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Skagway

June 1, 2022 – the White Pass & Yukon Railway – Skagway, Alaska, USA

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

I have a leisurely breakfast in the main dining room this morning: vegetable scramble (eggs) with a cappuccino. There is no rush, since my excursion doesn’t leave until 12:10PM. I have lots of time to wander around Skagway, which looks a lot like Dawson City, since the storefronts are all historic looking, but mostly modern buildings inside. The first few blocks of State Street (the main street) has all the tourist shops and services, but walk further up the street a few blocks, or divert a block or two either side, and the real town reveals itself. Dominating the town are the deep sea docks for cruise ships, which once were also used for ore loading, and the multiple railway tracks of the White Pass and Yukon railway, which run from the docks along the eastern side of town.

I tick off a long-standing bucket list item today: riding on the White Pass and Yukon railway from Skagway to the White Pass Summit. The breathtaking scenery is a counterpoint to realizing the Klondike gold miners had to struggle up this steep mountain pass mainly on foot. When they got to the top, they had to go back down and up multiple times to haul their one ton stake to the summit before the North West Mounted Police would let them into Canada to seek their fortune in Dawson City, some 500 miles further! I think the excursion description is a great summary of my experience:

“Experience an unforgettable journey along the eastern side of White Pass aboard the world-famous narrow-gauge White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, built more than 100 years ago. You’ll pass through some of the North’s most rugged terrain on board a comfortable rail car as you retrace the original route through breathtaking scenery to the summit of White Pass at 2,865 feet. Relax on the 40-mile roundtrip journey along steep grades and cliff-hanging turns as your train agent shares stories from the past.

Back in Skagway, board a motor coach and travel the historic streets of downtown Skagway, part of the Klondike National Historical Park. Visit The Lookout, a photographer’s delight offering a panoramic view of the Skagway Valley, glacier-clad mountains, Lynn Canal and your cruise ship.

Stop at historic Liarsville, a gold rush trail camp nestled beside a waterfall at the foot of White Pass. Liarsville is named for the journalists sent here to report on the Klondike Gold Rush, whose articles included tall tales of the prospectors’ exploits. Browse the authentic camp exhibits, including antiques and garments left behind by the prospectors and those who profited from them. A cast of ‘sourdoughs’ and dance hall girls will entertain you with a hilarious melodrama and a poem by Robert Service, the Bard of the North. 

You’ll also have a chance to try your hand at the art of gold panning in the Liarsville gold fields, where you are guaranteed to find some gold to keep. Enjoy a snack, shop for souvenirs or have your photo taken with a dance hall girl.”

White Pass & Yukon Railway – Skagway to White Pass Summit route map

Would-be gold miners had a choice of two routes: the shorter but steeper Chilkoot Trail, or the White Pass trail, which promised a less steep but longer route. Both were punishing routes which lead to the interior lake region where the stampeders could begin their 550 mile journey to the promised gold to be found in the creeks and rivers of Dawson City. The White Pass and Yukon railway was built a few years later by an Irish-Canadian named “Big” Mike Henry, who built the 110 mile route over just 26 months for $15 million. He is quoted “give me enough dynamite, and snoose, and I’ll build you a railroad to hell.” 

In 1982 world metal prices plummeted, so the ore from the mines the railway transported to ships dried up. The railway suspended operations until 1988, when they reinvented themselves as a narrow guage tourist excursion train between Skagway and the White Pass Summit. The active line was later extended to Bennett Lake (1990s) and Carcross, Yukon (2007). Due to pandemic border restrictions, currently only trips to White Pass Summit are offered.

After returning to the ship, I have dinner in the main dining room with a couple from south Texas. I start with crabmeat corn fritters, panko-crusted hake for the main course, and strawberry pavlova for dessert. The hake is really nice – a new fish for me. I see the Belt of Venus and the Earth’s shadow in front of us after sunset, as the ship makes its way slowly south down the Lynn Canal to tomorrow’s port of call, Juneau.

Skagway
47 photos, 2 videos
Sunset panorama looking west to north from my verandah
Sunset panorama looking west to north from my verandah
After sunset looking north up the Lynn Canal from my verandah
After sunset looking north up the Lynn Canal from my verandah
"We Love Alaska" sign on the bow of the Nieuw Amsterdam
“We Love Alaska” sign on the bow of the Nieuw Amsterdam
White Pass & Yukon Route train station and other shops in downtown Skagway
White Pass & Yukon Route train station and other shops in downtown Skagway
Shops in downtown Skagway
Shops in downtown Skagway
Shops in downtown Skagway
Shops in downtown Skagway
Parks Canada and US National Parks Klondike information center
Parks Canada and US National Parks Klondike information center
Historic Skagway Inn's Back garden
Historic Skagway Inn’s Back garden
Historic Y.M.C.A. Gymnasium
Historic Y.M.C.A. Gymnasium
Cute house with white picket fence, flag and snow-capped mountains behind
Cute house with white picket fence, flag and snow-capped mountains behind
5 electric vehicle charging points
5 electric vehicle charging points
Snowmobiles stored on top of a container box
Snowmobiles stored on top of a container box
Looking down Broadway to the valley from the stern of the ship
Looking down Broadway to the valley from the stern of the ship
Vintage steam engine and rotary snowplow
Vintage steam engine and rotary snowplow
A new engine pullling a White Pass & Yukon train from the Ore Dock
A new engine pullling a White Pass & Yukon train from the Ore Dock
Boarding the train
Boarding the train
Railway equpment on a siding
Railway equpment on a siding
Our train waits on a bridge over a moutain stream for hikers to board
Our train waits on a bridge over a moutain stream for hikers to board
Stove to heat the car in the winter
Stove to heat the car in the winter
Railway maintenace yard
Railway maintenace yard
Looking down the valley towards Skagway from Rocky Point
Looking down the valley towards Skagway from Rocky Point
The highway across the valley
The highway across the valley
Inside our train car
Inside our train car
The front of the train and a siding
The front of the train and a siding
The railway grade above us
The railway grade above us
The railway grade above us with wooden trestle and tunnel
The railway grade above us with wooden trestle and tunnel
Picking up hikers
Picking up hikers
Snow-covered mountain peaks
Snow-covered mountain peaks
View down the valley to Skagway and the Lynn Canal
View down the valley to Skagway and the Lynn Canal
Train passes over a bridge, through a tunnel and another train passes at the summit
Train passes over a bridge, through a tunnel and another train passes at the summit
Our train entering the tunnel to the summit
Our train entering the tunnel to the summit
The trail of '98 where miners struggled up this gulley to the White Pass summit
The trail of ’98 where miners struggled up this gulley to the White Pass summit
The simple sign marking the trail of '98 where miners struggled up this gulley to the White Pass summit
The simple sign marking the trail of ’98 where miners struggled up this gulley to the White Pass summit
Canada-USA border marker
Canada-USA border marker
North West Mounted Police NWMP replica cabin at the summit
North West Mounted Police NWMP replica cabin at the summit
A stream running through the snowy White Pass summit
A stream running through the snowy White Pass summit
The snowy White Pass summit
The snowy White Pass summit
Our train looping back at the White Pass summit
Our train looping back at the White Pass summit
Liarsville welcome sign with camp behind
Liarsville welcome sign with camp behind
Saloon tent
Saloon tent
Shopping list for 1 Ton of goods at Madam Jan's Fancy Goods
Shopping list for 1 Ton of goods at Madam Jan’s Fancy Goods
Laundry tent
Laundry tent
Robert Service skit
Robert Service skit
Robert Service skit
Robert Service skit
Blacksmith and hardware tent
Blacksmith and hardware tent
Panning for gold
Panning for gold
Press tent
Press tent
Overlooking Skagway and the cruise ships
Overlooking Skagway and the cruise ships
Venus' Belt as we head south after departing Skagway with a cruise ship ahead of us
Venus’ Belt as we head south after departing Skagway with a cruise ship ahead of us
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Anchorage to Whittier

May 29, 2022 – Anchorage to Whittier, Alaska and board the Nieuw Amsterdam

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

We don’t leave the hotel until 12:10PM, so I finish annotating my photos this morning, posting a new Denali-Anchorage album to my Flickr account before I leave. The hotel Wi-fi is pathetically slow, so I’m glad I have my mobile LTE roaming from Fido to work with.

I say goodbye to our Tour Director Cassandra Joy, encouraging her to look me up if she finds herself in Victoria. We board our bus to transfer to the rail station, and take an Alaska Railway dome car to Whittier, which is a 3-hour scenic trip. There is snack and drink service to the seat offered by each car’s attendant. We pass through a tunnel that is shared by road vehicles and trains – a unique approach to saving the expense of building and operating two tunnels!

The Nieuw Amsterdam is waiting for us at the dock. Check-in is slow due to the health check requirements before boarding, but it takes well under an hour before I’m in my lovely verandah stateroom on the ship. A short time later, my checked bag shows up, so I unpack and settle in.

First order of business is to find my Muster Station and register with the crew there, and then watch the safety video in my cabin. Gathering all passengers on deck at their muster stations is no longer done, in order to avoid crowding and risk of infection. I have a wonderful dinner with 4 others in the main dining room: snow crab cocktail, Alaska salmon fillet, and strawberries with ice cream. Since I have the drinks package, I have two glasses of Italian Pinot Gris with dinner. The ship leaves at 6:00PM while I’m still at dinner, which is earlier than the scheduled departure time of 10PM stated in my itinerary.

I can’t stop taking photos and video on this trip, and today is no exception. The train ride down was through a scenic inlet and moose flat wetland, and then the ship sails past snow-capped mountains and through a lovely channel with lots of islands as the sun sets behind us. I can already appreciate the charm of an Alaska cruise, and we are just starting out!

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Fairbanks, Gold Dredge, Denali

May 25, 2022 – Fairbanks, Gold Dredge No. 8, Denali National Park, Alaska

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

Flying out of Dawson City, bound for Fairbanks. Gold dredge tailings along the Klondike River, Bonanza Creek & Dawson City on the Yukon River.

Check-in for our morning flight to Fairbanks happens at our hotel since there is no terminal building at the Dawson City airport. The security check happens on the apron in front of the aircraft before boarding. It’s a good thing the weather is clear with no rain! Apparently the runway was only paved in 2019. Our small group flies to Fairbanks aboard a chartered Air North Boeing 737-500 – a 1-hour flight.

We have a couple of hours to see Fairbanks, so our group wanders around a bit, seeing the Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center museum, but Fairbanks isn’t much of a tourist city. I have a very tasty hot and sour soup for lunch at Bhan Thai restaurant (TripAdvisor) with a couple from the tour group. JoeTourist recommended!

Dredge bucket line and bow gantry - Goldstream Dredge No. 8, Fox, AK
Dredge bucket line and bow gantry – Goldstream Dredge No. 8, Fox, AK

We then board our bus and are taken to nearby Gold Dredge 8 where we first encounter the Alaska Pipeline at the site entrance. We wait around for an hour for other tour buses to arrive before we are all taken to the main site on a miniature train. They give everyone a small poke bag and then everyone (except me) pans for gold, has their flecks of gold weighed, and can take them home as-is or have it made into jewelry on the spot. I’m more interested in the history of the place, so wander around taking in all the mining artifacts on display – a big old safe, accounting machines and records, clothing, equipment, and even dinosaur bones!

The dredge is partially flooded, so we aren’t allowed to go inside – a disappointment. There are bunkhouses, machine shops, a hydro generation station – complete infrastructure to support the 24-hour a day operation this dredge was built for. This was remote wilderness, so this operation had to continue to function without much support from outside. The small town of Fox is nearby, where many of the miners and their families lived.

Later in the afternoon, we board our bus and drive Highway 3 south to Denali, a 2-hour drive. We make a stop at the hamlet of Nenana, where there is an historic train station, a grocery store, a bar, and not much else. We arrive at McKinley Chalet Resort at about 7PM. This is a resort owned and operated by Holland America, so in their usual efficient manner, they are ready for us, so we are quickly assigned our rooms.

Our group is staying in the Ridge View building, which our Tour Director tells us most resort guests ask to upgrade to. My room is very nice, with two big beds, nice appointments, and a view of the mountain. I don’t wait for my checked bag to appear before going for dinner at Karstens Public House, which is part of the resort, and the only option for meals without leaving the resort grounds. I have Rigatoni with Italian sausage and garlic toast with an Alaskan ale, which is very tasty and comes with very good service.

Denali Square is the main common area of the resort, where guests can hang out, listen to outdoor performances, patronize the small shops on the perimeter, and of course partake of the food and drink from Karstens Public House on their large patio.

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Revelstoke to Okanagan Falls

July 6, 2018 Friday – Revelstoke to Okanagan Falls, British Columbia, Canada

Victoria to Calgary road trip 2018

I slept fine last night, but I wore earplugs to eliminate the traffic noise from the road. The trains seem to stop running around 11PM and don’t start until after 6AM, so they presented no problems for me. I have a nice breakfast in the breakfast room at the motel before packing up.

Revelstoke Dam

JoeTourist: Revelstoke &emdash; Revelstoke Dam - penstocks, dam crest, spillway & power station

The visitor centre opens at 10AM, and after clearing the security gate, I pay $5 for a Senior admission. I decide to take the self-guided tour, since they supply a tour map of the facility, and I want to stop to take photos, so having a crowd of people around me wouldn’t work. The first stop is the very impressive generator hall visible from the main lobby area through glass windows.

I then walk into the main dam structure through a passageway and take the elevator to the crest of the dam. There is a nice display here explaining what is visible from this vantage point, and the outside deck gives a great perspective of the reservoir and downstream outflow, power station and spillway. As I return to my Tesla Model S fully-electric car, I consider that this dam supplies some of the clean electricity I use to energize my car. It is ironic that the namesake of my car, Nicola Tesla is largely responsible for alternating current, and designed much of the equipment still used today to generate our electricity from dams such as this one!

The access to Revelstoke Dam is along the first few kilometres of BC Highway 23. I get a kick out of the “Big Bend Highway” road sign as I turn off to access the dam, since my parents drove the original gravel Big Bend Highway back in the 1950s when it was the only way to get to Golden and points east of there. The Rogers Pass highway was completed through the Selkirk Mountains in 1962 to great fanfare at the time!

Revelstoke Railway Museum

JoeTourist: Revelstoke &emdash; Steam Engine 5468 engineer's seat

Revelstoke is in a strategic location for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), since it is at the western end of the challenging Rogers Pass. Even today, CPR crews live and work on the railway from this city. The CPR has a massive switching yard and maintenance facility here; and the Last Spike signifying the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway across Canada in 1885 is located 45 miles west of Revelstoke at the railway station of Craigellachie. The museum shows the history of the railway, how it was built through the mountains and the operations that keep it running.

Perhaps most interesting for visitors are many pieces of equipment on display, which were used to provide the rail transportation services. The centrepiece is undoubtedly Steam Engine 5468, a Mikado P-2k class locomotive 2-8-2 oil-burner – one of the last steam engines built in 1948 in Montreal. It’s a beautiful and fascinating machine, and has the Business car #4 “River Humber” beside it in the inside display, built in 1929 as a solarium lounge car. I find the history of the surveying of the route fascinating as well. There is an outside display with a caboose, snow plows, tankers, box cars, Diesel Locomotive SD 5500, and many other service cars sitting on tracks. The museum is located right beside the CPR mainline, so working stock is rolling by continuously, providing great context for the history to be found inside the museum!

Driving from Revelstoke to Okanagan Falls

Since I am starting late on my road trip today, I stop for lunch at a Tim Horton’s in Sicamous. I then turn off the Trans-Canada Highway onto Highway 97, driving south down the Okanagan Valley through Vernon, and stop to recharge my Tesla at the Kelowna Supercharger, arriving around 4PM. There are two Current Taxis recharging while I’m there – a Model 3 and a Model S. It is pouring rain as I negotiate rush hour to cross the bridge over Okanagan Lake and drive down Highway 97 through more rain showers to Penticton, and then to my destination Okanagan Falls. I am warmly welcomed by Vera, the operator for Peachcliff B&B, where I will be staying for the next two nights.

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Machu Picchu

2011 Incan Empires Cruise

Monday, December 05, 2011 – Day 15 – Machu Picchu, Peru

Today promises to be the highlight of the whole trip. Rocio and Felix arrive at 5:50AM to transfer us to the Poroy train station, a few kilometers outside the city. Cusco has a train station dedicated to Machu Picchu, but the residents in the area had it closed down because of noise problems from the train running up a series of switchbacks to climb out of Cusco. I can sympathize with their concerns. Of course the city now fills up with all the tourist buses and taxis heading to Poroy station, but at least they are quieter than the train, although they cause much more pollution.

JoeTourist: Machu Picchu &emdash; Train running through the valley below

The PeruRail Vistadome train leaves Poroy station at 6:40AM, traveling through the agricultural valley of the Rio Cachimayo through several small towns. Once it passes through the town of Huarocondo, it starts to descend down the steep valley carved by the Rio Huarocondo. We are served a very nice continental breakfast snack, including good Peruvian coffee or soft drinks. At the half way mark down this valley, the train carefully negotiates a switchback built on the steep sides of the valley before traveling down to the junction of the Rio Huarocondo and the Rio Urubamba. We are now in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and the train soon arrives at Ollantaytambo station, where it makes its only stop for five minutes.

JoeTourist: Machu Picchu &emdash; Peruvians pose for us

We arrive at Aguas Calientes on time at 10AM. This small community is jammed in a narrow valley where the only road is to Machu Picchu. Our guide Grimaldo meets us in the train station, and we then take a transfer bus to Machu Picchu. The bus climbs to the top of the hill on a gravel road with many switchbacks, some 800 metres above the valley below. We soon catch our first glimpses of Machu Picchu – it’s hard to describe using words or photos. It is a wonderful feat of engineering if you consider it has survived virtually intact for centuries through countless tropical rainstorms, hot sun, fierce winds, and yes…the onslaught of tourists.

John McDonald and Grimaldo verify the North direction on the Incan sundial
John McDonald and Grimaldo verify the North direction on the Incan sundial

We spend two hours walking the site, learning all the fascinating concepts, which Grimaldo so skilfully conveys to us. I would not want to see Machu Picchu without a guide, at least for a first visit. I can see where it would be wonderful to just go up there to sit and soak up the ambience of this sacred place on my next visit, which would require staying in a hotel in Aguas Calientes for several nights. We see the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows in the Sacred District. We also see a sundial, which still has perfect alignment with the cardinal directions.

There is a single hotel right at the entrance to Machu Picchu, where we have a nice buffet lunch after our walking tour of the site. I expect the rates to stay there would be very high. There are several hotel and hostels in Aguas Calientes, which no doubt offer less expensive options. We take the bus to the bottom then board the Vistadome train from Aguas Calientes back to Poroy Station near Cusco. As the train makes its way back, the crew put on a fashion show and dragon dance. Of course they then come down the isle to sell the alpaca clothing they modelled.

Our trusty driver Felix and tour coordinator Rocio are waiting at the Poroy train station to transfer us back to Cusco and the hotel. By then it is 8PM, so we decide to skip dinner and go to bed since it was such a full day.

Machu Picchu
47 photos
Machupicchu-Cusco sign on train coach
Machupicchu-Cusco sign on train coach
Boarding the train
Boarding the train
Cows, farmers and crops
Cows, farmers and crops
People and horse looking at the passing train
People and horse looking at the passing train
Breakfast snack & Inca Kola
Breakfast snack & Inca Kola
In-coach service
In-coach service
High mountains observed through the Vistadome
High mountains observed through the Vistadome
High mountains observed through the Vistadome
High mountains observed through the Vistadome
Rail yard at Jajpunco
Rail yard at Jajpunco
Old Aztec entrance to Ollantaytambo
Old Aztec entrance to Ollantaytambo
Hikers on the start of the steep Inca Trail
Hikers on the start of the steep Inca Trail
Peru Rail engine
Peru Rail engine
Machu Picchu train in station
Machu Picchu train in station
Looking upstream
Looking upstream
Train running through the valley below
Train running through the valley below
Intipunku, Sun Gate Ruins - last campsite on Incan Trail
Intipunku, Sun Gate Ruins – last campsite on Incan Trail
Joe  at Machu Picchu - I was there
Joe at Machu Picchu – I was there
Switchback road up the mountain to Machu Picchu
Switchback road up the mountain to Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu wide angle
Machu Picchu wide angle
Temple of the Moon - Huayna Picchu
Temple of the Moon – Huayna Picchu
Residential area and Temple of the Sun
Residential area and Temple of the Sun
Terraces below Lookout
Terraces below Lookout
Incan tombs
Incan tombs
Temple of the Sun from downhill perspective
Temple of the Sun from downhill perspective
Our guide Grimaldo explains how some entrances could be locked
Our guide Grimaldo explains how some entrances could be locked
Precisely fitted Incan stone wall
Precisely fitted Incan stone wall
Sacred fountain
Sacred fountain
Main Plaza and Incan houses with Temple of the Moon behind
Main Plaza and Incan houses with Temple of the Moon behind
Residential area
Residential area
Grimaldo explaining to John & Wendy McDonald how Incan houses were constructed
Grimaldo explaining to John & Wendy McDonald how Incan houses were constructed
Andean viscacha resting in a niche in a stone wall
Andean viscacha resting in a niche in a stone wall
Temple of the Sun
Temple of the Sun
Residential section & Temple of the Moon
Residential section & Temple of the Moon
Incan wall showing protrusions for lifting them in place
Incan wall showing protrusions for lifting them in place
Agricultural terraces and quarry area
Agricultural terraces and quarry area
Incan sundial Intihuatana stone
Incan sundial Intihuatana stone
John McDonald and Grimaldo verify the North direction on the Incan sundial Intihuatana stone
John McDonald and Grimaldo verify the North direction on the Incan sundial Intihuatana stone
Incan observatory possibly equipped with 2 mirror vessels
Incan observatory possibly equipped with 2 mirror vessels
Incan observatory possibly equipped with 2 mirror vessels
Incan observatory possibly equipped with 2 mirror vessels
Mourning Peruvian couple visiting the site
Mourning Peruvian couple visiting the site
Classic photo of Machu Picchu showing the agricultural terraces, temples and living areas, and Cerro Huayna Picchu (Temple of the Moon)
Classic photo of Machu Picchu showing the agricultural terraces, temples and living areas, and Cerro Huayna Picchu (Temple of the Moon)
Wide angle photo of Machu Picchu showing more agricultural terraces, temples and living areas, and Cerro Huayna Picchu (Temple of the Moon)
Wide angle photo of Machu Picchu showing more agricultural terraces, temples and living areas, and Cerro Huayna Picchu (Temple of the Moon)
Cusquena - Peruvian beer
Cusquena – Peruvian beer
Lion dancer
Lion dancer
Crew modeling clothes
Crew modeling clothes
Snowy moutain peaks in the Cordillera Urubamba
Snowy moutain peaks in the Cordillera Urubamba
Gibbous Moon from the train
Gibbous Moon from the train