Day 6: Skagway, AK

June 2nd, 2017 Skagway, AK
Skagway is located in a narrow glaciated valley at the head of the Taiya Inlet. It is in the Alaskan Panhandle
and is 90 miles northwest of Juneau. It was founded in 1897, and officially
incorporated in 1900. It has a population of 1036, but during the summer months
for the tourist season, the population doubles.
During the gold rush, the population went as high as 10000 as people
sought to find their fortunes. Skagway experiences a maritime climate. Average
summer temperatures range from 45 to 67 degrees, and it receives less rain than
most other places in Alaska.
we arrived in Skagway around 7 in the morning. We had a quick breakfast in our
room, and then left the ship to explore Skagway. Skagway was a cute town, it
was sort of set like a western cowboy depot, but was surrounded by touristy
stores. I bought some earrings, postcards, and a magnet. We also ventured to
the post office so I could buy international stamps because I’m way too lazy to
go to the post office in the town I live in because of where it’s located. We
found a Starbucks, sort of. There was a coffee shop that shared a storefront
with an overpriced jewelry store [because you know… jewelry and Starbucks
attract the same clientele] and they sold Starbucks drinks like frappachinos.
Unfortunately they didn’t have the Alaska Starbucks mug, when I asked about it,
they said they sold them in Ketchikan, but we had already been to Ketchikan, so
I guess I’ll just have to eBay that one. At least I’ve been to Alaska though,
so it doesn’t feel like cheating.  But regardless, they did have caramel frapachinos, so I got to enjoy that, and as
we were walking back to the pier where the boat was docked, my Starbucks got a
lot of notice, and people kept on asking us where the Starbucks was.

 

 

 

 

We went back to the ship after shopping, for a quick lunch. The pizza place had
glacier pizza as their special today, which was white pizza with little
mountains of ricotta cheese, and it was delicious. Even Justin liked it. After
we ate, we got back off the ship and headed for our excursion, which was riding
on The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad.
The WPYRR story started in 1896 by a man named George Carmack, who found some flecks of gold in the Bonanza Creek on
the Klondike Pass. They didn’t find much gold, but it was enough gold to
trigger a gold rush. The discovery of gold spread like wildfire and tens of
thousands of gold-hungry men and women rushed into Alaska via Dyea and Skagway
to begin the trek to Klondike, which was 600 miles of treacherous and dangerous
trails.
Before the WPYRR began, there were two ways to trek up the mountain. The Chilkoot
trail began in Dyea, but each person was required to carry tons of supplied up
the trail so they could reach the summit of the Chilkoot Pass. The other choice
was the White Pass Trail, which longer and less steep, but required animals to
trek towards the gold fields. However, both the trails were filled with hazards
and harrowing experiences. Three thousand horses died on the White Pass Trail
due to the tortures of the trail and the inexperiences of the stampeders.  One man tried to build a toll road that
reached up to the canyon of White Pass, but the toll gates were ignored by
travelers and the road was a failure.
In 1898, The White Pass & Yukon Railroad Company was organized in April. On
May 28th, 1898, construction began for a narrow gauge railroad. On
July 29th, 1900, the railroad was opened. Thirty-five thousand men
worked on the construction of the railroad, and it cost ten million dollars to
build the railroad. The railroad became a reality through a partnership of
British financing, American engineering, and Canadian contracting.
The WPYRR climbs from sea level in Skagway, AK to almost 3000 feet above sea level
at the summit, in just 20 miles, and features steep grades of almost 3.9%. Construction
required cliff hanging turns of 16 degrees, building two tunnels, and numerous
bridges and trestles. Work on the tunnel at Mile 16 took place in the dead of
winter with heavy snow and temperatures as low as 60 degrees below. The workers
reached the summit of White Pass on February 20th, 1899 and by July
6th, 1899, construction reached Lake Bennett and the beginning of
river and lake routes.
Eventually even though the gold rush died, but the WPYRR still was important. During World
War II, the railroad was the chief supplier for the US Army’s Alaska Highway
Construction Project. In 1954, White Pass matured into a fully-integrated
transportation company operating docks, trains, stage coaches, sleighs, buses,
paddle wheelers, trucks, ships, airplanes, hotels, and pipelines. In 1982,
world metal prices plummeted and the WPYRR suspended operations, however in
1988, it reinvented itself as a tourist attraction, and that is what it remains
to be today.
Our trip on the WPYRR didn’t encompass the entire track. We went up to the summit
of White Pass, which was 2,885 feet above sea level, but there are trips that
do go all the way into Canada.
Justin and I both loved the train ride; we actually liked it a lot more than we
thought we would. It was absolutely gorgeous! There were so many stunning
sights to see! We actually spent the entire three hour ride just standing
outside and taking pictures of the scenery. There were tons of waterfalls,
including Bridal Veil Falls, which is at 1334 feet above sea level and cascades
6000 feet from the glaciers on Mt. Cleveland and Mt. Clifford. But there were
also tons of tiny little waterfalls, up on cliffs, and hidden in rock walls.
As we got higher and higher, the temperature dropped. I think it was like close to
60 degrees when we boarded the train, but it was easily in the 40s or 30s when
we got to the summit of the mountain. There was snow on all sides of the
summit, and there was also a lot of glacier water, and the water was this
beautiful milky turquoise color, and it was such a contrast with the other
water. The snow was pretty deep too. I wish we could’ve gotten off the train at
the summit and played in the snow, but alas we weren’t allowed, though I mean I
can understand why we weren’t allowed, it would certainly be a safety hazard.
It was beautiful, there were breath-taking views of snow covered cliffs, streams,
trees, and it was gorgeous. We also got really lucky and it was sunny in
Skagway, so my thousands of pictures I took came out really well, and it was
also nice to see sun after not seeing it for days. This might be my favorite
excursion, so far, and since there’s only one left, gardens in Victoria,
Canada, it might remain as my top excursion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got back to the ship around five. Justin and I decided to just chill in our
cabin and play video games until it was time to get ready for dinner. We went
to the Crown Grill for dinner again, but we got a window seat, and it was so
beautiful to watch as we left the port… It was like 9:45 and it still looked
like daylight out, and the water was a jade turquoise green from the glaciers
and it was absolutely gorgeous, and we floated past waterfalls and cliffs.
For dinner tonight, I had French onion soup, and chicken fingers with mashed
potatoes. Yes I went to a steak restaurant and had chicken fingers, no regrets,
and I had a fruit plate and some vanilla ice cream for dessert. Justin had his
filet Mignon and a chocolate soufflé for dessert.
It was an amazing day though. Skagway was awesome. I think if I was to move to
Alaska though, I wouldn’t choose to move there… Out of our ports in Alaska, I
think the order would be Juneau, Ketchikan, and then Skagway, since Skagway
seems more like a tourist trap [albeit a pretty and interesting one] and less
like a livable city.
Tomorrow Justin and I are waking up super early, as in like around 6:30 am because we’ll
be sailing through Tracy Arm Fjord from 6 to 10 am. We also have our couples
hot stone massage at 8 am, and other than that, it’ll pretty much be a lazy sea
day. After tomorrow, we have another sea day, and then we’ll be in Victoria,
Canada.
We’re both enjoying the cruise, but I’m really not sleeping too well on it. I think part
of it is the pillows suck. The mattress is okay, I mean it’s a little too soft
for my tastes, I prefer like a pillow top firm mattress like we have at
home…but the pillows are just super soft and hurt my neck because they give me
absolutely no support :/ I’m sure that’s a part of it, but the other part of it
is probably the sun rises really early in Alaska. I’m talking like its bright
and sunny at four am, and even though our curtains do a decent job of blocking
out the light, it’s like my brain senses it’s light out and I wake up. Though
I’ve never actually been a good sleeper, but I just seem to sleep worse on this
cruise than I have on any other cruise.
I’m not looking forward to being back to reality in 5 or so days, but I
will look forward to being in my own bed and to seeing my kitties.
And I guess that’s it for today.

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