August 12, 845 AM, Leaving Skagway, 46 degrees and raining.
@ 5904 miles
Tuesday was a “road day” We left Dawson City and drove … miles to Skagway, a 9+ hour drive. Again, the scenery was beautiful, we even drove past Lake Laberge!! The Koch family will recognize that name. The rest of you need to read (or hear) The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service, the Yukon Poet. We missed getting to his cabin in Dawson City, next time!
After a long day in the truck, and another trip thru customs, we arrived at Skagway & camped at Mountain View Campground – right next to the railroad tracks (again!) Fixed dinner and took a walk after a long day in the car. Most stores were closed by the time we walked “downtown”. Skaway is a quaint little town with wooden sidewalks. It’s about 7 blocks long and 4 blocks wide! The town’s current purpose seems to be catering to cruise ships. On Wednesday night we watched 3 ships leave, only to be replaced by 3 more by Thursday morning. While walking back we heard a splash in the small stream next to the sidewalk. Salmon!
From the fall of 1897 until the spring of 1899 it was the beginning of the White Pass Trail leading to Dawson City and the Klondike Gold Rush. There’s soooo much history here! The miners made their was to Skagway via ship, from San Fransciso, Vancouver, etc. and then faced 100 miles or so hiking on either the Chilkoot Trail or the White Pass Trail. After that, they boarded or built boats to float up the Yukon River to Dawson City.
The White Pass Trail laws known as a trail for pack horses and left from Skagway, the Chilkoot Trail was a hiking trail and left from Dyea, just over the hill. Skagway was particularly violent and corrupt town, many miners lost their newfound fortunes there before they return home. The stories about these people are incredible.
Anyway, back to our trip! Wednesday morning we were awakened by the trains going into town, The White Pass & Yukon Railroad runs tours in and out of town as well as passenger trails up to Whitehorse, YT. Fortunately they don’t begin for 7 AM and are finished by about 7 at night. On Thursday we walked into town to sample the shops – a great quilt shop and lots of souvenir shops, little bars, etc. During the Gold Rush, there were 81 bars in this town. Now there are at least 81 jewelry stores!!! I guess cruise ship people buy lots of jewelry. In the late afternoon, we decided hike a trail that Lowell & I had seen not too far from our campground. Someone in town told us it was an easy walk to a pretty lake. Wellllllll, it was a mile and a half – almost all UP! Actually it wasn’t terrible, just more climbing than we expected. But it was a beautiful lake, nice views of town from the beginning of the trail and a great workout. When we got down we headed straight to the Red Onion for pizza and beer. Actually, Jean and I had the best margaritas of the trip at this place. Fun little spot with bedpans and portraits of the “Good Times Girls” decorating the walls! While we were walking back to the RV Park, we watched the salmon working like crazy to get up the stream for spawning. These were Pink Salmon or Humpies. Boy they looked rough!! It also started raining…
On Thursday morning, Lowell and I took the White Pass & Yukon Route train to Summit Pass. Jean and Bob took that trip when they were here in 2003. The rain was still coming down and the clouds were hanging low, but it was really kind of a cool train ride. Lots of historic tidbits and some (more) amazing views, the clouds even added a mystical air to the mountains. After lunch we headed downtown again and checked out several mining museums that are part of the Klondike National Park. We took in a musical “the Show of 98” that gave us a little more background about Skagway and Soapy Smith. On to dinner at the Skagway Brewery – great little microbrewery. Finished the evening with a quick trip to the Gold Rush Cemetery. The last resting place of good guys & bad guys, miners and their families.
We spent our last night in Skagway playing cards and washing clothes. It rained all day Thursday and most of the night. By the time we left Skagway Friday morning, the rain had mostly stopped.
Friday’s drive was a long one – Skagway to Liard River Hot Springs. We passed out of the magnificent mountains of Skagway, into and out of the Canadian Rockies. Bears and buffalo wandered the roadways toward evening. In fact there were 2 herds of buffalo that were on the road just before our camp! Probably a couple hundred wandering all over the road and ditches.
We are on the way home now, so we’ll have long days of driving. There is no Internet connection at Liard, so I’m not sure when this will get posted. (No trains here either, however a helicopter did land in the parking lot to refuel!)
Saturday – 562 miles from Liard River to Grande Prairie, long, but continuing beautiful scenery. As we left the campground we saw a few more buffalo – and one decided to cross the bridge right in front of us…SLOWLY!! We got to Grande Prairie’s Wal-Mart about 10, just as a huge thunder and rainstorm rolled in.
Sunday - Another long day and today the scenery changed. We are now on the Canadian prairie, which certainly is pretty in it’s own right, but coming from the majestic Alaskan mountains and Northern Rockies, the ride is kind of boring. We stopped in Edmonton for lunch and met Ed and Ardyth – friends from Casa Grande. It was so nice to see them and catch up a bit. Stopped at North Battleford tonight about 9:30. We ran into WallyWorld before it closed and got ice cream for dinner tonight!! After another game of Farkel and one of Hand & Foot, it’s time to crash. We have a thousand miles to go, so two long days of driving. We plan to stop at McDonald’s for breakfast and get this posted, so that you can read it before we get home!
It’s been a spectacular 5 weeks. Truly the trip of a lifetime. However, now that we are on the way home I think we are all ready to get home to see our kids and grandkids & sleep in our own beds again!