Almost summery in Skagway

Buildings near the White Pass & Yukon Route railway station in Skagway

Two consecutive lovely, sunny, rain-free days–WOW! Here in flower-bedecked (the city has been designated “The Garden City of Alaska”), “Wild-West”-themed Skagway (the Tlingit name means “Place where the north wind blows”), we are at the most northerly point in our travels (White Pass to the north of the town is located at about 59.6 degrees north latitude), and we have had two of the most “summery” days of our trip! Today, Friday, August 5, is overcast and cooler and very windy, but dry so far, as we wait for the 2:30 pm Alaska State Ferry to take us on a seven-hour trip back to Auke Bay near Juneau.

Thursday was quite nicely filled with tourist activities! We browsed the jewelry, gift, curio, and book shops that line Skagway’s few streets and attended the vaudevillian musical, “The Days of ’98 Show with Soapy Smith,” which has been playing in Skagway since 1923 and that tells the story of the 1897-1901 Klondike Gold Rush and the role in Skagway’s history played by Jeff “Soapy” Smith, the town’s biggest con artist. We bought “Klondike Doughboys” (a square of deep-fried bread-doughnut dough that’s sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and is very tasty and filling!) before visiting the small but excellent Klondike Gold Rush National Park Museum, where one learns about the horrible privations and life-threatening natural obstacles (cold, snow, ice, treacherously steep mountain trails, and roaring river rapids) that Gold Rush “Stampeders” faced in their quest for wealth–only about 1000 of the 100,000 of them survived the perilous journey to the gold fields around Dawson City in the Yukon, and of those 1000, only about 100 made enough money from their finds to pay for their supplies!

Skagway’s 1899 Arctic Brotherhood Hall with a facade made of thousands of sticks and pieces of driftwood

The highlight of the beautiful day was the magnificent three-hour White Pass & Yukon Route trip on the “Scenic Railway of the World” that takes passengers up (and then back) along what was once the White Pass Trail to an elevation of about 2800 ft. above sea level. Travelers are provided with a handsome brochure that includes a map of the route and short descriptions of points of interest along the way, and the narration that accompanied our journey was very enlightening and nicely presented as well.

Walt and I sat near a large window at the front of the first passenger car from which we enjoyed spectacular views of snow-streaked mountain peaks, sweeping granite cliff faces, gleaming waterfalls, frail-looking bridges, DEEP gorges, distant stretches of track carrying other trains in the WP & YR fleet, and the tumbling turquoise Skagway River, first galloping along side us and then slithering down the valley VERY far beneath us as the narrow-gauge (rails spaced 3 ft. apart rather than the normal 4.8 feet apart), diesel-electric-powered train ascended and then, having circled around a loop, descended from the pass. There were points from which passengers could look all the way down the valley to the waters of Lynn Canal and the cruise ships at the Skagway docks!

Can you see the cruise ships against a pale blue watery background beneath the layer of clouds?
Another train can be seen curving along the track set into the granite in the distance
A waterfall on the Skagway River begins high up toward the center of the picture and continues to a spot where you can see it through the trees.
Crossing a bridge and looking down the valley

We were allowed to stand outside the passenger cars on the platforms at their fronts and rears during the journey, and out there the breeze was delightfully fresh and bracing and the views even more spectacular (on the trip back down the mountain, the noise from the brakes and their cooling fans was nearly deafening, however)! I was especially grateful for the fine weather with which we were blessed during the railway ride and that stayed with us through the evening’s dinner at a Skagway pub (their french fries were fantastic!).

[More photos with Saturday’s post]

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