Wednesday, June 12th
Whitehorse - Skagway - Haines

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Dead Horse Trail, 100 years back in time.
 
 

10h15
Actually, Whitehorse is somewhat disappointing, the idyllic name does not reflect in the streets and houses.  That’s too bad.

We are driving now in the direction of Skagway, located at the end of the second, southern part of the Klondike Highway.  So we will have done this highway completely.  It’s not the first one on our record, we also did the Parks Highway, and in a few days also the Seward Highway.

Emerald Lake near Carcross11h20
We pass Emerald Lake, like the name says beautiful green as emerald. The color is originating from reflections on the clay and shell sedimentary deposits on the bottom of the lake.
In front of us we see snowy peaks, of which we don’t know the names yet.  It could be the Coast Mountains, with peaks up to 2300 meters.

11h40
Carcross, or Caribou Crossing, it’s the narrow passage between Lake Bennett and Tagish Lake where in the older days a lot of caribou crossed.  What’s in a name! Nowadays, Caribou don’t here anymore and even the train, once the only connection between Whitehorse and Skagway, is rusting away.  Next to the railway station, now converted into a museum, we see a hotel and a general store.

13h15
The Canadian customs in Fraser.  Like we already experienced, we don’t have to stop when leaving the country.
We drive along Summit Lake and get surrounded by more and more bare rocks, snow plains and small lakes.

White Pass Summit13h30
White Pass Summit, 1003 meters above sea level, 10°C above zero.
We cannot compare this with a mountain pass like we know them in the Swiss Alps.  There is snow along the road and ice floating on the lake.  Clouds are low nut there is no fog, a mystic atmosphere.  About 100 years ago, some 3000 horses lost their life when their reckless owners wanted to cross this mountain pass during the strong winter of 1897-98. The surname ‘Dead Horse Trail’ is the only remainder. 

The American customs are located a few miles further, lower and consequently warmer.
Some buses with the suitable name ‘Frontier Tours’ come to take a look on the White Pass, American tourists paying money to see a mountain pass. I wonder what they would do in the Swiss Alps?

We are at 23 kilometers from Skagway, by the sea, and so the road will have to descend very quickly.
While driving down through a narrow gorge, we pass a group of courageous cyclists. Climbing 1000 meters from Skagway to White Pass is definitely an exceptional performance.  I have a healthy respect for that kind of achievement.

Red Onion Saloon in Skagway13h15
Skagway. We’re back in the USA and the time is 12h45, Alaska Time

There is something wrong with our reservation on the ferry to Haines.  The car is not mentioned on the voucher.  That must be arranged first.
After lunch, we take a walk into town, some scenic streets.  Due to 3 cruise ships making a stopover in this small town, a crowd of aunties and uncles is stripping the gift shops.
Skagway was during the gold rush the biggest town in Alaska.  From the 20 000 inhabitants, stores, saloons, gamble dens and dance clubs, there is nothing much left.  But there is still a pleasant atmosphere.

We just have time to take a look at the local cemetery.  No exciting stories here anymore, since the two sworn rivals ‘Soapy’ Smith and Frank Reid took each others lives in the streets of Skagway during the Gold Rush years.  I can imagine them on a desolate Broadway Street.  Ennio Morricone‘s music is resounding and everyone is waiting anxiously.  The rest of the story is obvious…
A visit to the ghost town of Dyea and the start of the Chilkoot Trail will be for another time, we have to catch a ferry now!

16h50
Not really a long queue is waiting to get onto the ferry, but campers just need a lot of time to park on the car deck.  But who cares if the ferry leaves an hour later?  Time isn’t money over here, it’s just part of the culture.
It’s misty in the Taiya Inlet, a gloomy afternoon in an Alaskan fjord.  It makes my sad for a while.

17h45
Finally, the puzzle is almost completed, the ‘LeConte’ (a strange name for a boat) is closing his doors.  It took 15 minutes to get the last RV into place, a 10-meter long pick-up with trailer.
The sun comes shining through the clouds while we put out to sea.

19h25
Haines.  While leaving the ferry, we receive some more visitor information. We continue our way to the center of Haines, 4 miles further on.

19h45
After checking-in in the ‘The Captain’s Choice’ hotel, we also check our flight for tomorrow.
It doesn’t look good.  Apparently, we don’t have a voucher for the flight, nor for the  Whale-watching tour.
The people from LAB Flying will take care of the problem so that we wouldn’t have to miss the whales.  This friendly welcome is maybe due to the fact that they once had a Belgian pilot in their team, who must have made a good impression.
Anyway, we have to be at 5 o’clock tomorrow at the local airport.

That’s early ! So, after a dinner of salmon and ‘Prawns’, we hit the sack.

next day