Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mission Alaska: Skagway

We were up early for a 7 a.m. disembarking in Skagway, Alaska, a one-traffic-light town that in the 1900s was the gateway to the Klondike Gold Rush.  Hopeful goldseekers stocked up in Skagway and then journeyed over 20 miles up into the mountains to the Canadian border.  They needed to bring at least 2000 pounds of goods with them on that difficult trek or the Canadian authorities denied them access.  The last thing anyone wanted was starving miners.

There really isn't much to Skagway except for the tourism season that starts in May and runs until September.  They live on the dollars brought in by the cruise ship passengers.  When the last cruise ship of the season departs, the town pretty much shuts down.

From everything we'd heard or read, the White Pass Railway up the mountain was the excursion we had to take.  This is quite the old, historic train.  No high speed, luxury cars on this choo-choo.

We creaked and chugged on the old rails, climbing higher and higher while the narrator told us about the history of the gold rush, the well known characters of the old days of Skagway, and the perils and challenges faced by the miners.  As we climbed higher and higher up the mountain, I marveled that any sane person would attempt it on foot or pack animal  100 plus years ago.  I guess that begs the question, "How sane is a person who's infected by gold fever?"

Sometimes it seemed like we were right on the edge.

Glad that this particular train bridge is no longer in use.
 The higher up we climbed, the more snow, of course.  We never got tired of looking out of the windows at the scenery.

The trip up the mountains took two hours.  The trip back, only an hour.  Gravity helped!

Jewell Gardens & Glassblowing

Back in Skagway, Janet went off to the Gold Dredge to discover what it was like to pan for gold.  I joined an excursion to visit a glassblowing studio.  I was excited to see the demonstration and then participate in making an ornament to keep.  Our tour guide Jonathan, a young college student from Utah, and the glass artist David could not have been nicer to our group.  David first demonstrated the techniques and explained about the method and tools.

Then each of us on the tour picked the colors and design we wented and stepped up to assist David in creating our ornaments.

David showed me how to roll the colored glass onto the initial "gather" of melted glass.

Pipes heating, ready to be used to gather molten glass.

Under David's watchful eye, I carefully rolled my ornament in the 2300 degree flash oven.

Using the heavy tweezers to pinch and twist the glass, adding design with the colors.

The blowing part of glass blowing.  Yes, I've already thought of every off-color joke.

The almost-finished product.  It needed to spend the night in the tempering case and will be shipped home to me.
After all of us completed ornaments and David made a wavy-lipped bowl, we enjoyed a delicious high tea and toured the pretty gardens before being taken back to the ship.

All told, this marked another terrific, interesting and fun day on the cruise.  Once back on board Janet and I exchanged stories of our adventures.  She'd done quite a bit of shopping in Skagway and showed off her purchases.  Both of us then began looking forward to the next day and Glacier Bay.

1 comment:

Hope said...

Your ornament is so pretty!