Day 7: We slept in as long as possible before our 8 am tour. Skagway was once a gold rush town, where prospectors came hoping to strike it rich! Unfortunately, nothing more than gold flakes were ever found here. It is now a virtual ghost town, with a population hovering around 300 most of the year, but it picks up in the summer for tourists. It only gets 20” of rain a year, so Canadians use it as a spring break hotspot! It was really beautiful, with the most authentic old west charm I have ever encountered!
Our tour group was so small it was just us and a family of four! A mom and three young kids turned out to be from La Jolla, living very close to my university! Our bus dropped us off at a small center where we met a man who raced in the Iditarod sled dog race 7 times! This happens to be the national sport of Alaska! Anyone see Balto? Matt showed us his gear and how modern sleds look, describing how he manages 16 dogs racing non-stop for two weeks in -40 Fahrenheit! We then went out and met the huskies! It turns out that ‘husky’ is not a real breed but more like the ‘mustang’ of the horse world. The Siberian Huskies of the AKC are bred for looks anymore and are no good for a real race! They hooked the dogs up and took them out on gravel for us to see! This is how they train in the summer. Finally, we got to play with the husky puppies! They were so cute! Mine was named Jab, but there was Uppercut, Sucker Punch, and another I forget. When we finally put the puppies away, we headed for the cold chamber!
The grounds had an ice room maintained at 40-below-freezing. They gave us heavy winter coats to put on and we tested how long we could stay before getting uncomfortable. Even the little kids had a blast! I stayed the longest and got some fun pictures! Last, we learned about gold panning from a man dressed as a prospector, and got to try our hands panning for gold! We were guaranteed to find gold, and they helped us get the most out of our pans. Then they took us in to measure and weigh it, while telling us how much it was worth! We both made around $17 each, even though it was just a tiny sprinkling of gold leafing. I can imagine why people get gold fever!
The experience really made our trip! I highly recommend it for anyone heading to Skagway. They have a cute café there as well, with delicious homemade root beer! Their gift shop is interesting. They even sold sled-dog champion dog poop fertilizer! I had fun showing that to the San Diegan kids. When we finished our tour, the bus driver went out of her way to drop the two of us off at the 19th century cemetery! We took a little walk to see their 7-tier waterfall before reading the names and ages of the old-west grave markers!
Apparently, back in the day, ‘Soapy Smith’ was a notorious conman. He built a telegram machine, charging homesick residents $5 per message out and $5 per message received. The problem was that his telegram wire went up the mountain, but no further! Every return message was fake, and no message was ever sent! His life ended in a bloody shoot-out, where the US Marshall died only hours after his only child was born. Soapy was killed by the same man who founded Skagway, but he was also killed by one of Soapy’s men. There were many markers that showed this same death date.
Downtown Skagway, which is really the only part of Skagway that there is, looked like an actual step back in time! Even the sidewalks were wood planks! This was one of my favorite ports! Most of the shops were for jewelry, since most of the visitors are from cruise ships. Even Starbucks is actually in a jewelry shop! I visited a Russian shop where most of their goods are handmade in St. Petersburg! I bought some small souvenirs there, since Alaska was once Russia, so I thought it was fitting. I remembered to turn on roaming again, which gave me extended 3g, allowing Beau to order transcripts for his grad school and me to update Facebook. I have some amazing pictures from Skagway!
After sailing away, we were still on the inside passage. The howling wind through the fjords was enough to take my breath away! This is the Alaska I expected! How does one fully appreciate snow-capped mountains while on a cruise ship? From the hot tub of course! We met another couple from San Diego and spent about 3 hours in the hot tub. We watched the most amazing pink sunset over the mountains I had ever seen! Was it cold outside of the hot tub? It was freezing. Were we comfortable? O yes! Still, it was an adventure to run back to our towels while wearing wet swimsuits! Fortunately, the tub was so hot it took a long time to get to where we were in pain.