Sunday, August 7, 2011

Working in Skagway

This spring I was invited to Skagway, Alaska to work with the US National Parks Service interpreters of Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. The park includes the town of Skagway, a charming restoration of the late 19th century landing point for gold rush stampeders, elements of the White Pass Trail and the start of the Chilkoot Trail, both challenging routes over the coastal mountains to the headwaters of the Yukon River. Although well versed in their part of the gold rush story, the staff were interested in the story Parks Canada tells in Dawson City, the capital of the Klondike gold fields.

They had arranged accommodation for me in the restored Baptist Mission Residence. Located near Skagway Creek with spawning salmon just beginning to run, it was also adjacent to the site of the old Pullen Hotel. The hotel, once the most luxurious place in Skagway during the tourist heydays of the 1920s, is marked now only by the two story stack of cobbles that made up the magnificent fireplace and chimney of the lounge.

The Mission about 1902.
One of the current darlings of Skagway is Sarah Palin. Her family lived in Skagway during Sarah's primary school years and she is a frequent, and popular, visitor in town. One of the town's business men smelled opportunity and opened the Sarah Palin Store. It carries a remarkable array of "tasteful" Palinesque material from her Going Rogue to fridge magnets and coffee mugs.

On my way home I experience another of nature's forces at the summit of the pass. The avalanche happened earlier in the winter but as the snow melts back the devastation and power is obvious.

1 comment:

  1. That looks like a great job for you! One of the interesting things about that avalanche at Km 38.5 is that there hasn’t been an avalanche at this location in many years – some of the trees that were snapped off are probably over 100 years old. I was down to Skagway on March 3rd and it looked like the avalanche was only a day or 2 old at that time.