Alaska Cruise Season 2014: Day 1 in Skagway

I really like seeing the first cruise ship of the year sail into Skagway. It’s a bit tough logistically to make that happen, but as you’ll see below, there are some wonderful aspects to the trip. The dogs seemed to be somewhat confused about getting breakfast at 03:00, but Monty knows that being adaptable is part of life with me, and Bella will learn soon 🙂

We were away from the house at 03:45, and the first photo stop was at the Bove Island viewpoint south of Carcross, at 04:30. The lakes are all still firmly frozen. Bella made her first important discovery of the day there – someone had dropped a used diaper, and I had quite a time getting that prize from my puppy. What is wrong with some people? – even “born in a barn” doesn’t cover that sort of behaviour 🙁
Spring dawn light at Bove Island, Yukon
Travelling at that time of the morning allows total flexibility for stops, U-turns or anything else you want to do, because there is no traffic. None 🙂 A U-turn got me this shot along Windy Arm just south of the BC border.
Spring dawn light along Windy Arm, Yukon
Among the things you can do when there’s no traffic is stop in the middle of the road and set up your tripod to get shots like this, taken at 04:55.
Spring dawn light along the South Klondike Highway, BC
Looking south over Tutshi Lake. Although it looks cold, the temperature was a very comfortable +4°C (39°F).
Spring dawn light at Tutshi Lake, BC
The view to the north, a few miles further south on Tutshi Lake.
Spring dawn light at Tutshi Lake, BC
A WP&YR work train sits at Fraser.
A WP&YR work train at Fraser, BC
Five minutes before the 05:58 sunrise, at the Thompson River. The railway crosses it on a small bridge in the lower centre of the photo.
Spring dawn light in the White Pass, BC
A few clouds obscured the light I had hoped for at the White Pass Summit. This is looking across Summit Lake to the Sawtooth Range.
Spring dawn light in the White Pass, BC
The only vehicle I saw in the 3 hours it took me to get to Skagway, a semi climbing the final mile towards the Summit on his way to the Skagway docks.
Trucking in the White Pass, Alaska
The BC/Alaska border just north of the Summit.
The BC/Alaska border just north of the White Pass Summit
The crossing into Alaska was very pleasant, as a Customs officer that I hadn’t seen in a long time and used to chat with a fair bit was on duty. When I reached Skagway and took this shot at 05:50 local (06:50 Yukon), it was very quiet – my car was the only one on Broadway. I processed a series of 3 photos to get this HDR image.

Almost all cruise ship schedules say that they arrive in Skagway at 07:00 but it’s common to get there much earlier, as early as 04:30. The first ship seems to be on time, but I kept an eye on the inlet as we wandered around Skagway looking for photo ops.

Bella’s next discovery of the day was barnacles – yuuum! 🙂 I stopped her after a few nibbles, because it’s a safe bet that they would end up on my car seat in a while.
Husky puppy discovering barnacles in Skagway, Alaska
The Carnival Miracle first came into view down Taiya Inlet just after 06:00 – this was shot at 06:25.
Cruise ship Carnival Miracle sails into Skagway, Alaska
The Miracle is a mid-sized ship on the Alaska routes now, carrying 2,124 passengers and a crew of 961.
Cruise ship Carnival Miracle sails into Skagway, Alaska
Fresh from a cruise to Hawaii, the line-tossing crew of the Miracle was bundled up well against the Alaska chill 🙂
Carnival Miracle
Fifteen minutes after the ship was tied up, the first White Pass & Yukon Route train arrived to take passengers up to the Summit.
White Pass & Yukon Route train meets the Carnival Miracle
This pickup arrived to drop gear off for the people who would get off the train to go hiking/snowshoeing up the pass at Denver Station.
Hiking excursion gear arrives at Skagway, Alaska
It’s great to see all of the White Pass locomotives getting new paint jobs.
White Pass locomotives
Soon after the train’s arrival, the tour buses started arriving. Day 1 – 140 or so to go! I well remember the knot in my stomach on the first day or 3. Every now and then I miss driving the buses, but I always get over it quickly 🙂
Tour buses meet the Carnival Miracle at Skagway, Alaska
I had a look around the railway gift shop, where I met a long-time friend who introduced me to the new president of the White Pass, John Finlayson. I got a few photos around the offices, including some of this model of the container ship Frank H. Brown.
White Pass container ship Frank H. Brown
I went for a big breakfast and then the kids and I spent a while back at the dock meeting people coming off the ship – yes, a pair of huskies make it very easy to meet new people! By 08:45, though, it felt like time to go home. The streets were still pretty much empty, and few shops were open or looked like they might open. The season starts slowly – it’s tough to schedule staff for these first days.
Broadway on a 1-ship morning in Skagway, Alaska
We made a few short stops on the way north, but were back in downtown Carcross at 11:20. There, as expected, only the visitor centre and the charming little Caribou Crossing Coffee were open. May 12th is the first multi-ship day (3 ships with a total of 6,756 passengers), and that’s when most things open in Carcross.
Carcross as the cruise season starts - still boarded up
Emerald Lake will still be “White Lake” for a while yet, much to the surprise, I’m sure, of many of the people who will be coming up to see it. The very warm temperatures forecast in the next week (up to 19°C – 66°F – on Tuesday) might open it up quickly, though, if some wind accompanies the warmth. When Does the Ice Leave Emerald Lake??.
When Does the Ice Leave Emerald Lake??
A total of 22 kilometers of the South Klondike Highway are being ripped up and re-sealed over the next couple of weeks. One 10-km section straddles the BC/Yukon border, and this one is between Emerald Lake and Robinson. I won’t be taking the motorcycle to Skagway anytime soon.

I thought that when I got home a nap in the sunshine might be in order, but there was just too much work to do outside. The biggest one was taking down a large and dangerous tree – a chain was bolted on to ensure that it couldn’t hit the hot tub when I dropped it, and we now have another 3-4 week’s worth of firewood for next year as a bonus.


Alaska Cruise Season 2014: Day 1 in Skagway — 10 Comments

  1. I’m envious. 🙂 That was a nice trip with a lot of nice pictures. To anyone who takes a cruise I would highly recommend the drive from Skagway to Carcross…it is beautiful. I wish we had more time so we could have gone farther than Emerald Lake.

  2. If I had the opportunity, Neal, I’d skip the Whitehorse to Emerald Lake section when I go to Skagway. Impossible, but Emerald Lake to Skagway is by far the most scenic.

  3. Thanks for posting your fantastic journey with the ‘kids’. As I’m sleeping you’re out taking photos for all of us to enjoy. I’m heading to Skagway on Thursday.

  4. Love the photos Murray….that taken in the middle of the road at 04.55 is particularly attractive to my eye.

  5. Love the photos Murray, still quite a bit of snow from what we can see. Bella is changing rapidly….she .looks great !

  6. Beautiful pics Murray! Looking forward to seeing such glorious awe in person this Aug.

  7. These pics are so beautiful!! The shot of the Thompson River just before sunrise!- I could stare at that forever!!! I like the shot of the White Pass Passenger Train too! So fortunate you are to be living surrounded by such beauty!

  8. Murray…nice photos and really nice to get to see it before we come in. We have rented a car and bought your PDF and will be driving this road on June 16th, coming in on the Millennium and are looking forward to it.
    I especially love the Windy Am photo…did you have a filter on for that?

  9. Thanks for all of your comments 🙂

    Phil, I’m happy to say that the colours in the Windy Arm photo are those supplied by Mother Nature. I never use filters – well, occasionally a polarizer.