We were most looking forward to the planned excursion in Skagway – namely the train up to the White Pass and into the Yukon. I never thought I’d ever get the chance to goto the Yukon so when we saw this tour, we jumped to sign up. Our tour guide was phenomenal – hilarious and informative, high-energy, passionate about what he does. Can’t say enough good things about him. Davy was a recent newlywed (2 weeks) and his new wife was a customs agent who worked in Fraser BC (literally in the middle of nowhere up in the tundra between the US and BC). Since we had to pass through customs to get to BC and then to the Yukon, we got to see him tease her from the bus. 🙂 They were adorable.
Our tour consisted of 2 parts – the first was the bus ride up into the mountains all the way to the Yukon where we visited the Yukon sign, the Yukon suspension bridge and enjoyed bison chili, then the train ride back down the mountain learning about the gold rush and the trail the stampeders walked to get a chance at striking gold.
The views were just spectacular and what was really interesting was seeing the climate change along the way – from a coastal area in town, through a more alpine climate, then into the tundra where “barren” doesn’t begin to describe it. Snow, trees struggling to live, and the silence – what a sight. In the alpine areas, there were larger trees, less snow, waterfalls and some wildlife. Enjoy the pics!
Funny story about the bear sighting. As we approached in our tour bus, Davy let everyone know that a car parked on the side of the road ahead were checking out a bear, so he slowed down for everyone to get a good look. Then the guy in the parked car got out of his car and Davy was nervous for him. When we got a good look, it was Brent Nixon the naturalist from the ship! If anyone would be OK in a bear’s vicinity, it was Brent. He gave us a wave and we were on our way. 🙂
We arrived at the Yukon Suspension Bridge and had some bison chili (delicious!!!) and explored the bridge and surrounding area.
We then went to the train depot in Fraser BC (which consists of the tiny customs building, the train tracks, and a handful of houses for the customs agents…inthe middle of snowy nowhere. It was awesome.
Here’s some interesting info for those interested in the history:
Gold was discovered in 1896 by George Carmack and two Indian companions, Skookum Jim and Dawson Charlie. The few flakes they found barely filled the spent cartridge of a Winchester rifle. However, it was enough to trigger an incredible stampede for riches: the Klondike Gold Rush.
There were two ways into the Klondike. The Chilkoot Pass which was shorter but steeper and required each person to carry a ton of supplies up the “Golden Stairs” to the Summit. Others chose the longer, less steep White Pass Trail believing that pack animals could be used and would be easier. Both trails led to the Interior lake country where stampeders could begin a 550 mile journey through lake systems to the Yukon River and the gold fields.
Both the Chilkoot Trail and the White Pass Trail were filled with hazards and harrowing experiences. 3,000 horses died on the White Pass Trail because of the tortures of the trail and the inexperience of the stampeders. Men immediately began to think of easier ways to travel to the Klondike. Construction of the railroad began in May 1898 and ended in July 1900, after the zenith of the Klondike Gold Rush had passed. 100,000 men and women headed north but only between 30,000 and 40,000 actually reached the gold fields of the Klondike. About four thousand prospectors found gold, but only a few hundred became rich.
The White Pass & Yukon Route was designated an international Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1994. This is an honor shared with other world civil engineering marvels such as the Eiffel Tower and the Panama Canal. The WP & YR is recognized for the many difficult and hazardous obstacles that construction overcame: design challenges, granite mountains, steep grades, cliff hanging turns and unimaginable weather conditions.