It is only about 100 miles by sea from Juneau to Skagway so our captain was not in any hurry as we cruised along.
Skagway is also a popular cruise port in Alaska and, as a result, there were several other cruise ships in town today. The town of Skagway is built along the South bank of the Skagway River. The climate is strongly influenced by the ocean. Despite the fact that is about the same latitude as Chirchill, it is not very cold in the winter. Mind you, it is not very warm in the summer either.
The Millennium docked at the secondary cruise ship dock and so it was a bit of a walk into town. The path to town took us past several shops and eateries as well as past some beautiful floral displays.
Skagway was the start of the main route to the gold field in the Yukon. Shortly after the gold rush began, the White Pass and Yukon Railroad was built to carry prospectors and their gear up to the gold fields. Nancy and Gerry posed with one of the original hand-pumped jiggers used to transport rail workers along the line. Since this area receives a lot of snow in the winter, the railroad used huge snow blowers to keep the tracks clear.
The main street of Skagway is lined with many shops to cater to the needs of the 10,000 or so cruise ship passengers that arrive each day. The sets of Russian Matryoshka Dolls for sale in many of the shops reminds us of the fact that Alaska used to belong to Russia until it was purched by the United States on March 30, 1867 for the sum of $7.2 million.
Several of the shops also featured hand-decorated eggs. There were many companies offering tours of Skagway and/or the surrounding area using modern or more primitive means of transportation.
The Trail was one of Skagway’s major hotels during the gold rush days. The centennial sculpture depicts a member of the Tingit tribe that had controlled the Chilkoot Trail and its passes for thousands of years and a 30 year old stampeder, just off a ship from Puget Sound, who is anxious to hit the trail and gather the gold at the end of the trail.
The White Pass and Yukon Railroad used modern diesel engines and restored passenger cars. Since the ride up to White Pass is very popular, there are several trains a day up to the pass. The engine for the one that services downtown splts off from the rest of the cars during unloading and loading so it doesn’t block Main Street. The final photo shows Alice and Larry being taken for a ride – around town. Actually, all four of us took the tour.
Our horse and driver turned off the main street and we came to the McCabe College building. It was built in 1899 using native granite. This Methodist college was Alaska’s first institute of higher education. Because of financial problems the school closed after only three terms. From 1901 until 1956 it served as the U.S.Court House. It currently houses the Skagway Museum and City Hall. A little further along we passed the modest home of a year-round resident.
Many of the homes in Skagway are either wholly or partly rented out to people who live in the lower 48 states during the winter and come to Skagway in the spring and summer to work in the tourist trade. Since the climate is moderate and there is a lot of moisture, it is easy to grow lovely flowers. It is traditional for local businesses to advertize by painting signs and slogans on the cliff near the town.
There are a wide variety of shops. Here is a rock and gem shop. There is a very well stocked quilt shop that featured many quilts with nature or aquatic themes.
Many of the shops had nice planters of flowers. On the way back to the ship we passed this trap on a creek. It is used to count the number of salmon migrating up or down the stream. We also passed this bright red VW camper van that had come north either driving along the Alaska highway or riding on a ferry plying the Marine highway.
Someone found a novel use for an old backpack – they used it as a planter. As the ship left Skagway we passed a waterfall and headed north where the mountains were heavily snow-covered – even at the beginning of August.
The evening’s performance was a high energy show, Boogie Wonderland, performed by the ship’s singers and dancers.