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Diamond 6/12 Review (Part 6 of 11)

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[b]Tuesday, June 15: Skagway[/b]

Every morning on this trip so far the combination of the early sunrise and the time change has had me awake early. When I opened my eyes today the first thing I saw was the greenery on the hillside next to the pier where we were docked! We had plenty of time before we were to meet our tour, so we had a leisurely breakfast, walked off of the ship (no line!) and took a walk into Skagway. By the time we made it to the main street we figured we'd better head back, so we walked the 10 or so minutes back to the pier, stopping to take pictures, and watching all of the people coming and going near the ship.

Before long, Jenna and Jason of Skagway Hike & Float showed up and escorted us back to their van, which they had to park some distance from the ship since they didn't do tours booked directly from the ship. We stopped in town to pick up three other couples, and then we headed out of town towards the Dyea National Park, passing the Taiya River along the way. Jason was very knowledgeable of the history of the area, both human and geological, and he told us a lot of interesting facts along the way as well as answering our questions. He is a native of New Orleans that now lives year-round in Skagway, so he naturally fielded a good number of questions about life in Skagway after tourist season.

After a time we arrived at a trailhead along the Chilkoot Trail and began our 1.8 mile trek through an Alaskan rain forest. Jason took pity on those among us that don't hike every day by making frequent stops, so that he could �educate� us, particularly during the first part of the hike, which was largely uphill.

Once we reached the summit, and it looked like we could all make it to the river under our own power, Jenna turned back so that she could pick up another tour. It was very interesting hearing about the history of the trail, from it's days as a trading route for the native tribes to when the prospectors took it over as a passage to the Yukon, to it's present status as a natural park.

The hike ended at the Taiya River, where we all boarded a raft to float (Jason did any of the necessary paddling to keep us off of tree branches and the like) down the river. Since the water had been in a glacier only hours before, and by Jason's reckoning was roughly 36 degrees we all decided to stay in the raft. I was still mesmerized by the scenery (good thing I have a digital camera - no telling how much film I would have gone through) and, all too soon we had completed the three mile float portion of the trip. After helping Jason load the raft back on the trailer we were all treated to a wonderful salmon snack while he took everyone back to where they were going next.

He dropped us off in front of PB Cruisers, where we had a rental car reserved. PB�s is some kind of general/convenience store that also rents cars. We had a choice between a 1994 Buick LeSabre and a 1993 Dodge LeBaron. I asked for the Buick, but the damage sheet said that the driver side window wasn�t operational, so we took the Dodge.

While I was getting the car (interrupted a number of times by people buying gum, soda, and moose poop souvenirs) Leslie went to the deli next door to buy sandwiches for lunch. It turns out that they were out of lunch meat so we decided to wait and see if we could find something on the road.

We drove the Klondike Highway out of Skagway, past Dyea, and on toward the White Mountain Pass. A fellow that posts on the Cruise Critic Alaska forum that lives in the area (his screen name is Yukon) drove the length of this highway and posted on his website a printable marker by marker description of all of the scenic places along the way ([url]http://www.explorenorth.com/library/roads/sklondike-photos1.html[/url]). This was an invaluable guide, and I urge anyone that would like to make this drive to print out a copy for yourself ahead of time.

As we left Skagway the weather was cool, brisk, and cloudy, as it had been since Monday morning. This did little to diminish the awesome beauty of the surrounding countryside.
We found ourselves pulling off at the roadside overlooks every few miles. And shortly after we crossed the border into Canada we saw something else amazing � some patches of blue sky with the sun shining through! Words can not do the beauty of this drive justice, and pictures are only slightly better � do yourself a favor and go see it!

By the time we got to Carcross we were getting pretty hungry � Jason�s salmon snacks were wearing thin. Carcross is a quaint, beautiful little town; make that tiny town, which has the feel of days gone by. We stopped at the general store and were offered fresh coffee and muffins. Looking for something more substantial we found a little eatery, Koolseen�s, behind the railway station. We each had a sandwich, I had soup with mine (salmon of course!), Leslie a salad with hers, and we each had hot chocolate. The bill was around $9.00 US (certainly less than the $7.00 wraps at the meatless deli!). While we ate we also had some interaction with what must be one of the more colorful local characters! Once we ate, we got back on the highway where we were only a few minutes from Emerald Lake, which was as far as we were going to go.

The drive back was no less scenic, and although we�d been by it all just a few hours earlier, seeing everything from a different angle made it all seem new again. Once we �cleared� customs back in the US we were disappointed to see our old friends the clouds had hung around � we were hoping that we�d seen the last of them, but we still were having a great time! We filled up the tank at the only gas station in Skagway, and then returned the car. We planned on using the hour or so that we had left to do a little shopping in the town, but most of the businesses were already closed � curious since there were still ships in port.

After we boarded the ship we just had time to get cleaned up before dinner, which was in the Santa Fe dining room tonight. The waiters we had here were the only ones we had all week that acted like they were in too much of a hurry to be sociable. Although, to give them the benefit of the doubt, it may have been at least in part due to the fact that we were eating late, and they were probably anxious to be done for the night. I had the beef fajitas which were pretty good. Leslie isn�t much of a Mexican food fan so she ordered off of the traditional menu which as luck would have it had probably her least favorite selections of the whole week.

We took a quick look around in some of the clubs, none of them were quite what we were in the mood for right then, so Leslie went to play some blackjack and I went to the room and went to bed!

(End of Part 6)

Link to Part 7: [url]http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=48302[/url]

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