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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad‏

May 28th, 2011 · No Comments

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From Skagway, Alaska, to Carcross, Yukon Territory, on Wednesday I rode the narrow rails of the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad. The journey was an optional extension of the Inside Passage voyage on the Island Spirit that Rolland Graham’s Mountain Outin’ Tours offered. I gladly accepted along with 22 of the 31 people who went on the Island Spirit.

Our Tour Group in Car 222, the "Lake Lindeman"

Our Tour Group in Car 222, the "Lake Lindeman"

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The rail line was born of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897. Sometimes known as the Yukon gold rush, this was a frenzy of gold rush immigration for gold prospecting along the Klondike River near Dawson City.

Just getting to the goldfields was an awful challenge for the stampeders. Until the White Pass and Yukon Route reached Lake Bennett in July 1899, none of the three alternative routes worked for most of them. Less than 10 percent of the 30,000 stampeders could afford the all-water “rich man’s route” from Seattle to St. Michael at the mouth of the Yukon River. Even fewer took the all-land route from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and that difficult route took two years; the handful who reached Dawson by that route got there after the gold rush was over. The third alternative, the Chilkoot Trail from Dyea, a smaller port near Skagway, crossed the steep Chilkoot Pass.

The White Pass and Chilkoot Pass routes met at Lake Bennett. From there, by rafting or boating down the Yukon the stampeders could get to the goldfields. But to prevent a famine the Canadian government made each of them carry a year’s supply of food that weighed nearly a ton. Stampeders had to scale the 3,500-foot pass 20 to 40 times with their food. That meant they had hike several thousand miles to go the 33 miles from Dyea to Lake Bennett.

The railroad from Skagway changed all that. While it eventually reached Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon Territory, it now runs 67.5 miles to Carcross, Yukon Territory. Carcross is 27 miles beyond Bennett, British Columbia, Canada, but still almost 400 miles from Dawson City.

Into the Tunnel at Mile 16 from Skagway

Into the Tunnel at Mile 16 from Skagway

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Through the Snow near White Pass Summit

Through the Snow near White Pass Summit

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"Don't Lean Out!" the Conductor Cautioned

"Don't Lean Out!" the Conductor Cautioned

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We Stopped at Bennett for Lunch

We Stopped at Bennett for Lunch

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Entering Yukon

Entering Yukon

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Downtown Carcross, Population 431

Downtown Carcross, Population 431

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We returned to Skagway by road on a tour bus. Skagway surprised me. This attractive city of about 850 year-round residents, preserves or restores its late 1890 atmosphere.

Downtown Skagway

Downtown Skagway

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The most popular place in Skagway is still a saloon. Some things don’t change much.

Skagway's Red Onion Saloon

Skagway's Red Onion Saloon

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On this trip we saw a lot of what people can civilization. But we also saw the beauty of nature. Like this mountain range on the border of Alaska and British Columbia.

The Sawtooth Mountains at White Pass

The Sawtooth Mountains at White Pass

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Posted in: Alaska, Photography

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