It was a cool, but sunny day for us to take the White Pass & Yukon Route Train to Skagway. The bus (driven by Peter from Sweden) picked us up at the campground at 8:30. On the way to Fraser, where we would board the train, we stopped at Carcross. Carcross is a historic Yukon town that has a gold rush general store, the steam engine Duchess, and a WP&YR train station visitors' center. We also stopped at the scenic Bennett Lake where 30,000 stampeders spent the winter of 1898-1899, building makeshift rafts and boats to take them across Lake Bennett and down the Yukon River to the goldfields. The bus driver delivered us to Fraser (a 2 hour drive) where we boarded the train. Our neighbors had given us a tip that the right side of the train had all the views and they were right.
The White Pass & Yukon Route descends from 2,865 feet at the White Pass Summit to sea level in Skagway over a distance of only 20 miles and has steep grades of almost 3.9%. Because of the tight curves of the White Pass, it is a narrow gauge railroad. The train ride was absolutely breathtaking.
At Inspiration Point the views down the valley stretch to Skagway, to the Lynn Canal and to the Chilkat Range. Just before entering Tunnel Mountain, the train crawled across a bridge 1,000 feet above Glacier Gorge. We passed by the spectacular Bridal Veil Falls which are fed by the glaciers on Mount Cleveland and Mount Clifford. Rocky Point has tremendous views down the valley to Skagway, the harbor and beyond. We passed by Dead Horse Gulch where 3,000 pack animals died because they were overworked and underfed by men anxious to hunt for gold. We passed by the steel bridge that was constructed in 1901. It was the tallest cantilever bridge in the world and was used until1969.
When we arrived in Skagway, we were met by the customs agent who checked our passports since we had traveled across the border from Canada to Alaska. We then had three hours to spend in Skagway before we boarded our bus for the return trip back to our campground. The best way to describe Skagway is "tourist trap". There were 5 cruise ships there at the same time and supposedly 5,000 people on each ship—you do the math. Yes, it was crowded. We had packed our lunch so we did not have to fight the crowds at the restaurants. It was unbelievable how many jewelry stores there were in Skagway! Of course, Sue and clipped coupons from the newspaper and headed for the stores to get the free souvenirs—the diamonds will have to wait!
At the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park Visitor Center we watched a film, "Days of Adventures, Dreams of Gold". Learning about the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 and how the stampeders piled off steamships, eager to head overland to the Yukon goldfields on the White Pass Trail from Skagway or Chilkoot Trail from nearby Dyea was really interesting. We walked around town and around the harbor. To be honest, it was a town full of shops and people. Some of the things that we would have liked to do like visit the beginning of the Chilkoot Trail were all too far away. Three hours was more than enough time for us in Skagway, but the train ride down was definitely worth the trip.
We did enjoy the return bus trip with the beautiful views. It was around 6:45 p.m. when we finally got back to the trailer. Aggie was glad to see us!