Whitehorse to Skagway


Our trip from Whitehorse to Skagway was an adventure without the motorhome. Skagway is about 100 miles south of White Horse through the White Pass. This is the pass that the 1897 gold rush miners had to haul 1000 pounds of provisions and gear on their way to Bennett and eventually to Dawson City. You’ll see how rugged this territory really is in pictures below. Until this road was completed the only way into Skagway was by boat…..or the White Pass Trail.

The first picture is the Hi Country RV Park in White Horse where we left the rig and began our journey south toward Skagway in the Jeep.

As we left White Horse and began the trek south this was the view looking south toward the White Pass that we would be driving through. From this view it’s hard to believe that the road will actually go through those mountains.

We hadn’t gone more than ten or fifteen miles before we saw this momma grizzly and her two cubs. The one cub had to stand on his hind legs to get a better look at us. I didn’t dare get too far from the car because of the cubs.

Grizzly Cubs

Mom let us get some good photos but it wasn’t long before she decided that she had pushed it far enough and led her cubs back into the forest. They were in the field eating dandelions.

Grizzly Mom and cubs

Emerald Lake has a lot of copper in the water so it is a very blue/green lake. Very pretty. Looking north back up the lake we could see this house built on a ledge over looking Emerald Lake. You can just make out the green roof if you look close. Talk about a beautiful view from the front porch!!

Emerald Lake

We saw the restaurant selling cinnamon rolls but decided we’d pass on the offer since we had eaten breakfast an hour earlier. The about 100 yard further south we saw this sign pointing back at the restaurant. We turned around and went back for cinnamon rolls and coffee. The sign apparently works…..the owner has been making a living there for over 15 years…..in the middle of nowhere. The owner of the shop was fun to talk with. She goes to Arizona for the winter and runs the shop when she comes back north. She lives in a nice cabin behind the shop.

Another 35 or 40 miles further south the road turned to gravel for a while as we drove through an area of road that was under repair for frost heaves. You can see that the mountains are getting closer……it’s still hard to imagine driving through them. The glaciers are getting easier to see.

Just before the road begins to climb up into White Pass we crossed the narrow gauge RR tracks of the White Pass RR that runs from Skagway up to the top of White Mountain and then onto Bennett. We think this might have been the old RR station…..not sure.

Turning around from the picture above, you can see the tracks heading into the mountains and the White Pass on their way to Skagway. The gold rush miners has to walk through White Pass in 1897, but within two years George Brackett trail and the White Pass RR were both completed.

We were now close enough to the pass to see the trail that the miners had to travel back in 1897. I can’t imagine anyone actually making it through that pass!!!!  Not only did they have to make their way through this kind of terrain, they had to haul 1000 pounds of provisions or the Canadian government would not give them permission to head for at Whitehorse…….110 miles and then from there to the gold mines north in Dawson City. They estimate that over 3000 horses and mules died that winter. The canyon was called the Dead Horse Trail.  The Canadian Royal Mounted Police were attempting to protect both the miners and the animals with their 1000 pound provision requirement.

White Pass

As we drove for miles along this canyon stopping for pictures from time to time our hearts went out to those brave men and women who survived the journey that winter. They were one very tough group of human beings!!!!

White Pass

This picture was taken about 2/3 of the way down the pass.  Skagway is off in the distance…..probably about 20 miles.

We were fortunate to catch a picture of the White Pass RR making its way up the mountain.

The White Pass RR with the original George Brackett improved trail below. John charged miners a toll to take his improved trail. He sold the trail to the RR a couple years after building it for $100,000. But he continued to collect tolls for another year after he’d sold it.

This is the view looking south toward Skagway as the road exits the canyon. If you look closely, you can see how rugged the trail would have been for the miners.

Here is the same spot looking north back toward the pass.

We were pretty tired driving a paved road down through the pass so this motel room looked very inviting. The motel is called the Sergeant Preston Motel. Those of you who are old enough will know who Sergeant Preston and his dog King were.

Here is a nice shot of the Skagway harbor. The tour boats were behind us in this picture…..see below.

Skagway Harbor

The harbor is to the right of this photo. You can see the two tour boats and the White Pass train that we saw making its way up the mountain several hours earlier. They have on average two tour boats a day stopping at Skagway…….that means 10,000 tourists a day is not uncommon during the tourist season.

It looks like mid-day in this picture but it was actually after 9 pm. It doesn’t get light until about midnight……and then its only gray untill about 4am when the sun returns.

The journey tomorrow takes us over to Haines and begins in the next posting. The thing that most impressed us was the human courage and determination that we witnessed today. The miners, the people that improved the first nation trail up the mountain, and the people who built the railroad through one of the most rugged mountain passes on the west coast. It was a very humbling day to have the privilege of traveling in their footsteps. It gave personal meaning to us the concept that If humans can dream it or imagine it, they can accomplish it. If you have any doubt of the truth of this concept, simply take the trip from White Horse down to Skagway.

Both of the pictures above  show you how pretty the area is, but here is a better picture taken from the same spot with the zoom lens so you can see how rugged the terrain was facing the miners as they began their journey up the mountains off in the distance. To ferry 1000 pounds of gear and provisions up the mountain would have required the miners to make this trip through the pass probably several times.


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