Chapter 10. Southeastern Alaska
© Bert & Shari Frenz, 2002 All rights reserved.
(Shari) I knew it could not last. That it lasted this long is unbelievable. Today we have a dreary cloudy, almost rainy, day. No more sunshine for us. As we drive to Skagway our 62 straight days of sunshine changes before our eyes. God slowly pulls a shade over the sky and the farther south we drive the more clouds appear. With the brisk wind, it seems downright cold and by the time we arrive, Bert is ready to exchange his shorts for long warm pants. But the weather change does not stop us from enjoying the scenery along the way: beautiful Emerald Lake, Carcross Desert - the smallest desert in the world - and a landscape taken straight from the moon - the dredges of an extinct glacier not yet redecorated in dense flora. Stopping many times along the 105-mile route to enjoy the changing scenes before us, the trip takes us three hours. Right before the U.S./Canada border we unhook our cars to make the 11.5-mi. plunge down White Pass into Skagway easier on our rigs. Taking advantage of the long downward slope, many bicyclists share the two-lane road with us. Something I always wanted to do, I look with envy as they effortlessly coast down the pass. After squeezing into our tight RV space, the group separates to enjoy the area as they see fit. Later we drive to the Soapy Smith Show, to gamble a little with play money and to be entertained by two men and three women who tell us the true tale of the con man, Jefferson Robinson Smith.
(Shari) Our original intention is to take the wildlife ferry to Haines today. However, the company is no longer in business. Plan B turns out better. Packing a lunch we drive over to the old ghost town of Dyea. Gold stampeders in 1898 came through this town by the droves and swelled its ranks to over 10,000 people. With the opening of White Pass and the railroad, a short six years later, the town's population dwindled to six. The National Park Service has stewardship over the old town site now and is letting nature take its course. Reclaimed by the forest, the remnants of the town sit as monuments to a better day. Wild Iris fields grow where once there were bustling streets and shops. Decaying timber lies in the woods telling a story of courage and stupidity. Exemplifying the sites with great black and white photos, a ranger tells the tale of the early days. We talk to a group of hikers setting out on a five-day jaunt up the Chilkoot Pass. They have no idea what they are in for and remind us of the early "hikers" of this path. Loaded down with a pack that would break a horse's back, they start the climb, protected from the rain by a garbage bag. I predict they will be back down in a nice warm hotel room tomorrow. We meet Pat, who while birding alone is scared by a noise in the woods by a stream. She runs full speed ahead to her car and says she never is going to bird here alone again. She is convinced a bear chased her. We point out that the first words on any pamphlet explaining procedures when encountering a bear is DO NOT RUN. So much for theory!
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