Boat, Bus and Train day. Reminds me of the Richard Scarry Book that my kids loved. We arrive in Skagway to a blue sky. WOW. Foggy pictures are cool, but the big blue sky and puffy clouds are amazing. Looks like a great day for our trip by bus up to Carcross on Bennett Lake and White Pass Train Ride back. This is a full day excursion and follows the Chilkoot and White Pass Trails that the gold rushers (stampeders) took to get to Benett Lake before heading off to the Yukon to find their pot of gold.
Our bus driver is once again very funny and very knowledgeable. We will pass from Alaska to British Columbia to the Yukon. As we passed by Fraser, British Columbia we had to have our passports checked. The North West Mounted Police (eventually the RCMP) policed the area and ensured that every prospector/stampeder carried 2000 lbs of equipment with them. Men were turning up with just the clothes on their backs. If they didn’t strike it rich quickly they would then start stealing and killing the other prospectors. Along with protecting the gold, the NWMP also kept the peace in the towns, drinking and prostitution was tolerated, but not on Sundays.
Carcross used to be called Caribou Crossing and is home to the Tlingit and Tagish natives. During the gold rush the caribou were decimated. The herd population is slowly recovering. Our first stop when we left the bus was to go to the post office to get our passport stamped. I had a lovely Caribou stamped in my passport. So cool. The Tutshi was the last steamboat in regular service in the Yukon, it was taken out of service in 1955. The steamboats took the stampeders from Carcross across Bennett Lake.
Our train finally arrived, we had our own car on this rickety, old looking train. A wonder of an engineering feat as it travelled along Bennet Lake. A quick stop at the historic town of Bennett which has been left as it was from the gold rush days. Old building, churches, campfires still there, giving you a feeling of the way it was 100s of years ago. This is also the end of the Chilkoot trail, and we were picking up some hikers to take them back down. The hike is 53 km and rises about 3500 feet. Takes about 5 to 6 days. You have to be able to carry a pack of 35 lbs. Let me know if anyone is interested in doing it 🙂
Next stop Skagway. You don’t want to be afraid of heights on this train. It feels rickety and sounds rickety and is basically clinging to the sides of the mountains as it races down to Skagway. The Chilkoot Trail was a hard climb that you had to do without the help of any animals. The White Pass opened up as it allowed you to bring mules and horses to carry your supplies. So many horses died on this trail that it became known as Dead Horse Trail. The railroad was finally built in 1898 saving numerous lives of both people and horses. There were an estimated 100,000 prospectors/stampeders that made their way to the Klondike. What a time, I can’t imagine how anyone survived.
A long but wonderful day. It is hard leaving the water, but the interior of Alaska, the Yukon and British Columbia definitely make me want to come back for more.
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