Alaska 2012:
Day 7 - Skagway


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Alaska 2012: [Day 1 - Chicago] [Day 2 - Seattle] [Day 3 - Victoria] [Day 4 - Vancouver ] [Day 5 - Inside Passage] [Day 6 - Juneau] [Day 7 - Skagway] [Day 8 - Glacier Bay] [Day 9 - Ketchikan] [Day 10 - Inside Passage] [Day 11 - Seattle] [Day 12 - Empire Builder] [Day 13 - Empire Builder]

Tuesday, August 7, 2012: We arrived in Skagway at 7:00 AM.
A Princess ship was there too, of course.
We were the only guests on our 8:45 Klondike Rock Climbing and Rappelling Adventure tour due to last-minute cancellations, so we had driver Tyler and guide Ben all to ourselves.
It was raining and foggy on the way up the Klondike Highway, which runs up the valley from Skagway, but on the opposite side from the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway, which we'd be riding later.
We arrived at the site and had a short hike to Helmetland, where we selected our safety helmets.
It was another short walk to the climbing site, where we traded our shoes for rock climbing shoes and wriggled into our climbing harnesses.
After some time training, Ben introduced us to our first climb which would follow the edges of the rock above us.
Jill went first.
She turned out to be a natural climber, ...
... and made it to the top in no time, where she was instructed to howl to indicate her success.
She rappelled her way back down.
Debbie went next ...
... and didn't make it any farther than this when her claustrophobia (see that little cave in the photo above) and lack of strength sent her back down.
Tom went next at a slower pace than Jill, ...
... but he also made it to the top, did his howl, ...
... and rappelled back down.
Debbie's second climb was a little more successful than the first, but she still stopped before making it very far. She was just here for the big rappel at the end, really.
Debbie got this awesome spiderweb photo while Jill and Ben discussed which route to send her on next.
Up, ...
... up, ...
... up she went, ...
... like she does this every day.
Tom did the same route, ...
... and learned from Jill's experience going over this ledge near the top.
Ben and Jill supervised from below, ...
... and Tom celebrated his success above.
Nice! The sun is coming out!
After some hot chocolate, we set out on the trail that leads to the top of the rock wall.
Up the wooden stairs, ...
... past the zip line course, ...
... past the scenic moss and lichen, ...
... to the top of the rock wall.
Across the valley, we could see the one of the White Pass and Yukon Route trains, so we knew that this spot would likely be visible on our train ride later in the day.
Ben got a photo of us preparing for the big rappel. For reference, Skagway is off in the valley to the right over Jill's shoulder, and the railway is cut into the valley wall over Debbie's shoulder.
Debbie went first and Ben hooked her up to the equipment.
First she sat, then turned to stand on the lower ledge.
From there, she pushed back against the ledge, ...
... then began to walk down the wall.
Ben got a photo of each of us halfway down the wall. This shows the whole wall ...
... and this is a closeup.
Jill was next.
She preps, ...
... she steps, ...
... and she's on her way.
That's right. You know you want to be Jill right now.
Tom was last, but there were no family members to take his picture on the way down, so here are the ones taken by Ben. Far away ...
... and close up.
We had time for one more climb, so off Jill went.
She did one of the most difficult climbs on the wall, ...
... and did just fine.
Then it was time to return our shoes, say farewell to the wall, ...
... return our helmets, grab a few bags of trail mix, try to photograph the elusive but ever-present squirrels, and thank our excellent guide, Ben.
Tyler picked us up and entertained us the whole way back. We were very fortunate that it was clear enough to see a portion of Denver Glacier in the distance.
We talked Tyler (nicknamed "Sven" by his colleagues) into telling us a Sven and Ole joke on the drive back, and it was hilarious. It involved Ole getting drunk, getting stuck on a horse, and the nice Target lady who saved the day. Before we knew it, we were back in town.
What a gorgeous weather we ended up with!
We asked Tyler to recommend a bar for later on, and he pointed out the Skagway Brewing Company toward the end of the tourist district.
We had a half hour to spare when we got back to the pier, so we changed our clothes, wolfed down some lunch, and met our family on the pier again.
All eight of us had tickets for the 12:50 White Pass Summit Scenic Railroad tour, and we found eight seats together in one of the cars toward the front.
The train started to leave and we passed the Alaska Shirt Co., where Tyler told us we had to get a glow-in-the-dark wolf shirt for Wolf Shirt Wednesday.
We never made it to the White Pass & Yukon Route store, called the Train Shoppe. Not to worry, though, because souvenir caps were available to purchase on the train.
We're off!
The route followed the Skagway River behind the town of Skagway, ...
... past some unique yards and homes like this, ...
... and this, ...
... and this.
We passed the White Pass and Yukon Route railyard, where the cargo train cars were painted with the slogan, "Gateway to the Yukon."
This is Gold Rush Cemetery, the final resting place for several infamous Gold Rush characters.
The Skagway River was much more overcast than when we saw it an hour earlier, but that's okay because we were now safely under cover.
Here's a WP&YR caboose donated to the U.S. Forest Service for hikers to rent as a cabin for the night.
The train continued slowly uphill.
The mountains are quite pretty here.
This is Rocky Point. It was rocky. Not sure about the point part, though.
This vintage sign for what used to be Brackett's Toll Road helps bring the story of the Gold Rush to life.
Across the valley where the Klondike Highway was carved into the opposite side, we spotted our rock climbing site from earlier, located in this photo near the center behind the tree.
Here's a zoomed-in shot. The tarp in the center marks the top of the rock wall where we began our rappeling.
This giant graffiti ("On to Alaska with Buchanan") has a charming story behind it about a man named Buchanan who helped young boys visit Alaska. Look it up. But it's still graffiti. Well-maintained graffiti by the looks of it.
There comes a time in every trip where Debbie and Doug have to photograph the other one photographing the other one. This was that time.
This black cross marks the resting place of two railroad workers who were killed in a blasting accident in 1898.
Either some or all of this series of falls is called Bridal Veil Falls. If you look closely, you can see the falls go all the way back above the Klondike Highway in the distance.
We spent a lot of time at the front of the car where there was a small lookout area. Various combinations of Schillings could be found out there for most of the trip.
The scenery on the right side of the train was pretty limited, but it was still nice.
It's hard to resist a nice photo of the front of the train.
And there's the back of the train as we made the sharp curve over this stream.
We were getting way up into the clouds at this point.
It was a pretty sharp drop off under our feet ...
... and just as sharp a rise next to us.
There was much excitement as we approached Glacier Gorge, ...
... which caused the ground to disappear under the tracks, ...
... and head into the first of two tunnels. Without the flash of cameras, it was jet black in there.
Here's a view of the viewing platform as seen from the warm, dry interior of the train car.
Up ahead is one of the most famous sights of the trip: the steel bridge built in 1901.
It's been out of commission since 1969, which became obvious as we approached it.
Instead, the train now uses this sturdy newer bridge, ...
... and we get to look back downstream at the beautiful old one.
Tunnel!
We were nearing the pass, and the slope of the train tracks became much flatter.
Streams and ponds lined the way next to the train tracks.
Finally, we were here, 97 minutes after we had started.
The US meets Canada at the pass, and the border is marked with this obelisk and the flags of both countries.
Just beyond the border, this display of flags stood. From left to right, the flags represent the United States, Alaska, British Columbia, Yukon Territory, and Canada.
We had a short wait up at the pass while the engines were moved to the other end of the train.
Two other trains passed us. We were requested to make moose signs at them with our hands, while the first train did something funny back at us (don't recall what it was) and the second train held up their booklets to hide their faces at us. It was all great fun.
Next, we all swapped sides of the train car and moved the seat backs forward so that we could face the other way on the return trip, giving everyone a view out the opposite side of the train.
Further down the valley, we could see several of the trains ahead of us returning to Skagway.
There's a glacier tucked up on that peak. Thirty minutes of online research did not turn up the name of either the peak or the glacier, sorry.
The conductor spotted a bear and the announcer told us about it. Some of us were lucky enough to see him before he disappeared into the brush in the back of this photo. There's a tiny blur of brown back there, but it's not much of a picture.
The Skagway River had a spooky mist on it just like we'd seen on the Mendenhall River the day before.
Attempts to photograph the bright red blossoms on the side of the hills were largely unsuccessful.
Note to Future Tom and Future Debbie: take a Skagway Street Car Tour the next time we're in town so we can see the cemetery up close.
This is an obscured shot of a giant rock painted gold and marked with the words "The Largest Nugget in the World." Classy.
We pulled into town once again. Bob was modeling his new souvenir hat on top of his original one.
Susan and Doug were all smiles.
Here's the car we were in: the Peel River.
From here, everyone scattered; Bob and Becky back to the ship, and two separate gangs of Schillings set out to explore Skagway.
Jill picked up a glow-in-the-dark wolf shirt, can cooler, and stack of pens at the store Tyler had pointed out, then we made a beeline for the end of town.
We grabbed one of the only free tables in the Skagway Brewing Company and decided to order three different beers to share.
Jill ordered the Spruce Tip Blonde that Tyler had recommended, Tom had the Boom Town Brown, and Debbie ordered the Prospector Pale.
After each sip, we passed our beer to the person on our right, so we all got to have some of each. It was really hard to top the Spruce Tip Blonde, though, so we understood why it was their signature brew.
We were in an out of there in 25 minutes, because we had some shopping to do. We bought some Mendenhall Mudd (rocky road) and Inside Passage (chocolate with peanut butter) fudge at the Alaskan Fudge Company and did some shopping at the Harley Davidson store and the Del Sol store, where multiple bottles of nail polish for Jill and hair clips for Claire were purchased..
We caught up with Doug, Susan, and Stewart as we were heading back to the ship, where all six of us raced to get ready for dinner in time.
We made it. This evening's seafood appetizer was so beautiful, we had to share it with you.
Each night, we changed where we sat so we could take turns having views of the dining room and the scenery outside.
One Princess ship was starting to leave as we approached departure time.
We made plans with Bob to attend the champagne sail out festivities in the Crow's Nest.
A mere $5 bought two glasses of champagne, which was just perfect for a nightcap.
We pulled away from the dock as the lights were starting to come on in Skagway, ...

... and we followed the Princess twins out of town.

Day 8 >


Alaska 2012: [Day 1 - Chicago] [Day 2 - Seattle] [Day 3 - Victoria] [Day 4 - Vancouver ] [Day 5 - Inside Passage] [Day 6 - Juneau] [Day 7 - Skagway] [Day 8 - Glacier Bay] [Day 9 - Ketchikan] [Day 10 - Inside Passage] [Day 11 - Seattle] [Day 12 - Empire Builder] [Day 13 - Empire Builder]

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