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Saturday, June 12, 2010

ALASKA, SKAGWAY, AND THE KLONDIKE pt.2


Our train ride on the White Pass Railroad takes us up to White Pass--the beginning of the continuing trek to the Klondike; we're only miles from Skagway, Alaska, and the gold sought by the miners of '98 (that's 18) is somewhere more than 550 miles from Skagway. Our adventure is different, and when we reach White Pass, we board a coach to travel the Klondike Highway—average snowfall—17 feet. We ride to the William Morris Suspension Bridge, named after the first steamboat captain to come to Skagway.


William Morris Suspension Bridge, Alaska

This bridge is 180 feet across and 80 feet down. This area suffers two or three minor earthquakes a day. Honestly, I missed them. Honestly, that made me happy. Want a hint about the terrain surrounding the bridge? Mountain goats here have five cloves in their hooves that move independently. Even goats need special equipment. Yes, I had a tough time letting go of the side of the bridge.
William Morris Suspension Bridge, AlaskaWilliam Morris Suspension Bridge, Alaska

There is also a museum about the plants and animals in the area, some information on the native people, and a lot of souvenirs. That’s where I picked up my book of Robert Service’s poetry about Alaska. Also I took some photos of some marvelously clever and very Alaskan t-shirts which I will share at a later post.

The road we now ride will take us back to Skagway, and we appreciate how far things have come. On the other hand, we drive over a bridge that is only anchored on one side. That accounts for the earthquakes. Before they decided to do it this way, the anchored bridge was often destroyed during the quakes.
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This road is so steep that there are truck escape routes cut in all along the way down. We pass Pitchfork Falls which supplies hydroelectric power for all of Skagway.


Along the way, we seem to pique the interest of a bear, and that was a terrific moment.
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We stop for lunch at a phenomenal spot—Jewell Gardens Restaurant and Tea Room. Here we are in one of the most challenging environments the world has to offer, and Jewell Gardens began life as a show garden! Yes, because of the 120 day growing season and the long 18 hours of sunlight, one can do wondrous things with the right plants, and the people here do. Even the sweetener for the teas, stiviet, is grown here. The garden furnishes the restaurant with delicious fresh vegetables that the talented and creative chef uses imaginatively.
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The building in which we dine is used as the greenhouse when the growing season begins, and as the weather warms sufficiently for plants to be moved outdoors, the restaurant opens to the delight of the tourists.

We dine on focaccia bread, a lovely vegetable soup, fresh, crisp salad, a choice of salmon or mushroom quiche (we each chose one), and for dessert, a biscuit with strawberry/crabapple topping and whipped cream accompanied by coffee or tea. Divine.
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We also take a tour of the garden, including the delightful miniature railroad. The vegetables and flowers are huge. The record size cabbage is 105 pounds; the biggest at Jewell Gardens is 46. As we saw in Anchorage, Alaskans seize every moment of sun and make the most of it. Jewell Gardens really is a rare gem.

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