I Use Any Excuse to Drive to Skagway

Next Tuesday I’m picking up a group from New Zealand to start a 12-day tour from Whitehorse to Seward, and I’m a bit manic right now. I use any excuse to get out of the office if the weather is even half decent, and both Thursday and Friday I headed to Skagway on the motorcycle. Even after over 300 trips, I never get tired of the South Klondike Highway, whether it’s by car, bus or bike (but the bike is best 🙂 ).

On Thursday I had a few projects to get completed in the office so didn’t get on the bike until after noon. At 1:45 I stopped at Fraser to get a few shots of a kayak excursion starting off up Bernard Lake. The strong wind was bitterly cold – colder than I was really prepared for.

Kayak excursion at Skagway, Alaska

Kayak excursion at Skagway, Alaska

At the White Pass summit I went for a short hike, down towards International Falls. There are some impressive cliffs down there!

White Pass summit

I’d forgotten that to actually get to the falls is a long route around the ponds and creeks below the falls, so this telephoto shot is as close as I got. There’s never enough time.

Waterfall at the White Pass summit, Alaska

I always stop for trains when I luck into a close view!

WP&YR railway climbing the White Pass out of Skagway

It was a very busy day in Skagway, with 4 large ships in – here, the flags of the Disney Wonder are seen flying in the cold wind. The Statendam, Coral Princess and Star Princess were the other ships in port.

Flags of the Disney Wonder flying in the cold wind at Skagway

A different sort of Alaska cruising – “Sanctuary” hails from the Richmond (BC) Yacht Club.

The Coral Princess, which I worked on for 3 weeks as naturalist in 2010. I went for lunch at the Skagway Brewing Company, and as they were extremely busy, offered to share my table-for-4 with other people. A woman from New York, sailing on the Coral Princess, joined me, as did a couple from Michigan who were sailing on the Star Princess. I always enjoy hearing how people’s Alaska experience is going – because it’s always good 🙂

Coral Princess at Skagway, Alaska

Back up in the mountains, I went for another short hike north of Fraser, and came upon these folks fishing, probably for Arctic grayling.

Fishing for Arctic grayling

Sometimes the scene at my feet is as beautiful as the broad view is.

Alpine vegetation

I’ve been on this glacier-moulded rock many times, but yesterday it struck me that it was the same size and shape as a whale. I quite enjoyed being on the back of a great granite whale 🙂

Glacier-moulded granite in northern British Columbia

The view to the south from the back of the whale.

A wilderness creek in northern British Columbia

I could see on the way down to Skagway that it was snowing on several of the peaks. This was the result. This is extremely unusual in July!

Fresh snow in July!

Lime Mountain just south of Carcross lights up beautifully in the afternoon and evening. This was shot at 6:15pm, looking south.

Lime Mountain just south of Carcross

On Thursday’s trip I had forgotten to take my mailbox key, and as I was waiting for a part for my broken lawnmower, I had to go down again yesterday 🙂 My first stop was to visit the couple who used to own Spirit Lake Lodge. They’ve sold it, but also have 4 lots for sale, 3 of them on the lake, and I had them show me around. The most difficult building site, with lots of granite, was of course the one I like the best!

Spirit Lake, Yukon

A couple of things happened that made me very nervous about continuing this trip. The first wasn’t a big deal by itself – a bike-tour support van and trailer from Sockeye Cycle had gone into the ditch on a straight piece of road. Odd, but then a few miles further I saw a raven dead on the road. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a road-killed raven, and to see Spirit Bird dead almost made me turn around and go home. Bad karma, man 🙁

I did continue south, but being extra careful. I picked up my mail in Skagway, had an excellent lunch at Glacier Smoothies (a clubhouse wrap) and headed north again.

I noticed that most or perhaps all of the interpretive signs on the Alaska side of the White Pass have been replaced. The new designs are very nice.

Interpretive signs on the Alaska side of the White Pass

It’s so cold still that the waterfalls aren’t flowing very heavily yet either. This is Pitchfork Falls.

Pitchfork Falls, Alaska

In the middle of the William Moore Bridge, my bike’s odometer clicked to 20,000 km – not bad for 23½ months of riding 🙂

Vstar 1100 at the William Moore Bridge, Alaska

Up at the border I decided to get a higher view so climbed up to the weather station. This is the view towards Skagway from that point, with the “Welcome to Alaska” sign at the far end of the parking lot.

White Pass summit

The US-Canada border as seen from the weather station.

US-Canada border, White Pass summit

When I got to the Canada Customs post at Fraser there was a huge lineup (well, huge for here – about 2 dozen vehicles), so I made a U-turn (hoping that didn’t trigger a “that looks suspicious” thought by Customs 🙂 ) and went for another hike to the rocky hill above the Thompson River railway bridge. The trail to it starts on this old road.

An old road near Fraser, BC

This is the view towards Fraser from the top of the hill, with the railway running up the right.

Fraser, BC

I spent a while taking pictures of the vegetation on the walk back to the bike. When I got to the border crossing there were still a half-dozen cars, and it occurred to me that traffic was heavy because of people going to the Atlin Music Festival (and the ferry arrived just as I was leaving Skagway). It only took about 10 minutes to get across, though.

Fern in the alpine

After all that fuss getting the part for my lawnmower, it was the wrong part! Oh well, having grass a foot high gives the house a bit of character. Okay, not really! Even after 22 years here I find it incredible that a simple lawnmower can’t be fixed in Whitehorse – they want you to buy a new one if even the simplest part breaks 🙁


I Use Any Excuse to Drive to Skagway — 6 Comments

    • Sometimes, I still feel so small,
      Looking up at distant height;
      Sometimes, forward’s just a crawl,
      When soul desires freedom’s flight.
      But just as trees need lifetime’s span,
      So my progress time requires;
      Just as pine from seed began,
      So my heart grows what’s desired.
      Lord, remind your daughter small
      That You delight in stages earned;
      Walking comes when first I’ve crawled,
      And flying after running’s turn.

      Writing beautiful poetry like that, you need to experience this country, Melody. After 40 years running in circles down south, I delight in “flying” here 🙂

  1. From your photos I do actually sense the cooler-than-expected temps. (maybe I’m influenced by having to take ice off the car this morning). Wish we were part of the ‘group from New Zealand’ joining you on Tuesday! That looks quite a trek to Seward. How many places do you over-night along the way? I suppose you do various walks at stop-overs, too. I hope you have a safe and fun road trip. All the very best,
    Marie G.

    • The Seward trip is a long one – 1 night in Whitehorse, 2 in Dawson City, 1 in Tok, 2 in Fairbanks, 2 in Denali Park, 2 in Anchorage, then I drop them off at their ship in Seward and head home (an 18-hour drive).

  2. Murray, I have avoided your blog all spring and summer, knowing a trip to the North wasn’t in the cards for me this year. Today, I could no longer deprive myself. I stopped by and did a bit of reading. Thank you so much …. as expected, I’m yearning to return. 🙂