Day 94 - Wednesday, July 3 - Milepost 7181 - Birdcount 271 - Skagway, AK
(BF's Journal). Todays one hundred miles through the Yukon Territory and the descent into Skagway are probably the prettiest stretch of road we have driven. The gently rolling highway winds past emerald lakes flanked by steep green mountains sprinkled with white snow and an occasional glacier. One lake in particular, appropriately called Emerald Lake or alternately Rainbow Lake, glows in bright shades of green swirled like stirred paint. The pattern was so striking I take three photos with the 50mm lens plus one with the telephoto lens and Shari takes a couple with the panoramic camera and videotapes the whole surroundings. Deep blue Tutshi Lake engulfs the valley between two mountain ranges and stretches along the road for miles. When we stop at a wayside overlooking the lake, Swainson Thrushes serenade sweetly from the steep rocky slopes while a Golden Eagle soars across the pinnacles. Shortly before we reach the U.S. border we cross a distressed valley of rough hewn boulders lying over a solid rock base with green islands of ancient White Spruce built of thick trunks but only a couple feet high, kept miniature because their tap root cannot penetrate the hard rock. Toy lakes cover the hollows in the rocks. The whole landscape is alluring, yet speaks out harshly as if forbidding life from inhabiting its territory. Before we begin the descent into Skagway, we unhitch the Pathfinder and drive the two vehicles separately. This helps considerably as I can now coast down in first gear and use the brakes intermittently to keep my speed below 15 mph. The continuous drop through White Pass extends for six miles of scenic wonder with abrupt canyon walls venting beside us, the plummeting cascading river and the narrow gauge White Pass train. As steep as this is to descend, we wonder what troubles we would have if our direction were reversed. And even harder to imagine, the Klondike gold miners climbing White Pass along a muddy or snow covered path in 1898 on their way to the Yukon gold fields.
(SF's Journal). Wow!!! What a descent! What scenery! We take the road from Whitehorse to Skagway and see the best scenery of the trip. The descent from White Pass to Skagway must be 9% for at least 15 miles. Luckily we heard the pass was long and steep , so we unhook at the top, (me driving the car and Bert driving R TENT ) communicate with the CB on channel 14 as we go down. He has no trouble and neither do I as we drive the narrowest most breathtaking beautiful pass I have ever seen to the town of Skagway. We meet a couple in town who has a fifth wheel and had to use the fire extinguisher on their brakes during the descent. They did not have the option to unhook like we did. Now the question arises "How will we make it back up?" I even asked someone if they heard of anyone not making the climb; they answered "no" to my relief. Skagway encompasses an area of land much like an obtuse triangle with the short side being ½ mile and parallel to the ocean.. The land then cuts between two mountains 3200 feet high for about three miles before abruptly rising. This is the land that is so famous in all the gold rush stories of 1898. The town consists of about 1000 people totally dependent on tourism, not changed much since its beginnings during the gold rush of 1898. All the buildings on the main streets are still the original saloons and bordellos in various stages of renovation. Skagway then and now made its fortune on "Cheechakos" coming into Alaska, first to strike it rich in the gold fields and now to enjoy the scenery. We make our home for the next two nights at Back Track Camper Park (5/8.5/6), although hindsight (as we discover on a bike ride) tells us Pullen Creek RV Park is more esthetic. After we make ourselves comfortable at camp, we go to the post office to retrieve our mail. We do not seal our journal packets thinking we might want to respond to some letters. The only letter is from Mom and we thank her for it. We really look forward to news from home and are quite disappointed there is none from Missy, my dad, Dockweilers and Stines. We head for the "Days of 1898 Show with Soapy Smith" . The show begins at 8:30 PM and we were told to arrive at 7:15 to put a jacket on some seats to reserve them. We do just that and a 40ish red haired balding man overhears my desire to have a beer and tells us we had to be members of the "Eagles". He then proceeds to invite us to be his guests and we spend the next 30 minutes enjoying the company of him and his friends' and wife Linda's . They tell us they are part of the show and have lived in the area for eight years. After our beer we go to a room where we engage iin some more gambling. Shame of shame Bert gambles for the first time in his whole life and he looses; it was only play money. The show is fantastic and we are drawn into the dialog because of our front row seats.
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