Saturday, September 6, 2008
It was foggy and drizzly when we pulled into Skagway on Friday morning. Across from the docks, the rocky mountainside was painted with signs and logos from many ships which have sailed into this port. We found out later that it has been a tradition from the early 1900’s that each ship’s maiden voyage to Skagway is commemorated this way.
We haven’t signed up for any shore excursions or tours on this trip since we like to explore on our own and don’t necessarily want to spend a bunch of money so someone else can show us exactly what we could have seen by ourselves. We walked into Skagway and stopped in at the White Pass and Yukon Railroad to see if we could get on the afternoon train. There were seats available and we were told it would not sell out today so we decided to spend some time walking around town first. Skagway is at the northern tip of the Inside Passage and takes its name from the Tlingit word “skagua,” which means “the place where the north wind blows.” Only 850 people live here year round. It didn’t take long to walk the streets! We stopped in the Post Office, in a chocolate shop (where we bought a snack and talked politics with the guy behind the counter), and in a replica of an old saloon (where Rich set off the alarm by jumping over the railing to pose next to the mannequins at the bar). One thing we have noticed on our two cruises is the proliferation of diamond stores in every port. Now why in the world would anyone come to Alaska to buy diamonds? It’s a little sad to see these neat historic towns turn into touristy fake versions of themselves as they once were. I suppose it is a double edged sword as the tourist industry often keeps these little places alive, but at the same time, they lose their identity as anything but a tourist stop.
At 12:45, we loaded up on the train for our 3.5 hour excursion from Skagway to the summit of the White Pass, a 2865 foot elevation. During the Klondike gold rush days over a century ago, the railroad was blasted through the mountains in 26 months; ironically, by the time the railroad was finished, so was the biggest part of the gold rush. Over 35,000 men worked on the railway and 35 died during construction. Our train ride was pretty exciting, with beautiful scenery, scary trestles, dark tunnels and historic sights along the way. And we didn’t have to pay the cruise line an extra fee for scheduling the excursion for us. LOL
We arrived back on the ship in the early evening and took it easy for the rest of the night, other than my frustration over the internet getting in the way of my fun. haha