(I got back to the room last night after dinner and just crashed - I was too tired to write and go through the photos. So here's what I should've written yesterday about our visit to Skagway.)
I really like this whole inside passage thing - the seas have been
so calm that not a creak is to be heard in our stateroom - most of
the time it's hard to tell that we're even moving!
As I said in my very abbreviated report yesterday, it was overcast
and raining lightly in Skagway when we arrived around 7:00. The
temperature was about 49.
Apparently lots of people had early excursions because Beach Blanket
was very busy - of course it didn't help that no one wanted to sit
outside! We spied James and Dave, two of our group, and asked if we
could join them, and enjoyed visiting with them.
Our tour met in the Walt Disney Theater, along with a number of
other groups. There were only 16 people on it, so that was very
nice. As I mentioned earlier, it was the Alpine Snowshoe and
White Pass Railway tour - they can only do this one for the
first few weeks of the season, until the snow melts, so we were
pretty fortunate to do it. There were two departures - the first
one took the early train, and then took the bus back, whereas we
took the bus first, and then the train back. Considering the
weather, I think we probably had better viewing from the train than
Anyway...before we left our three guides outfitted us with
waterproof overshoes - these went on over our shoes, and had a thick
rubber sole and a waterproof fabric upper that came up several
inches above the ankle. They worked really well - we need to try to
find some to use with our snowshoes! I have to say I was very
impressed with the quality and selection of the equipment they
had for us - there were rain pants and waterproof shells (which Lee
and I didn't need since we had our own), and they also had gloves,
hats, and sunglasses. There was also a large "bum bag" for
everyone, already packed with snacks and water. (Since we had our
own packs we took the snacks and water.) They were very conscientious
about making sure that everyone was warm and comfortable. And of
course they provided the snowshoes and hiking poles as well.
We had a nice 30-minute or so bus ride to Fraser, British Columbia.
One thing about this tour - it goes into Canada, so you MUST have
your passport - they checked them when we went into Canada, and
again when we returned to Skagway. Our driver was a young woman,
which is rather unusual, and she was excellent.
We reached Fraser just as the train was arriving, though we had time
for the all-important restroom stop before we boarded! Actually,
once we boarded we sat there for at least 30 minutes before the
train left. But that was ok - it gave our guides time to pass out
the rain pants and shells and bum bags, and time to set up the
"lunch bar" where we could make ourselves a sandwich or two. There
was bread, ham, turkey, and cheese, with mustard and mayo, and also
peanut butter and jelly and tabasco sauce. Dylan, who seemed to
be the one in charge (and he was really a kick - but they were all
great guys), encouraged people to make a couple of Alaskan specials -
peanut butter and tabasco and turkey and jelly. Lee did a half
sandwich of each - he said the peanut butter and tabasco was quite
good! They also had baby carrots and celery sticks for us.
Here's a view from the train stop, where the clouds had lifted
enough that we could see the top of the mountain. And those are
Canada geese out on the water.
Everything was put away by the time the train pulled out, which was
good, because we only had about a 10 minute ride to the starting
point for our snowshoe trek. The train stopped and we got off -
there's an old boxcar there that a lot of groups use for storage.
There was a LOT of snow up there, and it was actually snowlng
lightly at the time (but thankfully very little wind). Everyone got
their snowshoes and poles, and the guys helped most people put them
on (Lee and I have snowshoed before, so we were pretty
self-sufficient). I think Lee and I were the only ones who had
snowshoed before, but really, all you do is walk with your feet
further apart than usual.
All of the guides were carrying large and very heavy packs, since
they were carrying food and water and extras of just about
everything in case there was some kind of problem. Dylan was
leading, and since the snow was pretty soft, there were times that
he would "posthole" and even with the snowshoes on would sink down
2-3'. Oh, and did I mention that he was wearing SHORTS???? (Native
Alaskan, born in Juneau.) Anyway...he did a good job making sure he
had a solid path for the rest of us to follow, so for the most part
we didn't posthole.
Even though no one else in our group had been on snowshoes before
they all did very well, and everyone was having a great time. Dylan
set a steady pace, and though we got spread out a bit, everyone kept
up well. He stopped occasionally to point something out, or to let
us do something like go sliding down a big hill - since we were all
wearing slick rain pants that was fun.
The clouds hadn't lifted like I hoped they would, but every once in
a while we could see some of the snow-covered peaks, and we had a
little bit of sunshine. It was still really a wonderful day. Not
nearly as cold as I had thought - I had to take off my heavy jacket
after a while, so I had a shirt and wool sweater on, and I was very
comfortable while I was moving. We stopped for lunch after about 90
minutes, and I had to put the jacket back on. Unfortunately the
clouds had descended by then so it wasn't a very scenic lunch.
Our guides had another surprise for us - they were all carrying
thermoses of hot water (and it was still pretty hot!), so they
offered us packets of instant hot cocoa, cider, or yes, hot Tang.
For the really adventurous (must be another Alaska thing) you could
combine the Tang and cocoa - they called it a "chocang". I'm not
sure anyone took them up on that one. Later on we stopped for some
"yellow snow" - snow with lemon Gatorade powder poured on it.
Sometimes it's ok to eat yellow snow. :-)
We went probably about two miles in the three hours that we were
out, but we had quite a few stops. It was a much more adventurous
excursion than I was expecting - not that we did anything dangerous,
but it wasn't as tame as it could have been. There were only 16
people in our group, which was a nice number - Dylan said that's the
maximum group size they usually do. I think everyone had a wonderful,
time, and it was a good group of people. I can't say enough about
our guides - they were just awesome. Very knowledgeable, helpful,
and fun to be with. Even if they all had different ideas on which
direction we should go. :-)
The sun was breaking through a little bit towards the end of our trek and we could see the tops of some of the peaks around us.
We were supposed to be back at the box car for the train to pick us
up at 2:15 - but the train didn't show up until 3:05. That gave us
time for things like a group photo, though.
And we had a wildlife sighting - a ptarmigan, which is the state
bird of Alaska. The guys called them "snow chickens", though.
We were happy to see the train pull up!
We had a train car just for our party, and Dylan did a great job
pointing things out as we went along. Unfortunately I didn't get
any really great photos, and it was such a gray day anyway.
Here's the flags at the border.
And here's the old trestle bridge - we came across a newer one.
We could go out on the platform behind the car, but it was kinda
cold out there.
Going around a curve. At one point we could look out and see the
Wonder docked down at Skagway - but that pic didn't come out very
We got back into Skagway about 4:30, and since we didn't have to be
back onboard the ship until 7:30, that gave us time to explore the
town a little bit. Not that there was much of the town to explore -
it's pretty small. About 8 blocks in one direction and 6 in the
other. We went to the Visitor Center for the Klondike Gold Rush
National Historic Park and saw the movie about the Klondike Gold
Rush and the Chilkoot and White Pass Trail. Yikes - those would-be
miners endured a lot!!!
We wandered around town and saw some of the old buildings - the
front of this one is all decorated with driftwood.
Very old-fashioned looking - like something out of the old West, rather than Alaska.
On the rocks walls next to the harbor are all of these painted rock
signs - some of them are ads for businesses, but a lot of them are
for cruise ships - apparently it's somewhat of a tradition for a
cruise ship line to paint their logo the first time they go into
port. No sign of the mouse yet, though!
We pulled out of port about 8:00 - as you can see it was a beautiful
evening! Sunset was the latest of our entire trip - 9:07 p.m.
(It's also the furthest north we are going to go.)
Our towel animal was a cool sea turtle.
I'm a day behind now, but I'll tell you that we had a wonderful day
in Juneau - we had SUNSHINE for most of the day!!! The people in
Juneau thanked us for bringing the good weather. We've really been
very lucky these last 10 days! This is the Mendenhall Glacier. I'll have more about our day in Juneau tomorrow. We have a relatively short day in Ketchikan, so maybe I'll "ketch" up. :-)
The previous post in this blog was Pacific Northwest. I went too!.
The next post in this blog is Pacific Northwest and Alaska Cruise - Day 11 - Juneau.