Our last stop in Alaska was to the small town of Skagway. We had a good chunk of the day to explore but had not booked any excursions before hand. We left the boat intending to do some sight-seeing, go on a few hikes, and then return to the ship to relax. As it turns out, we actually spent most of the day away from the ship, and had a blast.
First, we enjoyed a walk around town. The main part of town was actually only a few blocks so it was easy to see most of it. It is full of restored buildings from the time of the Yukon Gold Rush, as Skagway was a port town for one of the trails. Thousands upon thousands of ambitious men and women came through in hopes of striking it rich. Sadly, a good chunk of them either died, gave up, or were never successful. However, the old town remains and holds so much history.
During our walk, we happened to see a sign advertising a van tour that would follow along the trail made by the gold seekers. It was a decent price so we jumped on it and headed up into the mountains. The weather was overcast and cool, so we were actually quite happy to take shelter in a van. Along the way, we made stops to look at the Gold Rush Trail and to see plenty of scenic overlooks and waterfalls.
Those mountains are some of the most beautiful I have ever been in, filled with a lush and dense rainforest. However, as we gained more and more elevation, we the vegetation started thinning. At that point, a dense fog settled on the mountain making it difficult to see. Despite that, we continued on through the mysterious looking lands. There were some people on our tour that were not happy with the weather conditions; I was thrilled. I love the rain and fog. It makes things more exciting.
We did reach a point where we could not travel any further as we had reached the no-mans-land between Canada and the USA. Technically, we were in Canada, but there is a space between the customs areas so people like us could make a stop, take some pictures then turn around and head back to Alaska. Overlooking that transition area, there was a giant man, made out of rocks. Later, I found out that it is called an Inukshuk, and is used as a signpost for travelers as well as a symbol of friendship between the USA and Canada.
After a quick break at an overlook where we could see our cruise ships, our final stop was at an old cemetery where those who died during the gold rush are buried. I loved looking at all the different tombstones and wondering what their stories were. We had heard one story during the drive, which I found very funny. One man, Jefferson R. “Soapy” Smith, was a gangster of sorts during the gold rush, in the sense that he controlled the town through his influence, money, and minions. After years of controlling the town, Frank H. Reid stood up to him. There was a shoot out, resulting in the gangster dying, and the other man receiving a wound that would kill him a week later. The gangster was given a grave site on the edge of the cemetery, and only had a few paid people attend his funeral. The other man, however, was given a grand procession, a large grave marker, and remains buried in the center of the graveyard because of he saved the town.
Behind the cemetery, there was yet another beautiful waterfall. But we didn’t have much time to look as we needed to get back to the van. We were shuttled out and then dropped off for us to do some last minute exploring. Before we found the van tour, we had intended on going hiking. We decided to keep that plan, and took off into the forest. We only had time to hike 2.5 miles in but enjoyed seeing a pristine lake surrounded by beautiful trees.
We wished we could have stayed longer but we had to get back to the ship. Once back on board, that signaled the end of our time walking around Alaska, although we did have one last view of it, exiting out of the Lynn Canal later that night. Needless to be said, we loved our time there so much, we intend to go back someday.