Saturday, May 30, 2009

Alaska Cruise - Day 4, Monday May 25

This morning we were in Haines and walked around a few sites visiting the Samuel Harrison Fort. We went out there to see if we could find the missionary couple the Ketchikan Elders told us was here. As we were walking towards the Chapel, a young couple drove by and stopped and asked if we needed help. We told them we were looking for the LDS Chapel and they asked if we were LDS and we said yes. They took us to see the chapel and then took us to see a member that had lived here all his life and was probably here when I was here on my mission. We also found out that the missionary couple was transferred a couple of months ago. They took us to a brother Bailey, he said Elder Malcolm Wall baptized him in July of 1973. Elder Wall was my first companion when I got to Haines in September of 1973. We talked for a few minutes, then had to go to meet our afternoon tour to Skagway (originally it was spelled Skaguy) and White Pass.

We took a ferry boat from Haines to Skagway, and then boarded a bus that took us around Skagway, to the local cemetery from the 1890’s. This was the graveyard for a lot of the prospectors that died during the gold rush days. Some tombstones simply said unknown because they would die on the trail and no one would know who they were, so it was marked unknown. Our tour guide told us that Nordstrom, Levi and the Mac truck founders were all here in the area during the gold rush days and started their companies and later took them to the lower states.

One fellow, Jefferson Smith, moved in and became the crime boss of Skagway and caused such problems that the town people got a meeting together to talk about running him out of town. He showed up at the meeting and a gun fight between him and Frank Reid, the mayor, ensued. He was shot in the head by the mayor at the same time the mayor was shot in the groin. Smith died right away and lay in the street for over 24 hours before someone came and moved the body. The mayor lived for twelve days in agony before he died. They buried Smith 3 feet outside the cemetery because they did not want him in the town cemetery. The mayor has the largest monument in the cemetery and it says that he gave his life for the honor of the town.

We then boarded the bus for a drive up the White Pass trail that the gold rush prospectors used to get to White Pass and Dawson City to prospect for gold. This is the same trail that is depicted in pictures and movies of a ladder type of trail that goes straight up the mountain to the top. The Canadian government made it a requirement that every person would have to have one ton of supplies if they were going to live in White Pass. They did this to insure that everyone would be able to make it through the winter months. Before the railroad was completed in July of 1900, the people would have to carry the supplies on their backs (about 70 lbs of supplies) up to the top and then go down again and get another 70 lbs of supplies, go to the top and got back for another load. This would take many trips before they got the 1 ton of supplies there. Many never made it, some died trying and a few were successful at getting the full required amount of supplies to their camp. Of the 5,000 people that came for gold only about 500 people got rich from the gold and only 25 was able to leave with their wealth; the rest lost it before they left.

On the way up to the summit, we saw many waterfalls, glaciers and other natural wonders. One of them was the break shown in the picture to the left. that break was from the 1964 earthquake that hit Alaska. There were reports of people spotting mountain goats, black bear, and even eagles. Most of those that saw them were on the train, we did not see anything. We found out that the turquoise color of the water comes from all the silt that the glaciers scrape off as the ice moves. It grinds the debris and it ends up as a powdery substance that gets in the water and makes the turquoise color.

One cool thing was a bridge that we went over that was constructed so if there was an earthquake (the area is part of the San Andreas Fault), only one side of the bridge would separate from the road. It would stay connected on the other end and swing free until it is secured to the other side again.

When we got back to Skagway, we had about 2 hours that we could spend shopping and touring Skagway. We then boarded the ferry for the ½ ride back to Haines. There was a problem with the motor on the ferry and we eventually transferred to another ferry and got back to the ship about an hour later than planned.

We went up to a late dinner and then hit the pillow in anticipation of our day in Juneau the next day. Then pictures below are from the Skagway Sculpture and Garden museum we went to.

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