Saturday, July 17, 2010

Alaska Trip Day 6 Recap: Watson Lake, YT to Skagway, AK

Alaska Trip Day 6 (Tue Jun 29): 320 miles / 515 km; 5 hr 49 min

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At last...after 5 solid days of driving, it's finally time to slow it down a bit and do some actual sightseeing. Not to mention, we actually get to Alaska today. Yeah!

But first, we do have at least a little bit of driving: Alaska Highway (Yukon Route 1), to Tagish Road (Yukon Route 8), to Klondike Highway (Yukon Route 2, which becomes Alaska Route 98 at the border), to Skagway. Again, this was an absolutely incredible drive. I don't think I can stress this enough. The descent into Skagway is fantastic.

All of these roads were in good shape, too. That includes Tagish Road, which according to some maps and publications, isn't even paved. We knew better, though, thanks to The Milepost: Tagish Road / Yukon 8 is 100% paved, even more so than some parts of the Alaska Highway.

Here are some pictures from the drive between Watson Lake and the Alaska border:

This is the Nisutlin Bay bridge, near Teslin, Yukon.

As we went farther north, we started to see more snowcapped mountains. Strange.

I think water and mountains make for a very pleasant combination.

Even better than water and mountains? Water, mountains, and a road!

Ta da! I have now officially visited all 50 states. Where's my prize?

Usually when you cross the international border, the customs station is right on the other side of the border, right? Not here! On the Klondike Highway, you don't get to the U.S. Port of Entry until 8 miles after the border. I guess they figure they might as well make it closer to town, considering that there's basically nothing between there and the border. Similar situation going the other way, too - Canadian customs is in the town of Fraser, BC, several kilometres north of the border.

Hello Skagway, Alaska! Oh, do I have a lot to say about you.

We knew this going in, but Skagway is a very popular stop for cruise ships. Leah warned us ahead of time that there would be 9,000 cruise ship passengers in Skagway that day alone. And based on what we saw, that sounds about right. On one hand, it was interesting to drive all that way and see practically nobody, and then descend upon thousands upon thousands of people in one place. But on the other hand...who are all of these losers? We drove here, so we're way cooler. (No offense to anyone who has taken an Alaskan cruise themselves. Driving to Alaska isn't for everybody.) And, the only reason Skagway is anything at all is because of the business they get from cruise ships.

So, what is there to do in Skagway? Well, you can buy souvenirs, of course, including diamonds. There's basically at least one diamond store on every block. One kid on the street - probably about 12 years old - asked me, "Sir, do you know if there's a store around here that sells diamonds?" I didn't catch on to the joke at first, and never even thought about why a 12 year old kid is interested in diamonds in the first place, so of course I gave him a serious answer. Missed opportunity!

But if shopping isn't your thing, then there are a couple of things you can do here. One is to go hiking in the woods surrounding the town...

...and the other is to wide the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad. The WP&YR railroad is the most popular thing to do in Skagway. Well, we might as well do it too, eh?

The train basically went back up the way we drove in, except this time I didn't have to worry about applying the brakes every 10 seconds. So that was nice.

The last picture is of the Canadian border, which is where the train "turned around". How does a train turn around? That'll be our little secret.

We didn't completely avoid the town of Skagway altogether, though. We ate dinner at the Bonanza Bar & Grill (pictured farther up), and Bonanza set the record for fastest restaurant serving time of the year (5:08), so far. So, good for them! While we were there, I treated myself to a fine Alaskan beer.

Alaskan Amber is bottled - you guessed it - in Alaska, and it seems to be the most popular Alaska-made beer around. If you're up this way sometime (anywhere in Alaska, not just Skagway) and like beer, have one! And no, I'm not just saying that because I like the name.

Oh, and here's a fun fact about Skagway. There is no hospital there (or anywhere near, for that matter), so it is ILLEGAL to be in Skagway if you are in your third trimester of pregnancy. Even if you live there.

So, here are my official Skagway recommendations:
- "If I come to Skagway via cruise ship, should I do the train ride?" YES, YES, YES. The train ride and the drive are both top notch.
- "If I'm driving, is it worth it to come down to Skagway?" I think it was worth the trip for us, and our schedule was pretty tight as it was, so...sure! Come on down to Skagway. Why not? No need to spend more than one night, though. And be prepared to roam the streets with a bunch of people who don't speak English.
- "What if I'm seven months pregnant?" In that case, ABSOLUTELY NOT! Didn't you read the last paragraph?

1 comment:

rob said...

Wow, did you take the Honda Civic? I stumbled upon day 6 first. Maybe I'll find out starting at the first day.