Ok, I forgot to write about Skagway… It’s Mrs Bear’s fault. While less stressed than she, I guess I was pretty zoned out. Skagway was our third Port-of-call, and the first full day after her evaluation in Juneau. And I just skipped over it…So let’s start from the beginning.
To cruise to Skagway, we actually turned northeast from Juneau, and headed up the narrow inlets to the northern most fjord on the inside passage. The pics above were taken on the way into Skagway…Absolutely beautiful sail. Let me digress a moment to say that taking the cruise provides a view of Alaska far different, but ever bit as beautiful, as spending time in the interior. Not as many animals or Denali, but endless mountain vistas along the shorelines with a glacier now and then.
In 1898, Skagway was the most populated city in Alaska with a population of about 30,000. Mostly, prospectors, about a thousand each month, came to Skagway to begin their quest for gold. But it was just the beginning… They then began a 500 mile hike over mountains and through high passes to the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon Territories. This boom led to the construction of trams and railroads to aid the wealthy prospectors on this journey. But as quickly as the town grew up, the gold played out and Skagway became a skeleton of itself.
Today, about 1000 people live in Skagway with an influx of 1000 more during summer months. This is because nearly 1,000,000 people visit Skagway each year!!! While a traveler can drive to Skagway via the Alcan Highway, almost all come in on Cruise Ships. The day we visited, there were an additional 2500 visitors from a mega ship.
Skagway’s central town contained the original buildings from the gold rush era. Our guides told us that Skagway has never had a fire. The boardwalks were original, as were the hotels and bars. The original narrow-gauge train still runs (albeit with newer engines) and takes tourists on a 3000+ foot ascent in about five miles of distance. It looked like a great ride, but it will have to wait until my next visit.
My chosen activity of the day was a zip line course in the rainforest. We actually paralleled the train driving up the pass, and got within 15 miles of Whitehorse, BC. I am not a big fan of heights, but I love zip lining. Maybe it’s the fact that the ground is harder to see through the trees…or maybe it’s the knowledge of the multiple safety clips, but I’ve never felt seriously anxious.
UNTIL TODAY… These adventurous people decided to build in a ropes course to get to the first line…I guess they thought a stair system would be boring. It’s not super easy to see, but there are three parts. I particularly liked the second where you put your feet in rope loops while holding onto cables on either side with your hands. This allowed a completely unobstructed view of the ground far, far below!! But if these other gomers, who had trouble just walking up the he mountain path, can do it, I’m not chickening out. The third part was a balance beam with cable guides…So much more fun. They asked me to announce my name and life preferences while navigating these obstacles…I told them I had no name until back on treea firma
The actual zip lines were very cool and done too soon. And then it was back, with a request to be dropped off in town. The boardwalks were worn down soft, and the ghosts seemed to be circling the whore houses, saloons, and boarding houses. I really liked the spirit of Skagway…Fairbanks had gold mining history, but this town was the motherlode.
A couple more more pics to end: The fjords leading into and out of Skagway, from the ship…