Skagway - Next to the last stop
Aug 30, 2007
|Having developed a routine by now, you can probably guess that I am awake to greet the day prior to the sunrise and am writing the blog from yesterday in preparation of posting it while in port today. Dear sweet Julie (a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty) is fast asleep. Once again, our travel to the next port affords multiple opportunities to snap pictures at the beautiful scenery portrayed from our balcony viewpoint. The climate is perfect and there is a gentle breeze which welcomes you as you step onto the balcony today. It is a little warmer than it was in Juneau so the breeze is very welcomed. The sun kisses your face with warmth as if God Himself is welcoming you to the day that lies in store.
The view today is absolutely beautiful. The sun is shining bright as it glistens against the still green waters below. The water reflects the statuesque snow covered mountains above. The mountains extend high into the sky and their peaks fade into the morning clouds. Some might say the view affords a "Kodak moment". It is obvious to me now why there are so many postcards of Alaskan scenery since every viewpoint portrayed is a masterpiece.
Once the blog is complete and receives Julie's, now rustling, "Oh I like that!" approval, we are ready to prepare for the day. Since the excursion choices for today didn't interest either of us, our plans are to go into town and search for a ring for my sister. Having purchased a pendant and earrings here some years ago, Sabrina had provided us with the exact location of the store and exact criteria for the ring we are to buy. I have her pendant with me so Julie and I can match the stone; this is my mission for today. Julie still has a few souvenirs she wants to purchase so today should be every woman's dream day of shopping. Does it get any better than this? I get to jewelry shop with someone else's money and Julie gets to shop.
After brief calls to loved ones, being the weathermen that we have become, Julie and I assessed the temperature today and decide that appropriate attire consists of jeans, a turtleneck or fleece accompanied by a pair of our silk long johns. That should be enough. After we devoured some dry cereal (which Julie had confiscated from Horizon Court earlier on the trip), we prepared to begin the search for our much desired items.
We dressed for the day and proceeded to the disembarking site to exit the ship. After making our way through the maze of corridors which separate our room from the exit location, we finally arrived only to be greeted by a blistery cold wind that would chill you to the bone. It's like another world on this side of the ship, and a cold one at that!
Julie and I quickly retreated back to our stateroom to collect our coats questioning our ability to predict the forecast. Since we didn't want to lug around the weight of the coats in their entirety, we zipped out the fleece linings and returned to our journey of going ashore. I grabbed my hat to cover my ears and mittens to cover my hands. I don't want to make my sickness any worse so I think I need to bundle up a little more.
Eager to start our planned adventure for today, Julie and I access our goals. We will take in the sites and shop in all the little shops the small little town of Skagway has to offer. Skagway is the smallest of all the ports we have visited being only a 20 by 5 block area with a population of 800 people so it shouldn't be a difficult for 2 avid shoppers such as Julie and I to cover. Our only obstacles should be fellow cruisers. There are 4 ships in port today so Julie and I anticipate a crowd in this small little area since 4 cruise ships equates to about 8000 tourists.
A quick shuttle into town and Julie and I are greeted by a quaint little "false front" town that is created to look like the old mining and railroad city it once was. The store fronts are adorned with simple carvings painted ever so delicately so as to add character and charm and the sidewalk is made of uneven wood as if to give the illusion of a continuous porch. There are no stoplights in this small little city which is so tiny that you can position yourself at one end of town and have clear visibility of the other. Each block consists of about 4 shops before you reach the next intersection. It's a nice little walk and surprisingly enough, even with all the tourists in port today, this quaint little setting isn't crowded. It is actually very enjoyable.
If the storefronts and the sidewalk aren't nostalgic enough for you, Skagway offers horse drawn carriages driven by ladies adorned in "saloon period" clothing. Old cars, parked ever so carefully give the town that "old time" charm and greeters, dressed up in period costumes solicit your patronage to the stores and theatre. In reality, Skagway is like walking onto a Hollywood movie set prepared for a great western. Any moment now, you expect there to be a "shootout" in the coral between the Sheriff and the Amos Brothers who just robbed the stagecoach. It's really quite comical when you think about it.
The only visible differences between this little town and a Hollywood set are the souvenir shops that are housed behind the façade, the flower gardens that adorn certain corners, and the dog occupied pickup trucks that slowly creep through town from time to time. The flower gardens are immaculately kept and boast a beautiful array of color against the wooden store fronts. Sporadically placed park benches offer a different perspective and the infamous Red Onion Saloon (once a brothel) is located on the busiest corner of town. To my knowledge, there is no church, at least not one that Julie and I could locate right here in "downtown".
The White Pass and Yukon Railway train depot, complete with relics displayed in the museum inside, resides on the main corner. An information board located on the outside of the building informs readers that over 100 years ago, this little depot was the connection of would-be gold miners to the Chilkoot Trail where the gold was mined. It boasts that back in 1898, Skagway was Alaska's largest city with a population of over 20,000. Once all the gold was mined, the little town's population dwindled and now it's only economy depends solely on tourism.
Our first stop, once we arrived in town, was at the Skagway Bazaar. According to the internet, there is supposed to be a Wi-Fi connection here and Julie and I are anxious to post our blog. While I made several futile attempts to get connected, Julie enjoyed a fresh baked oatmeal raisin cookie and chatted with the storeowner who used to work at TK Tripps in Winston-Salem. Not wanting to waste any more time, I gave up and Julie are ready to set out on our mission for today.
Being the anal retentive person that I am, Julie and I had to start our quest at the "first" store located on the left side of town. Once that entire side of the block was covered (along with its side streets), we were free to make our way in an organized fashion to the other side. I like traveling with Julie because she has no qualms about my little idiosyncrasies and as long as she is shopping she doesn't care what order we go in. She did; however, feel the need to "go to the store" where Sabrina had purchased her jewelry so we could make sure we completed that task. I assured her that using my method to shopping, we would encounter it so she was satisfied.
Once we began to shop, we quickly realized that behind each storefront, there were only three different genres of shops. There was the typical "touristy souvenir" shop adorned with the T-Shirts, jackets, hats and any other tacky little "Alaska" stamped item you may desire. There were the "Foreigner owned" jewelry shops adorned with eager broken English speaking sales people ready to sell you a diamond at a really "good deal", and lastly, there were native Alaskan owned shops that offered a unique array of gifts that only Alaska could provide.
As we browsed through town taking in its sites and snapping pictures at its façade against the majestic mountains in the background, Julie and I enjoyed our relaxing meander from shop to shop. The temperature is warmer now and the day is very enjoyable.
Julie located most of the souvenirs she desired, along with some additional scrapbook accessories but I, unfortunately, did not find a ring for my sister. It seems that the store where she had previously purchased her jewelry no longer exists and after looking through EVERY jewelry store in town, neither does the ring she desired. The only thing I managed to purchase were postcards which Julie and I mailed from the Post Office located in the middle of town.
Regardless of my failure to accomplish my original goal, Julie and I enjoyed this little adventure immensely. Decidedly though, the best commodity of town was the food. After careful assessment, Julie and I realized that as we strolled through town, we had consumed freshly popped butter popcorn for brunch, chocolate and peanut butter fudge for snack and a tasty plate of spaghetti at a wonderful little Italian/Mexican Restaurant for lunch.
And for me, being the dog lover that I am, this town had kept me totally captivated by the "dogs" which it had to offer. I gladly petted as many as I could. I even snapped a picture of one dog which was eating an ice cream cone hand fed by his master. I found this totally amusing so all in all, the day was not lost even though I couldn't locate a ring.
Julie and I finally located a "hot spot" prior to our departing town where we were finally able to update our blog. Too soon though, the time to head back to the ship had come. We are scheduled to depart in one hour. Before heading back though, we have to make one more stop. It was imperative that we did it.
On the way into town this morning, one of our fellow passengers had inquired about a stream nearby where you could witness the salmon swimming upstream. Since Julie nor I had ever witnessed this first hand, we had paid close attention to the directions given and, since the stream was located in close proximity to the little town, we knew that this little adventure warranted a detour on our return to the ship.
Quickly making our way out of town, following a crowd of other curious travelers, we finally made it to the stream. I can not begin to tell you about this fascinating experience and the pictures do not do it justice. There are so many salmon in this stream that you can't count them. Each of them is eagerly attempting to make it beyond the rocks to the water that lies upstream. Some of them, defeated by the course, lie dead against the rocks that line the stream. I have never witnessed such determination. It is amazing. The rocky little stream is the obstacle they wish to overcome, to the point that they will lose their life in attempt to beat it. Julie and I watched in amazement.
I was broken hearted by one little fish's attempt to struggle past a dead fish which blocked its path. As it gasped for breathe, I couldn't take it anymore. I had to help. I quickly ask Julie to hold my stuff as I proceeded down the embankment to save this fish. With the help of a stick which I had procured on my descend towards the creek, I safely turned the little fish back up on its side and into deeper water so it could breathe. As I did, I noticed that half of its tail fin was missing from its battle against the rocks in this creek and I couldn't' help but feel saddened by its course. I know this is nature's way, but it seemed almost barbaric to me. All of this to spawn and then to die. It really didn't seem worth the trip to me.
Saddened by this entire part of our adventure, Julie and I returned to town to catch the shuttle back to the ship. I can't say that if given the opportunity to witness this again, that I would have made the decision to act on it. Having now seen this pitiful site first hand, I must say it is very disturbing to me, although I don't think it had the same effect on Julie.
Luckily, a return to the ship with no time to waste was in order so my mind didn't have time to linger on these thoughts. Once onboard, it began to rain. Julie and I discussed how blessed we had been with perfect weather in every port. Just as we were finishing up our discussion, I went out on the balcony for one last glimpse of Skagway when I was greeted with the most beautiful sight yet. As I screamed for Julie and hurriedly grabbed my camera so as not to miss this moment, I found myself overwhelmed with awesome gratitude that I am God's favorite child. The sight to behold was sent directly from Heaven above. Amidst the clouds that had accompanied the rain was the most colorful rainbow Julie or I had ever witnessed. As we snapped away at this amazing sight, we were engulfed with a sense of peace that all is well within our world. A few moments of quiet peace interrupted by the ship's horn announcing our departure and our life resumed its normal course.
After another quick change, Julie and I found ourselves leaving yet another port and making our way to the dining room to enjoy yet another great meal. Tonight's dinner was by far the best one yet. Julie began her meal with her appetizer of fruit, followed by a mixed green salad and 2 orders of crab legs while I began with an appetizer of crabcakes, followed by my first mixed green salad of the cruise which was adorned with homemade creamy buttermilk ranch dressing which was delightful and my 2 orders of crab legs. The crab legs were delicious. After consuming all of this, there was no room for dessert.
Once dinner was over, Julie and I proceeded to the Vista Lounge where we enjoyed the antics of the onboard comedian. After a few laughs, we returned to the front of our ship and took in the Broadway type show in the Princess Theatre. All in all, a remarkably enjoyable day, especially for two people who didn't have any exciting excursions planned for the day.
Our gratitude for today: We aren't salmon.
Our High Point: Delectable crab leg dinner.
Our Low Point: The realization that our journey is coming to an end.