Last stop before Glacier National Park and our disembarking in Seward was Skagway. A small, quaint town just 23 blocks long and 4 blocks wide. The National Park Service rescued 15 buildings here and its a real piece of history. This was where the gold rush folks started their trek up into the Yukon. The Chilkoot Trail is just a few miles out from Skagway. It is called the worlds longest museum. Also called the Golden Stairs, the gold- seekers had to make it over the ‘meanest 33 miles in history’. More than 30,000 men, women, and children made it over this trail carrying enough supplies to last them a whole year between 1897-99. They would have to make several trips to carry it all over. The winters were brutal and some lost their lives. Click the link above to read more about it and see pictures. We did not go to the trail! But you could imagine all the people pouring into Skagway getting ready for the trek to their fortunes.
Eventually the White Pass Yukon Railway took its place and became the main means to access the Yukon. There are several of the trains on display in Skagway. They have big rotating blades on the front to dig through the snow! I can’t imagine living in that time!
Here’s some photos I took of our day in Skagway…
Spur of the moment we decided to do a whale watching tour once we got into Juneau. Bossman said no before, as these extra tours cost quite a bit. But the fella offered us the bus ride to Mendenhall and two tickets for the tram ride I posted about earlier. The tram alone would have been $60 for the two of us so that convinced him 🙂
We saw several whales. All alone, not in a group like you see in all the touristy pictures. The naturalist with us said that is rare to see, of course it is! They are basically solitary animals and only rarely do they do that group feeding. We did see three whales do the fluke thing with their tales as they dove deep. That was very cool! Mostly we just saw the hump of their backs briefly. I didn’t get a pic of the tail thing. It happens so fast and I don’t have a fancy camera. I decided to not even try and just enjoy myself instead of missing all the action trying to get pictures of it.
It was a beautiful day and I love being on the water anyway. The scenery was spectacular of course and we saw a glacier off in the distance. There were eagles sitting a top the posts on the docks. Here’s a shot of an adult and an immature one…
This was not our boat I just thought it made a nice shot.
Look close, you’ll see our first whale…
‘Mendenhall is one of 38 large glaciers that flow from the 1,500 square mile expanse of snow and ice known as the Juneau Icefield. As the glacial ice accumulates seasonally, gravity pulls the ice down valleys. Slowly and steadily the glacier scouts bedrock, grinding everything to powder or transporting huge boulders on its 13 mile path to Mendenhall Lake.’ *Forest Service pamphlet
We had a limited time here as we had a whale watching trip to catch so we didn’t get to do any of the wonderful trails that were there to hike. 😦 It is a lovely place. We took a bus ride there and on the way we saw bald eagles sitting on light poles all along the road! There is a waterfall off to the right of the glacier and a nice walk to it, but we didn’t have time! It would have been nice to have two days in Juneau. Mendenhall Lake is gorgeous. Chilly and clear. A man was wading in it though and said it wasn’t too bad. This was our first look at a glacier and they are spectacular. Later on we got to cruise into Glacier National Park and got up close and personal with a couple of them, but thats for another post!
A glacier bear in the visitor center…
A ground cone flower, also called broomrape. The bears eat these…
One more post on Juneau, the whale watching trip!
We had a lovely walk around downtown Juneau. Lovely old buildings! So much history here I’m sure. One of the first things we came across was a large raven on a roof top, yelling his lungs off. My first time seeing a raven! We don’t have them in the northeast. I love these birds! I’m a mystery buff remember ;).
An old Ben Franklin store!
The library, its on the top right of this elegant parking garage…
The old Alaskan Hotel built in 1913, on the register of National Historical Places.
This is the corner of Front and Franklin. This intersection is the heart of downtown Juneau. On the site where the Triangle Building stands now, the first prospectors camped through the winter of 1880-81, establishing local government and planning the Juneau Town site. The first businesses clustered at the spot, initially called Miner’s Cove, quickly spread out along Front and Franklin Streets. Nearly all of the buildings near the corner are historic ones, built before 1915.
The Red Dog Saloon is a big tourist draw here. We went in but there wasn’t a seat in the house so we didn’t get to eat or drink there. Full off ambiance! It was founded during the mining era and has been in operation for decades. The Alaskan Legislature has recognized it as the longest operating Juneau tourist attraction. Lots of memorabilia inside! Including a gun Wyatt Earp supposedly checked on a visit and left without. Hmm.. I find it hard to believe he would forget his gun!
I tried to get a video of the inside but it didn’t turn out very good, but I found a nice one on AlaskaGranny’s Youtube channel…
Mendenhall Glacier next!
We had a really full day in Juneau, and one of the nicest weather-wise too. I’m going to break it up into 3 or 4 parts. The first thing we did was take the tram up to the top of the mountain…
The view was unbelievable up there! There was a lovely trail to follow.
Our first experience with bald eagles! They are flying around everywhere there! One guide on the whale watch told us In Alaska they are like pigeons in NYC.
This is Lady Baltimore. She was found injured on Juneau’s Douglas Island in May 2006. She had been shot in her beak and the wrist of her right wing. The impact of the bullet through her beak may have been the cause of detached retina, leaving her completely blind in her left eye. With only one working eye, she doesn’t have depth perception. Because of this, she wouldn’t be able to hunt for her own food in the wild. The wing injury prevents her from achieving full flight. She was not a candidate for release back into the wild. The poacher was never caught. They have her on display at the Juneau Raptor Center to draw attention to their cause and let us see this majestic bird up close and personal. I was amazed at her size really. I wasn’t impressed with the enclosure they had her in though! She is at least 16 years old, wingspan of 6.5 ft. and her weight is 10.5 lbs. favorite food is salmon heads, yuk!
This is me sitting on these very unusual trees in the Montane Forest at the top…
On a sign on the trail…
Small mountain hemlocks interspersed with Sitka Spruce (the state tree). Above this point, the closed-canopy montane forest give way to the more open subalpine zone. The curvature of the trunks of these hemlocks is called snowcrook. On steep slopes, snowcrook is caused by the gradual creep of snow downhill, bending the trees as saplings and causing them to develop a down-slope curve. Here, where the slope is not so steep, snowcrook may be caused by snow blown from upslope by strong prevailing winds. These trunks also show evidence that they may have originated through layering, which is a process in which a tree’s prostrate branches root and send up new trunks. In this way, a few trees may become a forest of clones. If this is true, here, this grove of hemlocks may consist of not hundreds of individuals but only a handful that have grown here for hundreds of years.
There were several trails up here and we could have spent lots of time roaming around. We stood watching eagles and we had to get moving as we had a whale watching cruise and Mendenhall Glacier to see still!
Click on the pics to enlarge them.
One fun historical place to see if you go to Ketchikan is the famous brothel, Dolly’s House. Thelma Copeland was born in 1888 in Idaho, left home as a teenager and eventually worked her way up to Ketchikan. Having learned early on that she could make more money by serving up more than just food to men in a restaurant she put her ‘people’ skills to good use and set up a thriving business on Creek Street. Thelma started working in The Star, the largest brothel in Ketchikan. She changed her name to Dolly Arthurs. After one and half years she bought a house and set up her own business. It operated from 1919 to 1954 with Dolly being the only girl working there.
In 1919 there were roughly 100 men to every woman in Alaska and the average salary was $1 a day. Dolly bought her house in 1919 for $800 and paid it off in two weeks! She was a busy girl! In 1917 Prohibition came to Alaska and Dolly didn’t like moonshine so she brought in bootleg Canadian whisky and kept one bottle and one glass in a little hide-a-way built into the wall. It was easier to dispose of in the creek if she was raided that way. She charged 50 cent for a half shot and $200 for a full. The charge for three minutes with Dolly was $3 and it was often said of her establishment that you could ‘get hammered and nailed’ at Dolly’s for $5.
Creek Street is the infamous ‘Red Light District’ in Ketchikan. It operated from 1903 to 1954. It’s origins lie in a 1903 city ordinance banishing brothels from the city center to the ‘Indian Town’ area on the east side of the creek and it operated until the brothels were outlawed and shut down in 1954. Numerous houses of prostitution sprang up on this difficult terrain, supported by wooden stilts. Winding behind the houses into the hills behind the houses is Married Man’s Way, a trail used by patrons of the brothels to escape raids. Creek Street is now a tourist shopping district and the only brothel is Dolly’s House, left as it was and now a museum. Creek Street was put on the National Register of Historical Places in 2014.
You can see the house is not in very good shape! The siding is missing outside where that sign is hanging. The owners don’t seem to take very good care of it. The guide said it was all original, everything just like Dolly left it when she moved out and into a nursing home. They have only replaced some wall paper in one area because it was coming off the wall so bad. It was $10 a person to go in and you can roam around all you want and take any pictures or video you want. There was a guide at the front room to tell us a little history of the place and she was dressed in costume. It probably wasn’t worth the $10 dollars, but it was fun and I love ‘going back in time’!
One of the ‘big’ selling points in the tour is the shower curtain in the upstairs bathroom. The flowers on the top of the curtain are made from silk condoms! The guide told a story about a Frenchman who developed them, named Joseph Condom, thus the name condoms. That is a lot of hooey! You can read the quite interesting history of the condom HERE if you want. No telling what other info the guides told us was really true or made up! Check out the cool, round toilet tank!
Dolly plied here trade until she was 72! Can you believe that! She did end up lonely in a nursing home, she died just two months before her 88th birthday.
You can check out the ‘men’s restroom’ in this short video I found on Youtube and see her 1910 model vibrator and other paraphernalia in a case in her bedroom on this video by the same man.
I’ll leave you with a lunchtime in Ketchikan shot…