Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Alaska Part 2

The next port we visited was Skagway.  Skagway is a tiny town, formed by the gold rush and kept alive by tourism.  There are 900 year round residents and only 400 year round jobs.  The rest are seasonal. 

Skagway is home to our only international (Canada is 10 miles away) airport with no control tower.  The biggest planes allowed to land there carry six passengers.  Pilots just look at the runway as they approach and if it's empty, they land. 

Skagway also has no doctor and no dentist.  They have a couple of nurse practitioners to help out but if you have an actual emergency, requiring an actual doctor, you will be airlifted to Juneau.  Also for this reason, no babies are born in Skagway.  There is actually a town ordinance that proclaims when a woman reaches her ninth month of pregnancy she has to go somewhere with a doctor and a hospital until the baby is born.  This way, they avoid any complications the town "hospital" can't handle. 

There has never been a major fire in Skagway, so most of these buildings are from the original town.

Most of the shore excursions/guided tours in Alaska were pretty expensive, so we only elected to do one in Skagway-that's how I obtained all these interesting facts!  We chose the bus tour into British Columbia and the Yukon, with a train ride part of the way back.  There was a cheaper option for just the train ride, but it was so much better to do the whole thing. 

The bus ride took us up through the gold rush territory where we even saw some of the entrances to old mines.  We also learned about the gold rush.  So here's what these crazy people did.  First, they traveled to the west coast.  Then, took a boat to Skagway or other similar town and headed back east to Canada.  Upon entering Canada they had to buy 2000 lbs of food-enough to last a year so they wouldn't run out and starve over the winter.  Then they had to haul all their stuff through one of two mountain passes.  The shorter one was 30-something miles.  That's a lot of trips carrying food on your back! Once you moved all your stuff through the pass you had to build a boat, float down the river and arrive at the gold fields just for a chance to find something.  The entire journey took about a year. I think I would have rather stayed home and been poor. 

Some of the scenery on the way up

There is a desert in Canada-left behind glacial silt.  Weird huh?

We stopped for lunch at a little tourist attraction that also had a sled dog team and some other animals (live and stuffed) on display. I'm not sure how I feel about the life of a sled dog-they pretty much just stay chained up outside when they are not running.  Also-the dogs used are "Alaskan Huskies" which one of the mushers up there admitted are just "highly technical mutts."  So even though it's for the purpose of a working dog I'm not sure how I feel about them breeding mutts-I"m pretty sure I can round up a whole team of dogs that look like this at any shelter around here!  They say they love the dogs and they are well cared for but I think most agility dogs would probably be horrified if they had to live sled dog style lives!

There was also this pony...cutest pony ever!  I wanted to find a way to ship it back home with me.

This is Emerald Lake-there is a certain kind of glacial silt and fossilized shell that makes the green.

We stopped one more place before getting on the train, the tiny town of Carcross.  I have no idea why people live in a place like this but a few do.  This place is so isolated they only have schooling up to 6th grade.  If anyone wants to go beyond that they must go to Whitehorse, Canada.  Although if you plan to live in Carcross your whole life, that probably isn't necessary.

Of all the ports we went to Skagway gets the least amount of rain.  Naturally it rained the day we were there.  So after we got off the train we only stayed in town a short time.  Then back to the boat to get dry!

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