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Cruising Alaska:
Coral Princess (Northbound, Vancouver - Whittier)

by Murray Lundberg

    Days 1 & 2: Vancouver & at Sea
    Day 3: Ketchikan
    Day 4: Juneau
    Day 5 : Skagway
    Day 6: Glacier Bay
    Day 7: Prince William Sound & College Fjord
    Day 8: Whittier

Click on each photo to greatly enlarge it.

Wednesday, June 16: I had a ball today. I think that everyone should take the time to see their home region from the eyes of a visitor every once in a while. That's precisely what I did - my god this country is incredible! I took 284 photos

This is the Davidson Glacier at 3:47am.

The peaks along Chilkoot Inlet from the Lido Deck.

The Rainbow Glacier. An aircraft provides the only really good view of this glacier - see this photo.

A small part of one of the many waterfalls along the route.

The captain said last night that it looked like we wouldn't need a tug to assist docking in Skagway, but with a 25-knot south wind blowing at an angle to our stern, the tug Brian T stood by just in case.

Approaching the Railroad Dock, where two strings of White Pass & Yukon Route railway (WP&YR) cars await. While you can book the train independently, by booking through the ship you get to board these cars that are pulled right up to the ship. While most people just take the 3½-hour Summit Excursion, though, there are much longer train/bus combinations that are worth looking at. They are available through the ships, independently, or through ShoreTrips.

Three of the oldest of Skagway's "ship signatures", from the 1920s. Vandals, taggers and insensitive painters have made an awful mess of the wall in recent years but some early gems can still be found.

The Alaska State ferry Malaspina loads, while the Norwegian Pearl's passengers explore Skagway for the day.

I had decided to do one good excursion on each of the 3 cruises I'm doing on the Coral Princess. For this trip the easy choice was Chilkoot Charters' 9-hour Carcross rail-bus combination. It'd been far too long since I'd been on the train (and I need some new photos for my RailsNorth Web site). At 7:30, Larry met me at the dock and shuttled me over to the train - within a few minutes we were on our way.

On the White Pass & Yukon Route railway - up, up we go!

One of the classic photo locations along the rail line - about to enter the first tunnel at Tunnel Mountain, Mile 16.0. From this point, the view to the rear can be very impressive, but clouds were hiding the tops of the Sawtooth Range peaks from us today.

I wonder how many more years the cantilever bridge at Mile 18.6 will be standing? When it was built in 1901 it was the tallest of its type in the world. Heavier loads on the railway caused a new line to be built around the bridge in 1969.

This short part of the train ride is what puts the WP&YR at the top of Alaska cruise must-dos, in my opinion. At Mile 19.3, just south of the summit, the rail line runs right beside the Trail of '98, where 112-year-old artifacts and even horse skulls can still be seen.

Dropping down to the Thompson River, just before reaching the Canada Customs stop at Fraser, British Columbia (which was very quick and simple).

An oil stove in each car keeps things cozy on chilly days.

Beaver Lake, British Columbia. On a warm day, the outside platforms can get busy, but that wasn't the case today. You need to be inside to hear the commentary - the bits I heard were excellent - but outside is where the best shooting is. A new friend from southern California who stayed outside with me said that he'd get the photos, his wife would get the information - that's a great travel partnership!

Train guide Peter Carr watches as we approach the Bennett station for our lunch stop.

The Bennett Eating House. I heard lots of comments about how good lunch was - thick beef stew, coleslaw, home made bread and apple pie, served "boarding house style" so you can eat as much as you want.

Parks Canada rangers used to conduct the tours of Bennett but now the train guides do it themselves. The fellow we had (whose name I never did catch) did an extremely good job of it. I didn't follow the tour group very far, instead taking my Calfornia friend to some good photo ops.

This beautifully crafted canoe was brought out of the train's baggage car, and a young German fellow began loading it with gear. He's paddling down the Yukon River system to the Bering Sea in it! I love an adventure, but to me, once you get past Eagle, Alaska, that trip is just week after week of relentless boredom.

Spring at Bennett.

In recent years this view of the Bennett church had become blocked by trees but about 2/3 of the trees were removed last year to lessen the danger of losing it to a forest fire, so this shot is now available again to those who know where to go (there's no trail to this spot).

The grave of North West Mounted Police (NWMP) Constable E. E. Pearson, who died at Bennett in 1898.

After about 2 hours at Bennett, we left for the final 2-hour leg to Carcross, running alongside Bennett Lake.

Almost home - ahead is my cabin from an angle I don't often see it. I lived there full-time, year-round for 7 years until 2007, but it's now just for recreation.

Larry was waiting for the train when it arrived and as soon as we were all ready, we headed back to Skagway. Along the way, photo stops are made as often as people care to make them.

There was a bit of road construction on the pass between Windy Arm and Tutshi Lake, but there were no delays.

One of these days one of these wobbly "cyclists" is going to get killed on this highway. Several cyclists have died riding down from Hawaii's Haleakala volcano, a ride that's similar is many ways to the White Pass. The photo doesn't show just how steep this road is, but it's no place to practice a skill you haven't tried in 20 years.

In 20 years of crossing this border frequently, I've only seen it like this twice before. One particular officer seemed to be the cause - about 20 minutes after we got in line 2 new officers came on duty and things started to move quickly.

The Chilkoot trip wasn't cheap ($239) but it's worth every penny, even for a local. Bennett and Bennett Lake can only be seen by train, and the figure-8 route that this trip takes you on offers an incredible variety of scenery. What a great day!

I was back in "my office" at 8:20 for sailaway, and spent almost an hour and a half there, talking about the area and specific sights along the way.

A Holland America (HAL) ship was leaving Haines as we sailed by at 10:15pm (it can be seen in the mountain shadow at the lower left).

To Day 6: Glacier Bay