The Skagway Trail of ‘98 Museum shares Alaska’s first granite building with the local city government offices. The building was originally built as McCabe College for Women in 1899-1900 and also served as a federal court house from 1901 until statehood in 1959. Today the museum includes collections of Alaska Native baskets, beadwork, carvings and the expected Gold Rush tools and artifacts. A video also explained Skagway’s role as a military installation in WWII. A military memorial sits across the street.
The town’s early characters are buried in the Skagway Cemetery. Most infamous was Jefferson “Soapy” Smith, the town’s gold rush era con man. His story is told through documents in the local museum and in the local theatre production, “Days of ‘98”. (More on that later.)
Just above the cemetery is a trail to Reid’s Falls. The short hike revealed a wonderful waterfall and huge boulders just calling for a photo session.
Our plan to wait for the cruise line crowds to empty out almost backfired on us. We went to the 2:30 p.m. theatre production of “The Days of ‘98” hoping to miss the crowds. Well, there were so few attendees they almost cancelled the show. But, a last minute “rush” got the audience count up to 15 or 20 so it was on with the show. This musical story of Alaska’s most notorious outlaw and con man, Soapy Smith (see tombstone above) featured cancan dancers, Robert Service poetry reading, ragtime music, and interaction with the audience – including our very own Frank King. (Our traveling friends ahead of us in Alaska also had one of their own in the similar role.) I think you can guess Frank enjoyed his fame and got a big smooch on the cheek he was proud to show off. We now have to talk to his agent first.
While it couldn’t beat the afternoon’s entertainment, we attended a National Park Service presentation, “Can Bears Co-Exist with Humans?”. There WAS a test and we can all now tell the difference between a black bear and a brown bear. So far, we have only seen black bears in our travels, even if some of them were brown…. See the Wildlife report below.
I think we ate out more in Skagway than anywhere else in our travels. Our first meal was lunch at the Bonanza Bar & Grill and we would rate it as over-priced and only so-so. But that didn’t stop us. For dinner we opted for the Skagway Fish Company along the marina just across the parking lot from our RV park. The guys had the local halibut fish and chips and the gals had batter-fried shrimp baskets. Frank was also impressed with the French onion soup. Prices for dinner were less than our lunches.
Saturday we scouted out our evening meal earlier in the afternoon when we were at the Klondike Gold Fields. Located just outside of town on the Klondike Highway, the onsite restaurant and brewery featured a BBQ buffet with the option of one-time through the line with a $14.95 size plate or a larger $17.95 plate. Surprisingly, the owner encouraged us to go for the smaller plate and said there was plenty of room to stack the baby-backs, beef ribs, vegetarian baked beans, and the salads (wonderful coleslaw, potato or macaroni), and fresh cornbread. We were the last diners of the night and expected the food to be cold, tired, or limited in quantity. Far from it! The homemade BBQ sauce (regular or spicy) got great reviews. The owner brought out two complimentary baskets of hot, fresh fries, and gave Gloria a sample glass of their homemade root beer. Frank enjoyed his locally brewed beer. Teas, coffee and water were complimentary. We had seats overlooking the Skagway River and, to top off the atmosphere, felt pens were provided so we could leave our words of wisdom, signatures, or general graffiti anywhere on their wooden walls. For Alaska travelers following us, give this restaurant a try.
I was going to put the photos of Frank in the wildlife section of this blog but his agent wanted double royalties. So you’ll have to settle for the mama and cub that crossed the road in front of us on our trip out of Skagway. Two vehicles were stopped in the road on either side of them so by the time we got there, they were already headed back into the bushes.
Yes, that is a brown black bear (see test answers above).
NEXT: The Jell-O Itinerary