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Discovering Alaska Part VI-Skagway Alaska

A Flashback to the Days of the Gold Rush from the Gateway to the Klondike

The last Port of Call on our 7 Day Alaska Cruise was the town of Skagway, Alaska. Skagway sprang up overnight in 1897 as a trading post serving Klondike Gold Rush pioneers about to set off on the five-hundred-mile search for gold. Growing from one cabin to a town of twenty thousand in three months, Skagway, rife with disease and desperado violence, was reported to be "hell on earth." It boasted over seventy bars and hundreds of prostitutes, and was controlled by organized criminals, including Jefferson "Soapy" Smith, notorious for cheating hapless prospectors out of their hard earned gold. By 1899, the Gold Rush was over, but the completion in 1900 of the White Pass and Yukon Route railway from Skagway to Whitehorse, the Yukon capital, ensured Skagway's survival. Today, the town's eight hundred residents have gone to great lengths to maintain the original appearance of their home, much of which lies in the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, and in summer as many as five cruise ships a day call in to take a walk back through history.

For more about this fascinating Port of Call, check out this Video on the Scenery and History of Skagway. Just click here:

History of Skagway Alaska

I walked out onto our balcony just after our ship docked in port. It was another gorgeous sunny day and the first thing I noticed was a long railroad track just beneath me near the dock. This track belonged to the White Pass Railroad. The White Pass Summit excursion had been highly recommended to me by a friend as the thing to do in Skagway. The tour was a 3 to 3.5 hour, forty mile round trip ride on a vintage passenger train that climbs from tidewater at Skagway to the summit of the White Pass - a 2,865 foot elevation. The fully narrated tour passes through two tunnels, over sky-high trestles and cascading waterfalls. I had definitely planned to do this trip, but after reading up on the town of Skagway, I decided that I did not want to spend over half the day on a train, I wanted to stretch my legs by walking around the town and getting a feel for the place. I booked a tour called "A Taste of Skagway" for the afternoon that would take my husband and I on a tour of Jewel Gardens and included a Culinary Chef's Demonstration with wine and lots of samples of different dishes prepared by the Gardens chef.

White Pass Train track From our balcony
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We left the ship on foot after breakfast and began a nice long stroll into town. The scenery was beautiful and the storefronts and wood sidewalks of Skagway definitely gave us the feeling of being in the old west during the gold rush.

A ship coming into port as seen from my balcony
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Downtown Skagway
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We walked around the town popping in and out of the various stores until time to return to the ship to catch the transport for our tour. On the way back I stopped in the White Pass railway ticket office and purchased a great black "White Pass Railroad" backpack. It came in handy for carrying stuff home on the plane.

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The "Taste of Skagway" tour took us on a short tour of the town before delivering us at Jewel Gardens. Jewell Gardens is one of the best show gardens in Alaska. In 1996 Charlotte Jewell purchased a portion of what was Henry Clarks’ farm and began to build what was to be the premier show garden in Skagway. The Clark farm was one of several farms in the area that grew produce for the thousands of miners on their way to Dawson City and the Klondike Gold Rush. I was immediately struck by how beautiful and green everything was at the Gardens. Lush flowers and plants were everywhere and you could see snow capped mountains in the background. It was a very peaceful place that Reginald and I enjoyed very much. A guide gave us a complete tour of the gardens and then led us inside the restaurant and tea room where our culinary adventure began.

Jewel Gardens, Skagway, Alaska
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Jewel Gardens Tasting Room
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The rest of the afternoon passed by as a combination of wine, food and fun! The chef was very talented and amusing and prepared several wonderful dishes using food grown in the gardens. We ate and drank and talked to fellow passengers before making our way back to our transport and back to the Diamond Princess for sailaway. Once again I had enjoyed a marvelous day in Alaska that I would never forget.

Finally after seven wonderful days discovering Alaska, our cruise came to an end. We packed our bags and left the ship in Whittier, headed toward Anchorage for our plane ride home. The 2 hour bus ride to Anchorage was relaxing, with lots of beautiful scenery along the way. Anchorage is a lovely city with wonderful restaurants and places to visit. The time we spent there flew by until it was time to catch our flight at the airport nearby.

My Alaska cruise was a true journey of discovery. To think that all that beauty was part of the United States, my home country, right in my backyard. Why had I waited so long to take this voyage? I really have no idea, but I would do it all again tomorrow!

THE END!

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
President/Owner
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Posted by Gerriv 07:35

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