The road from Carcross, Yukon Territory to Skagway, Alaska is called the Klondike Highway and we had read many accounts of the 11-mile, 11% downgrade that made us question whether or not we wanted to tackle this section of highway with the motorhome. Once again our worries were squelched by our Escapee friends who assured us it was no problem if we took it S-L-O-W and used our low gears and engine brakes properly. “Piece of cake,” wrote Sharon and Don Del Rosario, who both drove it just a couple of weeks ago.
What a beautiful ride!
There was still ice on the small lakes and the outside temperature dropped to 42-degrees as we crossed through White Pass.
Frank and Gloria King led the way through the wider truck aisle and got scolded by the agent for not using the car/bus aisle. We knew how tight the left side was and think the agent was just ticked-off because he had to go outside to check their passports.
The only other traffic at the checkpoint was a group of bicyclists who had been dropped off up the road and were riding back to town.
The Kings made it through Customs without any other difficulty.
We, on the other hand, noted truthfully that we had some salad veggies, an orange and some apples. OOPS, “Please pull over! An agricultural inspection agent will be over to see you.” While the agent was friendly and polite, four apples we had just purchased in Watson Lake, BC had (GASP!) been imported from New Zealand and could not go beyond this border into the USA. The orange had a “Grown in California” sticker and survived. As for the bin of salad greens and veggies, he “suggested” with a wink that if my one lonely Roma tomato was sliced, it to could re-enter the USA. A quick slice and it would also be allowed into Alaska. After I signed an official US Customs document stating that I had relinquished custody of the apples to the agent (and that they weren’t taken by force), I smiled and told the agent to “enjoy the apples”. Oops, again!! I was then advised that under FDA rules, all the fruits and produce confiscated (er, relinquished) at the inspection station were hauled to an incinerator and destroyed. No fruit salad for these agents.
Skagway – A true tourist town
At the recommendation of many, we stayed at the Pullen Creek RV Park, adjacent to the dock area for the big cruise ships that slip in every night and depart late the next afternoon. When Dennis Hill and the six RVs in his travel group stayed here recently, they opted to stay in the parking spaces immediately adjacent to the marina park. When we arrived, the cold winds were blowing so we chose to stay within the regular campground and use the surrounding trees to break the winds. We still had views of the visiting cruise ships and a break in the fence allowed easy access to walk the area.
While we were in Skagway we saw ships from the Carnival, Princess, Statesdam, and Disney Lines. As you can imagine, the Disney Line brings young tourists. Gloria overheard one young girl asking her mother when they could go back to the fun on the cruise ship rather than visit this old town with its downtown of tourist traps.
Downtown Skagway Scenes…
Gloria King even found time to stop and smell the flowers and to visit with the Alaskan political icon, Sarah Palen. This stand-in for Sarah was at the entrance to a huge t-shirt and souvenir store. A few blocks away there was even a Sarah Palen Store with political memorabilia and no tourists.
Besides Broadway, the Gold Rush area replicated business street of jewelry stores, souvenir shops, clothing (t-shirt) stores, etc., the other big attraction is the White Pass and Yukon Route, “the scenic railway of the world”.
Built in 1898, the narrow-gauge railroad was built to connect Skagway with Carcross and Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. Unfortunately, the gold rush was about over when the “internationally historic civil engineering landmark” was completed. The railroad did, however, become useful during WWII when the government took over the town and the railroad to build the strategically needed Alaskan Highway.
Today, the trains board passengers right at the cruise ship docks or at the downtown depot and transport them through the scenic White Pass (that long grade we drove in the RVs). The tourists then return by round-trip rail or bus.
This blog has been very long, but there is still more to tell about our visit to Skagway. Watch for Skagway, Part 2. (Free internet service has not been available in Skagway so this posting will wait until we reach our next destination, Whitehorse. At that time I will probably be posting more than one blog update.)
I can’t leave without reporting on the single bear we saw on our trip from Carcross to Skagway. This guy grazed along the Klondike Highway for quite a while before we had to move past because of tour bus traffic.
NEXT: Skagway, Part 2