Saturday, July 2, 2011

Vacation, Part 3: Skagway

The second stop on our Alaskan vacation was Skagway, a tiny town that boasts the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad, built to help transport gold diggers across the mountains.  There are some very unpleasant stories about how the trip used to go for these nuts before the railroad was built.  I will not spoil this post by telling any of them.  Let's just say that I think people searching for gold are certifiably crazy and often unpleasant.

Their insanity, however, provided me with an excellent train trip where I saw things like this:

and this:

and these rapids that we were told have never been successfully navigated:

The train itself looked like this picture.  The brown cars were the passenger cars.  We rode up to the summit, which was just over 20 miles.  Then the green and yellow cars detached and somehow moved around to the other end of the train.  Everyone in the passenger cars switched sides of the car and also moved the seat backs so we were facing the right way and everyone could get the view of the (incredibly steep) drops.


Here's a shot of the train getting ready to go over a bridge that really, really doesn't look very stable.

There were two tunnels we went through.  It was an interesting experience to go through the complete darkness.

The guides talked a bit about the difficulty of building the railroad in the 1890s and also of maintaining it today. Britain sent an engineer to see if it was possible to build a railroad.  The engineer was convinced it wasn't, but then happened to meet a Canadian who was convinced it was.  The railroad was built with English financing, Canadian plans, and American labor.  This was before dynamite was invented, so tons of black powder was used to blow up bits of the mountain.

I'll leave you with another stunner of a view.

Often on this trip, one of us would mention how unlikely it was that anyone besides the three of us would ever want to look through all our photos.  We have so many photos of mountains and glaciers.  I think we were trying to capture the sheer magnitude of our surroundings, which was impossible.

This is one of those places that I want to keep in my mind and visit whenever I get bogged down by life's minutiae.

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