Day 40, Monday, 5/28/18
Skagway, Alaska

The Road to Skagway
It was a bright, blue bird sky morning. so we decided to drive to Skagway, AK. Our last stop in Alaska, it's about a hundred miles from Whitehorse, an easy ride. Highway 2 (Klondike Highway) runs through the Yukon, then into British Columbia, then into Alaska where it becomes Rt 98. Along the way it runs through river valleys dotted with  glacier fed green lakes, skirting mountains on each side.

About 6 miles from Carcross, YT we came across a lake that was absolutely stunning, Emerald Lake. In the sun, the lake almost glows with layers of blue, blue/green light. The color comes from deposits of lime-rich mud (marl) on the bottom reflecting the light.

Emerald Lake

Just south of the lake is what's called a desert, Carcross Desert. This was once the bed of a glacial lake and is now a square mile of sand dunes. The desert is also home to a few rare plants like the Baikal Sedge, usually found only near Lake Baikal in Siberia. Apparently the Canadian government tried to protect the desert but failed due to local opposition. Check out the tire tracks in the pictures below.

Carcross Desert
We don't need no stinking sedge!
Leaving Carcross, the highway follows Tagish Lake. This is a pretty big lake, almost 62 miles long and sitting in both the Yukon and BC.

Bove Island.
Near the north end of the lake is a large island, Bove Island. Remember Schwatka (here)? He named the island after a lieutenant in the Italian navy. He also called the lake Bove. Fittingly, the name was changed to Tagish Lake after the Carcross Tagish First Nation.

The Tagish area is surrounded by the Coastal Mountains.

Coastal Mountains

Black Bear
With winter behind  there was a lot of road construction, the Klondike Highway no exception. We were stopped by a guy holding a 'stop' sign in one hand and bear spray in the other. He came over to chat (pretty common in Alaska and the Yukon). Pointing back to the side of the road, he said 'See my friend?' He was sticking close to his truck.

The vehicles lined up and we waited for the oncoming traffic to end. The way it works in both the Yukon and Alaska is that a 'pilot vehicle' leads the traffic into the work area, making a u-turn at the end to pick up the traffic waiting for their turn.

Just before the BC/Alaska border we entered White Pass. During the 1897 - 1899 Klondike gold rush, stampeders had a choice of two passes to get to the Klondike: Chilkoot Pass and White Pass. The White was heavily advertised as the best way to the gold claims by steamship and other companies looking to cash in. Even though it wasn't as high or steep as the Chilkoot, it turned to mud in late summer/early fall and became impassable. It's claimed that over 3000 horses died on the White Pass Trail, thus earning it the nickname 'Dead Horse Trail'.

The White Pass

It was early afternoon when we pulled into Skagway. We parked the van in the Pullen Creek campground, owned by the town. At $45 a night for a tent site, it was a ripoff. It looks like the whole town exists because of tourists, most coming by large cruise ships. There were two when we arrived, with four scheduled for the next day - over 10,000 people roaming the streets. So, gouge when the gouging is good.

We took a walk through town and had dinner at a Thai restaurant. The food was good and the price reasonable. Back at the van, the wind was howling. The name 'Skagway. has its roots in the Tlingit language meaning something like 'big seas driven by fierce winds'.
An interesting point, Seward, Valdez and Skagway all have harbors, but the open ocean is not visable from any of these cities. The coast is so mountainous that the sea does not show! Just mountains!!

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