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.