August 30, 2016

Leaving about 10:30pm from Juneau, the ship traveled during the night the 90 miles to Skagway. We got up early and had breakfast in anticipation of our bus and train excursion today, and as finished breakfast, the ship was easing into a docking position in Skagway. Skagway with its port and airstrip and town occupy a narrow strip of land at the end of a narrow seaway. Its official population is 968, but is said to double in summer for the tourist season. Even so, each large cruise ship brings in more people than even the summer population of Skagway. Skagway's population went as high as 10,000 during the gold rush of the 1890's.

Brenda, Bob and Suzanne in view of our huge ship as we waited for our tour bus. We traveled by bus from Skagway across the line into British Columbia and then into the Yukon to Carcross. We had lunch at a location past Carcross at Caribou Crossing where there was a nice museum and a sled dog training center.

From our waiting location by the ship, we could see a mountain with a glacier across the inlet from Skagway.

We also got to watch a series of helicopters approaching and landing close to us.

As we got on the bus, we could see the helicopters preparing for helicopter tours of the area.

As we pulled out of town on the bus, we saw one of the White Pass Railway trains leaving town as well.

We crossed the Skagway River and that put us on the opposite side of the canyon from the train as we moved up into the mountains.

The trail of tour buses leaving out of Skagway tells you that the tour business is alive and well in this area.

At times we could watch the train go up and down grade on the opposite side of the canyon.

There is an amazing multi-cascade set of waterfalls coming all the way down this mountain. This shows only two of the cascades. Below the upper cascade you can see the bridge for the railroad on the other side of the canyon from us.

In the view below you can see at least six separate cascades. There is also the pipeline to Skagway.

Since our bus was traveling on one side of the canyon and the train on the other, we could sometimes see the train on the track and also the river that was running down the valley below. The background image above shows both the track and the river. The inset bottom right shows a viewing of the train, and the inset upper left shows another view of the river in the valley.

We entered more rugged and rocky terrain. This waterfall was shot out of the bus window as we traveled. The guide had a good bit of commentary about this unique suspension bridge over a deep gorge. A bus like ours is on it.

The mountainsides were wild and rocky and showed no evidence of human intervention.

We passed through quite a distance of terrain like this which was mostly bare rock with sparse vegetation where water had collected in the hollows of the rock. It seemed like the kind of thing a glacier might do as it scoured across the countryside.

We caught up with the train again in an are where there were a lot of kayakers out on the lake. There were a few lone kayakers as well.

We re-entered an area with high forested mountains and began to see new snow on the mountaintops. Even our college-age driver was excited about it. She had only been driving since March and had not seen snow on these mountains.
Past Carcross we drove by this strange area named the "Carcross Desert". It was clearly not a desert, but had a large collection of sand formed into dunes and desert-like expanses. A Wiki gives interesting information.

Our tour included lunch at the Caribou Crossing Trading Post north of Carcross. It was a large rustic structure and they fed us a fine lunch. It was cool and raining, so Suzanne has on her coat, standing behind Brenda at the second table on the left.

It was a surprisingly large operation with 8-10 tour busses outside and probably a hundred people eating lunch while we were there. I kept thinking of what it must be like there in the winter. I talked with several of the servers who were local folks.

We enjoyed a visit to "husky village" where 5 or 6 full teams of dogs were kept and were giving rides on an aluminum cart to simulate a sled ride. Our guide had indicated to us that this was a sled-dog training center and that pulling the carts was part of that.

We were glad to see first hand how excited the dogs were to get to run and pull the cart. We had been told about the excitement of the dogs to be in service by Mary Shields and also this week on the ship by Libby Riddles who was the first woman to win the Iditarod.

We had enjoyed the presentation and slide show by Libby Riddles, and that contributed to our enjoyment of seeing the dogs being harnessed for this summer run. It heightened our imagination of what it was like for Libby and others in the snow. One of the things I learned from her was that the best sled dogs were light and lean, because they are distance runners. These dogs were in fact smaller than I had expected. They were also strong! We saw them pull the carts with up to five people onboard.

They had an excellent museum of natural history on the site, and this elk looked like he was smiling for the picture!

Rod and Brenda tour the outstanding animal museum. Of course we meant for this to be a color picture, but somehow the phone got switched to grayscale.

Our driver took us to one of her favorite locations near Carcross, a beautiful hilly panorama of Alaska fall colors, and before the first of September!

Standing above this idyllic lake setting was a mountain with a dusting of new snow. They refer to the first snow as "termination dust" because it marks the termination of summer.

After lunch we spend a short time in Carcross and then proceeded to Fraser where we caught the White Pass Railroad for the return trip to Skagway. One historic building in the little town was the St John Baptist Catholic Church. An article on Carcross historic buildings says St. John the Baptist Church was brought from Conrad City to this site in the early 1940s. I found an article on Carcross which I liked.

Suz and Bob with totem pole in Carcross.
Our farthest point north into the Yukon Territory, Canada was to Caribou Crossing where we had lunch and watched the sled dogs. We now headed south from Carcross toward Fraser where we would catch the train.
As we passed by Nares Lake we could again see the new snow up on the mountain peaks.

We had a lot of rain and clouds, but discussed the fact that this rain was falling as snow on the peaks. We were seeing the "termination dust" on the tops of lots of mountains.

When we reached Fraser and the train arrived, it was raining pretty hard. Brenda was appreciative of her blue raincoat which was light enough to roll up and put in my backpack.

We ran beside a lake and a river as seen above, but sometimes the train was running in narrow cuts in the rock as shown at left.

The train was nearly full, and most of the passengers on our car were part of a Korean tour group. I talked with one of their Korean guides, who was as much a camera nut as I am.

The train roared across the rugged rocky landscape. By standing on the platform at the rear of our car, I could catch the engine as it entered a curve in either direction. The actual railbed is the same as it was in the days of the goldrush, but there are plans to straighten out some parts of it.

Brenda and Rod on the train. The cars were roomy and comfortable and we had big windows for watching the countryside. Suzanne and Bobby were sitting close to us and took this picture.

We were near the back of the car, and Suzanne and Bobby were one seat behind us on the opposite side. Behind them was a little pot-bellied stove for heating the car in colder weather.

The train took across a distance of rocky terrain composed of scattered humps of rock with lots of little ponds. It looked like what I would expect from a glacier scouring across a rocky landscape. It was interesting to watch the front of the train as we went around curves.

They had to chew a railbed out of this rock wall, and then the train had to cross a gorge. So it was certainly a challenging rail building task.

The train hugged the high rock wall around the bend and then zipped into a tunnel!

Another tight turn to the right gives us a good view of the front of our own train.

Another turn brings to an old trestle. I'm glad the train no longer goes across that one!

The track now descends further and crosses a steel bridge at this lower point.

A beautiful set of cascades down the steep mountainside beside the railway.

Another good place to think about the fact that this entire roadbed was carved out by hand and horse labor with the aid of dynamite, but no other machinery!

Another inspiring stream on the way down. Wild, pure, pristine, and violent in its course over the rocky stream bed.

There is a spot up on the railway where you can get a glimpse of the cruise ships at dock in Skagway. From the midst of the mountain scenery, it comes as a surprise!

From this spot you can see the roadway on the opposite side of the canyon headed for Skagway. You can also see the rail track below us which we will travel on a little later.

I liked Brenda's picture of Skagway better than any of mine because she captured the feel of still being up in the mountains and got the perspective of Skagway as this tiny port surrounded by mountains.

Having seen our destination in Skagway did not mean that the adventure of our trip was over! We looked up to see this dramatic glacier hanging in the clouds high above us on the mountain.

Here the train is traveling across a massive granite outcrop, and we are looking across a vast valley at a waterfall which cascades for miles!

We are on the last of three trains headed for Skagway, and we are traveling down a slope toward a broad sweeping turn that will bring us back on the track on the other side of the canyon. Here we are seeing one of those other trains ahead of us.

Here we get another glimpse of the train that is far ahead of us, having made the curve to the lower track.

Meanwhile, we are up high, hanging on in tight curves as the train moves into position to make the big descent.

As we rounded the tight left-hand turn, I was surprised to get to see the number two train that was closer to us. It had just made the big turn that we were headed for.

It was hard to believe that we had been so fortunate to be in position to watch the two trains ahead of us on the track through this beautiful wilderness! It was so interesting to see this number two train snaking through the curves on the track, and to see it from above!

Just one more reverie about the unspoiled beauty of God's creation here in this green valley!

Passing over this wild stream, we were soon back in Skagway.

Glacier Bay

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