It is often said that it’s the journey that’s more important, not the destination. In this case I would say both were amazing. While stopping in Skagway, Alaska (see post: A Day in Skagway) we chose to rent a car to tour the sights. It was more economical than taking a tour and offered more freedom to see the sights we wanted to take in. From Skagway you take the Klondike Highway out of towards Canada and let the amazing views take over from there. Ultimately our destination was Carcross, Yukon with the option to continue a little further into the Yukon if time permitted
The day started shortly after arriving in port on our cruise ship with walking to the car rental shop and picking up our car. It was a dreary morning with fog covering the mountainous landscape and providing a slight mist from time to time. Weather is certainly a consideration in this part of Alaska which receives on average 27 inches of precipitation a year and cooler temperatures combined with drastic changes in elevation. As we began our climb into the mountains the fog became so heavy it was difficult to see much of the road and certainly the views were drastically reduced. Eventually our route brought us to the Canadian border and a stop at the customs facility. Remember to bring your passport if you decide to take this potentially scenic drive.
At this point we pulled off the road to get out of the car for a few minutes and discussed whether we should continue on or not. If all we’re going to see is clouds covering the mountains then maybe our time would be better spent returning to Skagway and exploring some of the sights in that area. I’m sure from the top photograph you can tell what we decided. Our decision was to continue on a little further and see how things looked. The clouds and fog were a little lighter here than they were when we started, let’s see if it gets any better down the road. What did we have to lose? Very soon after getting back into our cars and continue down the Klondike Highway the skies cleared opening up the magnificent views.
Warning: if you decide to go for a drive into the Yukon from Skagway, pay attention to the road. There are so many distractions from the landscape that you could forget you’re driving for a moment. If you’ve never seen an area like this before, be prepared for your senses to be overwhelmed with the beauty. For the next several miles to Carcross, all you could hear in the car was “look at that over there!” and “did you see that?”. But the most frequent sound was “WOW!”. Every corner in the road brought a different view that was just as beautiful as the last just begging for another picture. That’s if you can remember you have a camera and decide to give up a moment of these views to look through it. Unfortunately most of the photos are disappointing compared to the actual views which is fairly typical of most landscape pictures. Still, you have to try. A majestic mountain over there, a waterfall right near the road, or a lake that continues for miles.
Soon we came upon our destination and stopped for lunch in Carcross. At first there was little conversation as we were all still taking in the surroundings here in the Yukon. As we approached Carcross there were signs for the Alaska Highway. One of my friends had taken a trip through this area many years earlier and described the amazing sights. I couldn’t imagine them very well at that time but now here I was in the same area seeing some of the same sights. For a short time I contemplated foregoing the rest of the cruise and just continuing on to take in more of this area. The consequences were greater than I was willing to take on so back to the days plan it was.
After lunch it was decided there was enough time to continue on towards Emerald Lake just 8 miles up the road before turning around and heading back to Skagway. This lake is not very large but it is extremely colorful and doesn’t look like it belongs among the mountains. It belongs in a tropical paradise somewhere else. There was a larger desire to climb down to the lake and just test the water with a toe to confirm it’s too cold to jump into. Taking a glance at the time told us it was time to head back to the cruise ship without needing to rush giving us more time to look over these vast vistas on the way back.
Our return trip came with a few stops along the way to take in a view or two and then came the U.S. Customs stop requiring another view of your passport. As we continued on down the mountain we encountered the views missed earlier that day because of the heavy fog hiding them. Some of the areas were probably ok to miss as the drop a short distance from the road was steep and endless unless you got caught up in a grove of tree tops keeping you from a terminal drop to the bottom. Most of the missed views were a continuation of the incredible sights we’d been fortunate to see much of the day.
If ever there was a place to help relieve the stresses of the world, this is definitely one of them. Although I don’t think the winter time would be as enjoyable simply because of the driving on snowy roads. I’m sure the views, however, would be just as magnificent if not even better.