We caught the 7:30 ferry and finally got smart about booking a cabin. We got a stern cabin with picture windows and a table. I immediately claimed the bed providing a great view of the cliffs that we were quite close to. Doug had a nap.
We rested for a few hours and then had a quick lunch before landing at Haines. We hired a shuttle driver to take us the 6 miles into town. He had relocated from Nashville and was very excited to give us the grand tour. There are not a lot of tourist attractions here – perhaps the most notable was the old Fort Seward (built in 1907) and manned during WW2 to defend against a possible Japanese invasion. The officers quarters have been turned into housing and the barracks into a community centre. After doing the town in 30 minutes (more than enough time), we re-boarded the ferry.
We arrived in Skagway about 4pm. The Pullen RV camp was right near the ferry dock and a short walk to the downtown. As we pulled in we saw “our new RV” that we have on order. In fact Carm had called that morning to say it was arriving next week. I jumped out of the car to greet these owners to tell them our plans. They invited me in but they were on their bikes, clearly set to go and look at the town so I suggested we get together later in the evening.
Skagway and the nearby ghost town of Dyea were the starting places for over 100,000 gold-rush stampeders who headed to the Yukon by way of either the Chilkroot Trail or White Pass Trail. The Chilkroot Trail, which began in Dyea, was the most popular, as it was several miles shorter. The White Pass Trail, which began in Skagway and was advertised as a horse trail, was brutal.
In 1887 the population of Skagway was 2, 10 years later it was 20,000. A centre for saloons, hotels and dance halls. It became famous for its lawlessness. At the height of the gold rush, Michael J. Henry, an Irish contractor, convinced a group of English investors that he could build a railroad over the White Pass Trail to Whitehorse. Construction began in 1898 and was completed in 1900. We have booked passage on this train for the following morning.
We walked downtown after checking in with the railway people. Since Skagway now survives on a busy tourist trade, the National Park Service is constantly restoring the town’s old wooden sidewalks, shop fronts and other buildings, so Skagway looks similar to the boomtown it was in the 1890’s gold-rush days.
Skagway has a Harley Davidson Shop. My pal John collects pins and poker chips from the shops. Wherever we travel we always look for an HD shop that we don’t think John will ever visit. When he comes to Toronto for a visit, I surprise him with these momentos. Most people put chocolates on the pillows, I put HD pins and poker chips. Since John will never figure out how to get on the blog, it is safe to say he will be surprised the next time he comes to town. I know, I am a mean person.
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