Despite Skagway being the smallest and most desolate of all the ports we stopped at (in my opinion) it was hands down my favorite. Nestled at the base of endless mountains, this tiny town had the most history. Don’t expect to stop here and spend your day wandering the town, you’ll see most all of the central hub in about an hour.
Getting to land was a bit of an adventure, there were already two ships in port and our ship must have drawn the shortest stick because there wasn’t a spot left for us to port. Instead we got to ride in dinghy boats to the small boat harbor.
One of the many things I loved about the cruise ship, is that they offered multiple seminars of information regarding each port.
Skagway’s history stems back to the Gold Rush era, where in the late 1800’s a set of railroad tracks were built as a means of reaching the gold fields. The tracks are still standing, and are known as The While Pass and Yukon Route. These days, curious minds can ride a train and follow along the route listening to guided tours, which I admit looks and sounds EPIC, but we chose a different option.
We decided to be our own tour guides, and we rented a car.
We chose this option for a few reasons: it was cheaper than riding in a bus with a bunch of other people, it was cheaper than a train, it allowed complete flexibility to stop when and where we wanted, and it provided a better view from all angles. We stopped by the local ranger station for a map, learned about some hot stop spots, and were our own tour guides.
Err, my dad played tour guide and I got to drive. I only scared him a handful of times.
The last time I went for a drive that literally captivated every ounce of my soul was in Ireland. I never thought I’d find another route that came within even a decameter (and all these years I never thought I’d use any of the chemistry I learned) of The Ring of Kerry.
I struggle to put into words just how enamored I was by the drive, but I’ll try.
Starting in Alaska, the route slowly climbs upward. We started in overcast with comfortable temps, and almost without warning reached intense fog and temps near freezing. This route takes you into Canada, if you want to go that far, which we did, so be sure to bring your passport. Eventually you’ll come across a plot of land that I can’t describe other than looking like an alien moonscape.
Small pockets of lakes surrounded by sunken land and large boulders. I’d never seen anything like it. Visibility was a struggle at times, but thankfully my copilot wore a bright blue jacket.
Just as I was worrying whether my hands would ever thaw from the cold, we drove into some sun. In fact, it went from overcast, to snow, to rain, to sun, and then to S U N. The changes of weather were bizarre, and unlike anything I’d ever experienced in such a short period of time.
At this point, we’d crossed into Canada.
This is when the landscape really started to show off.
We decided our turn around would be Emerald Lake, about 74 miles from where we started. We stopped at a small Canadian coffee shop for some local brew, oogled the lake, and turned around to head back. Depending what angle you stand to view the lake, the colors (or colours, it was in Canada after all) are a beautiful green/blue.
If you want to see what real fall colors look like, go to Alaska in September and drive the White Pass/Yukon Route. You can thanks me later. Because we rented a car, we were able to also drive around and see Dyea, which was just a hop skip and jump away from Skagway. This area was once a booming town during the Gold Rush, but now it’s mostly deserted.
History is cool.
For dinner we nourished at Skagway Brewing Company, where my dad claims the best beer of the entire trip was served. I claimed it was the best salmon I was served (I’m very particular because #foodintolerances) and I had zero complaints.
Disclaimer: I don’t eat much fish normally, but in Alaska I got enough Omega 3’s from salmon to last me the year.
What.A.Day. I spend a lot of my free time day dreaming about past vacations, and this day is at the forefront of my brain space. ❤
Q: Would you rather rent a car and do it yourself, or ride on a bus and let someone narrate for you?