Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 3, Skagway

I actually wrote almost all of this post on the ship, but was unsuccessful in posting it. The internet link was VERY slow, and crashed twice as I was trying (AND using up my precious minutes that I had to purchase ahead of time)…so I gave up. However, here in Vancouver I have a nice link in the hotel. AND, it’s early Sunday morning, AND I’m wide awake. I’ve already been on a walk downtown scouting a lunch place. Today (Sunday) Jeannie and I see the early showing of “Wicked”…which we are both eagerly anticipating. As we wandered around downtown Vancouver yesterday afternoon and evening we found out that on Wednesday evening (after the loss to Boston in the Stanley Cup Finals) there were many distraught fans here in Vancouver who rioted. Stores were looted, cars burned, and it was a horrid situation. The local news is showing many of the ‘heros’ who stood up to the rioters, some getting beaten within an inch of their lives. I beleive the majority of the Canadians and Vancouverians (??) are embarrassed beyond measure by this….and they are quick to point out the honest folk trying to protect the stores and people before the police could respond. Overall my opinion of everybody we meet is just super friendly and quick to point us in the right direction. I LOVE the Canadians…they are just SOOOO friendly! (I could live here…seriously! Thou I’d be alone...Jeannie is more of a ‘tropical’ person).

But without further adieu, here is my post from day 3 of the cruise (the rest of the days swill follow as I collect and jot down my thoughts).

Day 3, Skagway (or as my brother Greg calls it: Skagtown...he did one summer working up here in his college days).

Holy cats, time has blown by in a whirlwind! I haven’t hardly had a chance to catch my breath, let alone go thru all my pictures AND attempt to post. But today (Friday) is a ship-day, and our LAST day on the ship. We pull into Vancouver BC tomorrow, sleep late, get up and disembark. That will be our morning. We won’t even be able to eat anything (boo-hoo!). No coffee either…THAT will be the most traumatic event of our morning.

Looking back I was most intrigued by Skagway of all our ports of call. We just don’t get enough history lessons in school, but I guess there is just too much to go into any detail on it all. I would assume Alaska students get an excellent education on their past (if you have any questions on the Montana gold rush, give me a shout).  In particular, the gold rush into the Yukon caught my fancy.  In short, once gold was discovered there around 1896, all hell broke loose and it seems everybody who was anybody came zooming up to get rich. You paid 10 times what it was worth to get from Seattle to Skagway (one of two boom-towns  that was the gateway to the Yukon Territory). Once you were there, it had been determined that the Yukon was such a harsh environment that there was no way to survive in the interior without supplies, thus you were required to bring a years worth of provisions WITH you. There were two trails: the Chilikoot that went up and around to the west that left from the town of Dyea, and the White Pass Trail that went directly out of Skagway. Both these towns were vying for the title of “best trail” to get you into the Yukon. However, a quote from one miner who had done both trails was quoted as saying “which ever way you go, you’ll wish you had gone the other”.

The crux of the situation was that TON of supplies you were required to have with you for entry into the Yukon by the Canadian Mounties. If you were on foot, you had to move this ton of supplies all by yourself. You’d pack up about 50 lbs and grind 5 miles up the trail (along with a NON-STOP parade of other hikers), put down your load and go back for the next load. It was said that to get all your goods the 600 MILES to Dawson, you had hiked well over 2500 miles (the majority of those miles were actually by boat), AFTER you had packed your gear up over the pass of whichever trail you chose and finally made it to Lake Lindeman (where the 2 trails joined) you built yourself a boat from the remaining trees. IF you had the money you bought horses for the White Pass trail, or hired porters for the Chilikoot trail. But the horses that were available in Skagway weren’t good pack-horses. No, they were horses that bright (unscrupulous) entrepreneurs had rescued FROM the glue-factories knowing that prospective miners would buy them if they were still breathing. So if you needed 2 horses, you bought 6. The average prospector had no knowledge of horses…how to pack them, how to care for them, etc. So the entire ton of goods was loaded onto the first 2 horses and they whipped and prodded and beat them until they had walked as far as they could and fell over dead. THEN the prospector would quickly shift the load to the next horse right there on the trail and continue, leaving the dead / dying horse where it fell, where it would eventually be “ground into porridge" by the nonstop onslaught of desperate men trying to get into the Yukon. 

 Looking at the White Pass Trail (the railroad now follows the original route).

Front view of prospector and his required survival goods

Here's 2/3rds of the list of required provisions

The rest of the story

The trail was horrific and it is told that some horses actually committed suicide by jumping off the trail fully loaded to their death far below. The trail was a mere 2 feet wide in many places with sheer rock wall on one side and sheer drop-off to the river far below on the other. It was also said that very few horses made it alive over this trail. Over 3000 horses perished on this section in 1898 alone in what was called “the trail of the dead horses”. There are black and white pictures of some of this, and it is too horrifying to comprehend.

Over on the Chilikoot trail things weren’t much better. That trail was made for sleds, and most were human powered, unless you were one of the lucky few with sled-dogs. In the winter both trails were at their best for actually having a chance to survive, as the snow covered the sharp rocks and allowed steps to be cut into the snow. There is a postcard / picture of the Chilikoot trail in winter showing the line of men climbing up the pass. There is literally no room for more in this trail. If you faltered or slowed you were pushed out of the line to your fate. Over on the White Pass trail if you slowed or stopped (you could occasionally step out of line and lean against the rock wall to rest) you might have to wait up to half a day to get a spot back in line.

I just can’t fathom what desperation in your life would make you take up this kind of endeavor. I will have to buy some books on the gold rush into the Yukon and further read up on this. It was so fascinating!

We did a guided auto tour (in a nice touring van) up over White Pass and into Canada. This road was only completed in 1978, before that the railroad, ship or plane was the only way in and out of Skagway.

 One of 2 suspension bridges on the road to White Horse. My brother Greg recalls learning to rappel from this bridge during his summer in Skagtown.

Our guide was Tim, and he was a pleasure to listen to. He is a retired teacher, and his kids all worked as summer help in Skagway to earn money for college. He has been coming up to work summers for many years, and his knowledge and delivery were just phenomenal. I wish I could have done an audio recording of his tour (funny how the hindsight thing works).

On the Canadian side of White Pass, looking into the Yukon Territory

 Looking back into Alaska towards Skagway. Note: the trees you see (about 2 or maybe 3 feet high) are OLD GROWTH. They could be as much as 75-100 years old. The winter on the pass is SO HARSH that they grow a few centimeters each year. Some of them actually grow sideways as they have SO MUCH snow on them that the few months a year they are uncovered can't overcome the weight of snow they've borne over 6 to 8 months of winter.

The continental divide atop White Pass. Water that goes to the left (bottom of the picture) goes into the Pacific. Water that goes to the right ends up in the Bearing Sea.

Yours truly at the entrance back into Alaska.

After the tour we met up with the girls and kids (who had NO interest in leaving the ship early) for shopping and lunch at the Red Onion bar and Salon. It is an icon in Skagway, however the food is horrible and quite expensive. AND our waitress (they were all dressed up in costume as ‘ladies of the night’, which is what the upper floor of the place was up into the 1950’s) failed to ‘mention’ that the tip was included into the price (18% mind you), thus we tipped her AGAIN (she ended up with about a 38% tip) and she is probably still chuckling. And so we, much like the prospectors of old, were also ripped off in Skagway. I guess it goes with the territory...welcome to Alaska (that's probably not fair to the rest of the state, sorry rest of the state!)

After lunch us guy'z hiked up to lower Dewey lake for something a little different. It was a rather serious uphill with many rocky/rooty switchbacks. There was a twin-steel water line going straight down the mountain that we crossed or follwed most of the way up. Greg told me that it provides power for a turbine at the bottom of the hill, and part of his job was for him (or one of the other 2 guys he worked with that summer) to hike that hill inspecting the line all the way to the upper lake EVERY DAY. 
 Looking across Lower Dewey Lake (from the far side) high above Skagway.

After we got back on ship it was happy hour time (again). We ALL brought bottles of wine onboard, and the girls would go down to the pitch and dive (buffet) and load up plates with sushi, cheeses, etc...and bring them back to Jackie & Jim's room for our little daily toast of life. Their room was designated 'party central'. I know Jeannie and Jackie watched the view of Glacier Bay from safety of this room, not daring to venture out into the cold, harsh environment of Alaska.

Bob, Terry, Jim, Jackie and Jeannie living the good life of Happy Hour(s). Both Bob/Terry and Jim/Jackie's rooms had balcony's. THAT is the good life on a cruise ship. Jeannie and I were in a stowage closet or something like an 'interior' room. But I have to say this: it got DARK in that tiny room when you turned off the lights. Except for that orange laser-beam from coming from the TV standby light...I ended up putting a triple-folded napkin over it and taping it into was like a spaceship landing beacon in the dark.


Our little band of happy vacationers in the formal dining room. Starting at the front center and going around the table clockwise we have: Hannah, Rebecca (Becca), Bob, Terry, Jeannie, Matt (he of the incredible stomach), Jackie, Jim, Matthew, and Rachel.


This picture shows the vacuum effect as desserts were SUCKED towards my intake orifice. Keep your hands and feet clear kids! Yes, there are SIX desserts in this photo awaiting their doom at the teeth of my MOST impressive tapeworm. I believe my picture is up down in the kitchen as a true modern-day super-hero. I have no doubt that I ate WAY MORE than the cost of my ticket in food! Every single breakfast I typically had BOTH entrees, along with a few other items. Lunch: more of the same. Dinner: I had 2 entrees most nights, along with at least 2 appetizers and one soup. Yes, my superpower is REAL my friends! I am truly a force of nature, a freak if you will. And yes, I have to admit, after the entire 7 days, at least one of my pairs of pants appears to have shrunk just a tiny bit. Stupid washing machine/dryer...I HATE IT when that happens!

And so ends another ship-day. The other days posts will likely be shorter with less photos as the trip (not to mention the phenomenal amount of AWESOME food) took their toll. I  can tell you that my tapeworm put up the white 'surrender' flag after this meal, realizing that he has met his match.... that I called his bluff  (that he can eat anything). Yes, even ginormous taperworms have their limit, and I found mine. I've never before heard him cry UNCLE.



  1. GO LEVI! How exciting was that?

    (I confess, I also cried tears for Rory McIlroy winning the US Open... an incredible performance!)


  2. What, is there some kind of BIKE race going on?? What IS cycling, anyway? Gosh...feel like I've been off the planet for a while....

    TODAY is the end....of my vacation I mean. Fly home this morning. SO very sad...vacation is awesome! Boo Hoo. OK...time to pack the laptop and roll for the airport. Later gaters.

  3. Still chuckling to myself after reading your post, matt. What a great trip - gosh - I'm gonna miss your vacation too. I would have had to hang with the guys if i had been along though. Hiking beats out shopping any day and that pic of the lake is gorgeous.

    What a TT! Levi really rocked it! That was about as exciting as a TT gets - a real nail biter to the very end. Fabian of course was amazing as always, too. Tommy D in I'm sitting here reading the Tour issue of VN that my husband just surrendered and getting psyched for 7/2!

    Welcome Home MATT!

  4. 4 seconds!! Wow! As always, I am glad for Levi but a little sad for Cunego. And very happy to see both Tommy D. and CVV turn in good performances-- along with TJ Van Garderen--he is really the one to watch now!

    I saw that Tyler Farrar has gotten back in the swing of things and won a stage. He was hit so hard by Weylandt's death--haven't read anything similar about the rider that (I think) witnessed Tondo's accident although maybe there has been something in the Spanish or Basque press. I find myself wondering if things really happened as initially described. I would have expected crush injuries, not a lacerated carotid artery.

    And, still hoping for a good outcome for Mauricio Soler.

    Thanks for sharing your vacation with us Matt, loved all the pics. Hiking beats out gambling too IMO but I wouldn't be sad to have someone else along winning the spending money!


  5. Matt, your vacation has been such fun! And isn't the Yukon area you were in the site of the 1000 mile Yukon Quest dog sled race that is run three weeks before the Iditarod? (Sort of like the Giro in comparison to the Tour)

    Yes Levi rocked that TT! Before the start I thought there was no way Damiano would lose two minutes but as soon as I saw him on course I knew it was possible. He was rocking all over that bike - his team needs to spend some money on him for the wind tunnel. It would be money well spent. Remember in 2007 when Alberto had a good buffer on Levi and Cadel but wasn't a strong TTer yet and was afraid he'd lose the overall? And look at his mad TT skills now - worth the time and effort in the tunnel. Cunego shouldn't have lost that race. It was nice that Levi apologized to him afterwards.

    I think TRS is announcing our Tour team today or tomorrow so stand by! And did you see Tommy D is riding his first Tour? Happy for him - he had a great Suisse too.

    Only 11 more days until we're seeing YELLOW!!!

  6. Tour team:

    Jani Brajkovic
    Chris Horner
    Markel Irizar
    Andrea Klöden
    Levi Leipheimer
    Dmitriy Muravyev
    Sérgio Paulinho
    Yaroslav Popovych
    Haimar Zubeldia

  7. "SUISSE"June 21, 2011 at 3:23 PM

    Loved this last update & can't wait to read/see more. So, rest up, let out your pants & get busy. :) (Seriously, if you could manufacture your metabolism, you'd be a freakin BILLIONAIRE!)

    And yes, wasn't Sunday exciting?! Since I was not able to check online, I had no idea of the final outcome til I watched on TV. After what happened to Mollema on Sat, I knew Levi would have at least finished on the podium as long as he did'nt fall off his bike but I thought 2 minutes was just too much to make up on a short-medium TT to take the win. WOW! I did feel a bit sorry for the Little Prince, but not as thrilled as I was for Levi. Whooo-hooo!

    Meanwhile - the Schlecks. Cause for concern? Or Olympic-level sandbagging? Discuss! :) :) You certainly don't need to win either the Dauphine or Susie's Tour (I'm taking ownership as 'Suisse' is "Susie's" rearranged! ;) to do well at the Tour but I must say, I was not overly impressed with their overall TdS efforts. Especially the TT. Maybe they just decided not to push it. But, would'nt you think they'd welcome a chance to PRACTICE their worst element - the TT? Of course, Andy didn't tear up the TdS last year & look how well he did at the Tour.

    And sad to not see Rocket Robbie's name on the RS list but not completely shocked. Don't think he's been going that well this year. In sprinting, it seems you can have it one year & then it's gone, poof. Age of the legs? Robbie's never seemed the same since the Tour where he won his last TDF stage (I think) after having that terrible crash & later missed the time cut on a stage - was that 2007 or 2008?

    And here's hoping Tyler wins a stage if he does ride the Tour. I've been so worried about him since the tragedy; can't even imagine how hard it's been for him. Winning a stage even in the Tour de France can never replace the pain of losing a true friend but it would hopefully bring him some joy.

    And I'm thrilled Tommy D is finally going to be at the Tour. He deserves it. Of course, I thought he deserved a shot LAST year!

  8. Rae says:

    I didn't get to see the TV of the last TdS stage---stayed over at work until midnight--did I miss something other than a blistering ride? Levi apologised to Damiano?

    You know that I LOVE Robbie, but not at all surprised he's not on the RS tour team. They've just never been about sprint stage wins. His year started off pretty well -- right up there in the sprints although not a win--but lately not so much. I wonder if he's got another year in his legs, for the new Australian team. You're right Susie, he's had terrible bad luck with crashes the past couple of years -- he's done well to come back after that leg injury two? years ago.

    Schlecks? SANDBAGGING! And what WAS up with that play by Leopard-Trek--they didn't really think they would end up with Frank on the podium just from dropping Mollema, did they? Were they rehearsing for July?

    Spent the afternoon getting after the yard work. I literally had to douse myself with repellant every 20 minutes--the mosquitos were biting me through my clothes! WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH RAIN THANK YOU! At least todays thunderstorm didn't start until sunset.


    Have you seen that Intel commercial? I've been depressed since I 1st saw it as I don't have a good let alone great answer. Seriously, I've been obsessing over this, racking my brain to remember SOMEthing freakin amazing & I got bupkiss. I've seen some nifty stuff but I want AMAZING! And I sadly don't have anything that qualifes.

    What's yours? And my rules - you must have seen it in person (not on TV). And you can't count the birth of your own kids. (Yeah, well, it's my rules. ;)

    I've decided that sometime during the next 25 years, I MUST rectify the situation. And if the lottery Gods would just stop teasing me, I could get to work on this new life goal pronto!

    I HAVE seen the following :

    2-headed calf (but it was never able to get up & walk around & died a short while later)

    2-headed snapping turtle (now that was pretty neat)

    6 ft mutant Holstein cow my Dad was given in payment. (He was given it when it was a calf BEFORE we knew it was a mutant!)

    And the after-effects of Hurricane Agnes back in 72 were pretty amazing, but more along the lines of "Oh nooooo!" & not "Oh, WOW!" & I want the latter.

    And the best thing would include being a participant in the amazing thing & NOT just a spectator!

    So, what have YOU seen/done?! :)

  10. Well, I saw (and took part in resuscitating) a guy come in with a spear fishing spear in his heart. Aaand he survived with no lingering issues!

    And I would have to say, experiencing Hurricane Ike in 2008 right here in central Ohio (we don't do hurricanes) was pretty interesting!

    Seeing and standing in the middle of a butterfly migration right in my apartment complex.

    Seeing one of Matt's rockets flying down the San Diego coastline -- seemed so close I could reach out and touch it. Well, it was amazing to me!

    Walking in a Roman house that had been discovered buried 10 feet down--with its tile floors intact--in York, England.

    Well, maybe none of those things really count as amazing--but just favorite memories.