mothers day

Sunday, September 21, 2008

North to Alaska - Wednesday

Our day in Skagway has been a hard one to blog about because of ALL the pictures (!!) that are showing the same gorgeous mtns and forests and waterfalls that I've already shown you - but yet they are different in their own way too. So finally I made myself sit down today and pull it all together!

We got into Skagway about 7 am again today but at least we're staying till five pm so that should give us plenty of time to go on our tours and do some shopping. We signed up for a combination gold panning tour and a trip on the White Pass Express - going up the mountain out of Skagway, following the trail that the gold diggers followed in 1898. It is a fascinating bit of history and gorgeous too. Skagway consisted of tents and shacks and was full of adventurers in that day. That is where they bought their supplies and the town catered to hundreds of gold miners. Now adays it caters to hundreds of cruise line passengers. Our tour guide told us there are three types of mosquitoes in Skagway - the no-see-ums, the normal sized bugs that we see in the lower 48 and then the huge buggers that are only found in Alaska. She says they love having a wind because that keeps the skeeters down.

This is Skagway - a small town at the edge of nowhere - the nearest Wal-Mart is 116 miles through those mountains - and yes they keep it open year round!! There are four churches in town, a white one, a brown one, a green one and a yellow one. One of them IS an LDS church!! As I was getting my gold assayed after we had panned it out there was a young man walking through the store in 1800's dress playing a harmonica. And he was playing "Come Come YE Saints!!" Startled, I looked up as he wandered into the other part of the store and said to the assayer "I know that song". He chuckled and said "so do I, but I can't remember the words." So I sang it to him and asked him if HE was LDS. And he said no, but the harmonica player is and several of the clerks in the store were and the owner was!!! I said I was surprised to find so many Mormon's way up in this little corner of the world. That's when he told me about the four different colored churches and how people identified each other by the color of their building. (As in: I belong to the Green church!)

They explained to us how the goldminers would pan for gold. That the nuggets of the California
Gold Rush were unknown in the Alaskan Gold Rush because of the glaciers that had ground everything into small bits. They gave us each a tin pan with small little rocks and sand and sent us over to the gold panning area - we were really spoiled because #1 we didn't have to stand out in the middle of the icey cold stream and #2 the water was HEATED!! Nice. We softly shook the pan back and forth letting the water wash away the top level of sand . The gold is heavier than the sand and rocks so if you keep the pan tilted so the gold can settle at the edge of the bottom of the pan, the water washes away the sand a little at a time until all you have left is the gold.

It was such a thrill when we had 'washed' our sand for several minutes and finally got a glimpse of GOLD!!! We actually panned for an got gold! Between Ed and I our gold assayed out at about $31 - which is more than usual. The assayer told us that most everyone ends up with about $11 or $12 worth each. I think Ed's pan had more than usual - his gold pieces were larger than mine. But we combined our poke and had them put into a gold bezel necklace that Ed bought for me.

This video clip shows Grandpa at the Salmon Bake at Juneau where they had some pans and sand for us to try. We had heard how to do it on our bus trip that day and so dad gave it a try. He has about twice as much sand and used twice as much water as they gave us the next day and he didn't find anything but it gives you the idea of how to pan for gold. Now that we are 'experts' we would dump out half the dirt and use just enough water in the pan to let it carry away the top layer of sand and dirt. But at least you get the idea!

We got to tour the old gold dredging equipment and tent town they had showing the life of a miner. This gold dredger was still in operation in the 1960's. Each of those buckets weighed over 800 pounds!! The dredger floated on the river and these buckets pulled up the sand from the river and the dirt and rock were all sifted off leaving the gold behind. These old dredger ruined alot of gorgeous rivers in their day and also the hearing of all the men that worked in them. They were loud and dirty and noisy and a real menace to the beauty of Alaska. I am glad they are outlawed now!

After we toured the Klondike Gold Dredge gold mining then we got back on the bus and headed for the railway. We got there just in time to climb aboard. Our bus full of people traveled together in the same railcar with big windows so we had a good view of the wonderful mountainyside.

The White Pass Railroad only runs from about April through September, when the ships are cruising. The one picture from downtown skagway that DID NOT turn out (and I wish it had) was a beautiful little white gazebo in the middle of the town park with a white porceline toilet sitting right in the middle!! I laughed and questioned our guide and she seriously explained
that was a public toilet - used nowaday!!

Truly amazing!

I put this picture in so that you could see the road to Wal Mart (I don't know what its real name is!). It is in the center of the picture. On the left side half way down the mtn you can see the lower part of the rail tracks that we had traveled on our way up the mtn. And last but not least, you can see the waterfall that reaches from the snowfields on the top of the mtn down to the road, and then gets bigger in several spots where it becomes the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls.

This picture shows the deepness of the fiord looking from halfway up the mountain down through the valley back almost to the bay. You can also see the train snaking out behind. Ed spent most of the trip up to White Pass outside of the train car on the apron. I went out several times too and it made for a breathtaking view!

Here our train is headed around a curve and across the trestle bridge and into a tunnel. I took a picture when we were in the tunnel. When I got home and was looking at my pictures I couldn't figure out why I had a black picture in with all my good ones. Until I remembered "that is what I saw in the middle of the tunnel!"

You need to click on this picture because the brown spot in the middle of the picture is a BEAR!! It was the only bear I saw on our whole trip (Ed saw others but he spent alot more time out on deck of the ship as we cruised past miles and miles of open forest. I was the first one to see it but was so excited I forgot to take a picture. Your dad took this picture.

This is a picture of the train heading up (or down) the pass - this is a fiord carved by glaciers in ancient times -

Here you can see all the way down the fiord to the bay where the ships are at anchor (there are two little dots at the edge of the water - the Norwegian Dawn and the Norwegian Star!)

Can you see the mountain goat? We saw several across the canyon going up and coming back down from White Pass (It is the white dot just right of the center of the picture - he isstanding on the rock - the white spot in the middle of the green is another rock not a goat)

This is the actual trail taken by thousands upon thousands of men in 1898 heading out of Skagway to the Yukon. The sign says 'trail of 98" and before the railroad was built several years later the gold seekers hiked the 20 miles up the mtn on foot and with donkeys loaded to the hilt with supplies. The Canadian Government would not allow the goldseekers entrance into Canada without the required 2000 pounds of food, supplies, tents, etc., because they knew what a frozen wasteland they were headed to. Alot of the men had to hike the 20 miles up and back maybe ten times to get all of the stuff they needed
before they were allowed into the Yukon. They said that the trail was so heavily traveled that if a man stepped off the trail (to rest or readjust the materials on his pack mule or horse) it could take upwards of a half a day to find a spot open enough to step back onto the trail!! Talk about Gridlock!!

This is an old trestle bridge built to take the
White Pass train from Alaska into the Yukon. We didn't take the tgrain all the way to the Yukon, although looking at old maps White Pass was once the edge of British Columbia and the Yukon. Now it is another 60 miles before you are out of British Columbia. As I saw this bridge in the distance I thought - oh no! Are we going over that. It was a relief to see that it wasn't usable today

This is the summit - White Pass Railroad, You can see the flags of the USA, Alaska, British Columbia, Canada and I believe the White Pass Railway.

This picture is a little bit sideways - your dad took it looking back at the train on the top of the Pass. The river leads into a small lake at the top of the pass. After chugging uphill for miles it was interesting to see how the land leveled off for miles on the top.

This little shack on the top of White Pass is on Canadian land - it is where the Mounties lived as they checked each and every gold miner to make sure that he had ALL the supplies required of him before being allowed to travel back into the Yukon to face the ice and rain and snow and cold.

Here are a couple of my videos as we traveled up the mountain to the White Pass.

We rode the train to the top of the white pass and then when we got there the engines were unhooked and they were moved to the back of the train in preparation of going back down the canyon. They had everyone on board stand up and move the back of our bench up and over the seat so that the seats now faced the other direction! (Kind of like our table seat does in our trailer) and then we all switched sides of the car so that everyone had a good view going up and going down. For example, we were seated on the mtn side going up and on the canyon side coming back down.

We got back to Skagway after a long day and they got us back on the bus, and headed to the ship about 4:30. We knew the ship was supposed to leave by five but since our tour was booked through NCL they wouldn't leave without us. But there was no time to go shopping!! There was an accident just ahead of our bus - we could see a banged up bicycle and some people laying in the street - so we were delayed even more but we made it back to the ship on time. We passed the ambulences heading to help the poeple.

This is a picture Edward took just as we were heading out to sea from Skagway. You can see the Norwegian Pearl, a sister ship that we shared a dock with several times. Just a beautiful farewell view of the Skagway bay.

We skipped the entertainment that night - we went to the Versailles for dinner and just relaxed the evening away. I think that was the evening Ed and I went out after Grandpa had settled in for the night, and listened to a wonderful group of singers in one of the lounges in the center of the ship. They were good!


Kristanne said...

I am amazed at how green everything is. I always had this idea of just rocks and snow with faint green, but not lush - afterall we are talking tundra. Sounds like you guys should open a gold mine and support us all!! ;>

Melinda said...

Skagway sounds like a town with a lot of personality. I wonder if neighbors do a caravan to Wal-Mart? And that was really interesting about the gold prospecting, especially about them turning away people from the Yukon if they didn't have 2000 lbs of supplies. They probably got sick of rescuing people who weren't prepared.