9/04/2011

Day Three: Skagaway, AK


This was the first of two port adventures we booked through Disney. Our meeting time was 7 am, so we set an alarm and got up, got ready, grabbed an early breakfast and some snacks for the backpack, and headed down to the meeting area. There were actually four different adventures meeting in this room, and as you checked in you got a Disney sticker to identify your group. We were the Ariel sticker, which thrilled the doodle to no end. When everyone had checked in, we all made our way out to the bus that would then take us to the train station...about 200 feet away. Honestly, by the time we all got on the bus we could have just as easily walked over to the train station, let alone throwing in the time to park and get back off the bus. I guess they thought this kept us together as a group, but we were rather incredulous.

Once we arrived at the train station we boarded the White Pass Railroad. The train cars are old-timey cars, which adds to the gold rush era feel. The narration as you go from sea level to ~2,800 feet above sea level in Fraser, BC, tells the history of the area and the gold stampede. Skagaway was the staging point for 100,000 stampeders (though only 30,000 successfully completed the trek). The Canadians wouldn't let you cross the border until you had a ton (literally, 2,000 lbs) of supplies with you - so people would have to hike the 40ish miles to the border with load after load of supplies until they had the right weight. The trail they wook was either the Chilkoot trail, which went over a mountain pass (so very steep and a high elevation) or the White Pass, which was a lower elevation but longer. The trail itself was about 18" wide - so carrying your supplies had a considerable amount of danger involved. (In fact it seemed like just about every valley had some kind of name like "Dead Horse Gulch" or "Fallen Miner Ridge" and so forth.)

The train ride was about 45 minutes. Then we stopped at the Canadian border crossing, had our passports checked, and disembarked. Then we reboarded the bus and traveled back down the way we had come, stopping at several senic points along the way while the driver regaled us with facts about the gold rush and Skagaway. We stopped at Liarsville before returning to the ship. Liarsville is a gold rush trail camp reenactment. They do a little show (song and dance type of thing), have cookies, and then show you how to pan for gold. Then we all got a pan of gold and a spot at a water trough where we could find our very own three or four flecks of genuine gold (that was, apparently, brought down from Canada to seed the dirt for us tourists to pan.) It was fun, but a bit hokey. The bus then dropped us back at the ship.

Since neither Tim or I had remembered to bring our wallets with us, we went ahead and reboarded the ship, had lunch, then hopped back off to walk the whole 8 blocks of "downtown" Skagaway. They've refurbished all of main street back to the gold rush feel (boardwalks, plank buildings -- think Wild West). And 9 out of every 10 stores is a jewelry store. Not sure exactly what the point of that is, but it seems to be the case for places that become standard cruise ship ports. (We found that in the Caribbean as well.) We wandered about and found some nice souveniers from local artists and Russia (I felt a little bad about getting Russian items, but since that seems to be a pretty common thing in Alaska, it's at least not totally out of the scope of an Alaskan souvenier.) We reboarded around 3:30 and got the doodle settled for a short nap.

I had hoped to get him up in time to see Pinocchio and Jimminy Cricket, but he woke up hard, so instead we spent 45 minutes in the cabin with him screeching and generally being an over tired 3 year old. We got him settled, finally, and made our way down to dinner. I don't remember all of what we had, though we did both have the roast pork. Tim liked it, I thought it was ok. After dinner, they were showing Cars 2 (in 3D), and the doodle had been on his best behavior during dinner to show he was able to go. So we headed that way, getting sidetracked for a few character photo ops, and thus arriving about 5 minutes after the movie started. Still, it's a very cute movie and other than simply being unable to keep the 3D glasses on his head, the doodle enjoyed it a lot (though we left about 5 minutes before the end because he leaned over and said, "Mommy, I want to go to bed. Can we leave?" I'm not going to say no to that!)

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