Sunday, May 27, 2007

SOUTH To Alaska...Huh?

In a course correction brought about by things we learned about summer scheduling in local communities, we decided to move the end of the trip up to the beginning…and headed south to Skagway on the coast rather than seeing it in the Fall on the way out of Alaska. Glad we did. It put Alaska on our map of visited states a few days earlier than we expected to have it and it was a spectacular intro to Alaska.
From the Yukon, through a strip of British Columbia, the road to Skagway is breathtaking both in terms of beautiful and unusual scenery, and in the literal sense, as the 11 mile decline from the mountains into the harbor town is 11 miles of 11% vertical drop- the steepest decline on any of the major Alaskan roads. It was a constant question whether to marvel at the vistas and breath with excitement or hold your breath for fear the coach would run away and send you into the abyss. There are two “runaway truck” ramps along the downward path that are supposed to stop you if the brakes fail. Personally, I think they would just launch you further out into the canyon, but fortunately I didn’t need to find out. For the trip back up the hill we have dumped our holding tanks of as much water and fluids as possible and lightened the load where-ever possible. Even a 400 HP engine will be tested climbing back to the top.
The customs agent coming “back” into the states had a sense of humor. How rare is that?
“Is this rig yours?
“Yes, sir.”
“Huh. Too bad. You deserve better.”
With that, we did the usual questions about what we do and don’t have and what we will and won’t do on this trip.
“Do you have any Canadian beef?”
“No sir, just some buffalo burgers from Montana.”
“That’s good. Because Canadian beef is just nasty. And speaking of that, while you’re in Skagway, be sure to order the fish because even down there the beef is all old enough to vote!”
Skagway is a nifty little village completely surrounded by mountains that afford it great protection in many ways from the weather, so the salt water keeps it more temperate than other places in Alaska in the winter. Still, a look at the snow thrower that mounts to the front of the train that descends into the village from Whitehorse speaks volumes about what temperate actually means in the greater scheme of things. It’s also a resourceful place. Reminded me, in that sense alone, of life on Roatan, where, objects found on the beach washed in by the tide, were not junk at all, but raw materials for anything you could figure out what to do with them. The facade of the visitor’s center is completely covered with drift wood. I actually found a nice piece myself to use as a walking/bear beating stick, and one store we walked into wanted to have their carver come out and do an Eagle head on the top of it right there and then.
“What kind of wood is that?”
“Oh, I don’t know; I call it “drift””
I bought my much anticipated Alaska fishing license in the local hardware store, where, I am reasonably certain, I was the first person ever to do so and then insist on a photo of the occasion. Hey! You wait 50 years for something, you should make a note of it when it finally happens.
We posted a picture of Emerald Lake which is on the road in. As is true of so much we are seeing and experiencing the picture refused to capture the glory of the color of the lake, but hopefully it will provide a glimpse into that amazing color for which it is named. Marilyn said that one lake alone made the trip worth doing; we just stared at it in amazement before continuing on. It left us with one of those images you store in your mind that never goes away- it was just that special a place.

1 comment:

Maryann said...

thanks for sharing your trip to Alaska and for the gorgeous photos..