Part 5 of 9: Skagway: Walking on a Glacier and Taking a Train to Canada
In August of 2009, I (Sharon) deserted my husband Joe and our puppy Dobby (at the time we had had her for about a month and a half) to go on a cruise to Alaska with the choir of which I was a member at the time (we were booked to sing on the ship). Some of my writing style has changed since 2009, some of my snark is exactly the same and heaven knows that cameras and photos have improved in the past 8 years, but here is the trip report I wrote about those adventures…the good, the bad and the ugly! To get up-to-date on the trip:
I had gotten a letter last night that said
my Glass Blowing excursion, due to lack of participants at 9:30am, had been changed to 1:30pm. Unfortunately, that caused some time conflicts, so after waking up at 7:30am (luxury!), I went to the Excursion Desk down on Deck 1. I couldn’t switch my excursions around to get all three in, so I told them to cancel my Glass Blowing so I could receive a refund.
I next went to the Lido Buffet (the food isn’t so great but it’s convenient) and grabbed a breakfast of an omelette, hash browns, whole wheat toast and coffee. After that I called Joe so we could talk for a while.
We were already in port in Skagway, so with several hours to go until my first excursion at 1:30pm, I decided to see the town (it was only a few hundred feet off the dock) and go shopping. And shop I did!
Below: Downtown Skagway
My first excursion was a helicopter ride to Meade Glacier, followed by a walk on the glacier and then a helicopter ride back. The helicopter ride was fun but, well, I’ve done ‘copter rides before (Hawaii and the Grand Canyon) and it wasn’t anything new or special, other than a different view – and a cloudy view, at that. But still a pretty awesome view.
The glacier though, was incredible. A massive 700 feet deep, miles wide and many more miles long. Comprised of 100 feet of snow per 1 foot of glacier ice, moving downstream at 1″ per hour. Deep crevices, above and underground streams…just an amazing thing to stand on and something I MUST visit again someday!
The helicopter ride back was just as cool as the ride there, with some awe-inspiring (but still cloudy) views:
My White Pass Summit Club train ride to the Yukon was scheduled for a 4:10pm pickup. With just a 30-minute turnaround time and a VERY empty belly, I half-walked, half-ran to Starbucks (Skagway AK: Population 800. And they have a Starbucks!) for a sandwich that I wolfed down in no time flat.
The pickup for the train ride was on time but they said the train was running late (I found out later that a car of an earlier train had derailed. Oops.). So they drove us around town…all 8 blocks of it. We saw the Skagway library, fire department and police station (the latter of which looks an awful lot like a single wide). Finally it was time to go on the train, so we drove to the area where we would board car #242.
The train ride was fun and pretty (if not particularly interesting), with some lovely views of the valley below. The tracks were built during the Klondike gold rush and as we rode, they told some stories about areas and items we passed.
The train was riding, of course, on the side of a mountain so whereas the people on the left had a lovely view, the ones on the right only got to see the side of a mountain. So once we hit the Yukon (back into Canada – we weren’t allowed to leave the train), they gave us our champagne (part of this particular tour), detached the engine car and brought it to the back of the train, where it was reattached. Our seats were made to flip to the other direction so, with that, we did the mandatory switch of passengers to the “other” side of the train and those who were on the left side now had a mountain view, while those on the right now had a valley view. It was fair. And then we made our descent.
Had the train left on time, we would have arrived back at the ship at 7:15pm, which would give me just enough time to go back to my cabin, change clothes and be at dinner between 7:45 and 8pm. Unfortunately, with the delayed start, we didn’t arrive back until 7:45pm. So I rushed to the dining room to tell my table mates what I wanted to eat, figuring I could do that, get changed and be back in time for my main course to be on the table. However when I got to the restaurant and told the people at the desk my intentions, they told me I could eat there as is, so I got to eat in jeans, a polo shirt and my brand-spanking new Tilley hat, LOL! The meal itself was, as always, just OK, but I chose chocolate pudding for dessert. Now granted, apparently what the British call “pudding” is not the same as what we call “pudding” (I never did figure out the difference – I’m bringing some Jello instant pudding with me to England next time I go), but I took a picture of what they gave me because it looked VERY much more like a souffle than chocolate pudding. I even double-checked with the server who insisted that the cake-like object on my plate was indeed chocolate pudding. OK, then…
It had been a LONG day with a LOT of walking. With no plans for Wednesday (another day at sea), I went to bed at 10:30pm and figured I would wake up whenever I woke up.