Skagway, Alaska

The next stop on our cruise a couple of years ago was Skagway, Alaska. Skagway has a bit of a shady past as it was the most direct entry to the potential gold fields of the Klondike gold rush that spurred from the discovery of gold in Canada’s Yukon Territory in 1896. Because of the influx of prospectors, the population of Skagway boomed. Some of the town residents began offering goods and services to the prospectors often at highly inflated rates. This led to a mostly lawless town, overrun with fighting, prostitution, and excessive drinking.
Enough of the brief history lesson, we had just as much fun while visiting. After walking around the town a bit, we headed off for Musher’s Camp. The ride there took us along the waterfront of Dyea which during the Klondike gold rush used to be a town, but is now largely abandoned. The forest has almost completely grown back over where streets and buildings used to be.

When we arrived at camp, we were assigned a custom made dogsled which was kind of like a golf cart with no motor or steering wheel and a musher. Musher’s camp is where the dogs train for the Iditarod in the off-season and is comprised of dirt/mud trails. Our musher explained how the dogs learn from one another during training and he demonstrated how they comprehend commands. The best example was when we were approaching a fork in the trail. On our first pass, the musher gave the command to veer to the left, and we gently did, bypassing the fork.  On the second pass, however, he told the team to take the turn left. It was pretty impressive to experience the dogs doing their work. And it’s obvious their handlers are crazy about them and take great care of them.

At the end of the ride we got to go back down to the camp for hot cocoa and to meet the puppies. I could have stayed there all day! They were so cute!

It was hard to leave, but we had Ghosts and Goodtime Girls to get to next. Hubby had a LOT of fun bragging beforehand that his wife was taking him to a brothel! At the starting point, we were assigned a “working girl”. She gave us a tour of the town of Skagway pointing out the notorious areas for prostitution and various businesses back in the gold rush days.

Along the way we were given quite the image and education of how rough life was for the prospectors, the working girls, and others associated back then. We also toured the brothel and Red Onion Saloon seeing where the girls lived, slept, and conducted business.

At the end of the tour, we got to hang out at the saloon and enjoyed a couple of beers while waiting for our ride back to our cruise ship. We felt we had earned it. After all, it had been a long day of puppies and Gold Rush education that we didn’t learn in school!


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