07 September 2010

Oh how I love thee, but WHY?

There is something about you...yes, on my first visit I could not quite put my finger on what it was, but I have it now! You are rich! Rich in nature! Rich in beauty! Rich in peace! Rich in culture! Rich in shopping! Rich in "gold"! Rich in stories!

There you sit at the head of Lynn Canal, which really is not a canal at all but a natural made fjord. See you start off fooling me from the very beginning. But there you are, I can see you as I approach. There is a distinctive "downtown". Rows of buildings lined up against the street. But still something is different. When I first step onto your land. I look around. There is a mountain will paintings to my right. Paintings of what? Yes, that's it paintings from crew members whose ships docked in your port and advertisements from stores that are probably long gone from your town.

And to the left and straight ahead...there you lie, Skaguay or Skagway as you are called in "modern times". We are here at the mouth of Broadway, walking up your streets heading first to what I see on the left, the Alaska t shirt company. This store, while not rich in Skagway heritage, is rich in savings. I hope to make you my first stop. On the right is the great statue for the Klondikers.
The who? The Klondikers! What's that? They are the people who sought out Alaska during the Gold Rush of the Yukon (1896). The prospective "millionaires" would board a ship and head up Lynn Canal. It was NOT a smooth journey as the canal was full of bergs, fierce winds and they were not really sailing under the best of conditions. The hopefuls landed in Skagway to begin a trek over the mountains. It was to be a 500 mile trek up the mountains into Canada's Yukon territory. While that doesn't sound so bad, it was. The mounted police did not care that you wanted to come to their country to "strike it rich", but they were NOT going to care for you. So each prospector had to carry with him 1,000 pounds of supplies (or a years supply of goods). Yeah, that is typed right ONE THOUSAND POUNDS! "The Golden Staircase" (as it was known) was a constant line of prospectors. If you stepped out of line you would have to wait 15 minutes or so to regain a spot in the trek.

This trek proved to be deadly for some (above is pictured Dead Horse Trail) , and not as rewarding for the others. Some decided that there was too much at stake and took up residence in Skagway instead. They sold the supplies needed, opened saloons and brothels, and one guy by the name of Soapy Smith decided to run the place as a mob city. He was crooked, a thief, and just all around NOT a good guy, but a very interesting read...I recommend you read about him.

Back to the future....behind the famous Klondikers is the White Pass and Yukon Railway. This railroad is a narrow gauge train that will parallel the "White Pass Trail" that the Klondikers took. Construction began in 1898 with a goal in mind of making it easier for the prospectors to get into the Yukon territory and up to Dawson City. The WP&YR today is run as a tourist attraction and what an attraction it is. I have been on the railway twice and have learned so much both times. The tour leaves right from the cruise docks. There are many tours that you can choose from. The most popular goes to the summit and back, then there are some that go into Canada and one that will take you into Whitehorse, BC.

The views are spectacular and because you parallel the White Pass trail you will get to see many of the sights seen in Gold Rush days. Like the "trail of 98", "Black Cross Rock", the old depot spots and a bridge that will make you cringe.

This is an amazing trek, the most popular inside passage excursion and well worth the $100 plus you will spend....save your money now!

When you get back to town it is time to explore some more. The Skaguay News depot is a wonderful place to pick up information on the Gold Rush, Klondikers, old newspapers, or even today's paper. There is even a cross stitch store in town! YEAH, I could not believe it either. Check it out! You can get gourmet cupcakes (get them fast when they sell out they close), you can check out Soapy Smith's life, visit tons of jewelry stores....but there are some must dos.

AB Hall---The Arctic Brotherhood Hall. There are over 10,000 pieces of driftwood nailed to the facade of the building and then have been there since gold rush days. This building will grab your attention FAST!! It was a social place for miners in its hey day, now it is a visitors center.

There is a lovely Russian facade on one of the jewelry stores, and wonderful mouth watering fudge at the Alaskan Fudge Company (wish I could have more of the vanilla glacier fudge).

Walk around more and you will see the National Park (please visit here), Skagway river, and walk off Broadway to see how the locals live. You can visit the market...the market is interesting. The food comes in on a barge and the grocery is stocked. Prices are HIGH! As the week progress, prices go lower as the perishables are starting to go bad. Canned good will escalate in price because folks are running out of fresh food and need to eat. Yeah, that's right the food barge comes in once a week! We were told, as the week progresses you take a chance on only eating canned items if you wait. We saw chopped sirloin for $9.00 per pound.

Well Skagway, I have covered most of your 7 blocks in just a few short minutes. For those of you given the chance explore this quaint little mining town and all she has to offer. I am sure that you will NOT be disappointed.