We’ve all been to wonderful places that bring memories flooding back to us. Places of awesome beauty, like the Canadian Rockies. Places of great excitement like the Grand Ole Opry. Even a quiet spot under a tree at Grandma’s house. Here’s one of the places I remember from my own past.
After visiting every state in the union, eight Canadian provinces and territories, and several Mexican states, one of the most beautiful and spectacular places I’ve been is White Pass, leading from Skagway, on the coast of Alaska, up to a chain of lakes in British Columbia that form the headwaters of the mighty Yukon River. In 20 miles miles, it rises from sea-level at Skagway to 2,864 feet at its apex.
Covering some of the roughest terrain imaginable, the first section was built in just under a year from Skagway to Bennett, British Columbia. Amazing how engineers and workers over a century ago could build something so quickly with none of today’s technology and equipment. It would probably take us five or ten years today.
Although an earlier blog discussed the town of Skagway, I felt this lovely railroad and the terrain it covers merited a separate post. It’s been seven years since I was there, and I’m still in awe of it.
As you can tell from the steam and smoke escaping the engine in the photo above, it’s pulled by a 19th century steam engine. The cars are of that era also, lending authenticity to the whole experience.
The route roughly tracks the Skagway River. At least I think that’s the name of it, but after Googling everything I could think of, I’m not certain. Anyhow, it’s a lovely river that in many places runs through a deep canyon hundreds of feet below the level of our rails. Across the canyon, we could see the Klondike Highway which ran more or less parallel to our route and at about the same elevation.
The steep drops from the rails to the canyon bottom were spectacular, as was the view of the river below. As we rode along, I kept trying to imagine the people heading for the Klondike gold rush up this route before any road or railroad was built, along with imagining what it would have been like to work on building the railroad. My hat is definitely off to anyone involved in those activities.
Once we got through the pass, the terrain opened into broad valleys and plains, which lasted all the way to Dawson City, Yukon, where the gold rush took place. We were ushered off the train and onto buses once we exited the pass, and the bus ride was pretty tame compared to the train ride.
If you’ve never been to Skagway and taken this train ride, put it on your list of vacation places to go someday. You’ll be glad you did.
Ø What are some of the places you remember from childhood—or maybe from last year?
Ø What do those places mean to you?
David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years as a health insurance agent. Most of that career was spent in Texas, but for a few years he traveled many other states. He started writing about 20 years ago, and has six unpublished novels to use as primers on how NOT to write fiction. Since his retirement from insurance a few years ago, he has devoted his time to helping Kristen Lamb start Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp and trying to learn to write a successful novel himself.