Alaskan Adventure, Day Eight: Skagway

Official sign I have been on vacation too long: I had to look back at yesterday’s post to see what day I was on at this point. I’m also starting to rely heavily on the hotel elevators to tell me what day it is. Yikes.

Today’s port of call was Skagway, which, as far as I can tell exists solely as a tourist attraction. According to our guide this morning, only 900 people live here year round, which swells to 2,500 in the summer when they staff up for tourist season. And when the boats dock, there can be 10,000 or more people in town at one time. It’s fairly stunning, actually.

This isn’t to say it’s not a cute historic town, because it is:20120702-183605.jpg

And not to say that the scenery isn’t amazing and dramatic, because it is:20120702-183833.jpg

But it has got be very strange for locals to have their city temporarily increase in size tenfold every few days as new ships arrive. And it’s also pitched on the ships as a gold rush boom town – and then the first thing every guide tells you is that there was no gold found in Skagway – it was actually the key port city to the gold rush. This seems like an important distinction to make, but maybe that’s just my history nerd talking.

Anyway… Philosophical concerns about the town aside, this is a dang beautiful place. We hiked up to a waterfall this morning:20120702-184722.jpg


And this afternoon we took a train ride up the mountain, which was slightly terrifying (something about the 1,000 foot drop outside the train window) as well as gorgeous:20120702-185915.jpg


We stopped briefly to turn around in Canada, but were only a train length over the border, and not for more than five minutes, so I don’t think it counts for more than cool photo, featuring the flags of the US, Alaska, British Columbia, the Yukon, and Canada:


Last but not least for today, a photo of the rock wall at the port of Skagway, where each time a new ship arrives for the first time, crew members paint its insignia on the cliff face. I found a couple from the 1920s, which is pretty cool: