Welcome back to the eleventh installment of the Bucket List: Alaska series. If you are just joining us, you can go back to read the start of our Alaska adventure in Anchorage at this link. There will be links at the bottom of each post to take you to the next one.
Our next port of call was Skagway, with its Gold-Rush-era heritage and abundant natural beauty, it is a small town with quite a lot to offer. Skagway is surrounded by the Taiya Inlet and the Coast Mountains and sits at the northernmost point of the Inside Passage. Skagway was a boom town in the late 1890s when gold was discovered in the nearby Yukon, and many historic buildings and colorful stories remain to be discovered! We, however, focused on the outdoor adventures!
We began our day by meeting our excursion company just off the dock for a motorcoach ride on the Klondike Highway to the White Pass Summit and Yukon Suspension bridge. This excursion included a crossing of the Canadian Border on the Klondike Highway, so passports were required.
A few photos of the scenery on the Klondike Highway. As is typical, it was a cloudy overcast day, but that did not diminish the views!
Our afternoon excursion was a bike ride down the Klondike Highway from the summit to Skagway, and we lucked into a preview at an overlook just past the bridge construction. We met the morning bike ride at their first stop after leaving the White Pass summit at 3,292 feet and they were nearly frozen! They advised us to wear many layers and take advantage of additional layers offered by the tour company, and we were suddenly glad that we had chosen the 3 PM tour, rather than a morning ride. 🙂
We stopped one more time at a scenic overlook before crossing the border into Canada.
Another option for an excursion was the White Pass and Yukon Railroad 41-mile round trip route from Skagway to the Yukon Territory. The railroad paralleled the Klondike Highway in several places.
The border crossing was interesting; a Canadian officer boarded the bus and asked to see every passenger’s passport, held open to our photo, and displayed beside our face. He was very pleasant, but it was still a curious experience.
Our furthest point on this excursion was the Yukon Suspension Bridge, located at the 47.5Km marker of the South Klondike Highway. It is a pedestrian cable suspension bridge spanning 180 feet across the Tutshi River Canyon (pronounced TOO-shy) and just a spectacle of engineering. The pristine mountain air and sensation of a swaying walkway 57 feet above the churning rapids of the river were thrilling, or terrifying, for those that chose to remain on terra firma. Although I can’t imagine doing that…
The structure of the visitor’s center, store, and cafe showed the ingenious use of natural materials to fend off the elements.
We were able to take advantage of a small booth dispensing passport stamps for the Yukon Territory on our way back to the bus, which made us smile since they were the first stamps in our recently renewed books.
A quick stop at the White Pass Summit and we snagged photos of an iconic sign, and even more iconic scenery.
The excursion included a stop for a salmon bake buffet at the Liarsville Gold Rush Trail Camp, a recreation of a tent city from 1896 near Skagway. The food was good, and we scarfed it down at long tables in open tents. There are no photos, however, since I found this portion of the experience rather
tacky touristy for my taste.
We arrived back in Skagway for a brief time, and I took two photos prior to getting suited up for our bicycle ride down from the White Pass Summit.
We again met our excursion company, this time Sockeye Cycle, near the dock, and soon we were on our way back up the Klondike Highway to begin our Summit to Sea bike tour. The tour is a 15-mile (mostly) downhill bike ride through incredible scenery, crisp mountain air, and the US Border crossing. An interesting border note here: The US and Canada meet at the White Pass summit, but due to the harsh weather conditions the official border stations are located 7.9 miles south (US) and 7.6 miles north (Canada) of the summit. Since we started our downhill ride at the summit, between the two stations, we only had to check in at the US station. We all had our passports at the ready, but the tour guide showed her passport and vouched for all of us and the crossing was a non-event.
As we suited up, adjusted, and then mounted our bikes at the sunny summit, we again thanked the lucky stars that we chose the afternoon ride! We donned multiple layers of clothing, gloves, jackets, and helmets, and it was a very comfortable ride even in the breeze.
I mentioned mostly downhill in the description of the ride. As we discovered, following the US border check, there is a decidedly UPHILL portion of the ride. Our guide cheerfully announced that we should take our time on this slight uphill grade and that we would regroup at an overlook prior to the final ride into Skagway.
All through the ride, we had been in single-file formation, this being a major highway, and I was the first bike behind our guide. Jerry was right behind me, followed by a slightly odd man and his wife, who had argued in the van about who should sit where. Well, this man came roaring by Jerry, and then me, on the uphill portion, but could not catch up with the guide. I will admit, it was a tough climb. He slowed drastically from his original assault, arrived at the overlook seconds before we did, and then commenced to nearly cough and hack himself to death. Ugh, what is wrong with people???
Anyway, other than this brief and bizarre episode, the ride was truly a pleasure, and we highly recommend Sockeye Cycle should you ever visit Skagway. We strolled through town, then wound down with a nice cold draft at the bike guides’ favorite local watering hole, Skagway Brewing, before heading back to the ship.
A sincere Thank You to those of you who have followed our journey through Alaska so far! A few more posts and this bucket list journey will be through. Until then, happy travels!
You can go directly to the next post about Mendenhall Glacier by clicking this link.