Friday, September 09, 2011

Alaska: The Gold Rush Towns of Haines and Skagway

We sailed up the long arm of the Lynn Canal during the night and arrived in Haines, AK in the early morning at low tide.

Would you want these people in your community?
We left the ship around 10:00 AM and boarded what they called the "fast ferry" to Skagway, which is several miles further up the canal or fjord or arm. Whatever you want to call the body of water you are on, nothing can take away from the scenery surrounding you.

Big boat or small one you can always sense some solitude in Alaska .

Where does all that ice go when it melts?
Into waterfalls pouring into the fjord all along the shores.

I had thought that we docked in Haines because they couldn't handle such big ships any further up the canal, but when we neared Skagway there was a covey of giant cruising hotels already parked there. 

We must have moored in Haines because there was no room at the wharf in Skagway. Our ferry captain said that with three boats already there,  plus all the people from the Zaandam coming from Haines, there would be around 8000 people in Skagway today.  That kind of dwarfs the permanent population of around 700.   

And we sure did discover a jumping town.  The main drag is a brightly painted and spruced up version of the old pioneer town with souvenir stores and food emporiums dominating. Tourists were crawling over every inch,  but the view on and down Main Street was still worth the trip.

Skagway in the Gold Rush Days was a bit more earthy than

Skagway today.
Once again bold and colorful plantings added to our enjoyment.

Oh, did I mention that I ran into an old fishin buddy in town.  We looked around for Russia but the best we could do was a couple of Ukranian tourists in the Red Dog Saloon. 

After our perp walk up and down the main street, we headed off the beaten path to find some kind of drug or food store so my wife could buy some hair gel and allergy pills. We finally found an IGA that seemed to be the place where the locals shopped. It was a bit more grungy than the high rent zone, but it was a real all purpose general store with everything you might need from bananas to fence posts.

With necessary purchases taken care of,  we headed back to the train station for our scheduled trip on the White Pass and Yukon railway.

The next installment will give you a chance to follow (in a comfortable rail car) the route that some of the Gold Rush miners took on foot to the Yukon in the late 1890's.     

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