In the morning we headed for the ferry terminal, just past Haines, to board the ferry to Skagway.
The streets of Skagway were a zoo of cruise ship visitors! We went to the north end of town to secure a camp site, and then walked back down town.
We headed first for the White Pass and Yukon Route railway to see if they had any availability on their tour train trips.
The railway was built as the gold rush got underway, to carry hopeful miners, supplies, and equipment over the mountain passes, up to the Yukon River where the steamships would continue the rest of the route. The train actually operated until the 80’s and was converted into a tour train in the 90’s.
Despite all the cruise ships in town, the late afternoon trip up to White Pass and back had room for us! We had 90 minutes to spare, to have a bite to eat and to do a bit of souvenir shopping.
I had some delicious fish tacos with the hottest hot salsa ever! I had to have cold beer just to soak my tongue in 😉 At least the waitress warned me not to use too much.
Soon we boarded the train and were headed north!
We were in the first car, behind the 2 diesel engines. They even let us go out on the platform on the front and back of the cars!
An original steam engine does the route a couple times a week. That would have been awesome!
The tour guide on the train said we were really fortunate to see the glacier up on the mountain. See it? Looks more like thick ice than snow.
There were two tunnels on the route, here’s the first one:
Then we saw this rickety old bridge. Uhm, what? No way are we going on that!
Luckily these new diesel engines are too heavy and they built a new piece of track 🙂
Here’s the second tunnel. It was a long dark one! Here is the border between Alaska and British Columbia! (there is a thin strip of BC between Alaska and Yukon here). The Northwest Mounted Police had an office here where they only let the gold rush stampeders in if they had a ton of goods for every man, woman, and child in their party, to be sure they had a chance at survival. No supplies moved into Dawson City all winter once the Yukon River froze and the steam boats couldn’t make their way north, so the gold miners needed to be self-sufficient.
Once we made it to the White Pass, the train stopped and the engineer unhooked the engines so they could travel to the back of the train on a second piece of track, to bring us back to Skagway.
The train is literally held together by a cotter pin. They said they come apart sometimes so we weren’t supposed to stand on the cotter pins. Whaaat?
The most amazing part of the train tour was seeing the original trail worn by the gold rush stampede in 1898.
Other than a few fallen rocks, it looked like it was used yesterday! And this part of the trail isn’t a hiking trail, it was just naturally preserved!
We heard that the line was so long and thick, that if you stepped aside for a second, or if your horse went off the path, it could take up to 6 hours before some kind soul would let you back in the line!
If you can see the white dots on this cliff, those are mountain goats!
Now as we were heading back to Skagway, we were the last train car!
When we got back to Skagway, it was about 7:30pm and most of the shops were closed and it was raining a bit. As I stepped down the steep old stairs on the train, I scrapped the back of my leg. I didn’t realize until we stopped at a pizza place for dinner, that I had blood running down my leg! What a mess! Just a scrape though, nothing serious.
Here is the cold brew we ordered as we waited for our pizza.
And here is the picture Jeff took of me as I took a picture of the beer. Grrrr.
The next morning we walked the streets while the shops were open. I know some people love Skagway, but after being in Dawson City, it really was a bit of a let down. It was so touristy and full of cruise ship passengers. Good for them for finding a way to market the town, but it wasn’t my scene. Half the shops were jewellery shops selling any and everything to the cruise ship folks.
Stay tuned for my next post, when we visit a Yukon desert!
Great pictures as usual…. Lisa, I love your hat!!!
Thanks Gail! Glad you liked reading about our trip! The hat is a White Pass hat I got before going on the train in Skagway 🙂