Friday, July 29, 2011

Alaska Stop Two: Skagway

Click now for JiffNotes

Previously, on the Alaska trip...
Alaska Photo Highlights
Setting Sail from Seattle, the Sunny
Cruising to Juneau

So did you guess that the weird-looking contraption in the Photo Preview post...
 
...was actually a train?
 
Snowplow, yes...on a train. So cool; I'd never seen this kind of thing before.
 
Skagway is a gold rush town, where people would come before hiking into the Yukon with the year of supplies required by the Canadian government. (The Diamond store probably wasn't there back then.) Most of them were on foot and would group up to transport that massive pile of food a little ways, then turn around and go back for more of the pile, "inchworming" up the trail, while some of the group guarded both piles.

The National Park Service has buildings throughout the town set up to display what life was like.
 
Apparently, it was like Cheers. With an arctic fox.

Seriously, though the displays were pretty good overall. This house was restored to look like it did during that time period. These people were packrats! I didn't take any pictures inside the house, but one room had a display of brightly beaded moccasins...nailed up on the wall, over VERY busy wallpaper. =)
 
Their story was kind of tragic; they realized there would be a need for a port here, so they claimed a lot of land, built their homestead and docks (entrepreneurs!) and then...people pretty much just took their land. They also had tragic personal lives...lots of divorces and such.

They did have a great view, though.
 

We did not go on the White Pass Railway, which pretty much EVERYONE ELSE did. Instead, we hung out, sampled some local cuisine (I had a pumpkin cookie which I pretty much could have eaten a dozen of), and made our way to...
 
...featuring Soapy Smith! Was he a political activist? A shifty salesman? A philanthropist? A downright outlaw weasel?
 
(Answer: YES.)

We sat in the front row, and when this charming gentleman came out on stage, he asked me where I was from.
 
When he heard "Atlanta", he said, "I've got a song about Atlanta." I expected "Georgia on My Mind" (it's very cool having a state song pretty much everyone knows, but it can get tiring)...HOWEVER, he launched into a song about Atlanta, naming highways and all, that I'd never heard! And no wonder...when I asked him about it afterward, he said his buddy wrote it! He also did some other songs and some entertaining poetry reciting. I KNOW.

If you go to Skagway, see this show. It's unfortunate that a lot of guests probably got on the railway, missed all the shows, and got right back on the ship. These actors and actresses had been on national tours, and the pacing of the show was great.
 
I've found that "local theater" (or community theater) typically suffers from lax cue pickup ("you could drive a truck through the space between the lines") and poor pacing, or else actors thinking EVERY. LINE. Is soooooo... IMPORTANT. These guys were great.

Also: Audience participation.
 
Michael wishes me to tell you that my leg is on the downswing here...there's another picture with me facing the other side where my foot is in front of my face (and he wishes me to tell you THAT was on the downswing as well). But I do like our synchronization here, and the fact that I'm completely skunking the other audience member. ;) Goodness, I still need to send the theater pictures! When we talked to the girls afterwards, they asked for them. They also said they usually pick much older ladies to Can Can with them, because it makes them look good, LOL!!

After the show, we went on a van tour of the same valley the railroad winds through. We had wanted to go earlier in the day, but this worked out great because it ended up being a private tour for just the two of us!
 

One advantage of the van tour is that you get to stop and get out and wander around (which you clearly can't do while on a train).
 

The other advantage is that you can actually see the train! We also could see some of the actual path that the prospectors took to Dawson just below the train...it pretty much follows the original route.
 

It was chilly, but the views were totally worth it. Make sure you check out the cool bridge in the background, which is designed to move with the tectonic plates!
 

Parts of the landscape almost looked like the surface of the moon.
 

The Spring thaw meant that running water was everywhere, even up here at the summit.
 

Will you believe me when I tell you that these trees are over a hundred years old? We had a great guide who answered all our questions.
 
I never knew this, but the reason these trees are so short is not because they are "stunted" because of their difficult environment, per-se. That is, it's not that they don't grow, it's just that when it gets really cold, any part of the tree that's sticking out above the snow will die. In the snow, the temperature is a constant 32 degrees F (0 C), even if the outside temperature is negative! This is also why you'll see trees along the road with branches on only one side...not because of the wind causing branches to break or bend, as I thought, but because that's the side the snowplow piled the snow against!

These are the kinds of crazy questions you ask when your Dad was a Forestry major in college. ;)

 
After a few more photo ops, we headed back back to town, just in time to snag me some qiviut yarn. Our guide was kind enough to stop off at a grocery store on the way back so we could get some lotion...there was none on the ship!! I've never been to any (decent) hotel that did not provide lotion!

 
(No lotion here.)

JiffNotes
Skagway, the starting point for the gold rush, gave us history, some aerobic exercise, and more great landscapes.

3 comments:

Erin said...

The mountains are just stunning!

Susan said...

Great pictures, and thanks for the laughs ("Cheers with artic fox"). I would love to go to Alaska one day (well, I guess I'd want to go for longer then a day...)

Delusional Knitter said...

Awesome!! Looks like so much fun!! No lotion?!?!? What kinda place do they thing this is?!?!

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