We've pulled into Skagway today – home of the White Pass Railway. By far, this is the coldest port of call. Skagway is known for its year-round blustery north wind. Brrrr! We ended up on the Yukon Trail tour with mom & dad after our chosen tour was cancelled due to lack of participation. We were supposed to have visited the local brewery, panned for gold, and ridden the train. Instead, we took the Jeep tour of the Yukon Trail and we were not disappointed in the least!
Just when you think the views cannot be any more beautiful, you see the Yukon. Wow! We were supposed to have had off-roading portions similar to our tour in Ketchikan, but the trails were still too icy & had not yet opened for the year. In my opinion, it worked out better b/c we could stop along our drive for good scenic photos & we got to see more of the views from the White Pass Highway rather than the logging trails.
Along the way, we saw a species of lupine. Why is that significant? Well, the Texas Bluebonnet is a species of lupine and the Yukon version looked virtually the same. We also passed through a tundra. The trees in this region do not get very tall – not even 3 ft. In the winter, temperatures plummet to 60 below with windspeeds reaching upwards of 120 mph. In some areas, the trees only grew branches on one side as a result of these conditions. It’s hard to imagine people trekking through this area during the Gold Rush! Brrrrrrr!
Speaking of the Gold Rush, one portion of the White Pass Trail is known as Dead Horse Gulch. If you're thinking that it got its name for a reason, well, you'd be right. During the Gold Rush, the prospectors were required to pack enough food and gear to hike the entire trail from beginning to end due to the lack of provisions along the way. Shoot - there were no provisions once you got on the trail. Not willing to forego a single ounce of precious cargo space, prospectors chose to load their horses and mules with provisions only for themselves and included nothing to sustain their pack animals. As their animals literally dropped dead on the trail, the prospectors moved their gear to the next animal in line and continued on the trail – leaving the dead horse or mule along the trail. Apparently, the stench was ridiculous as thousands upon thousands of animals littered the trail. It was a PETA nightmare! And certainly sad to hear about now. *sniff*
We crossed into Canada and visited the little town of Carcross. It was originally known as Caribu Crossing. The name changed, however, b/c there were several towns by this name, and the townspeople were continually having their mail misdirected & eventually grew tired of it. So the mayor petitioned to have the town’s name shortened to Carcross. Since then, they’ve had no trouble with the mail delivery.
We made our way back down the trail and stopped at an abandoned mining village – Conrad City. It was a bustling little city along the lake founded in 1905 by the famous prospector "Colonel" James Howard Conrad. The city was established to supply the Conrad Mining District and had a population of 500 people, six hotels, hardware and grocery stores, butcher, barber and blacksmith shops, several churches, a hospital, a newspaper, a telegraph office, a District mining recorder, and a Mountie detachment. The city's existence was short-lived, however, and it was all but abandoned in a few short years due to the mining district's poor ore quality, as well as high shipping expenses. Only a few structures remain standing in Conrad City today - a few houses and a small portion of the supply lift system.
Not too long after turning back onto the road, we spotted our first bear. A small adolescent black bear was feeding on the side of the road and was not much at all bothered by the passing traffic. Unfortunately, we were not able to snap any photos as dad misunderstood our cue to stop as a cue to speed ahead to catch up w/ the guide. LOL
We made our way back down the winding road, and it was long about the time we crossed back into the U.S. that I started getting very carsick. Too many switchback turns for me! But I did manage to make it back to base camp w/out losing my breakfast, so all’s well that ended well. (I did opt to walk into Skagway rather than waiting on the shuttle though. Didn't want to risk that good fortune!)
We did most of our shopping on this trip in downtown Skagway. Their downtown looks much like it did in the 1800s when the prospectors made their rush to the White Pass Trail. They have strived very hard to maintain the buildings. And any new buildings are designed to match the existing structures. I enjoyed both the early 19th century architecture & the myriad of shops to pop in.
After an afternoon of shopping, we hopped back aboard ship and set sail to our final port of call - Prince Rupert, British Columbia. In the afternoon, we went to the Lattitudes Party - a little soiree hosted by NCL for its repeat cruisers. Free snacks, free booze, free fun. The captain promised whales on our sail away from Skagway. We were hoping for good views from our window seats in the Italian restaurant. We did enjoy the scenery but did not see any whales. But that's okay. The food was delicious. And the tiramisu was melt-in-your-mouth good – perhaps even better than Cosa Nostra’s. *gasp*