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Second Time Around

    In the last blog episode from our 2016 World Cruise, https://baderjournal.wordpress.com/2016/07/, we summed up this way:

So that’s it for this truly epic journey, a true circumnavigation of the globe (which we discovered requires you to pass through two points on precisely opposite sides of the world . . . ours were near New Zealand & Gibraltar)).  This is truly a once in a lifetime trip . . . unless you do it again, which we just might.  So long until next time.”

     So today, less than two years later, “next time” has already come as we find ourselves again boarding the M/S Amsterdam for another turn around the world.

21. Juneau

     We didn’t think we would be doing this again quite this quickly, but HAL offered an interesting itinerary around the southern part of Africa instead of going through the Med.  And in addition all of our table mates from the 2016 cruise decided to go again this year, so how could we pass up such a happy reunion?

Last night with our table maates in 2016: (around table from left) Bill, Robert, Rick, Mary, Lee, Bob, Judy (photo edited by Bob)

     The first episode of our 2016 world cruise blog included my characteristically discursive review of the history of world cruising.  It’s still there so I won’t bore you with any more of that today. if you want to read it just aim you browser to ttps://baderjournal.wordpress.com/2015/12/27/around-the-world-in-115-days/.

     This year we will be returning to some interesting ports we visited in 2016 & also visiting some new places where we have never been before.  Here is the current itinerary map:

image

Here is a list version of the itinerary, which is probably easier to follow & also tells you when we are supposed to be there:

DATE

DAY

PORT

ARRIVE

DEPART

Jan 04

Thu

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

8:00 PM

Jan 06

Sat

Georgetown, Grand Cayman

10:00 AM

6:00 PM

Jan 08

Mon

Puerto Limón (San José), Costa Rica

7:00 AM

4:00 PM

Jan 09

Tue

Panama Canal Transit

Fuerte Amador (Panama City), Panama

8:00 PM

Jan 10

Wed

Fuerte Amador (Panama City), Panama

4:00 PM

Jan 14

Sun

Crossing the Equator

Jan 19

Fri

Taihoae, Nuku Hiva, French Polynesia

9:00 AM

6:00 PM

Jan 21

Sun

Avatoru, Rangiroa, French Polynesia

8:00 AM

5:00 PM

Jan 22

Mon

Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

8:00 AM

Jan 23

Tue

Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

5:00 AM

Cook’s Bay, Moorea, French Polynesia

8:00 AM

5:00 PM

Jan 24

Wed

Vaitape, Bora Bora, French Polynesia

8:00 AM

11:00 PM

Jan 26

Fri

Avatiu, Rarotonga, Cook Islands

8:00 AM

5:00 PM

Jan 28

Sun

Alofi, Niue

8:00 AM

5:00 PM

Jan 30

Tue

Crossing the International Date Line

Feb 02

Fri

Auckland, New Zealand

7:00 AM

8:00 PM

Feb 03

Sat

Tauranga (Rotorua), New Zealand

8:00 AM

6:00 PM

Feb 04

Sun

Napier, New Zealand

11:00 AM

11:00 PM

Feb 06

Tue

Port Chalmers (Dunedin), New Zealand

8:00 AM

6:00 PM

Feb 07

Wed

Fiordland National Park – scenic cruising

Feb 10

Sat

Sydney, Australia

8:00 AM

Feb 11

Sun

Sydney, Australia

6:00 PM

Feb 13

Tue

Hobart, Australia

8:00 AM

Feb 14

Wed

Hobart, Australia

4:00 AM

Port Arthur, Australia

8:00 AM

3:00 PM

Feb 16

Fri

Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island, Australia

8:00 AM

6:00 PM

Feb 17

Sat

Adelaide, Australia

8:00 AM

11:00 PM

Feb 20

Tue

Albany, Australia

8:00 AM

5:00 PM

Feb 21

Wed

Fremantle (Perth), Australia

4:00 PM

Feb 22

Thu

Fremantle (Perth), Australia

5:00 PM

Feb 26

Mon

Benoa (Denpasar), Bali, Indonesia

8:00 AM

Feb 27

Tue

Benoa (Denpasar), Bali, Indonesia

11:00 PM

Mar 03

Sat

Puerto Princesa, Philippines

8:00 AM

6:00 PM

Mar 05

Mon

Manila, Philippines

8:00 AM

Mar 06

Tue

Manila, Philippines

5:00 PM

Mar 08

Thu

Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China

8:00 AM

Mar 09

Fri

Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China

6:00 PM

Mar 12

Mon

Phu My (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam

6:00 AM

6:00 PM

Mar 14

Wed

Singapore

8:00 AM

Mar 15

Thu

Singapore

11:00 PM

Mar 17

Sat

Phuket, Thailand

8:00 AM

5:00 PM

Mar 20

Tue

Colombo, Sri Lanka

8:00 AM

5:00 PM

Mar 24

Sat

Victoria, Mahé, Seychelles

10:00 AM

11:00 PM

Mar 27

Tue

La Possession, Réunion

8:00 AM

6:00 PM

Mar 31

Sat

Maputo, Mozambique

8:00 AM

6:00 PM

Apr 03

Tue

Cape Town, South Africa

8:00 AM

Apr 04

Wed

Cape Town, South Africa

Apr 05

Thu

Cape Town, South Africa

5:00 PM

Apr 07

Sat

Walvis Bay, Namibia

8:00 AM

11:00 PM

Apr 10

Tue

Luanda, Angola

8:00 AM

5:00 PM

Apr 13

Fri

Crossing the Equator

Apr 16

Mon

Banjul, Gambia

8:00 AM

6:00 PM

Apr 17

Tue

Dakar, Senegal

8:00 AM

6:00 PM

Apr 19

Thu

Praia, llha de Santiago, Cape Verde

8:00 AM

6:00 PM

Apr 25

Wed

San Juan, Puerto Rico

8:00 AM

11:00 PM

Apr 28

Sat

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

7:00 AM

     This is our “current” itinerary because we have learned over the years that the scheduled stops are not guaranteed.  We have missed ports because the weather or ocean turbulence made tendering ashore too dangerous & also because of political unrest.  This year’s trip was originally supposed to include Madagascar, but that was cancelled because of an outbreak of plague, so we will be stopping at Reunion Island instead.  If we don’t have to miss any other stops along the way we will be pretty happy campers, & also somewhat surprised.  A lot can happen over the course of four months!

     We always drive to Florida & leave our car for the duration of the trip.  There is parking on the pier, but its pretty expensive for a long trip ($15 or $20, last time we checked).  We park our car at a place called Auto Storage USA, http://www.autostorageusa.com/.  The long term rates are very reasonable, a fraction of the pier price, the lot is enclosed by a 10 foot wall with an electronic sliding gate, & the people who run it are really nice & friendly.  They were, as always, happy to see us, spent time with us in friendly conversation, then drove us to our hotel.  They are highly recommended for anyone wanting to drive to Ft Lauderdale for a cruise.

     We are going to approach the blog of this trip differently than in the past, to Rick’s benefit but not yours.  The internet on board ship is so very slow that Rick ended up spending far too many hours sitting in the library waiting for blog entries to upload to the internet.  Moreover, since HAL charges for internet service the old fashioned way – by the minute – this slow service also cost a lot of money.  So, to save some money and (more importantly) allow Rick to enjoy more of the voyage we have decided not to post the blog episodes as they are completed, as we did last time.  Instead, they will be composed as we travel along, but not posted until we have access to reasonably fast internet service.  We may try to post some messages here via email, but those would be relatively short with few if any pictures.  We have never tried that before, so we will see how it works.

     That means that this may be the last posting you will see until we return to the USA at the end of April.  On our last world cruise Singapore was the one port that had fast (& free) internet available from the cruise terminal.  If that is true again this year we may post some episodes from there, but it appears we will be docking at a different place in Singapore this year so we don’t know if the fast internet will be available there or not.  The best way to be sure you see new episodes whenever they are posted is to sign up for email notices (instructions are on the “About this Blog” page).  If you would like to follow the cruise in real time, you obviously won’t be able to do it here, but there are web addresses listed on the “About this Blog” page of four other blogs maintained by people who will be on this cruise with us.

     At the top of this page are three buttons.

     1. The “Home” button will bring you to the most recent blog post if you are looking at any other posting.

    2. The “About This Blog” button takes you to a post that explains (very) thoroughly how to use the blog, including how to sign up for email notices of new posts.  If you want to follow this blog you should read it, since it has a lot of useful information. One key tip: the pictures have captions, sometimes interesting & sometimes not, which will pop up on a computer screen if you hover your mouse over the picture without pressing a button. We don’t know how (or whether) that works if you are viewing the blog on a phone, tablet or other device without a mouse.

    3. On the far right is a button labeled “M/S Amsterdam’s Current Position.”  That button will take you (surprise!) to a web page that will tell you where our ship is currently located (or at least where it is scheduled to be located).  That page would enable you at least to follow the ship’s progress contemporaneously, although without our scintillating photos & brilliant commentary.

     So that’s it for now.  If we aren’t nuked in the China Sea or struck down by Zika or Dengue Fever in Africa or bitten by a poisonous spider or snake in Australia, we will be back on April 28 with a boatload (so to speak) of new stories & pictures to share with everyone.

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Back from Alaska (Seattle, Washington & Idaho Falls)

     June 13 found us sailing back toward Vancouver through the Inside Passage.  It was still overcast but much less foggy than on the trip north.  Lots of mountains on both sides of the channel & impressive vistas.  It must be very nice on a sunny day.

6. June 13  Inside Passage_stitch3. June 13  Inside Passage13. June 13  Inside Passage_stitch

     Our final dinner in the main dining room was the best of the trip (apart from the always great meal in the Pinnacle).  A huge, thick cut of rare & flavorful prime rib.  Unfortunately, things went downhill after that.  Rick had a very swollen & painful throat the last night of the cruise.  He felt worse the next day as we drove south from Vancouver.  When we got to Portland we visited Urgent Care, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia!  What a parting gift from HAL! And very unfair, because Rick had had both pneumonia vaccination shots.

    After disembarking we drove to Seattle where we visited with Mary’s Aunt Josie and her son & daughter in law, Russ & Karen.

3. June 14  Seattle7. June 14  Seattle10. June 14  Seattle13. June 14  Seattle 

      From Seattle we proceeded to Portland, where we had scheduled three fun days with Barb & Brian.  Unfortunately, those plans were ruined by Rick’s pneumonia, with which he spent all three days in bed until a farewell dinner on the last day.  Fortunately, all the drugs the Kaiser Urgent Care doctor prescribed had Rick on his feet in time for our scheduled departure from Portland.

      We drove four long days to Ft Worth, Texas, which seemed even longer because neither of us was really well.  There was a lot of beautiful scenery, varying as we went, as you always see driving through the American West.  One night we stopped in Twin Falls, Idaho, our first visit there.  This city is located next to a huge gorge cut by the Snake River, which you don’t even know is there until you get right up to it.  In the morning we visited the gorge before leaving.  It was a beautiful morning and the views were really something.  Hang gliders were jumping from just under the bridge to land on a large target painted on a spot near the bottom.  We spotted one waterfall down the side of the gorge, but don’t know where the twins are that gave the city its name.

4. June 19   Twin Falls,Idaho_stitch1. June 19   Twin Falls,Idaho7. June 19   Twin Falls,Idaho8. June 19   Twin Falls,Idaho

     So much for pictures.  We visited for a few days with Mary’s mother, Roxane, in Ft Worth then spent a day with Mary’s brother & sister in law, Joe & Janet, in East Texas. After that we drove for three days to get home, the most notable stop being for barbecue in Memphis, which is always great.  We arrived home on July 1, which happened to be our 45th anniversary.  After such a long, eventful & at times trying journey, just being at home & sleeping in our own bed was a great anniversary present to ourselves.  That’s all for this story; see you next time.


Ketchikan, Alaska

    We docked right in downtown Ketchikan in the morning of June 12.  Founded in 1885, Ketchikan is the 5th most populous city in Alaska with something over 8,000 residents.  The town has dubbed itself the “Salmon Capital of the World,” and commercial fishing is its major industry besides tourism.  Volendam was, during our visit, one of the tallest buildings in town.

65. June 12 Ketchikan

     We explored this town on our own on foot.  First stop was the Tongass Historical Museum (which was, until recently, attached to the public library).  Nearby was the first totem pole we encountered, the Chief Kyan pole.  Totem poles were (and are) created for a variety of reasons: to honor a dead person, record history or social events, or to honor a clan or family.  They were not religious objects & were never worshipped.  Made of wood, usually tough Red Cedar, they deteriorated over time spent outdoors in the adverse weather conditions of Alaska, as they were expected to do.  The Chief Kyan pole is the second reproduction, in 1992, of one that was carved in the early part of the 20th century.  The figures on the pole, starting at the top, are the Crane, the Thunderbird & the Brown Bear.

1. June 12 Ketchikan3. June 12 Ketchikan

    This small museum was packed with vintage photos & artifacts arranged to tell the story of Ketchikan chronologically.  Old photographs are always interesting to us.  Many of the artifacts, including colorful & eye catching pottery, basketry & clothing, are quite beautiful & the older ones are well preserved.

10. June 12 Ketchikan5. June 12 Ketchikan4. June 12 Ketchikan9. June 12 Ketchikan7. June 12 Ketchikan8. June 12 Ketchikan11. June 12 Ketchikan

     We walked on to Creek Street.  On our way we saw the “Raven Stealing The Sun” totem pole.  Carved in 1983, it represents a story about how Raven released the sun, moon & stars from their boxes.  The figures (top to bottom) are Raven, Sun, the Chief’s Daughter, a baby’s face & the Chief who had kept the heavenly bodies in boxes.

12. June 12 Ketchikan14. June 12 Ketchikan

     Creek Street is about a block of old but refurbished buildings on stilts above the Ketchikan Creek.  A wooden boardwalk runs in front of the buildings above the creek.  In season the creek is crowded with salmon fighting their way upstream to breed, but it was still calm when we were there.  This street is famous as the center for houses of prostitution after they were outlawed in other parts of town in 1903.  The brothels operated until 1954 when they were outlawed.  The most famous is Dolly’s House, the blue house in the last picture, where one of the premiere madams lived unto she died around 1970.  The largest establishment was the Star House, the pink building in the pictures below.  Most of these buildings are now shops or boutiques. Running behind these buildings up the hill is a trail called Married Man’s Way, where patrons fled when the bordello’s were raided.

15. June 12 Ketchikan18. June 12 Ketchikan20. June 12 Ketchikan19. June 12 Ketchikan24. June 12 Ketchikan

     We walked up (and I do mean up) to the Totem Heritage Center.  This is another fairly small museum dedicated to antique totem poles, many carved in the late 19th century, the high point of totem pole carving throughout the Northwest coast.  The poles were retrieved from abandoned Tlingit & Haida villages.  The villages were abandoned in the early 20th century when their people decided to live closer to churches, schools and places of employment.  These vintage totem poles are being preserved, but have not been restored.  Almost all of their paint is gone & the wood is weathered.

30. June 12 Ketchikan

     There are more totem poles stored horizontally in another room and yet more that are not on display, some 35 in all.  They were photographed in their original setting before being brought to the museum.  The totem on the left above represents Stone Ribs, a legendary shape-shifter of the Haida people, in the skin of a sea lion whose head faces the ceiling.  The middle one has a brown bear looking down from the top holding a small person.  The one on the right is a mortuary pole

31. June 12 KetchikanMortuary pole of human holding a club33. June 12 Ketchikan34. June 12 Ketchikan41. June 12 Ketchikan42. June 12 Ketchikan

     The museum has other artifacts as well, and also operates a school to teach young Indians the traditional arts.

36. June 12 Ketchikan_stitch

     Outside were two large totem poles, commissioned to commemorate the opening of the museum.  Leaving the museum we crossed a bridge over the creek & walked back toward town.

28. June 12 Ketchikan54. June 12 Ketchikan52. June 12 Ketchikan51. June 12 Ketchikan

     Along the way we passed many lovely Spring flowers. Here are a few examples.

29. June 12 Ketchikan53. June 12 Ketchikan60. June 12 Ketchikan

     We came to a bridge over a rapids in the creek.  On one side was a salmon ladder, built to help the salmon make it up a particularly difficult portion of the creek. And, of course, there was the Salmon Ladder Gift Shop!

56. June 12 Ketchikan57. June 12 Ketchikan58. June 12 Ketchikan59. June 12 Ketchikan

Down the creek from the ladder was a large sculpture of a salmon, pointing the way upstream.  I guess this is to guide any salmon unsure of which way to go. 

62. June 12 Ketchikan63. June 12 Ketchikan

     At this point we headed back to the ship, since it had been a lot of walking and one of us had a painful knee.  We saw a lot here, but there is plenty left for next time.


Glacier Bay, Alaska

     June 11 found us in Glacier Bay, a 3.3 million acre national park containing dozens of glaciers, several of which are large tidewater glaciers that reach the water.  We spent a very full day there beginning early in the morning.  It was foggy & overcast, but the viewing was very interesting nonetheless.

     People have lived in this area for 10,000 years. By the mid 17th century it was occupied by the Tlingit people.  At that time there was no bay; this was a wide valley with rivers running through & a huge glacier looming further back.  At the height of the Little Ice Age the glacier advanced until by 1750 the Tlingit were forced out.  When Captain Cook sailed up Icy Strait in 1778, and when George Vancouver did the same in 1794, there was no bay at all because the glacier, several thousand feet thick, extended all the way out into the Strait.  However, by the time John Muir visited about 85 years later the glacier had receded some 44 miles, cutting out the bay as it went, & he reported that it was then retreating at a rate of about a mile per year.

     Today it is about a 65 mile sail to the tidewater glaciers at the end of the bay.  In 1926 Glacier Bay was declared a National Monument & it was promoted to National Park in 1980.  It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are no roads into the Park so the only access is by air or water.  To protect the Bay & its abundant wildlife, the Park Service restricts cruise ship traffic to two per day & most of those are operated by HAL & Princess.     

      By the time we woke up the ship was already well into Glacier Bay.  Here is some of what we saw from our balcony & window as we dressed for breakfast: a cloud covered inlet and a  bald eagle in flight.

6. June 11 Glacier Bay2. June 11 Glacier Bay

     After breakfast we passed what may have been Lamplugh Glacier, which is located in Johns Hopkins Inlet (photographed here through a streaky window).  As recently as 1892 this area was still covered by the retreating glacier. (With a couple of exceptions that will be noted, we are not sure of the names of the glaciers we saw, so we will make our best guess based on a map).8. June 11 Glacier Bay_stitch13. June 11 Glacier Bay3. June 11 Glacier Bay5. June 11 Glacier Bay

     We turned north into Tarr Inlet & sailed on to the main event:  Margerie Glacier.  It is a mile wide & rises about 250 feet above the water at its face.  It extends 21 miles back to its origin in the mountains on the Canadian border.

34. June 11 Glacier Baya_stitch

     We spent a long time, probably an hour or more, in front of this glacier.  It is one of the biggest in the bay & one of the few glaciers that is not receding.  Some reports say it is advancing up to 30 feet per year & some say it is stable, neither advancing or retreating.  There are some substantial mountains behind it, but as you can see the fog kept us from seeing them.  I guess we should be thankful that we could see anything at all.

51. June 11 Glacier Bay35. June 11 Glacier Bay53. June 11 Glacier Bay54. June 11 Glacier Bay66. June 11 Glacier Bay48. June 11 Glacier Bay

     The blue color is created when the heavy ice packs so tightly that air bubbles are eliminated.  This resulting hard-packed ice absorbs all the colors of light except blue.  This is an actively calving glacier, which means that large chunks of ice fall off the face and become icebergs.  This happened at least four times while we were there, but it happens so fast that it is hard to get a picture before it is all over.  We did manage to get one picture of the splash made by the falling ice.52. June 11 Glacier Bay

     Sadly, we did not see any whales or sea otters in Glacier Bay, although they are supposed to be plentiful there.  But we did see seals & birds perched on ice flows near Margerie Glacier.

62. June 11 Glacier Bay57. June 11 Glacier Bay23. June 11 Glacier Baya50. June 11 Glacier Bay

     At the very end of the bay, just beyond the Margerie Glacier & perpendicular to it, is the Grand Pacific Glacier.  This is said to be the one that once reached Icy Strait & carved the bay as it retreated.  Today it doesn’t look like much . . . relatively small & very dirty so it’s not white.  I’m not sure I even took a picture of it, but if I did the one on the left below is it.  On the right is a photo showing how low the fog came at times, obscuring the view of the glaciers. As mentioned above, we were lucky to see as much as we did on a day like this.

88. June 11 Glacier Bay80. June 11 Glacier Bay

87. June 11 Glacier Bay74. June 11 Glacier Bay76. June 11 Glacier Bay_stitch

     As we headed back toward the mouth of Glacier Bay we passed a couple more glaciers, one of which which looks like the Reid Glacier and the other a reprise of the Lamplugh Glacier.  The fog had lifted some by now & we could see mountains behind them, some of which were actually glowing in the sun.

94. June 11 Glacier Bay97. June 11 Glacier Bay96. June 11 Glacier Bay91. June 11 Glacier Bay92. June 11 Glacier Baya

     Having passed pretty much all the glaciers, we went into the show lounge where a Tlingit woman sang & danced & told stories of the Tlingit people.

101. June 11 Glacier Bay99. June 11 Glacier Bay98. June 11 Glacier Bay

     Finally, as we neared the mouth of the bay we sailed past North & South Marble Islands, a major hangout for sea lions.  We were not close enough to see them with the naked eye but they were there ,all crowded together on small islands. These pictures were taken with a very long lens on somewhat choppy seas, so they are not as sharp as might be hoped.  It was getting very cold & windy by this time, so we stayed inside after that.

DSC03452106. June 11 Glacier Bay113. June 11 Glacier Bay_stitchDSC03453

     This was the second gala night, a lot for a seven day cruise (we missed the first one because we were in the Pinnacle restaurant). Rick read the new HAL dress code & some online commenters who said gala nights in Alaska were less formal & required men only to wear a shirt with a collar.  So he wore a polo shirt to dinner, but was refused admission without donning an ugly black polyester jacket that was too big.  He had to sit through the whole dinner in this uncomfortable jacket.  It appeared that, at least on Volendam, your shirt not only had to have a collar but also long sleeves, even though the gala night dress code on HAL’s website does not say that.  We noticed one fellow sitting at a table with a short sleeve polo shirt & a long sleeve T-shirt underneath, which looked pretty tacky but apparently satisfied this arbitrary requirement.  As longtime HAL customers we were pretty offended by this & think that HAL should have a uniform policy to admit anyone who fully complies with the dress code printed on its web site.  This was a sour ending to what had been quite a special day.


Skagway, Alaska

     We docked in Skagway early on the morning of June 10.  Skagway grew out of the Klondike gold rush of the late 1890’s.  In 1896 gold was discovered near Dawson City in the Yukon territory of Canada and in July of 1897 a ship docked in Seattle carrying several of the successful miners. The word spread quickly across the United States, which was in the midst of a deep economic depression, and tens of thousands of hopeful prospectors set out immediately for the gold fields.  Unfortunately by the time they got there the productive claims had already been taken, so very few of them actually got any real return for their efforts.

     And efforts they certainly were.   Even after a long trip to reach Skagway or its now long abandoned sister town of Dyea, miners had to scale the coastal mountains and travel hundreds of miles through wilderness to reach Dawson City.  The gold fields were in Canada & the Mounties would not let anyone past the border who didn’t have about a ton of supplies, enough to last a year.  At that time the only way to carry supplies up the mountains was on your back, so to get a ton of supplies up to the border in the mountains required climbing the mountains about 40 times carrying 50 lbs each time.  As you can imagine, anyone caught stealing supplies while their owner was down to get more would be summarily executed, so few tried it.  On the Chilkoot trail from Dyea, just a few miles north of Skagway, stairs were carved into the ice to enable people to climb, and it must have been quite a sight to see all those hopeful miners in a continuous line up the mountain.  There is a scene portraying this in Charlie Chaplin’s movie “The Gold Rush,” and it is also shown (not to scale) on one of Alaska’s license plates.

26. June 12 Ketchikan

     The other route up the mountain, the White Pass trail, started in Skagway,  It was longer but a little less steep, so it was possible to use pack animals.  But this didn’t work out very well as several thousand horses perished along the way, inspiring the name of Dead Horse Gulch.  The two routes came together at Lake Bennett, where the prospective miners created a huge tent city during the winter of 1897-1898 and began to cut down all the trees in the area to build thousands of boats and rafts to take them up the lake to the Klondike river.  From there they could travel on the river to Dawson City (where they would finally find out that it was all in vain for most of them).

     We did not spend much time in Skagway itself, having signed up for a full day trip into the Yukon Territory.  We drove up into the mountains in a bus on the Klondike Highway.  Plans to build this 110 mile highway were begun in 1905 but it wasn’t completed and opened the full way until 1978. The first part of the highway is very steep, climbing almost 3300 feet in 14 miles. In the mountains tall poles are planted on both sides of the highway to mark the road when it is covered with snow.  Horizontal bars on top of the poles are color coded in red & gray, sometimes with yellow between.  The guide told us that these are to guide drivers:  “Gray, you’re OK, Red, you’re dead.”  Yikes; glad it wasn’t snowy when we were there!  We drove over the Moore Creek Bridge, named for the first settler in Skagway, a suspension bridge anchored only on its southern end with a 110 foot gorge below.

13. Skagway_stitch10. Skagway17. Skagway11. Skagway

     We drove on to Carcross (originally “Caribou Crossing”) in the Yukon Territory, stopping at the border station in Fraser, B.C., several miles beyond the White Pass summit to show our passports.  Lots of beautiful views, as there were throughout this day.

28. Skagway_stitch110. Skagway63. Skagway31. Skagway

     Carcross is a small town with a wilderness vibe in a spectacular mountain & lake setting.  The buildings are small & mostly wood & there is a beach along the lake by the footbridge. We visited a small art gallery with some unusual items on display, including pictures made partly from cut-out computer boards.  It had become a beautiful day (the best weather of the entire cruise & much better than at sea level in Skagway), & the town was full of flowers.  There is a statue of a caribou (which is basically a wild reindeer) where the highway enters the town.  Oh yes, there was also a public library!

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     In Carcross we boarded the train in the picture above for the 67.5 mile trip back to Skagway.  The Whitepass & Yukon Railway was begun in 1898 to provide easier & more reliable transportation to the Klondike gold fields.  It was quite a challenge to build a railroad in rough winter weather through these daunting mountain passes, but it was completed all the way to Lake Bennett by July, 1899.  It has a narrow gauge, with rails only 3 feet apart on a 10 foot wide bed, because this made it easier to make tight turns around mountains and required less blasting into the sides of mountains.  There are two tunnels & several spectacular bridges over mountain gorges.  In July, 1900 the road reached Carcross, where it was met by a railroad being constructed from the north & a golden spike was symbolically driven to join them (It was actually an iron spike because the gold one was too soft to drive).  In 1994 this was designated as one of about 250 Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks worldwide.

     Of course, by the summer of 1899 the gold rush was effectively over.  But the railway kept up commercial operation until 1982, hauling passengers and freight (mostly non-gold mining ore).  During World War II it was taken over by the US Army & carried supplies for the builders of the Alaska Highway.  By 1982 most of the mines had closed because of falling metal prices & the railroad ceased operations.  But in 1988 it was reopened to run from May to September at the behest of the cruise lines whose Alaska business was growing rapidly.  It has been taking passengers all the way to Carcross only since 2007.

     We travelled south along the shore of Lake Bennett for about 25 miles.  We were told that such beautiful sunny days are rare in this area. Some of the coaches used on this railway date all the way back to 1881, and others are modern replicas of vintage cars.  We have no idea which we were on, but it sure looked vintage, complete with a coal stove at one end.  About 15 miles from Carcross we crossed the Yukon – British Columbia border.

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     We stopped at Bennett, British Columbia, now mostly uninhabited.  This is where the Chilkoot & White Pass trails converged.  Tens of thousands of miners pitched tents here in 1897 & built boats to take them, once the ice melted, almost 600 miles across lakes and down the Klondike River river to Dawson City.  Donald Trump’s grandfather built and ran a hotel & saloon, now long gone, on the lakefront near the train depot. When the railroad was extended to Whitehorse in 1900 Bennett lost its train-to-boat transfer business & the town was abandoned.  Bennett is maintained today by Parks Canada.  We had limited time, so we walked through the small museum in the train depot then set out along the path that led to the top of the hill.  The view from the top was impressive.  Halfway down the hill is St Andrews Presbyterian Church, the last building remaining from the original town.

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     Reboarding the train, we continued toward Fraser, British Columbia, where the customs office is located.  This is some 7 miles inside Canada because there is no room for a building at the border on the White Pass Summit.  Breathtaking scenery the entire way.

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    The last 20 miles from White Pass Summit to Skagway is all downhill, with tunnels, bridges & narrow paths curving around mountains. About two miles from the summit we came out of a tunnel & passed the Steel Bridge, the tallest cantilever bridge in the world when it was built in 1901.  It has not been used since 1969.  From Inspiration Point you can see all the way to the Lynn Canal where Skagway is located.

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     We continued down the mountains, clinging to the sides above steep gorges.  At about 9 miles from Skagway there was a sign on rocks on the other side of the canyon saying “On To Alaska With Buchanan.”  This was not a prospector’s vow, but the slogan of a group that brought Detroit youths to Skagway every summer during the 1920’s.

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     As we reached flat land a few miles from Skagway, we crossed the east fork of the Skagway River & followed the river the rest of the way into town.

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     We exited the train near the train depot, but the railway buildings were closed for the day.  We were really too tired to explore the town so we walked back to the ship.  On the way we passed the striking Arctic Brotherhood Hall. It was built in 1899 to house a fraternity formed by prospectors while on the ship for Alaska.  The façade is covered with more than 8,000 pieces of driftwood gathered from Skagway bay, more than 5,000 of which are still the originals. Two doors down is the Golden North Hotel with its distinctive gold dome.   Built in 1898 for the Klondike Trading Company, which sold supplies to prospectors, it became a hotel in 1908.  We also, happily, encountered the Skagway Public Library.  As we reached the ship, it was the end of a long but very enriching day.

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