It’s Not Spring in Skagway Yet, Either

This is always a busy time of year, and this year is no exception. With Father Winter hanging around Whitehorse long after he’s worn out his welcome, though, I’ve been to Skagway twice in the past 10 days, searching in vain for Spring on the coast.

For the past few days, much of my time has been taken up by shopping for a new(er) car online. It’s virtually all done online, as the dealers here have nothing in stock that interests me. Here’s a comparison sheet I set up at Consumer Reports to crunch some numbers of possibilities.
Shopping for a new car

It’s very tough to shop for a new car when the car I want is sooo different from the car I need. What I want is that yellow Camaro, the very-short list as of right now, though, is one of two Cadillac CTS all-wheel-drive models, a sedan and a wagon.

Anyway, our first drive to Skagway was 10 days ago, in my niece’s new RAV4. The intention was to go out to Dyea, but the Dyea Road was closed for blasting. With the temperature just below freezing with a strong north wind, it was too cold and windy to go walking on the beach anyway, so we stayed in Skagway.
Dyea Road closed for blasting
We hiked up to Lower Reid Falls, which is quite lovely when it’s frozen.
Lower Reid Falls, Skagway, Alaska
We looked around the Pioneer Cemetery for a few minutes, and I got a photo of the headstone for James Mark Rowan, a Deputy United States Marshal who was shot in a Skagway theatre while attempting to resolve a dispute in 1898. I added it to my Alaska Peace Officer Honor Roll, which I unfortunately had to update on March 30th when two Troopers were killed in a helicopter crash while performing a rescue near Talkeetna.
James Mark Rowan, a Deputy United States Marshal who was shot in a Skagway theatre while attempting to resolve a dispute in 1898.
That was a very quick trip, but 2 days later Monty and I went down on our own, and spent a lot more time exploring and shooting. Before I could get out of the driveway, though, I had to get the mud I picked up on the Kusawa Lake Road out of the wheel wells. With it now frozen harder than concrete, that took a while.
Frozen mud on my Subaru Outback
Our first stop was at our Carcross cabin, to see if there were any migrating swans there. I was very pleased to find that there were 26 of them right in front of the cabin.
Migrating swans at Carcross, Yukon
There’s no sign of Spring along Windy Arm…
Historic Venus Silver Mine Mill, Yukon
…except for the rocks melting out of the slopes and rolling down onto the highway. Last year we saw a fellow in a small car hit one, puncture his oil pan and then keep driving until the engine apparently seized. At the same spot, someone else has recently punctured their oil pan, but at least stopped quickly so the towing and repair bill will “only” be a few hundred dollars.
A punctured oil pan along the South Klondike Highway
We stopped at Tutshi Lake, and had planned to go for a long walk, as the temperature had been fluctuating between 0 and +2°C (32-36°F) ever since we left home.
Winter walking at Tutshi Lake, BC
The walk got substantially shortened, though, because the drifted snow was deep and “punchy” in places, making walking very difficult (even Monty was punching through in places, so taking snowshoes wouldn’t have helped).
Trying to walk in deep snow at Tutshi Lake, BC
There are some nice frozen waterfalls along the highway, this large one just south of the Tutshi Lake stop, at Km 61.4.
Frozen waterfall along the South Klondike Highway
As my regular readers know, I love “moody mountain” images, and the peaks above Goat Lake provided a good photo op.
The peaks above Goat Lake, near Skagway, Alaska
A quiet day on Broadway – it was hard to believe that the first cruise ship would arrive in only 25 days!
Broadway in Skagway, Alaska
The salmon enhancement area on Pullen Creek is one of the places where the arrival of Spring is the most dramatic.
Pullen Creek - Skagway, Alaska
This lovely 75-foot, wooden, ketch-rigged motor sailer arrived in Skagway last summer as “Lindy” (I got some photos of her in Taiya Inlet from a cruise ship), but the name has now been removed, and I can’t find out anything about her current status. Built in Great Britain as a fishing boat in 1944, she was brought to Alaska in 2003 by a couple from Juneau.
The lovely 75-foot, wooden, ketch-rigged motor sailer Lindy at Skagway, Alaska
Work continues on the Small Boat Harbor – they’re dredging now, and I watched a barge full of sand and gravel being hauled out into the inlet to be dumped. I assume that they dump it into the sea, but that seems very environmentally unfriendly given how rich Taiya Inlet is.
Dredging the Skagway Small Boat Harbor
As usual, I went over to the mouth of the Skagway River and watched the harbor seals fishing for a few minutes.
A harbor seal fishing at Skagway, Alaska
I take photos of old houses in a rather haphazard fashion. Some day I’ll make the time to be more systematic about it – Skagway has many.
Old house in Skagway, Alaska
After lunch I went over to the WP&YR railway yard to see what’s new. Shops seems to have been busy all winter doing locomotive and passenger car work.
WP&YR Shops at Skagway
I met this set just returning from the White Pass, getting the line cleared out.
A WP&YR locomotive returning from Spring snow clearing
From Shops I went down to the main passenger car storage yard.
The main passenger car storage yard for the WP&YR at Skagway
The “Lake Atlin” car is one of the railway’s oldest, having been built in 1889!
White Pass & Yukon Route railway passenger car Lake Atlin
Near the other end of the age spectrum, the “Lake Takhini” was built in 2004.
White Pass & Yukon Route railroad passenger car Lake Takhini
I hadn’t been up the road along the Skagway River for quite a while, so went up and took a few shots there.
The Skagway River in the Spring
If you want a free bus, just come to Skagway and get it 🙂 “Leo’s Shuttle” isn’t a name that visitors to Skagway see anymore, but the company is still in operation – they’ve had the SMART shuttle bus contract since its inception in May 2000.
Leo's Shuttle bus in Skagway
When you go for months without seeing rain, the first of of the year is quite special!
First rain of the year
There’s getting to be a fair bit of damage on the road – some like this one are flagged, but most are not, despite stories to the contrary that you may see online.
Spring road damage on the South Klondike Highway
This time of the year, with just a bit of snow left, is the easiest time to see the slash along the Yukon – British Columbia border. You can see it at the bottom of this photo, taken just north of the “Welcome to Yukon” sign, on the far side of Windy Arm
The BC/Yukon border along the South Klondike Highway
And just a few hundred yards beyond that, it’s hard to believe that this tiny avalanche chute is the most consistent producer of large avalanches anywhere along the South Klondike. The highway was actually closed by an avalanche the next day for a few hours.
An avalanche run along the South Klondike Highway
Still in exploring mood, we stopped at Carcross again on the way home. Monty, always ahead, got a few yards onto the railway bridge before realizing that he HATES open-deck bridges! I was almost ready to carry him back to “safety” when he turned around and made it back. Poor puppy 🙁
The Carcross railway bridge
More historic homes that I need to get more photos of, because these ones along the Nares River won’t be standing much longer.
Historic cabins in Carcross, Yukon
I saw some more swans on the Nares River, and decided that the upper deck of the SS Tutshi memorial-thing might be a good viewing spot.
The SS Tutshi in Carcross, Yukon
It was 🙂
Swans on the Nares River at Carcross, Yukon
The further along this “retail village” in downtown Carcross comes, the more I dislike it. “If you build it, they will come” – wanna bet?
The new retail village in Carcross, Yukon
Spring melt is coming along nicely in mid-afternoon, even though everything still freezes very solidly again every night. A pile of money was spent on the building seen here, which is now hidden by the retail village and the coffee shop has moved out for the upcoming summer.
Spring thaw in Carcross, Yukon
Well, that’s the catchup. We have another 1-2 inches of snow forecast for tonight and tomorrow, then it’s supposed to warm up. Yesterday, though, I was back at the piles of snow around the deck – I know Spring is down there somewhere!
Digging for Spring in the Yukon


It’s Not Spring in Skagway Yet, Either — 6 Comments

  1. Yeah, it is hard to shop for a car. We recently had to get a new one after a drunk driver hit us and totaled the car we were driving. My wife is still recovering from that accident and probably will be for another 6-8 weeks. We had a Camry and we got another Camry since we are pretty restricted on what my wife can drive because she is so short (4 ft 9.5 inches). So we now have a 2011 RAV4 & a 2013 Camry.

    You have some beautiful pictures. I recognized that old mine from our drive from Skagway. I wish cruise ships would left us get off at Skagway and catch the next ship going the direction we want to go. I would love to drive around it your part of the world.

  2. Those are some great shots of the passenger cars! My husband is quite the railroading fan and he enjoyed looking at the pics. I enjoyed the pictures of the swans. You take fantastic pics! Thanks for sharing them with the world 🙂

  3. Neal, I didn’t realize that you’d been in a bad accident. I’m so sorry to hear about your wife – I hope that she heals quickly and completely.

    Holland America tried using Skagway as a cruise embarkation and dis-embarkation port to allow for independent land travel but it just didn’t work out financially, mostly (IMO) because they made it very expensive. You can still get on or off a Holland America ship there but only if you’re on one of their 9-10-day motorcoach tours through the Yukon and Alaska, starting or ending in Anchorage.

    Jan, thanks for your comments – I’m pleased that you both enjoyed the photos. As a railroad fan, your husband would certainly love a trip on the WP&YR!

  4. Your photos are very informative and descriptive as always. I hope May is more Spring-like than April looked to southern hemisphere eyes. After a wonderful hot, dry Summer we have lately been brought down to reality with storms and rain, lots of rain. I love the photo of the peaks above Goat Lake. You are always in the right place at the right time. I also find old buildings, old farms, barns, etc., great subjects, and of course you are doing historical record preservation an invaluable service with all your photographic work over the years. All the best,
    Marie G.

  5. Thanks, Marie. I hope that you heavy rains don’t lead to any damage. Is that the price you pay for having a wonderful summer? (I hope not!)

  6. Murray, Welcome back to Calgary! I am long time follower of your blogs and have tried to meet you several times while passing through Whitehorse. (Stopped at the travel agency twice and left a phone msg once) To no avail as you were always out of town. I am an Alaskan, Skagway born. My great uncle was first conductor on WP&Y RR. My grandfather was Magistrate and later Postmaster there. My Father was also Postmaster in early 30s. We should meet. How long are you in Calgary? I could be there in two days, driving from Seattle. I am headed for Anchorage this month anyway and can up my departure time. Could you e-mail answer or, better yet, call me anytime at 2062765223. Thanks much, CQC