Friday morning found us pulling into Skagway, Alaska. This Alaskan port gave us another opportunity to bust out a new custom door magnet (pictured here). This one is particularly fun because all the components except the lettering and the background are 3-dimensional (they're cut-outs for scrap-booking) that blend the great outdoors and Disney as themes-----so we thought they made for a great Disney Alaskan magnet!
So, we knew that our good luck with the weather couldn't last forever. We've had some blustery days and some rough seas and some gray skies....but not very many that were really kinda nasty. Unfortunately, Skagway welcomed us with rain in the morning and it was not very warm either. THIS is the Alaska weather that everyone had warned us about. Still, Jason and I weren't freezing (we're from Upstate NY after all and it was snowing the week we LEFT for this vacation----and rumor has it that it snowed in Syracuse while we were here at least once, too!).....but even still----gray skies, rain and wind are never a welcome sight on vacation!
Even still, however, we soldiered on.....
.... and we got off the ship to head into town before our shore excursion which had a meeting time later in the afternoon. Just after lunch. In the pic below (again taken with Jason's fancy phone that lets us splice ourselves into shots together LOL) you can see how close to the dock the ship is and also the kind of dreary weather:
The town of Skagway is small. I mean VERY small---like one street. I often joke and tell people that the town where I graduated from high school (Limestone, Maine) was kind of like the small town in that TV show from the 90's: "Northern Exposure." Really, however, THIS town is more like that!
That's a picture of the town----and yes I do mean pretty much the ENTIRE TOWN! This town all fits onto one street (at least the businesses do) surrounded by a few residential streets. This town has 800 year-round residents. During the summer, when cruise ships are landing here, there are a couple thousand residents---many of whom actually camp out here in rented trailers or tents for the entire summer. The town has one bank, one post office and one grocery store (where a gallon of milk costs almost $6!!!!). There is no hospital. There is a health center that employs a couple of RN's and one Nurse Practicioner. A doctor and a dentist come ONCE A MONTH and see patients and sometimes the medical staff on the ships in port agree to see local patients if they can. If you have a medical emergency you have to be taken out by boat or helicopter or you can drive to the nearest "city" which I believe they said is over 2 hours away---and not an easy drive!! (That is also where the nearest movie theater, fast food restaurant, and any signs of "city life" can really be found.) There is one school in the town----for all 12 grades. There is one teacher for each grade and some grades are very small. The current class of 7th graders in this school apparently is ONE child!! (Although the girls basketball team from Skagway was the state champions the last two years and because none of them were seniors this year they hope to win again next season). This place IS small town living.....but it's also very endearing. They've worked to keep an old world charm....old store-fronts, wooden side walks...simpler life. Skagway was famous in the days of the gold rush in Alaska for really two things apparently: the train(s) and the brothels. There was even an old brothel you could tour in town (but we didn't). We did take pictures of some of the trains there, though:
There were a couple excursions you could take that rode the train up through the mountains, too----but Jason and I had a different experience planned!
Before it was time to meet up with our excursion group, however, we decided to walk up through town and do a little shopping. We needed to get a magnet or two for our collection----but we also decided we better get something to keep us dry in case it kept raining----or worse, started raining harder---because our day was almost entirely outdoors! We did find nice magnets, as we often do, but we also found two very nice rain-resistant windbreakers that were not that expensive at all....and they were even embroidered to show they came from Alaska so we figured they were a nice score as a souvenir of this trip, as well:
After walking about a bit more, we headed back to the ship, grabbed a small quick lunch and then met up with our tour group. We were thrilled to see that our tour had a total of EIGHT people on it! (Smaller tours are always nicer because you feel less like cattle and more like a tour group----one of the reasons we really loved the Adventures by Disney experience we had back in September in Europe!) Our tour was to go horseback riding (remember: me & animals!!) through the Chilkoot Pass area (a very treacherous path that many gold prospectors used to get through/over the mountains from Skagway before there was a rail system). We met our bus driver off the boat and she was very sweet and drove us up to the horse ranch where we would pick up our horses and shared lots of local trivia (most of which I mentioned above----like how much milk costs and how many people there are and the situation with the school, etc.). The Chilkoot pass and the horse ranch were a ways out of the town in an area that USED to be a town but was now just a forest-----and the road we drove on most of the way was pretty rustic, as well.....our driver made a point of pointing out a street sign for part of our route....and the road was literally called "Ragged Ass Road"!! LOL Despite the bumpy ride into the middle of nowhere, the views were, as with much of the rest of Alaska, really great. We could see the tidal flats of another fjord/inlet and there were seals and lots of sea birds swimming there. We also saw a bald eagle and a golden eagle flying overhead. It's kind of incredible that back home seeing a bald eagle is something extraordinary...but up here it's kind of "ho-hum." In fact, we learned that just about half of the bald eagles on the planet reside in Alaska!! They're quite stunning birds to see just flying around the way you'd see sea gulls or sparrows in the lower 48!
Anyhow....we arrived at our ranch and met our horses. Mine was named Vic and Jason's was named Tuff. We got a quick briefing about how to ride our horses and then we mounted and we were off on a nice horseback ride through the woods and out onto the tidal flats. The entire ride was about 2 hours (which more than enough for our bums and thighs----which are decidedly NOT used to horseback riding...even if we did think it was great fun!! LOL). Here are some pictures of us with our horses and some of the scenery we saw while we were out on our ride:
Remarkably, the weather held up pretty well for us. It never actually poured down and we never got much more than a misting of moisture---although we were still glad we invested in the windbreakers since they did keep us warm and dry and made nice souvenirs. We really couldn't complain much about the weather at all because it wasn't really cold at all and we didn't even need scarves or hats or gloves (I just put mine on at the very end of our adventure because my fingers were JUST STARTING to feel a nip as the evening approached). Riding the horses was very fun and we're glad we did it because it's something we never do back home...so it was a treat....and our guides were super nice, as well. After we were done with the horses, they took us back to the ship, stopping to look at more seals on the way.
Once back on the boat, we got a bite to eat (we hadn't had much of a lunch) and decided we had a few hours to kill because we weren't going to a show this evening (it was some cabaret act----a singer or juggler or something like that...but definitely something we had no interest in). So----Jason had the lovely idea that we should get in the hot tub up on deck!! At first I balked----I've been making fun of the nut-jobs who've been swimming (the ship's been keeping the pools right around 89 degrees farenheit) and hanging in the hot tubs....but Jason reminded me that back home people get into their hot tubs in the snow...so I relented. Here I am (and believe me I'm not only horrified that I got in a hot tub....and that I did so in 45 degree weather...but that I allowed this photo of me without a shirt to be taken!! LMAO!!)
After hour hot-tub adventure, we got dressed for dinner----Pocohantas ties this evening:
...and headed to our meal. Before dinner, though, we were able to catch a picture with Mickey in his special Alaska garb:
(Now tell the truth....isn't that outfit just a LITTLE bit "I Know What You Did Last Summer"?!? LOL)
Dinner was fun as we caught up with all our tablemates about how their days had been (most of them had done some variation on the excursions on the trains) and then we joined Rob & Larry in the theater after dinner to see the movie "I Am Number Four." While the night prior I had been TOTALLY unimpressed with "Tron Legacy" I actually really enjoyed this film tonight....and I kind of hope there's another in the series!
The movie got out kind of late---around midnight---so we went back to our room to find our towel animal....
...and then went to bed.
Before I close this blog, however, I wanted to share this picture:
This picture was taken from our room's balcony------at 10pm! The sun is still kind of out. The days here are SOOOOO LOOOOOOONG! The sun is up before 6am and it doesn't go down fully until well after 10pm!! Very cool!