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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

A Tragic Ending

~Sunday, September 11, 2022~

Day 819

Day 83 of Alaska Trip

Remembering, especially today, the nearly 3,000 men and women, including first responders who lost their lives to such a senseless, cruel act 21 years ago, September 11, 2001. We will never forget as the tragedy is seared in our hearts and memories forever.❤️🇺🇸

Our visit to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Museum, gave us a more in depth perspective of the gold rush era, helping us connect the dots of what we’ve seen so far on the Alaska leg of our journey. It’s amazing how much their stories intertwine. For example, looking back on our time in Dawson City, Yukon 2 months ago, we didn’t fully realize the connection that it had to Skagway, Alaska.

We knew Dawson City was a gold mining town, but didn’t relate the story to where we are now. So with that being said, we’re so glad that we’ve had the time to really delve into each community, learning about their past and what’s brought them to today.

Though it would take pages and pages to go into detail about the Klondike Gold Rush, I’ll do my best to succinctly put it into 2 paragraphs. After 4 people stumbled on the first gold in the Yukon region and word got out, it launched one of the greatest gold rush frenzies ever….the Klondike Gold Rush. Wealth was out of reach for 98% of people living in the United States in the 1890’s, struggling through poor working conditions, economic depression and unequal rights. But the Klondike gold fields in Dawson City promised instant wealth for those able to make the challenging journey. Drawing tens of thousands of people from over 30 nations, young men descended on Skagway’s port in the Fall of 1898 from the Inside Passage to begin their 500-mile journey to the gold fields. Had they gone the all-water route AROUND Alaska,

it would have taken longer and cost too much. Skagway’s port and hiking north was way quicker and cheaper, but……..(read on).

For centuries, the Tlingit people controlled the Chilkoot Trail-a trading corridor that joined coastal Tlingit with the interior Tagish peoples. As many stampeders descended on this 33-mile steep trail, starting at Dyea (a town near Skagway), the Tlingit people adapted and capitalized on their skills and knowledge to help these inexperienced men get up the mountain, especially during the brutally cold, winter months. The other route was right next door on the more gradual, but lengthier White Pass Trail. With little to no mountaineering experience, the conditions were ghastly for the 30,000 stampeders and their 3,000 horses, enduring the fierce winds, cold and potential avalanche threat. The horses, brought to carry the overweight loads, perished in their inhumane treatment with the near impassable conditions. But the trail wasn’t their only obstacle. Once they achieved the summit, they were still hundreds of miles from the gold fields, having to cross the treacherous Yukon River. With the river impassable until Spring and the men’s exposure to the elements and/or lack of food, many turned back or perished. For those that waited it out, they camped in tents by frozen lakes, passing the time in their feeble attempts of hastily building rafts and boats until the spring thaw when they could resume their journey. After the year-long trip, of the 100,000 that tried to make it, only 30,000 actually succeeded in making it to Dawson City; insanely driven, all for the sake of those tiny gold nuggets. Sadly, many did so in vain, as after their arduous journey, they arrived to find most, if not all the claims had already been taken. Heartbroken, defeated and exhausted, some men stayed to mine what was left. Others simply turned around, broke and in debt. All in all, the Klondike Gold Rush lasted only 3 years. The lucky ones cashed in their gold, where it was transported from Skagway to San Francisco or Seattle. Roughly, a staggering $400 million dollars in gold came through Skagway during the gold rush era, equal to $11.4 billion in today’s money.

It was during the gold rush pandemonium that construction of The White Pass & Yukon Route Railway began.

They wanted to get all the miners and equipment to Dawson City, with the hopes that the gold rush would last longer. But the gold rush only lasted 3 years, with the railroad completed in 2. Today, it is known as the “Scenic Railway of the World”, and considered an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, to the likes of the Panama Canal, the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. We’re looking forward to taking this scenic journey on the WPYR tomorrow that will take us back to the challenges tens of thousands of men endured, overcoming harsh climate and geography to create “the railway built of gold”.

After our museum visit, we headed over for a personal tour of the Moore House. The Moore family played a significant role in putting Skagway on the map. A former steamboat captain, William Moore first saw the Skagway River Valley in 1887. He was so impressed with what he saw, having the foresight of the goldrush that was to come, he returned later with his son Ben, to establish a 160-acre homestead. In doing so, he would be able to capitalize on the support he would give the stampeders on their mission to find their gold treasure. He got more than he bargained for, being taken over by the thousands of stampeders who flooded the area, taking over his 160-acre claim to which he sued, years later. He was able to recoup much of what was taken, but not everything. The original Moore cabin is still on the property and is the oldest structure in town. Also on the property is the Moore House museum. Built over the course of several years, starting in 1897, this was the home of William Moore’s son, Ben Moore and his family. Today two rooms have been restored to their Victorian era charm which we were able to step into and see.

After quite the history lesson, we toured a few of the merchant shops on Broadway street. We couldn’t believe the number of jewelry stores in such a small town….there must have been 15 on Broadway Street alone. I guess all those cruise ship visitors are really into their gold jewelry. But the town also consists of Alaskan art stores, souvenir shops, a vaudeville theater, and bars from yesteryear. One shop that really interested us was the Alaska Knife/Ulu Store, thinking of Christmas gifts already. Though we didn’t leave with anything, we enjoyed chatting with the 2 managers of the decent-sized shop…….Rodney from Louisiana and his sidekick fromTexas. We didn’t talk a thing about knives or ulus but of each other's travels. Both are full-time RVer’s with Rodney in his 4th and final year at the shop and the other heading back to Texas fulfilling his one and only season. After the million + tourists that descend in Skagway, no wonder they’re ready for their season to end.

Skagway Brewing was right around the corner where we eagerly went to put our name in for the 6:00 Thai dinner. We saw the amazing dishes coming out of the kitchen last night and were told to come around 4:00 today to put our name in for that evening’s dinner which is basically first come/first serve. But when we showed up, the bar/restaurant was closed, directing everyone to head upstairs. Evidently the sous chef broke his collarbone last night, where he had to be driven 103 miles to Juneau for emergency treatment. It sounds like he’s going to be o.k., but it sounds like our chances of having this amazing food is not in the cards for us. I guess we just aren’t meant to have Thai in Alaska. The rest of the menu looked really good, so we’ll be back!

Tonight’s cruise ships in port were a Regis Seas Mariner and a Norwegian Sun. Both arrived early this morning,

as most do, and departed between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. It’s pretty cool to see a new ship arrive each morning as they travel all night, waking up in some new place. We found out from one of the locals that the entrance to Skagway’s port, the Lynn Canal, is one of the deepest, longest fjords not just in North America, but in the world at 2,000 feet deep and 90 miles long, perfect for those big ships! But the port doesn’t take itself too seriously. As the last cruise ship pulls away for the season (sometime mid-October), the residents line up at the dock to moon the passengers instead of a wave! 🤣🤣

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