Throughout the years Alaska is steeped rich in history and no place more so than Skagway. This is a small town, with only 850 year round residents, that has preserved and lives off its reputation from over a century ago. Visiting Skagway is stepping back to the late 1890’s when the town was the bustling gateway to the gold rush of 1898 in the Yukon Territory.
Most of the buildings, built in the late 1890’s or early part of the 20th century are still standing. Their original intended use long gone but conveniently converted for the tourist trade to what appears to be a staggering 75% jewelry stores, the other 25% souvenir stores. Wooden sidewalks line both sides of the streets. The local visitors bureau has people dressed in period clothing in the streets dispensing directions and information to anyone asking.
The most famous building in town is the Red Onion Saloon. As in any old western town, this was the local bar and house of ill-repute. Another landmark is the AB building, Alaska Brotherhood, built in 1899, the exterior walls decorated with thousands of pieces of driftwood.
Several excursions have an ‘old time’ theme. Tour the city in a 1927 yellow bus, the driver and narator dressed in 20’s outfits. Be entertained at an old fashioned melodrama show, Days of ‘98. Go gold panning at Liarsville Trail Camp and show and so much more.
The most popular excursion is the narrow gauge train ride from Skagway to the summit on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad. The train hugs the sides of the mountains and crossed deep ravines in vintage rail cars. This is possibly the most scenic railroad in the world.
Having previously taken the W.P. & Y. RR, we decided to take a mini-bus tour through the wilderness and into the Yukon Territory in Canada. The road taken is the only one connecting Skagway with the outside world, going through part ofCanada before connecting with the Alaska Highway. From Skagway to Seattle is a 1600 mile trip. This road was not built until the early 70’s.
On our journey into the Yukon we stopped at several waterfalls for photo opps. At one such stop there was a small rainbow hovering above a pond that the waterfall splashed into. Close enough to touch but no pot of gold at the base of the rainbow unfortunately.
The views of several glaciers, rugged peaks, and valleys far below the road running to the sea was breath-taking. At one point we could see the long winding train tugging up the side of the mountains across the valley from our view point. The railroad tracks were laid on the south side of the valley with the highway on the north side of the valley.
We crossed a very unusual suspension bridge as we continued onto the White Pass summit. A short distance from the summit we crossed the Canadian border and shortly after that we arrived at a scenic vista point. Before us lay a barren, windy, wide plateau; the beginning of the Yukon Territory.
This excursion enabled us to experience a small portion of the rugged wilderness and interior of Alaska.
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Ole Nordhavn, Cruise Holidays, “your personal cruise expert.”
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