An Alaskan Adventure; Skagway, “Gateway to the Yukon”

If you’ve popped into this article via a search you may want to start at the beginning of my Alaska Series HERE.

This old boxcar pretty much says it all.  Skagway was considered the entrance port to the Alaskan Gold Rush back in 1898 with thousands of people from the lower 48 coming up to seek their fortune.  Most would not find any.  This was the third city or small town on our cruise north.  Once again I was up at the crack of dawn with my nose to the balcony rail as we pulled in.

The fjords continue to be extremely deep, more than enough to accommodate the largest of ships.  The day would start off damp, but not enough to damper our spirits as we planned for our day.

Happy to see this beauty of a train right outside our window.  Those of you that know me know I am a real rail fan, especially when the boys were young.  We played trains non-stop; built them inside and out of our house.  We owned many different kinds including cars from the White Pass and Yukon, but never really knew too much of its history.  We were delighted to finely see this train in action.


But our day would not include this very popular train ride.  Why, you might ask would we pass on this?  Well…..according to TripAdvisor, the ride is 3 hours up, 3 back, with no chance to get off and enjoy your surroundings.  So we opted for the rental car, which proved to be a great decision, giving us the freedom to do what we wanted (at a fraction of the cost).

We let the boys sleep in a bit while we ventured around the town early in the morning.  Laura window shopped while I fetched the car.  All was calm for just a little while.  We would come back later in the day to find the town swamped with 3 cruise ships of people.  However, our adventure would take us out of town and up into Cananda, far, far, away!

Lots of totem’s.

Our Liam would gladly work here for free…..or rather…..all he could eat.



Our route into the Yukon would follow a similar route of the train.  So there were plenty of times to stop and watch it snake through the mountains.  Liam is looking at the water fall below.

Up on top of White Pass the tree line subsided and the views were epic.  Lakes like this behind us dotted the landscape for 60+ miles to our destination; Carcross.  We stopped often to take it all in.  We often felt like the Griswalds (aka Chevy Chase).

Miles of lakes with no one in site.  We had heard the Alaskan mosquitoes were large enough to carry away a Moose.  Here Dad is getting a taste of one as they swarmed around us; a very quick photo op.

Quick….every one back in the car!!

And what family Alaska trip would be complete without the obligatory photo op as we enter Canada!

Carcross was a little smaller than I had imagined, although quaint.  We explored around its very small town and wondered what people did in the winter.  I had a nice conversation with a group of French women hikers who had just come off the Chilkoot trail; the same trek the gold miners took into the Yukon.  It remains a very popular route.  This is one of the turn around points on the White Pass and Yukon, but also still goes farther into the Alaskan interior.

Caribou Coffee house.

We had read that just down the road a bit from Carcross was a Tourist Exhibit (uh…trap) where we could see some sled dogs and such.  The boys were all too happy to jump out.  We had been on a wildlife hunt all day and had a running bet who would be the first to spot something substantial.

Weren’t we excited to spot some Dal Sheep high up overhead on the cliff face (see arrow).  Fantastic!  Although…..they didn’t seem to move much.  We watched and watched but no deal.  Yea……fake.  Fake sheep high on the cliff.  Duped!  We had a good laugh and the more we walked around the more we referred to the place as the Fukon (fake Yukon).  It got worse.


The kids were having a hard time with this.  Sled dogs chained up and looking sad.  The only thing more sad looking was the people that cared for them.  Now I know these dogs are bred to run and live in conditions like this, but the boys were having none of it and wanted to bug out.  They were feeling sorry for the dogs.  We would see other sled dogs along our adventure that looked in much better shape.  But what do I know, these could have been champion Iditarod dogs……I doubt it.

A glimmer of hope.  Cute pups.  Hope they got sold into a better life.

Finally some wildlife…all be them stuffed and mounted.  But its a start…and foreshadowed things to come.

This seal reminded me of my son when he wants something.

I did find a cool old truck.  I like vintage machinery.  At this point we were done with the Fukon and headed to the car, but not before stopping to give the spoiler alert to a large group of tourists taking pictures of the fake sheep.  It was kind of a guilty pleasure to ruin it for them.  Sorry folks.

On our return trip into Skagway we would stop off to tour the rail-yard.  It was cool.

My wife snapped this one as my son and I reminisced of our old train days.

We own this engine in G-scale for our now defunct backyard railroad.  Hmmm….maybe its time to pull all that stuff out and get busy.

Tank car Daddy!  Danny knew them all by the time he could speak.

Near the rail yard was the Reid Falls and the old Skagway Cemetery. Many stampeders are buried here including Frank Reid who died while trying to rid the town of Soapy Smith, a gangster of sorts who would rob, cheat and steal from the many travelers passing through.  You can read about the shootout HERE.

And the bright point of the day….Reilly finds a gold nugget.

Stay tuned….Glacier National Park and Preserve is up next.



  • […] Next up, Skagway and a venture into the Yukon! Posted in people […]

  • Karen Neil - September 21, 2012 - 8:11 PM

    We loved going on Princess cruise! Your pictures are spectacular and so beautiful…

  • Nina - October 30, 2012 - 1:15 PM

    You saw something different with us as you rent a car! Definitely you had flexibility to see and photo what you wanted. The pictures are so great. I will follow you to see next.

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