On the fifth day of
Christmas (no, wait, hang on, all the fairy lights have gone to my head) our epic 7 night Alaskan cruise our port of call was Skagway, Alaska. We decided to skip out on the popular White Pass Scenic Railway because with fares in excess of $120 each we just couldn’t justify the expense at that point. Especially not after we’d just been flightseeing… and whale watching… We also figured we’d be a bit sick of organised fun by that point, and we were confident we could handle this alone.
So our budgets kicked in and for $130 we rented a car and choose our own adventure for the day. Avis even kindly provided us with a typed out guided tour of sorts, because apparently there are a lot of people coming to choose their own adventure on a daily basis.
After a very early and very foggy start, we beat the rush out of town (i.e. we were the only people on the Klondike Highway). Things immediately took a turn for the other-worldly.
S was battling the fog and I’m not sure he appreciated me going ‘ooooh look’ every three seconds as he definitely could not look.
Pretty soon we had passed through the Canadian border, where a friendly man looked over our passports, correctly guessed we’d come from a cruise ship, and waved us on our way.
Our first sight was of Fraser, British Columbia. Our second state of the day!
Yes, things were still distinctly gloomy, however through the gloom the autumn colours were already beginning to show (this was early September).
Soon enough we reached the Tutshui lake where mountains + lake + turning trees makes for some pretty nice scenery.
Before we knew it, we’d driven through British Columbia and had arrived in the Yukon. Our third state of the day!
We were quite pleased about that. Neither of us had ever been to the Yukon before so it was pretty cool to experience it together.
Tagish Lake was quite pretty. I think that’s Escarpment Mountain behind it, looking very Tolkeinish.
Soon enough there was a pull in, overlooking Bove Island which sits like a patchwork quilt on the water.
Not too far ahead we hit the small town of Carcross. This town is the home of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation and has a population somewhere in the high 200’s. It’s quite small.
Their general store appears to be quite famous, as does their ice cream offering.
Their church, a little less so.
We saw where the railway passes through town, which was basically the highlight for everyone.
After driving down the one road in the town only to find it reached a dead end, we turned around and continued our jaunt up the Klondike Highway.
The next stop was Emerald Lake. So named because…
It’s emerald. In some lights more than others, it’s fair to say.
We soon reached the northernmost point of our trip – actually we went slightly more north than we meant to, having missed the turning for the Robinson Roadhouse. This is an abandoned roadhouse set alongside a disused stretch of railway.
This was pretty interesting, with lots of abandoned vibes and general tumbledown interest.
We spent a while peering through cracks into the buildings and then packed up and left as it started to drizzle.
Coming back down the Klondike Highway we stopped at Carcross desert. Yes, there’s a tiny desert out here. It’s actually formed from sand left behind by glacial lakes, which are blown by strong winds into these constantly shifting dunes.
It’s pretty cool to be looking at a sand dune, and then glance up to see a big ol’ snowy mountain looming behind it. Apparently there’s plenty of unique flora and fauna here, but sadly I didn’t have time to conduct a full survey so we moved on.
The drive back was full of more beautiful trees, mountains, and hardly anyone else on the roads.
The views from the car window were just incredible. There were multiple places to pull over which we did, frequently.
The weather started to clear up and the colours just got more and more vibrant.
Soon enough we reached the tundra that marked the start of our transition back into Alaska. The waters were cool and as clear as glass. Continuing the Tolkein theme, this reminded me of the dead marshes. Luckily I saw nothing untoward in the water but it was eerily still.
Another seamless border crossing later, and we stopped for a touristy photo opportunity along with approximately 300 Korean tourists. So, in this picture I am genuinely excited, but I am also slightly embarrassed about being watched by all of them as they waited to reboard their bus.
Anyway, such is the price we pay for such classic shots. This one’s a keeper, amirite? I especially like my wind quiff.
Driving into the White Pass once again, we caught a few waterfalls that had been invisible in the fog on the way up. This one is Bridal Veil Falls, because it looks like…
Then shortly after we found some more! These are Pitchfork Falls and you can just see the tracks for the railway crossing the water fairly near the top.
There was just time to squeeze in a few more scenic mountain vistas…
…before we wound back around down towards Skagway. Yes we drove over that bridge.
Seeing as we’d arrived back a little earlier than anticipated, we found a lookout and saw our ship docked in berth – they really do dwarf the small towns they visit.
However, by this point we were absolutely ravenous and extremely thirsty, having used up all our supplies somewhere around Carcross. So we headed back into town and returned the car so we could go and refuel at a venue that also had free wifi. Multitasking for millennials.
Overall I loved having the freedom to explore three states/two countries at my own leisure, and what amazing scenery there was. It would have been cool to make it all the way to Whitehorse, but we just weren’t sure we’d have enough time to make it back again. Next time.
~ Bring your passport
~ Bring snacks and water. There is nowhere much to buy anything (except ice cream) once you’re on the road
~ Time your drive carefully so you don’t miss your ship or get stuck driving in the dark. There weren’t any delays at border control but we didn’t want to take a chance!
~ Avis were just ok – not as impressive as other Avis’s I’ve used but they are in a niche market. Our car was a little banged up but we made sure to mark all the dings and we didn’t have any trouble with it
~ If it’s the summer time then you might want to bring your bathers. I think you can swim in some of these lakes – but please check before you do so just in case I’m wrong
~ You can get free wifi with any purchase at Bonanza Bar and Grill in Skagway. You should go just to see all the bills stuck on the wall, it’s quite something.
A week or so after our return from the UK, the Cambridges announced their trip around Canada. One of their stops was to be Carcross. What can I say, clearly our travels are so epic that they’re inspiring royalty. You heard it here first, folks.
Have you ever trendset with your trips?