Sunday, April 3, 2016

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

Brenda Wilbee's sketch of first tourists in Skagway AK, 1898
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 cruise ship gang planks to scrabble up the three high steps into the old Gold Rush train. This 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 to where the narrow valley closes in. 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.

Photo of Brenda Wilbee leaning out the White Pass Train, taken by Blake KentMy 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 so many 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.

Brenda Wilbee and bestie Nick Mistretta
standing on the apron with
Nick Mistretta, a bestie
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.

To take your own ride, click on this link: 
White Pass and Yukon Rail

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