrong shuttle bus going back to the ship and he comes on and pulls me off and takes me to his bus.  Why?  They both go to the same place...  Because he said he was responsible for getting me back to my ship.

And we are whipped (just kidding - thats not us).

And so it goes for a big beautiful day in Skagway, Alaska.   We headed out southbound on the Lynn Canal bound for Prince Rupert, BC Canada.  On the way down the canal we pass Haines which is on a penensula hanging off the mainland along Chilkoot Inlet.

And on to Prince Rupert we go