This is the historic route that the stampeders took to get to the gold fields, when the track was built in 1900. The train ride was wonderful. Out one side of the train you could see waterfalls and cascades all along the side of the mountain, and out the other side of the train you got great views of the river down in a deep valley, and beautiful views of mountains.
The turnaround point was just past the border of the United States and Canada, at a place called Summit Lake.
There were five flags at the summit: US, Alaska, Canada, British Columbia, and Yukon. At the summit, there was snow everywhere, and the lake was frozen. The tour guide on the train told us that at the end of the summer, they have all of their first year employees jump into the lake in their swimsuits. I hope that for their sake it warms up at least a little bit before then! The train ride was very enjoyable, and we got some great pictures! My favorite views were when we could see the engine up ahead on a curve in the tracks, with the mountains in the background.
After the train ride, we walked back to the motorhome to have lunch, and then headed into downtown Skagway.
Skagway is mostly a cruise ship town, so there are shops and stores all along the streets. We started first at the Klondike Goldrush Visitor Center. It was neat to come to this park because there is another part of the Klondike Goldrush NP in Seattle, Washington that we visited several years ago. It was great to finally get to see the other half! We stamped our passports (always a "must-do" at a National Park), got some souvenirs, and then watched two neat movies. One of the movies was all about hiking the Chilkoot Trail in modern times, which was very interesting to hear about all of the rules and different parts of the trail. The other movie was about the Klondike Goldrush, back in the 1890's. It's amazing how much people did just for a small chance of finding gold. There were two trails they could pick between: The Chilkoot and White Pass.
The Chilkoot was steeper, but White Pass was longer. Both were very difficult. And because of the Mounties' requirement on the minimum amount of food you had to bring with you, many miners had to hike the trail multiple times.
One sign we read said that many miners walked over 1,000 miles to get themselves and all their gear over a 33 mile trail. And then there was avalanche danger in early spring. One of the neat things we heard was that nearly everyone who went up to the gold fields, even though they didn't strike it rich, said the experience was well worth it, and if they had a chance to do it over, they would still make the journey.
That reminds me of part of Robert Service's poem: The Spell of the Yukon:
I wanted the gold, and I got it —
Came out with a fortune last fall, —
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn't all.
I know for me, at least, the scenery is much better than gold!! Skagway kind of reminds me of Silverton, Colorado. It is small, a lot of the buildings look historic,
there is a train in the middle of town, and there are snow-covered mountains surrounding the town. The only difference: is that there is an inlet of the ocean coming right up to the town! There is room for 4 cruise ships at a time to dock in Skagway!
After we were finished with the National Park, we walked along the streets in Skagway. We went in several shops, and got some souvenirs. There were several gift shops, but one stood out from all of the rest because of how BIG it was! They had everything, and lots of everything, and the registers were like those you see in grocery stores. I had never seen cash registers like that in a gift shop before. My two favorite stores were the Christmas Shop and the Quilt Shop. The Christmas Shop had lots of neat ornaments, and the Quilt Shop had awesome fabric! I am a quilter, and I love fabric, so this was a great shop for me. (Although it is also a bit dangerous, because it was easy to find LOTS of fabric and quilt kits that I wanted!) Almost all of the fabric had something to do with Alaska. There was fabric with wildlife, scenery, maps, northern lights, and flowers, all from Alaska! (Including my favorite flower: Fireweed! You should look it up! It is beautiful! I have never seen it growing wild yet, but I really want to!)
Once we were done shopping and walking around town, we went over to board our ferry. We took the Alaska Marine Highway System over to Haines.
The Marine Highway System is kind of like a very small cruise ship and a water taxi put together. The MHS goes all throughout the Inside Passage, and you can get off at any of the stops. It's a really nice ferry. There are several viewing areas, both inside and outside; a restaurant, cafe, and snack shop; a recliner lounge/theater; a gift shop; an arcade; and other places that we didn't have time to go see. Our trip from Skagway to Haines only took about ninety minutes, but you could also travel a long distance, and spend up to a few days on the ferry. If you are going to be on the ferry for a long time - more than a day, at least - there are rooms you can rent on the ferry, or you can pitch a tent on the outside decks.
We enjoyed our time on the ferry, and saw some amazing views along the way. There were tall, snowcovered mountains rising right up right at the waters' edge.
And at one point, we even saw a whale! We were looking out behind the boat, when we suddenly see some water spray in the air.
We watched in the same spot for a while longer, and then we saw another spout of water, and this time a fin also! I think it was a Humpback, and I know that it was our first marine wildlife we've seen on the trip!
When we got to Haines, we drove down to a State Park campground. Our campsite was right next to Chilkoot Lake, with picture perfect reflections of the mountains! Driving down into the campground, we saw all of these signs warning us that we were entering bear territory, and to be cautious!! Grizzlies like to fish in the rivers around the campground, so they say this is a good place to see them. It would be really neat to see a grizzly bear!! I hope we do! (But we for sure didn't send my Dad outside to cook hamburgers on the grill for dinner!) We have a beautiful campsite tonight! I'm not sure which is my favorite campsite so far; they have all been wonderful!
We spent most of our day today in Skagway, Alaska. We woke up early and walked over to the train depot, ready to board a train on the White Pass & Yukon Railroad.