Sunday, 12 August:
Skagway marks the most northern point of Alaska’s Inside Passage and we arrived at Railroad Dock early this morning looking forward to seeing the birthplace of the Klondike gold rush. There was no shortage of jewellery shops with staff just waiting for us to arrive in town, all of them trying to entice us in with “special deals” on tanzanite. I resisted!
I was more interested in looking at the restored storefronts and wooden sidewalks, which makes you feel that you’re stepping back in time. Skagway is now a restored gold rush town and the headquarters of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.
We started off the day experiencing the legendary White Pass Trail of ’98 from a different perspective; travelling the Klondike Highway by coach over the White Pass Summit, into Canada’s Yukon and ending with a ride on board a vintage car of the historic White Pass & Yukon Railroad while our train agent recounted fascinating local legends.
The weather is noticeably cooler at 17 deg (c). Also cloudy, so hope it doesn’t rain!
While on board we had the opportunity to meet Aliy Zirkle who, together with her husband Allen Moore, has been involved with sled dogs in Alaska for over 20 years. She has raced the Iditarod every year since 2001 and is the first, and only woman to have won the Yukon Quest. We had lots of questions about long distance sled dog racing and she gave a very interesting and informative talk and took the time to walk through the train to talk to everyone individually.
The White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad is one of the precious few places in the world where you can take an authentic journey back in time, witnessing the engineering wonders of this railway and the same breathtaking scenery and rugged terrain that the gold seekers experienced during their race north to the gold fields over a century ago.
After our train trip, we jumped on the coach for the trip to Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp. Liarsville got its name when journalists, dispatched to the gold rush, went no further than this location and invented tall tales about how easy it was to find gold. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
We had a delicious baked salmon lunch, all you could eat, a walk around the recreated tent city then moved on to the show tent with some very talented performers, singing and entertaining in a funny melodrama, not to be taken seriously! Then a lesson in gold panning, where everyone found a few flakes of gold in their pan if they did it right, and even a little baggie provided to take it home in. Our little bits of gold looked very small indeed by the time we bagged them. But it was fun, and we enjoyed it immensely.
To end our tour, we were dropped off in town at the famous (infamous, maybe?) Red Onion Saloon. This used to be a dance hall, saloon and bordello. We went upstairs for a champagne tour of the Brothel Museum conducted by one of the “madams” dressed in brothel attire, complete with money tucked into her dress.
She was very entertaining, practically everything she said was a play on words, but all in (reasonably) good taste and she had us laughing as she explained the workings of the brothel. It was fun, we learnt some history and saw two of the 10 small cribs (rooms) with the period furniture just as it might have been in the day. Also a beautiful dress that was discovered under the floorboards.
Interesting to note that as a customer chose a girl, the bartender would take one of 10 dolls from behind the bar and lay it down. Once the customer came downstairs, the bartender would sit the doll up and then everyone would know she was available again.
We didn’t have to be back onboard until 8.00pm, so there was plenty of time to explore the town and the ship was very conveniently located within walking distance.