Part 8 of 10
The White Pass
The longest Stretch
The White Pass
The ride from Whitehorse YT, down to Skagway AK, brought many pleasant surprises with it. It was one of the most fascinating days of the trip. Even though we were riding in light rain for the most part, it was not very noticeable. What took my breath away was the signpost that said “38 miles to the US border” right after crossing through the Canadian border. It was known as the “White Pass” and we saw some of the most impressive rock formations I've ever seen. I never knew until that moment that the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway was built here in the 19th Century to transport gold, amongst other things, between Skagway and the Yukon Territory. The work involved in building that railway was back-breaking at best and it cost countless deaths of men and horses. And, I'd had the audacity to think that I'd had it rough when I emigrated here from England during the 20th Century. In the days when the railway was being built the men were made of steel - and imagine all those poor mail-order brides thinking that they were coming to the land of milk and honey having to toughen-up real quick or go home. The photograph to your right brought to my mind the harsh reality of the hardships that the workers had to endure - and take note - it's a photo taken in the summertime. Imagine trying to smash rocks apart in mid-winter wearing animal hides and itchy woollen underwear to keep you warm. On second thoughts, compared to those guys, I didn't have it rough at all. In fact I was pampered and molly-cuddled every step of the way - just like little Lord Fauntleroy.
Skagway AK, was delightful. It was like a shining jewel embodied in exquisite natural surroundings. It was a vibrant and thriving community full of people going about their business with lots of things to do and places to see. It was a refreshing breath of fresh air compared to most other places we had visited in Northern BC and the Yukon Territory. The first thing that struck me was the availability of products and services. Being a tourist town, there were lots of nice hotels and motels at reasonable prices; every kind of shop was located along Stage street within walking distance; and good places to eat and drink were in abundance. We were spoiled for choice. Elegant cruise ships were moored in the harbour; the Terminus Station of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad was just a few paces away; and arts and craft museums reflecting the Gold Rush era simply awaited our arrival. Especially eye-catching was the Red Onion Saloon and Gambling Hall ready to entertain us and there was even a Brothel were one could get a taste of how men and women of the the Gold Rush days spent their leisure time and money. A few doors down there were Can Can dancers but they were were not performing that day. As the Rolling Stones so eloquently put it “We can't always get what we want”...so we accepted today's non-performance in the spirit of true northerners by carrying on and saying “Them's the Breaks”. It was too bad that we had only one afternoon and evening in Skagway. It would have been nice to spend more time there.
The Longest Stretch
We left Skagway the next morning in light rain and in no time at all we were once again thrilled to be riding through the magnificent White Pass – a photographers' paradise. We were in no hurry and we took lots of time to get a very good look at the rock formations; see the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway snake its way along the sides of mountains and of course to take lots of pictures. If I had been an railroad engineer, which I am not, I would have added a few more wooden supports to hold up the train tracks in certain places. It would have made me feel a little more comfortable. Crossing back through the Canadian border post was no problem. I really couldn't have purchased very much in Skagway anyway because there was not even room to stick an extra packet of matches on my bike. After arriving at the small town of Carcross we forked-right and proceeded towards Jake's Crossing which effectively shortened our return trip back to Watson Lake by by-passing the City of White Horse. It was our intention to return to the Air Force Barracks at Watson Lake so we phoned ahead to confirm reservations. We received a resounding “Welcome Back” from our host and he instantly confirmed us for the night. Its funny, all I could think of on the long ride back was pouring myself a cup of hot instant coffee embellished with sweetener and whitener in the front lobby of our destination.
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