PAGE 2 – SKAGWAY TO FAIRBANKS.
(PAGE 1 covers the cruise portion.)

We met our great tour director, Mark. The next morning he got us used to the "bags out early" routine, and we boarded the White Pass and Yukon Railway for the ride over the pass. The train is a lot of fun and the scenery is spectacular in a few places.

The train goes over the pass and continues on to Bennet Lake, a very scenic spot where we stopped for a good lunch of stew and biscuits. Then we continued to Carcross and disembarked the train.

Here we met Chase, who would be our terrific driver for the next two days. We boarded our bus and headed for Whitehorse. The Holland America Explorer buses are wonderful. Each bus has its own artwork. We started out on the "bear" bus. The first stop was the beautiful Emerald Lake nestled among the mountains. Then we set off through the Yukon to the town of Whitehorse, full of Gold Rush history. The Frantic Follies show at our hotel was a lot of fun. And, oh yes, they enacted a Robert W. Service poem – The Ice Worm Cocktail.


The next morning we continued by bus through willow and spruce forests.

"The Northern Lights have seen strange sights,
but the strangest they ever did see
Was that night on the Marge of Lake LaBarge
that I cremated Sam McGee."

We passed by Lake LaBarge in a drizzling rain.

At our rest stop we had some of the biggest cinnamon rolls ever seen. Even the two of us could not finish one!

In the small settlement of Minto we stopped for a buffet lunch and some pictures. Then we went on into Dawson City, another place full of lots of Gold Rush history. Our driver/guide entertained us all along the way with history, geology, and jokes! The bus was equipped with DVD players so we saw a video of Gold Rush history to while away the long travel times.

The next morning was a day at leisure, so we slept late and then had a nice stroll around Dawson City and a miner's breakfast. In the afternoon Renée got the chance to drive a jeep into the gold fields!

Via two way radio, our guide gave us lots of information about the area. We stopped to see several different actual and historical mining operations. He showed us the stakes that mark out the claim, small sluice operations, the marks of hydraulic mining in entire cliff sides shot away, and the final stop was an operating gold dredge where we could see the massive scale of modern gold mining.

Then Renée set off on a float trip down the river. They bundled up warm and floated through a lot of beautiful scenery under gray skies.

The next day we boarded the Yukon Queen catamaran for a cruise down the Yukon River. This was a beautiful trip, although the weather continued gray and cloudy. A sandwich lunch was served on board as we traveled down the river. I was very confident of the safety of the ship since the Captain let me supervise his work …

The cruise ended at the small town of Eagle, Alaska. US Immigration came on board and cleared us as we disembarked. The town of Eagle is very welcoming of tourists. Local school young people serve as the docents for the tour of the museum and courthouse. There is even an Eagle Mall, local crafts under tents set up outside the museum!

In Eagle we met our new bus driver and began the drive to Tok, Alaska Next morning we continued on into Fairbanks. It is a long drive, through beautiful scenery. There are mountains, spruce and willow forests, braided rivers, fireweed and other wild flowers as we travel. Nearing Fairbanks, we passed by the Alaska Pipeline, very impressive by its sheer size.

Arriving in Fairbanks, we had a chance to tour Gold Dredge No. 8. A hearty Miner's Stew lunch was served, and then we visited the Dredge. After that we went a short distance away to the El Dorado Gold Mine. We boarded the mine train for the tour.

We got to meet the miners, Dexter and "Yukon Yonda", and watch a demonstration as they opened the massive sluice gates and let the water travel over the riffles. It was a truly impressive operation!

The highlight was getting our own "poke" of concentrated ore, and being able to pan out our own gold dust!

That night we had scheduled a special excursion, "A Taste of Fairbanks" from Chez World. We went to a sparkling demonstration kitchen, where we met Chef Ryan Rockett.

We worked our way through a demonstration menu of wonderful celery soup with shitaake mushrooms, reindeer sausage and onions en papilotte, salad with corn fritters, mushroom risotto and glazed salmon, and strawberries with rhubarb sabayon. It was a lot of fun to help make, and a lot of fun to eat as we went! Then we settled into the hotel in Fairbanks, ready for our usual early "bags out" and off to Denali!

We like to discuss our travels. Email us at thehalls@bully4.us

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with our cruise tour review covering Fairbanks to Denali.