Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Moving On :: Leaving Alaska

Saturday, August 28th - - My stay in Juneau was at an end. The ferry didn't leave until 3 pm but, since I had a vehicle, I had to check in by one o'clock. There would have been time to take another tour I suppose, but after yesterday's adventure I really didn't see much point in it – I don't think anything could have topped it. For the first time in a long time sleep didn't come easily last night. My mind wouldn't let go of the excitement of the day and I kept reliving the events over and over.

But even with lingering in bed a little longer there was plenty of time to get around in the morning and to run a few errands (stock up on groceries and a few other items and fill up the gas tank). I then found a turnout along the highway and whiled away the remaining bit of time by doing absolutely nothing – sittin' and thinkin' and watchin' the clouds go by... (and more of the same once I got in the queue for the ferry!)

The ferry ride was mostly uneventful, the hours passed by quickly. However, at about five o'clock someone yelled out “Whale on the left.” Fortunately, that just happened to be the side where I was sitting... it was rather far off and moving away from us but we watched that lone humpback whale breach (jump out of the water) five times! It was yet another of those “WOW” moments, for that is all that it lasted, just a few brief moments, but it was a wondrous sight to see.

Clouds filled the sky as we got close to Haines. We docked at 7:30 and then there was a stopover of an hour to let people and vehicles disembark, then it was another hour to Skagway.

Pulling into the ferry dock at Skagway at 9:30 pm. It was interesting to me that the Captain used two spotlights, one on either side of the ferry, to guide it into the docking area. A few minutes later I drove off and into Skagway. For some reason, it surprised me that it was dark already when I got there. And it was warm. Not hot, but much warmer than it had been for many weeks. There were two RV Park[ing lot]s in Skagway but I had noticed some RVs pulling into the ferry terminal parking lot and decided to join them there for the night. If you think about it - with its lighted lot and security patrols - it was as safe (if not safer) as any campground.

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Sunday, August 29th - - It was raining lightly when I left the ferry terminal parking lot at eight o'clock. I drove down several streets in the nearly vacant town. Few people were out and about and stores were not yet open. There were, however, three cruise ships in the harbor that had pulled in during the night, filled with people about to fill the town.

Ready to move on, I found the main highway and drove north out of town. Less than an hour later I was out of Alaska and back in Canada. A part of me wanted to return to Alaska to do some of the things that I hadn't done (because of time, money, or the weather – or a combination of all three) but deep down I knew it was time to leave. Perhaps one day I will return. But if I don't, that's okay because I've been there and had some amazing and wonderful experiences that will be with me for a long time to come.

The South Klondike Highway heads north out of Skagway following the Klondike River. On the other side of the river was the White Pass & Yukon Route railway, which was one of the last narrow-gauge railroads built in North America. Began in May 1898, more than 2,000 workers labored with hand tools for 18 months to build the railroad. It claimed 35 lives. The highway that I was driving on was only 30 years old (began in 1978 and dedicated in 1981) and certainly wasn't constructed with hand tools!

A portion of the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad, with train, no less!

The train passing over Pitchfork Falls.

The unusual William Moore suspension bridge spans a 110-foot-wide gorge over Moore Creek, which is 180 feet below.

Natures Rock Garden.

Just north of the U.S. Border is an area referred to as the moonscape.

The trees are small and shaped by the wind and snow.

If I hadn't missed the turnoff to Carcross Road I would not have seen beautiful Emerald Lake (also known as Rainbow Lake).

The long and winding road, typical of the Carcross Highway, which goes from the town of Carcross to Watson Lake. The town was originally named Caribou Cross because herds of caribou used to cross there. I guess it is fitting that cars cross through Carcross now.

The first time (on August 3rd) I passed through Watson Lake, home of the Sign Post Forest, crowds (well, maybe not crowds, but more than a few people) filled the streets. Today, I saw two people. You can tell it is getting close to the end of the summer and the end of the tourist season. The streets, and campgrounds in Yukon Territory, are nearly empty.

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