Friday, June 24, 2016

Shipwreck Near Skagway!

The bark Canada shipwrecked near Skagway in 1898, 118 years ago. For eight years I've been anxious to explore what remains; however, the tide has always covered her. Today? There she was! Ray Tsang and I pulled my Honda Fit to the roadside and headed down to the beach. Yes, yes, yes! I was excited.

One might ask, How did the Canada get here in the first place? The National Park Service explains the basics on an interpretive sign up by my car.
One Last Adventure 
Klondike business is bringing out of retirement a number of craft which might very properly be termed floating coffins…Among the venerable “windjammers” that are being prepared for this trade is the old bark Canada.  Portland Oregonian, January 1, 1898 
The tale of the bark Canada is as ­­­exciting as a swashbuckling sea novel. Although her final resting place lies in the cold water below, her surprising story lives on.
The bark Canada, a merchant “windjammer,” was built in Bath, Maine, in 1859. During her 39 years at sea she hauled a variety of cargo to ports on six continents and in over twenty countries. She was damaged by hurricanes witnessed mutinies, enduring labor strikes, and once collided with another ship. Yet the Canada’s most exciting episode happened­­­ toward the end of her life.
When news of a major gold discovery in the Klondike reached the world, any vessel that floated was pressed into service for the Alaska trade. In late January 1898, the aging Canada with a cargo of building materials, set out on her last adventure.
But how to get out there, where the sea lapped the land?

Ray and I had to first cross a stream... This was an adventure in and of itself. He didn't want to go.

But I was determined. He filmed it (won't load here), but wait. Now I didn't have my phone to take pictures. I wobbled and shrieked back over (this too didn't film, except the secondary finish).

I started to go back over when Ray came up with the idea of walking sticks for my balance. Why didn't he think of this in the first place? Now I to face the slime and barnacles in my less-than-ideal footwear. Crocks. But it was worth it. Half way there I realized he was following--his stick idea giving him, I guess, the fortitude to dare the creek. Here is what we found.

Time to go back. Ray crossed first, with his sticks, and then hurled them over to me. I must have followed because here I am, back home, trying to figure out why his videos of me going over the stream twice didn't work.

Oh well, it was a great adventure!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Tick Tock, Wrong Dock!

This is how asleep at the wheel I can get. I even stopped to film just how bad I can be. Our ship-list in Skagway, AK, showed today's TWO ships both at the Railroad dock. Easy peasy. Bryan, the driver, and I roll out. But wait, check my video. At the beginning you can see one ship. Do you see it? Of course you do.

Now, as I turn west, do you see the OTHER ship? Yeah? There it is. Clearly, one here, one there. I must have been snoozing. I carry on.

Bryan, the driver, and I immediately find four of our 13 guests. He stays with the bus, I head for the Railroad dock. Not much is happening. I wait. Where is everyone? I wait some more. "Hey, Brenda to Bryan," I radio.

"Nope," he says, "no one's snuck past you. We still have only the four out of 13."

Tap my toes. Wait. Tap my toes. It's now 7:40. We leave at 8 sharp. Tick, tock, 7:45. Where the heck is everyone???

"Bryan to Brenda!" the radio crackles.

"Go for Brenda!"

"The other ship is over at the Ore dock!" Bryan barks. "The ship went to the wrong dock! Haha, all our missing people are over there!"

Yikes! As the British say--I can bloody well see it over there! What is WRONG with me???

"We better roll! Ten-four!" I holler into the radio as I race pell mell back to my car to see if I can't beat Bryan over to the Ore dock. Some of those folks might be madder than you-know-what.

Bryan beat me. He apparently soothed the troubled waters and had all but one safely into the bus, out of the terrible wind that's the Ore dock. "Missing one," he radioed. So I take up position at the gangplank exit, hold up my SOUTHEAST TOURS sign, shout hello through the roar of the wind to my friends. Mr. Duley has three minutes, just three minutes, to show. No show.

"Bryan to Brenda, it's 8:00! I'm headed out."

"Roger that!" I holler back.

I can't believe it. We actually got out on time, minus Mr. Duley of course--never mind the wayward ship and me asleep at the wheel--all on video.

Here's my sermon for the day. Don't believe the paperwork, believe your eyes.

That is, if your eyes are open!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

White Pass & Yukon Route: A Video (link below)

sketch by brenda

Skagway’s #1 attraction has always been the White Pass and Yukon Route, built in 1898 for the Klondike Gold Rush. Today, thousands walk off the gang planks of their cruise ships to scrabble up the three short steps into the old Gold Rush train. The historic, narrow-gauge track takes off from the waterfront with a huff and a puff, a jerk and squeal—and then clankety-clanks along the rails for about five miles of flatland. Mountains rise  straight up on the right, Pullen Creek and Skagway River trickle and rumble on the left, the pulse of the train is something alive as tons of steel push into the curves and pick up speed, as if to ease the train into the climb ahead. But then the mountains converge. The river cuts a scraggly seam between and the train by necessity must begin to climb—3,300 feet in twenty miles.

taken by my son, Blake Kent
My first experience on the train was one of exhilaration. The day was May 29, 2009, my birthday—a sunny day, all yellow and blue and green, the air pungent with the scent of the sea and temperate rain forest. I travelled alone, a gift from my son. I was to meet him at the summit of the White Pass Trail, where I’d disembark and board his motor coach to travel with his guests up into the Canadian Yukon. As the train chug-chugged out of the station, as it passed the chimney ruins of the old Pullen House, as it swept by the old gold rush graveyard where death had eclipsed dreams, my adrenalin pumped in rhythm, and I found my spot on the carriage apron—the wee porch on the back of the passenger car where I could lean out, take in the view, wind in my face, and breathe a glory so palatable I seemed to be standing on the threshold of eternity.

With Nick Mistretta, a "bestie"
standing on the apron
I’ve traveled the train many times since. Once with a gaggle of friends all the way up to Lake Bennet, another with close friends on a day off. One excursion was an end-of-season staff party, another a partial trip to Denver Point where a handful of us got off to go hiking. I took my grandson once, ten years old, the summer of 2012; John McDermott, then senior conductor, let us ride up in the cupola. Once it was the Santa Train in the middle of December. It doesn’t matter when I go, who I go with, how far I go—I never tire of the exhilaration.

For those of you who would like to experience the same, here’s a link posted by John McDermott today to a Dutch video of Skagway’s most popular tour, that of the White Pass and Yukon Route.