What a pretty name... Skagway!
Trip Start Jun 28, 2003
15Trip End Aug 04, 2003
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
The sun didn't go down til just past 11pm. It set in the northwest. The streetlights came on at 11:20pm. I was reading a book at my campsite unaided by any artificial light at midnight. It seems so strange. It doesn't keep me from sleeping however. I slept like a baby after that long hike up the mountain.
Monday, July 7th - Latitude: 60 degrees North
A McBiscuit Digression: I went to McDonald's for breakfast
There was no driving on this day! Hip hip hooray!
This of course meant lots of walking and my thighs were already tender from the previous day's mountain trek. Everyone please stop thinking about my tender thighs now. Thank you.
I first stopped in at The McBride Museum. This museum tries to tell the whole Yukon story and mostly succeeds in its attempt. Of course it concentrates on the gold mining but there is also a good exhibit on other natural minerals and crystals that can be found in the territory. As well, they have a large display of stuffed wildlife. Outside the museum they have some neat things like an original steam engine from the White Pass Railroad, plenty of mining equipment, and a couple of original log buildings including the one that belonged to Sam McGee
You can also do some of your own gold-panning at The McBride. You are given a pan full of dirt and a tub full of water. You put some water in the pan and gently shift the pan back in forth. Since the gold is much heavier than the rest of the rocks and gravel it sinks to the bottom so you pour out the top of the dirt and continue this process until you ar just down to the gold. I found 5 nice flakes of gold in my pan and a lot of gold dust (nothing to retire on unfortunately). I suspect that the dirt in the pan is salted with gold so that everyone goes away a winner. If you pay an extra 5 bucks who get to keep the gold you pan.
After a hearty lunch of Stagg's Private Reserve Canned Chili I visited the Beringia Interpretive Centre. This is a great place to go if you're already sick of the amount of Klondike Gold Rush activities that have been offered everywhere you turn. Beringia was a continent that formed during the Ice Age. It includes Siberia, Alaska & the western Yukon (as well as the Bering Sea)
Although there is much to discuss regarding the weather and glaciation the Beringia Centre focuses on the mega-fauna that were alive at the time. It's those giant animals that puts the asses in the seats. You've probably already heard of the Mastodon and the Wooly Mammoth but there was also a giant beaver (9 feet long and 400 pounds), a wild horse, giant buffalo, and a huge ground sloth that used to roam this continent before man and the changing weather conspired to kill them off. Thre are many good models of these creatures' skeletons at the centre. It's interesting to note that the most of the fossil discoveries are made by miners.
There are other sites around Whitehorse to check out. I've included pictures of the Log Cabin Church, the SS Klondike, and the Log Cabin Skyscraper (4 stories). The Skyscraper actually has a bachelor apartment for rent on every floor. I was lucky enough to meet a resident who let me look at his place. Terribly small.
In the late afternoon I took a walk along the clay bluffs that overlook the city. You get a good view of the city, the surrounding mountains, the Yukon river, and the dam to the south that has tamed the Whitehorse rapids from the gold rush days.
For dinner I headed to the restaurant that has been voted the Yukon's best the past 4 years - Klondike Rib & Salmon. This place is a bit pricier than my usual choices while I'm on vacation but they offer a good selection of game meat and wanted to try some. I settled on the Caribou Stew and it was incredible. Caribou is very tender. Like beef but a bit saltier. I recommend getting the garlic mashed potatoes to go with it and the herb salad that comes with it is very tasty. The restaurant also makes it's own bannock bread and it's fantasic as well. Thick enough to mop up the remaining stew but not too heavy that it sits like a rock in your stomach.
There are a lot of German tourists here
In the evening I climbed the bluffs once again in an attempt to take some nice sunset photos of the city. I don't think I succeeded. It was too cloudy to get any good lighting on the city as well as the mountains behind it. The late sunset also makes me realize that I've resorted back to the days when I was 12 years old. When the streetlights come on that's when I know it's time for bed.
Tuesday, July 8th - Latitude: 59 degrees North
Actually I'm back in WHitehorse but today was a day-trip down to Skagway. I'll start this day's events in Skagway and then work back to Whitehorse. The weather was miserable so I didn't stop anywhere on the way southward so it was probably the fastest trip I've made on this whole vacation. As well, by doing things south to north I'm recreating the experience of the gold-seekers who trudged up from Skagway in 1898.
Skagway sits in a beautiful inlet on the panhandle of Alaska. In 1899 it was the first incorporated city in Alaska. It's a gorgeous townsite. The town itself lives off of tourism so naturally it's a bit too touristy for my liking
Another gamey meal: Reindeer sausage. A little Rudolph in every bite!
Still Skagway is worth your time should you be in the area. Like I said the area is absolutely gorgeous. There are activities to do away from the downtown area as well. There are a number of tour operators that offer trips by bus, train, bike, helicopter, boat and dog-sled over the surrounding countryside
I chose to visit Skagway's Gold Rush cemetery. It's quite scenic but the old wooden markers are gradually being replaced by new ones that take away from the charm. Still you can visit the grave of Jefferson "Soapy" Smith, the man who ran the town. Soapy was a gangster as well as Skagway's civic leader. He ran an immense crime syndicate but he was also considered one of Skagway's leading citizens. He's considered the man that built the town. Some vigilantes had had enough of Soapy's double-dealings and he was killed in a shoot-out. His killer, Frank Reid, also died in the same gunfight. Reid is the man who actually surveyed the townsite. It's not often you find a town where it's two leading citizens killed each other.
After that I headed over to the Dyea Historic Site. Dyea was a town on the opposite side of the inlet from Skagway. It was also the opposite in that law & order prevailed in the town. Dyea was the entrance to the Chilkoot trail into Canada while Skagway was the entrance to the White Pass.
Dyea no longer exists but there is a park on the former townsite. You can find a couple of collapsed buildings and the only remaining false front from the 1890s
Even if you're not into history the drive over to Dyea is worth it. I'd give me left nut for just one chance to drive that road being 100% sure no one was coming the other way. It's a wild twisty dirt track that clings to a cliffside. One wrong move and you're either plowing into a rockface or plunging into the drink.
My trip to Skagway only took about 2 hours. Since I was sight-seeing on the way back to Whitehorse it took me 3 hours and 45 minutes. Yes, there is a multitude of things to see. I think I went through 4 rolls of film today.
Immediately out of Skagway you start to climb up The Deadhorse Trail along White Pass. The trail was named due to the smell of the rotting carcasses of horse's that could not survive the climb into the mountains. Either they died of exhaustion or fell off the mountainside. There are a number of scenic pull-outs along the road and I think I used all of them
After passing by the American Customs house (the Canadian one is still 20 minutes down the road) there is a historic site for the former site of Log Cabin. This marks the end of the Chilkoot trail out of Dyea. You can still hike the trail and Log Cabin is where you should be arranged to be picked up once you are finished.
Then you enter Tormented Valley. The locals all call it the "moonscape" but I like Tormented Valley better. This valley is windswept and cold so very little grows here. What does grow is small and twisted by the wind. The small trees usually only have branches on one side of their trunks. It is in Tormented Valley where you'll reach Canadian Customs.
The next things besides mountains and lakes that you'll come across is the Venus Mine. Here you can find the remains of an old mine on the side of a hill. There is still a huge mill right at the roadside
Carcross the only town between Whitehorse and Skagway along the Klondike highway. I didn't stop in for a visit although the town looks like it has some nice eccentricities. I only stopped for the Carcross desert. This 2 acre patch of sand is affectionately known as the smallest desert in the world. It's the bottom of a dried-up lake but the area is too windy for much vegetation to take hold. The picture I've provided shows pretty much the whole desert.
I bypassed Emerald Lake as well. It's pretty but I've seen enough blue-green lakes for now.
My final stop was Robinson's Roadhouse. This was a stop along the White Pass & Yukon Railway. The old logs buildings are still standing (but barely) and the light hits it perfectly in the early evening for some great photos. Unfortunately, I didn't bring the digital camera along with me to this wreck as I had thought that there wouldn't be much to photograph
Unfortunately I didn't make it back to Whitehorse in time to have dinner at The Deli: Your Meating Place so I grabbed a sub instead. Just plain old turkey. Like back home.
I'd like to shout out some Mad Props to the Wired Cabin for their dedication in keeping their internet connections available even as they moved locations. They didn't even get mad at me when I blew one of their motherboards. Also, Mad Props should be given out to The Robert Service Campground. It's an excellent facility and I recommend it to anyone camping in the area, specifically tenters as the campground doesn't really cater to the RV Crowd. Fight the power!!