A 5-Day RV Weekend in Skagway, Alaska

For most Yukoners, the Victoria Day weekend is the first camping weekend of the season. For us this year, it was the third camping weekend, having spent Easter at Haines and then the first weekend of May at Skagway, but as with many of our neighbours, Skagway was once again our destination. Cathy has lots of holidays banked, so took off both the day before and the day after – having 5 days helped make it a really great RV weekend!

The weather forecast for both the Yukon and Skagway was amazing, with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 20s C (low 70s F). The Victoria Day weekend in Skagway has the reputation of being extremely busy with Yukoners, and it used to be a rowdy weekend to the point that the RCMP sent some members down to help out the Skagway police. Wanting to beat the crowds at the border was the main reason Cathy took the Friday off, and we were the only vehicle at the border crossing. A particularly friendly Customs officer welcomed us to the United States, and by noon we had paid $160 for 4 nights at the Pullen Creek RV Park and were getting set up at site #44, which is the “overflow” parking, actually part of the marina parking lot.

We had stayed at Garden City RV Park the last time down, and while it was fine, we wanted a different experience this time. We wanted to be able to walk most places, and we wanted an awesome view. Okay, we wanted an even more awesome view! There were no cruise ships in, so Skagway was very quiet so far, but expecting to soon lose the empty spot beside us, I took this photo at 2:30 as we were unwinding with a couple of cold Alaska beer.

RVing at Skagway, Alaska
Having accomplished absolutely nothing on Friday other than getting to Skagway – a perfect list of accomplishments to start a holiday – I was up early on Saturday to greet the first cruise ships. This was shot at 05:36, with the Celebrity Millennium approaching the Railroad Dock on the left and Holland America’s Volendam heading for the Broadway Dock.

Cruise ships at Skagway, Alaska
“The Millie” was just getting tied up to the dock by the time I had walked over there 15 minutes later. Watching the ships always brings back great memories, and that’s particularly true with ships like this one, as we spent a week on her, sailing from Vancouver to Alaska and back with 4 friends from Ontario in June 2012.

Cruise ship Celebrity Millennium at Skagway, Alaska
The third ship of the day, the Golden Princess, approaches at 6:10. Most of the ships report a 07:00 arrival time in their itineraries, but in reality can be there as much as 3 hours earlier than that.

Cruise ship Golden Princess nears Skagway, Alaska
The 3 ships brought 6,070 people to town, so the helicopter fleet over at Temsco was fairly busy taking people flightseeing and for some, dogsledding on the Denver Glacier a few minutes north.

Temsco helicopters at Skagway, Alaska
We did a lot of walking on Saturday, and drove over to Dyea for a while. Dyea was extremely busy, with hundreds of Yukoners camped out on the flats as well as in the 2 campgrounds. While we could camp at the NPS campground, the bridge over the Taiya River is too low for our rig, so the city campground and the flats aren’t options for us. We’re still new to RVing, but love being able to come back to a fully-equipped home after a walk.

Motorhome at Skagway, Alaska
This is what the main part of the Pullen Creek RV Park looks like, with trees and larger sites, but no view.

Pullen Creek RV Park, Skagway, Alaska
On one of our walks I noticed that both of the custom parlour cars were hooked up for a run. I heard later that Princess cruise passengers can book a luxury train trip, I assume at a substantial premium over the regular fare. I got to ride in one of these beautiful cars last September – you can see the inside of the cars in the blog post from that trip.

WP&YR custom parlor cars at Skagway, Alaska
We intended to go to restaurants for most dinners, and on Saturday night we went to the closest one, a new Mexican cafe called Pescaritos. It was called Harbor House for a couple of years, and Stowaway Cafe for many years before that. I thought that it was an excellent meal at a reasonable price but Cathy was less impressed, mostly due to the rather limited menu. The service was excellent, as was the view. You can see the menu on their Facebook page. We got an outside table, and having a very active hummingbird feeder beside our table was fun 🙂

Hummingbird in Skagway, Alaska
It was quite chilly by the time we left Pescaritos, so sat in the motorhome and watched the world go by when we got back – including watching the ships leave in this photo. This is certainly one of the things that Molly enjoys most about RVing – there’s always lots to see.

Cat in an RV window at Skagway, Alaska
I decided to take Bella on a much longer walk on Sunday – one that neither Cathy nor Monty would be likely to enjoy. I drove to the Pioneer Cemetery, and then we walked up an ATV trail that runs alongside the tracks. Near Mile 3 I noticed a road going off into the forest – something to check out later.

White Pass rail line at Mile 3 near Skagway, Alaska
Near Mile 4, this tunnel that I’d never seen on any of my many train trips caught my attention. This sort of tunnel was typically used for dynamite storage during the construction days 115 years ago.

Dynamite storage tunnel beside the WP&YR tracks near Skagway, Alaska
Just north of Mile 4, we met this train. While I enjoyed the encounter, it terrified poor Bella, and that was the end of our walk, as the ATV trail ended here and the tracks were the only place to walk.

A WP&YR train near Skagway, Alaska
Walking back towards town, it was clear that the road I had seen earlier was actually a section of abandoned rail line about a mile long, and it looked like a pleasant shaded walk. Not far down that trail, I noticed another tunnel, but this one far above the tracks, perhaps 100 feet or so. A mine? I really have no idea.

A mystery tunnel near Skagway, Alaska
This really was a pleasant place to walk. I still almost always keep Bella on an extenda-leash, as she’s quite impulsive and I don’t trust completely that she won’t take off chasing something. In open areas she can run free, but not in a forest where she could quickly vanish. On the 20-foot lead she still has enough freedom to do lots of exploring, and there were plenty of good smells for her along this trail.

Walking my dog on a section of abandoned rail line near Skagway, Alaska
This time of year is wonderful for people like me who love waterfalls. This one is on Reid Creek just 100 yards down the ATV trail from the Pioneer Cemetery.

Waterfall near Skagway, Alaska
Monday was the only day that we had a planned activity – we had booked our annual Victoria Day train ride for 08:15. There was some sort of delay down at the docks, and the train didn’t arrive to pick us up until 08:40.

WP&YR train at Skagway, Alaska
We were underway within a few minutes. The expansion of the White Pass yard where they store the passenger cars seems to just keep getting larger.

Expansion of the WP&YR car storage yard at Skagway, Alaska
I have taken literally thousands of photos on past WP&YR trips, so sat inside with Cathy most of the time on this one. I can never have too many pictures of some spots such as Clifton, though 🙂

Clifton, on the WP&YR rail line near Skagway, Alaska
Bridal Veil Falls was certainly taking away a whole lot of melted snow!

Bridal Veil Falls as seen from the WP&YR rail line near Skagway, Alaska
This day was as perfect as any I’ve ever seen for riding the train. As many times as I’ve seen them, these mountains still thrill me.

Spectacular peaks along the WP&YR rail line near Skagway, Alaska
Tunnel Mountain is “the” iconic photo spot on the entire line.

Tunnel Mountain on the WP&YR rail line in Alaska
We had a lengthy delay at the summit before starting back down to Skagway. One of the passengers had dropped his cell phone off the train a couple of miles south, and they actually sent the locomotive back down to retrieve it for him!

White Pass & Yukon Route train in snow near the summit

That night, we went to the Skagway Fish Company for dinner. Several years before the fire that wiped the restaurant out 2 years ago, the halibut portions had gotten so small that I quit going, and this was their opportunity to convince me to return. We expected to be able to eat outside, but instead were seated inside, which has little atmosphere compared to the old place or to the Skagway Brewing Company, which has been my Skagway go-to place for halibut since I quit “Fishco”. My halibut and chips, though, was very good, and Cathy’s stuffed halibut was even better. Add excellent service, and they almost made up for not seating us outside – we were told that the outside tables aren’t licensed for food service (really???).

Tuesday was the first 10,000+ passenger day of the season, with 4 large ships in. When I shot this at 05:48, the Grand Princess was just joining the Crown Princess, Celebrity Summit and Noordam.

Cruise ships at Skagway, Alaska
Our plan was to head home about noon, so as well as several dogs walks, I went for a short photography walk. These women in National Park Service uniforms were doing some work on the roof of one of the many NPS buildings in town.

NPS building maintenance in Skagway, Alaska
There’s more work being done around Locomotive 195 which sits behind the museum, but I don’t know to what end. Several old trucks have been set on a new line of track, and a lot of brush has been cut, though.

WP&YR steam locomotive 195 at Skagway, Alaska
Locomotive #195 was one of 11 Mikado style 2-8-2s ordered from Baldwin by the US Army when they took over the White Pass & Yukon Route during WWII – it was built in February 1943. Nicknamed “MacArthur”, these engines were significant contributors to the speedy construction of what is now the Aaska Highway.

WP&YR steam locomotive 195 at Skagway, Alaska
Broadway gets to be a very busy place with 4 ships in. You only need to walk a block off Broadway, though, to find quiet spots – as many merchants trying to avoid the high-rent district have discovered over the years.

Skagway, Alaska
We packed up and were headed north just before noon as planned. There was a long stretch of re-surfacing being done north of the Yukon Suspension Bridge, but the delay was minimal, and we were home just after 3:00.

Skagway, Alaska

The only problem with having a wonderful weekend by extending it to 5 days is that now I want 7-days ones! 🙂



Comments

A 5-Day RV Weekend in Skagway, Alaska — 5 Comments

  1. Great post as always! Could the holes have been bear dens? I want an RV like that. Do you give driving lessons ha! Glad you and Cathy and fur babies are enjoying the RVing experience

    • The lower one could be a bear den now (though I saw and smelled no sign that it is), but they’re both definitely man-made (blasted out of solid rock), and the upper one would be all but impossible for a bear cub to get back into.

      I gave driving lessons with the last rig similar to ours that I brought up from Outside 🙂

      We’re sure loving it – all the research and comparison shopping paid off!

  2. Wonderful photos as usual and great commentary. I really need to get up there one summer in the Fifth Wheel. Maybe next year a trip to Yukon and Skagway…….

  3. Hello Murray,

    I’ve been researching places in Alaska, and found your post A 5-Day RV Weekend in Skagway. So much details! And some great photos – I really like to read very detailed travel posts like that. Usually I don’t travel a lot but I love reading posts from those who do.

    Some time ago I started thinking about improving travel and photo blogs to make them more informative. How do I read blogs? At first I open Google Maps and look for the place in the post. After that I try to figure out where those pictures were taken? So maps and some waypoints would be helpful. And finally, what if I want to do a similar journey? It would be great to see a trail or a route.

    To make life better I and my friends created http://www.track-kit.net – a place where routes, tracks with photos and waypoints can be stored, edited and viewed. Most important is tracks can be easily embedded into WordPress blogs as an interactive map with multiple map sources including topo maps, OSM etc. Your readers could also enjoy track statistics, speed and elevation, look at images and see where they have been taken. Here is a description of all major features:

    http://track-kit.net/manual/embedding_tracks.html

    You can upload tracks from a smartphones, PC or Mac. You can even create a track right at the web site. Here is a video to explain it better:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EOUvGi-HhM

    We tried to put all the great features in one place to make your readers more interested in the blog and attract more followers.

    So give it a try: use Track-Kit for your blogs (it is free) and let me know what features you would like to have – and we will make them for you.

    Thanks a lot for great posts!

    Alex

    • Thanks for letting me know about it, Alex. I did a track from my hike yesterday and it’s very similar to the site I use with my Spot tracker. It’s easier to share the resulting map, and the screen size is better, but one of the waypoints, though correct on the Spot site, is a few hundred yards off – adding a way to edit a waypoint lat/long could solve that glitch. I haven’t gone into the kml file to try to figure it out. The measuring tool is great. I was hoping that it would add elevations, but didn’t – that would make your product the easy winner in my case – since that’s part of your promo, is that just something I’ve missed?

      [Edit – I just created a new track and reloaded the same kml and all the waypoints are now correct]

      [Edit2 – just started watching the Advanced Editing video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=65&v=4EOUvGi-HhM – lots more to learn about it 🙂 ]