Day 20: Lake Laberge, YT to Sbekagway, AK (221km/137mi, 13293km/7638mi total)
Most of this route was on roads we’d already seen back through Whitehorse. On the branch toward Skagway, though, there was one of the most bizarre landscapes in the entire north: the Carcross Desert. This tiny true desert, created by a mountain rain shadow, looks spectacularly out of place at best in its climate.
The crossing back into Alaska, on the same mountain pass once traversed by the dreaded Chilkoot Trail, was still snowy even in late June. It’s easy to see why so many 99ers’ journeys ended here, as even the lure of gold might well have been insufficient to motivate the average adventurer into carrying two tons of gear up this in a frozen winter hell.
Skagway itself was, as expected by its position in the cruise shipping business, more or less a tourist trap. We never particularly planned on coming here, other than to catch the boat out; as far as we cared it might as well have been Dawson-by-the-Sea, but without the casino, and with all the hotels sold out months in advance to cruise ship people on package tours and Alaskans ferrying back to the lower 48.
The one thing I did find particularly enjoyable here was the local brewery, a place that may derive its business from tourists, but was a few blocks off the tourist strip. Its beers, which I consumed abundantly despite the early hour, were uniformly delicious, hoppy West Coast brews. But after a few rounds at the brewery, it was time to get on the SSV Matanuska. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but she’s actually a kind of ugly, very authentic boat; utilitarian, not touristic, built with Northerners in mind.
Day 20/21: Skagway, AK to Prince Rupert, BC (501mi/806km, 8149mi/14300km total)
For the rest of the afternoon, we sat on the topdeck, watching the beautiful Inside Passage go by.
I think this is the Mendenhall Glacier, just outside of the state capital of Juneau.
We slept on the swaying, rocking boat pleasantly drunk, and woke up just outside of Wrangell. The boat would stop here for an hour, we took shore call and stopped by this garnet stand we saw from the docks; Laura’s favorite gem is the garnet so I think she may well be glad I did!
And then, getting out into the open water, I saw this. What do you think it is? Fish jumping? Whale tail?
Oh, look! There’s four of them! But what are they?
Despite its name, the MV Susitna is not this boat’s sister ship; it is actually a crabbing boat of the same class as the Deadliest Catch ones.
On another shore call, we went to a seafood restaurant in Ketchikan and ate some of these fresh Alaskan snow crabs, which were absolutely delicious. Back aboard ship, I spent the rest of the night in the ships’ bar, one Alaskan Amber after another. Sometime after midnight, the heavy seas hit, and the seasick world started rolling and pitching, fore to starboard, port to aft.
Far too early in the morning, the ship foghorned its lumbering way into Prince Rupert. I think this is my favorite view of the entire trip so far…
Day 22: Prince Rupert to Prince George’s, British Columbia (718km, 14011km total)
The fog hung around for a while longer on the coast road. Just what I always thought British Columbia would look like… I’m glad the weather sucks actually!
This road was very kind to us for wildlife, with a black bear and a wolf in the starring roles on an otherwise unremarkable and boring route.