Carson's Alaska Newsletter #9
|Location:Skagway, Alaska||Date: June 10-13,2003|
On the Road with Fred and Barb - Newsletter #9
June 10-13,2003 Whitehorse, Yukon to Skagway, Alaska
The trip from Whitehorse to Skagway on the South Klondike Highway was the best scenery we've seen so far. Absolutely breathtaking. The road winds along several lakes and rivers, up over White Pass. There were several scenic pullouts along the way and we took them all. Over 100 pictures on the digital camera. Good thing we don't have to pay for film. But we also realized there was no way we could capture the magnificent view. Your eyes see so much more than the camera.
Once we arrived in Skagway we were also impressed with the scenery. Skagway is in a glaciated valley with the ocean at one end and glacier covered mountains on the other sides. We chose to camp at the Pullen RV park which is right on the harbor. We watched the cruise ships and ferries pull in each day. We learned that the town is run according to the cruise ship schedule. When there is no cruise ship in town, (Saturdays), the shops close down for the day. And there are a lot of shops - many with very nice (and expensive) Alaskan-made carvings and paintings. It's a cute town with lots of historic buildings and old-west type store fronts. But also very touristy. Lots more shops than when we were here in '91.
We visited the National Parks Service museum which has fantastic exhibits on the gold rush. One new thing we learned was that there were two routes that the stampeders used to get to Dawson and the gold fields. One was from Skagway over the Chilkoot Pass where they hauled the ton of supplies on their backs (took about 3 months to get all the stuff up). The other was over the Trail of 98 over White Pass where they used horses to carry the loads. Only problem with that was the trail was steep and narrow and over 3000 horses died on the way. Of 100,000 men (and a few women) who came to seek their fortune, it is estimated that only 40,000 made it to Dawson. Of those only 3000 actually got gold and 300 became rich. Many of the people who made money did so by "mining the miners". Lots of con artists and merchants charging a fortune for food and supplies.
One of the most famous con artists was Soapy Smith. Our first night in town we attended the Days of 98 show. It's the story of the notorious Soapy Smith who ran the town in 1897-98. He was a con man, a robber and an outlaw. But he also did some good (kind of like Robin Hood). The story was interesting, the singers talented, but the show wasn't near as entertaining as the Frantic Follies in Whitehorse.
We have been so lucky weather-wise. The day we drove into Skagway was gorgeous. And we were able to wear shorts for one of the few times this trip. Since the weather was in our favor we decided to book tickets for a boat trip to Juneau. The Fjord Express is a 65 foot, twin hulled, 1200 horsepower boat that makes daily trips between Skagway, Haines and Juneau on the Lynn Canal. The boat was built in 2001 in San Diego and was quite comfortable. On the way we saw bald eagles, humpback whales, porpoises, a huge rookery of stellar sea lions and lots of incredible scenery. The whole canal is lined with glacier covered mountains and this time of year there were huge waterfalls cascading down the cliffs. Once in Juneau, (3 hours from Skagway), we were given a brief bus tour, then given 3 hours to eat lunch and shop. Then the bus took us to Mendenhall glacier for an hour of photos, visitor center, etc. It was a fantastic trip, one that had been recommended to us, and we highly recommend to others.
The weather was still holding, though rain was predicted, so we bought tickets on the White Pass & Yukon narrow gauge railway. It goes 20 miles up the canyon from Skagway to the summit at White Pass. We thought it might be a duplicate of our drive in but we were surprised. It was just as spectacular but a totally different view. Lots of waterfalls, close ups of glaciers and views of the Trail of 98 which the gold rush prospectors took. Again a highly recommended attraction.
But today was Fred's favorite day. The rain finally started last evening and continued all night. The guys had heard that King Salmon were running so had booked a charter fishing boat. They arose early, in the pouring rain, and boarded the boat for 4 hours of fishing. It was Friday the 13th so there was a little pessimism. At 9:30, Barb had just finished breakfast, Fred arrives back at the RV to get his camera. They had caught their limit in just 1 hour. Four beautiful King Salmon and 1 Dolly Varden. One of the Kings was 26 pounds, another 19. Two of the Kings were Silver Kings, according to the Captain, very rare and the best tasting of all. Robbie and Barb hurried to the grocery store for a Styrofoam ice chest and ice while the fish were being cleaned. Then we cut them into fillets, bagged them and stuffed them in every inch of our freezers and ice maker. We had originally planned to freeze and ship them home but learned they wanted $7.00/pound so we'll keep them and eat as we go. We baked one nice fillet tonight and it was delicious.
As you can tell, we have thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Skagway. Now we are about to board the ferry for the short (1 hour) trip to Haines. We decided at the last minute to do the ferry thing rather than driving back up to Whitehorse and then round trip to Haines (350 miles). With the price of gas, it's almost cheaper to go by ferry.Barb and Fred