All photos courtesy of Judy Schweitzer from our family album, unless otherwise indicated.
North! To Alaska!
Alaska, the fabled land of brawling heroes, evil villains, gold miners and mysteries. Novelists have written about it, it’s been set to music, and we still find ourselves fascinated with its history today. In 2002, my dream cruise vacation to Alaska was at last realized. We boarded the Regal Princess in San Francisco and headed for the Inside Passage of Alaska. Our first stop in Alaska was Ketchikan, where we found handcarved totem poles, Tlinglit townsfolk telling their native stories, a restaurant that serves delicious fresh Halibut and many stores that beckoned us to stop and shop. We then re-boarded the ship and headed to Skagway, one of the most infamous towns in Alaska. You’ll find more about Skagway below. After that, our next stop was Juneau, Alaska’s capital city, where we took time to shop, visit The Red Dog saloon (an experience in itself!) and ride the Juneau tramway up the mountain, taking this photo of our ship from the gondola.
Ketchikan: Our First Stop
The town is partly built on stilts in canals that run through town. Creek Street was where we walked on the wooden boardwalk, where there were many quaint shops selling souvenirs and clothing. But we were hungry and looking for fresh fish for lunch. We found a restaurant called The Halibut Hole, recommended to us by a ship’s crew member. There we enjoyed their signature dish, crispy deep fried fresh halibut, french fries and cole slaw. I have to say it was the best tasting fish I ever ate, white, flaky, delicate flesh in a crispy, crunchy batter. Of course it had just been caught from their back dock that morning which made all the difference. I don’t know if the Halibut Hole is still there, because it’s been so many years since our cruise, but if it isn’t, there’s bound to be another place on Creek Street in Ketchikan, Alaska, that serves the best halibut in the world!
North to Alaska! …North and the rush is on! – GOLD! GOLD!
Skagway, Gateway To The Klondike
Skagway was the gateway to the Klondike, where gold was discovered. In the days of “Gold Fever,” men and their animals suffered, in the rush to get their share of gold. We took the train ride over White Mountain Pass and saw a famous site known as Dead Horse Trail. It seems that in 1899 in the struggle to cross the mountain, mules and horses were loaded down with the gear the prospectors needed to survive. Often the animals were so overloaded that they did not survive the strenuous climb over the mountain. There was nothing to do but shove them off to the side of the trail and go on. Legend has it that the trail was littered with thousands of dead horses, mules and people; thus the nickname Dead Horse Trail.
We took this train during our visit to Skagway and this video shows how it feels to a passenger.
If you go, you might like this travel guide before making the trip.
Frommer’s Alaska Travel Guide
More About Skagway
The word Skagway is a Tlingit word meaning “a windy place with white caps on the water.” In 1896, it got even windier with the blustering and brawling of the thousands of people pouring into town. Gold was discovered in the Klondike region of Canada’s Yukon Territory and Skagway was where they purchased their gear before the over 500-miles trek to the gold field. Some of these people, realizing how difficult the miles ahead would be, decided not to prospect, but made their fortune as shopkeepers, saloonkeepers and other services required by the miners. Skagway was a boomtown and by 1898 was the largest city in Alaska. But as with most boomtowns, once the reason for its existence played out, in this case GOLD, the town went bust. There wasn’t much of a choice for people to make a living. Many drifted away to more prosperous places, others stayed and eked out a living. And then a miraculous thing happened, tourists began discovering Skagway, and the rest of Alaska! And the rush was once again ON! For all the money you and the many tourists bring with you. But if you go and spend it, you’ll not regret it. Any part of the State of Alaska, is living history in the making and not to be missed.
Skagway – Main Street
Here I am in front of the huge mountain of moving ice, the Mendenhall Glacier. Believe me, this is something to see.
The Mendenhall Glacier is located in the Tongass National Forest. The forest covers most of the southeastern part of Alaska, and is the largest national forest, surrounding the Inside Passage. There’s a visitor’s center at the glacier, where you can find information about how the glacier was formed.
- Ketchikan, Alaska
The “first city” Ketchikan, Alaska.
- Skagway, Alaska
Skagway, Alaska, gateway to the Klondike.
- Juneau, Alaska
Alaska’s capital city of Juneau and its many attractions.
- Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
A 100-plus-year-old gorgeous garden covering 55 acres. Pictures or videos can never do it justice.
- The Tlingit People
The Tlingit are native to the coastal Pacific Northwest, Alaska and Canada areas.
The Tlingit (Native People of Alaska)
The Tlingit are a group of Native Americans indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, parts of Alaska and Canada.Their name for themselves is Lingit, meaning “People of the Tides.” Each tribe has a somewhat different dialect, but they still understand each other and have some things in common. For instance, the tribes are all matrilineal, meaning the line of succession is through the mother, and they tell the stories of their people through drums and dance. We were fortunate to watch them tell their stories as they danced on stage. It was interesting, though difficult to follow the story at times. We were allowed, even encouraged, to take all the photos we wanted.
Butchart Gardens in Victoria Canada
Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Canada
Our last stop before heading back to San Francisco was Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. We were scheduled to go as far as Sitka, but ice in the passage was too heavy for us to continue. However, we were happy visiting Victoria, a delightful town, with architecture that reminds one of Europe. The tour took us to Butchart Gardens a beautiful place, started by the wife of a man who owned a quarry on the site. Once the quarry was played out, she decided to do something to beautify the area, and these beautiful Butchart Gardens are the result. Now over 100 years old, it’s sculpted with plants, flowers and trees, giving anyone visiting an unforgettable experience. There’s also a teahouse, where you can sit down to a real English High Tea. Our entire group sat at a long table and were served Butchart Gardens tea and delicious sandwiches and pastries. Afterwards, there was an opportunity to shop at the Gift Store. It was quite a festive end to our tour of the Inside Passage.