Things have been feeling more and more at home every week. This is a especially true when people finally start to show up in Alaska! After an amazing visit with Jen’s sister, we were blessed with our next guest. One of my best friend’s parents were coming to the next closet town to us (Skagway, see past blog).We did not hesitate to let them know that we would definitely come to meet them. They were coming in on a cruise ship and wouldn’t have the pleasure of being on out at our lake property, but just seeing a familiar face from back home is such a blessing. Skagway is one of the best stops for cruise ships cruising around the inside passage, and only a 30 minute ferry ride from Haines. With the ferry having several breakdowns and schedule cuts due to downed boats, we had to drive to meet them there. This means going from Haines to Canada and then back into the US on the other side. One really big horseshoe. When the ferry is running, you can do the whole loop, which the locals call “the golden circle”. This is by far one of the most amazing drives that anyone can take. It’s about 5 to 6 hours of mountain driving. The city of Whitehorse is located in Yukon Valley in Canada, between Haines and Skagway. I’m calling this town the “recharge” city. We were able to go to a Walmart and a chain restaurant. They even had a Jiffy Lube and a large shopping mall. This was the first time we stepped foot into a major department store in the last 5 months.In Haines, Amazon.com is the king. It gets delivered straight to the airport in town, they call you when it lands, then hold it until the next time you are in town. It was kinda of amusing to have so many choices on all the aisles. It was nice to know that we have such a place to restock on all supplies and things we might not be able to find in Haines. It’s pretty amazing all the things that you start to say….”Wow, I haven’t seen one of those in a while”. This was the first time we have seen street lights and a Starbucks since we’ve moved out here.
As we passed through Whitehorse, we drove through the most beautiful mountain ranges before reaching Skagway. The summits were high up in the clouds, as we climbed along the same mountains and passes thousands of people traversed during the famous 1898 gold rush. The size and magnitude of the mountain-top glaciers always amazes me and we are truly reminded of how magical this place is.
We stayed in Skagway the night before our friend’s ship docked. That way we could meet them bright and early in the morning. They had invited us to ride along with them on the famous White Pass Yukon Route train ride. This was an amazing trip. Being a huge history buff, I have read so much about the great Yukon gold rush and couldn’t wait for the experience.
As the train twisted and turned slowly up the mountain, we were engulfed in amazing views along with amazing company in our little box car. When we finally made it to the summit, we were surrounded by clouds. It truly is awesome to get to see folks from Lafayette, Louisiana in the far north.
It was mesmerizing to hear tales of the people who climbed this route in search of gold. It was inspirational to think of the folks who built the railroad on the side of these cliffs. They used lots of black powder to blast through the rock, and during the winter, the workers could only work one hour at a time before taking a break in the “warming tent” because of the brutal cold. Canada required each gold rusher to carry 1,000 pounds of supplies with them on the trail. Those who didn’t bring a horse or a donkey to loan up had to carry it themselves. We heard that some people brought 20 crates each weighing 50 pounds, then carried each one a little ways at a time. Others brought larger loads all the way to the top, then left friends and family to look after their stuff as they traversed down again for the rest of their supplies. One trip up the mountain took the average gold rusher about 3 months. Many people died along this route, and many horses and other work animals. In fact, one area is nicknamed, “Dead Horse Trail.”
While we were away, our hometown of Haines held their own version of Mardi Gras. We missed it this year, but we will mark our calendars next year for Mardi Gras in August!
Back at home, the projects continue to flow at a steady pace. It is a feeling of accomplishment when we look at our “to do” list that we worked up together in the beginning and see how much we have been able to finish up in such a relatively short amount of time. However, it feels like we’ve been here for years. We added the finishing touches to the hot tub time machine, adding a shelter to keep dry stacks of wood and a place to hang towels and robes. Also, I made Jen a sundeck. She wanted a place that she could lay out and get some Vitamin D. I conditioned a large piece of wood slab that was cut from one of the trees on a property that burnt down on the large lake. I took a blow torch and toasted it a little to bring out the tree’s life lines and then turned it into a great bench. We also cut down a few trees and started to open up our view a little more. We kind of liked having the trees hide us, but we got to thinking “hide us from who?” There’s no one that ever comes back here. We have this amazing view of the mountain range in front of us that keeps getting more and more amazing with the clearing of these trees. We had a great trip to Skagway, and an awesome visit with friends. While it was fun to get away, there’s no place like home, and we were thrilled to come home to our little place on Chilkat Lake.