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Not so live blog - Radiance of the Seas Alaska Southbound 8/31/18

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Now after 1pm it was time to head to lunch.  The tram had a 20 minute wait to return down.  During the wait we were entertained by a soaring Eagle circling the area.  It was amazing to watch.

With the water drops dried the view was spectacular.

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At 1:15pm the line was very long.  It snaked around inside the tram station and then outside to this area.  It had to be at least 90 minutes from here. 

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I suggest you go early, even if you need to wait for some clouds to clear.  That is typically around 11am in September I was told.  No doubt Explorer's 12:30pm arrival contributed to the crowds.

There is a trail you can take from the bottom to the tramway station.   That will save you the $34 but research it and understand what you are getting into if you plan to go up this way.

 With the ship right there I headed directly to the Windjammer.

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Juneau - Mendenhall Glacier

With an 8:30pm departure there was lots of day left to keep exploring.  I had visited Mendenhall Glacier by helicopter and on a tour bus as part of a tour.  I didn't like the short times and must-follow-the-leader tour bus approach.  

I checked Lyft,.  Ride-sharing services are new to Alaska within the last 12 months.  They didn't work in Anchorage in June 2017.  Uber isn't active in Juneau yet ( it was in Anchorage).

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For a solo traveler, $29 each way doesn't make a lot of sense compared to the local shuttle called the Glacier express or the "Blue Bus".  It is $45 round trip and that includes the park fee.  I walked up to the line of excursion kiosks on the pier and paid by credit card.  A bus, in the parking lot on the other side of the tram station was just about to leave.

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It's a short ride through town, the Lyft app above shows the route.  It takes about 25 minutes and the driver acts as a guide and provides color commentary along the way.

The bus parking lot is a 4 minute walk from the visitors center.  In this map you can see it as a U shaped area on the left of the road.

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At the end of the shuttle bus lot is a nature trail with a viewing platform.  From here you could see Salmon spawning in the river.

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Here is a short video I took of them:

This nature trail continues towards the main visitor's center and is a path our bus guide took us down in June.  

It's an elevated boardwalk where sometimes you can see bears looking for food in the river.  No bears today.

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Continuing along the boardwalk takes you to the main part of the park.

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Walking past the visitor's center there are trails (in the map above) for great views of the glacier.  This is from the orange trail in the map.

My scope from this area:

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1BRKjeegRqZxw

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Today I wanted to explore Nugget Falls to the right of the glacier.  It's a 30-45 minute walk along smooth paths, paved in areas, packed gravel in other areas.  A scooter could do this trail.

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This trail is the dark blue line on the map above.

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There is a lot of mist in the air and it's hard to keep a lens clean.

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Kayak and canoe trips to the glacier face are popular and you can see them in the water here:

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Cell signal was strongest here so I scoped again:

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1ypJdYYqBwYxW

By this time I had spent 3 hours here so I wandered back to the fish creek to see if any bears had arrived.  Unfortunately not.  

Tired after my morning hike up Mt Roberts and wandering around here I found the blue bus getting ready to depart (every 30 minutes).   I determined that I needed to get back to Diamond happy hour the ship.

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Juneau - Evening

A quick look outside to judge sunset potential.  Here is Explorer.  

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The Royal Caribbean Blog Group Cruise was on Explorer in June and around this time of night in Juneau I was on that ship looking over at Radiance.

 

A quick scope at 7:30pm:

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1lPKqkdEmwLJb?t=39s

Up to the Concierge Club to hang out with my new friends for a few drinks.  From here I could see a sunset getting better so I ventured out through the Viking Crown Lounge to take a look.

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The sun was going quickly.  This next photo was at 8:10pm.  Sail away soon after the 8:30pm all aboard.  

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My sunset scope:

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1vOxwVZblXLJB

We departed first with Explorer soon to follow.  We'll meet again in Skagway on day 4 and based on my Explorer experience, Radiance goes in first and docks, then Explorer occupies the end of of the pier in front of Radiance.  

Juneau sail away scope, sailing past Explorer

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1PlJQryRWDvxE

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Heading in deck 12 after this I looked down through the glass portal into the Centrum:

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Off to the Schooner Bar, another nightly tradition where I met the same folks night after night.  If you go during the shows it's empty and we enjoyed engaging with the crew.  As soon as the show lets out the bar gets quite busy.  On another night one of the musicians was very talented on the piano.  On this night the duo on strings were very good but their soft and slow music was putting me to sleep so I went off in search of something more lively.  Not finding it I went to bed.

The amount of daylight and sunset is remarkably different tonight compared to June.  These were taken from Explorer in June as Radiance sailed past Explorer at the same time of day:

 

 

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Hi Twangster,   First thanks for doing all this!  Alaska is #1 on my bucket list and it looks like I might finally get there in 2020.  I have two quick questions.  First, your photography is outstanding and i simply couldnt get over how clear and rich the colors are in your pictures.  I never get that kind of results with my camera, and I am sure it is due to a good quality camera in the hands of an amateur (me).  For your typical scenic photos are you using any kind of filters on your lens , or post-processing of any kind?  I have a Nikon but no filters at this time.
Second,  on the Mildenhall hikes you take a hike that eventually leads to a "beach" area near the falls.  You state it is the "blue line" on the map you provided.  alas, I am terrible with colors.  I see three trials on the map, two of which are described on the map.  One is light blue (to my eyes) and is described as "East Glacier", but a second one is a darker blue(?) and is not described on the map.  Which one did you take (I suspect its actually the darker one...)

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@twangster Such great coverage of your trip! THANK YOU!! As you probably know, we are doing this same itinerary (and Goldstar service pre-cruise) in July 2019. So, here are my questions so far:

Pre-cruise:

1. Regarding Goldstar service, my receipt shows the train leaves the depot at 6:45 AM. What is a good time to arrive to the depot? Is 6:15 too late?

2. Once we arrive in Seward at 11:30-ish, is there separate boarding area for suite guests? 

3. Our plan is to check-in, eat, and then get off the boat and head to the Alaska SeaLife Center. So you think that is doable? Is there transportation to the Center?

 

Cruise:

1. Did Rita's ever serve crab-legs?

2. You had mentioned in one of your periscopes that you had signed up for a fishing excursion with Dave(?) from the Deadliest Catch show for tuna (?) fishing. I cannot locate this on TripAdvisor. Do you have any contact info or URL for them? We are currently signed up for the Knudson Cove Salmon Fishing excursion, but would love to hear more about your excursion.

3. Looking forward to venturing out on my own in Juneau. Planning on the tramway in the AM and Mendenhall in the PM. Thanks for all the photos and periscopes! Hoping our day will be as clear as yours turned out to be.

4. Did Next Cruise ever run any "deals"?

Post-cruise:

We are taking the Amtrak Cascade service to Seattle the evening (5:30-ish) Radiance arrives in Vancouver. Can you suggest some sort of excursion to do in Vancouver between ship debarkation and train embarkation?

Will have more questions as you post. THANK YOU SO MUCH! My family, 13 year-old son included, is loving your blog posts! Your calving pics and video of Hubbard were FANTASTIC! We're ready to go NOW!! 😀

 

 

 

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On 9/10/2018 at 9:15 AM, jce2 said:

Hi Twangster,   First thanks for doing all this!  Alaska is #1 on my bucket list and it looks like I might finally get there in 2020.  I have two quick questions.  First, your photography is outstanding and i simply couldnt get over how clear and rich the colors are in your pictures.  I never get that kind of results with my camera, and I am sure it is due to a good quality camera in the hands of an amateur (me).  For your typical scenic photos are you using any kind of filters on your lens , or post-processing of any kind?  I have a Nikon but no filters at this time.
Second,  on the Mildenhall hikes you take a hike that eventually leads to a "beach" area near the falls.  You state it is the "blue line" on the map you provided.  alas, I am terrible with colors.  I see three trials on the map, two of which are described on the map.  One is light blue (to my eyes) and is described as "East Glacier", but a second one is a darker blue(?) and is not described on the map.  Which one did you take (I suspect its actually the darker one...)

  1. I didn't use any filters on this trip although a polarizing filter would have been very useful with the Salmon in the river.  I use Adobe Lightroom and I shoot all my pictures in RAW format.  This allows me to adjust the pictures later and recover or compensate tone, lighting and color.  This does take some time and it's why I didn't want to run this live blog from the ship - not enough time to process thousands of photos.  
  2. Here is the location of Nugget Falls.  It's a very easy path that you could do in flip-flops or running shoes.  

     gvUJc1Z.jpg       

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1 hour ago, Baked Alaska said:

@twangster Such great coverage of your trip! THANK YOU!! As you probably know, we are doing this same itinerary (and Goldstar service pre-cruise) in July 2019. So, here are my questions so far:

Thanks!  Glad you are enjoying it!

Pre-cruise:

  1. I would probably try to arrive before 6:15am.  The train departs at 6:45am and on this occasion they began boarding at 6:14am.  That's the time stamp on my photo walking up to the train car.  One hour prior would be safer I would think and give time to drop luggage and line up to receive your tickets inside. 
  2. There is a line for suites and Pinnacle members but there is no waiting area for suites that I saw most likely because there is no waiting.  Unlike a Caribbean cruise people don't tend to arrive before boarding commences.   By the time the Alaskan Railroad train arrives boarding will have been open for some time.  Once you get your SeaPass cards suite guests follow the same line for security and the ship that everyone else does.  That doesn't tend to be an issue because people are arriving throughout the full day so it doesn't get overly congested like a Caribbean cruise with so many guests all arriving near the same time.  
  3. Cabins open at 1:30pm but there should be plenty of time to eat, drop your carry-on bags off and head off the ship.  Seward isn't that big.  

Cruise:

  1.  I'm not a crabby person :).  I didn't seek crab legs on the ship and don't recall anyone mentioning them.  
  2. I'll highlight the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour when I get to Ketchikan in this blog.  That isn't an excursion where you go fishing yourself, it's more a day in the life of a crab fisherman and/or take-off of the TV series "Deadliest Catch" aimed at cruise ship passengers.    
  3. Yes despite morning clouds (which I enjoyed seeing) I did have great weather.  The clouds actually enhanced the experience.  It would have been boring just looking at the same view all morning.  
  4. In my experience NextCruise doesn't offer deals, ever, such as 'deals of the day', or "this hour get X if you book a cruise".  They offer additional OBC in certain circumstances.  The fares are the same fares that anyone at home on the internet would get that day, the potential for additional OBC is the difference. For the most part cruise fares are lowest when booked soon after a sail date is available for booking.  If you wait 6 months to go on a cruise and book at Next then the extra OBC may not be a great deal compared to booking that cruise 6 months earlier when base fares where cheaper.  It varies by cruise and sail date, as well as cabin type.  For suites it may but keep in mind OBC is per cabin, not per passenger.  If cruise fares were $200 cheaper per passenger 6 months ago and there are four of you, that extra $600 in OBC for a suite on a longer sailing might be not a good deal compared to 4 x $200pp = $800 in base fare savings.  It all depends.
  5. I had an early flight in Vancouver so went straight to the airport.    tripadvisor.com may be a good resource to look at.  There is a lot to do there, depending on budget of course.  

 

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1 hour ago, J_Keeble said:

thanks for that! sorry .... how about samba grill is that still fully functioning?

Yes, Samba is still there.  On one of my scope in Seward I think, I briefly looked into the Samba door they had propped open as I walked past.  I did not eat there myself.

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Day 4 - Skagway

We arrived on time and settled into our position on the pier with the sun trying to rise above the surrounding mountains.  

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As expected Explorer was behind us.

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Breakfast in the Windjammer with the type of incredible views you only get in Alaska.

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The White Pass and Yukon Route train is a popular excursion so very convenient since the railroad owns the pier and drives the train right to the ship.  

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I had no no excursion booked having the train last year and a different excursion in June.  I wanted to check out the Gold Rush Cemetery and with good weather it looked like this would be the day to do it.  Before heading out I did a quick scope from the ship:

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1gqGvXnwzzAxB

For anyone who didn't buy the train excursion prior to causing they have ticket booths set up just outside of the secure pier area.

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You can walk to town or for $2 each way ($5 all day pass) you can take a SMART bus (Skagway Municipal and Regional Transit).  It picks up not far from the pier.

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 The 20 minute walk is easy so that is what I usually do.

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This connects to a small river walk or you head straight into town.

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At this point with the blue sky and old train parked near town I decided to scope when I discovered I left my phone on the ship.  Forty minutes later I picked back up from this same spot.

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You can drive to Skagway from the lower 48 and Canada so there are other tourists in town.  A campground near the river above is popular in the summer.  Those folks wanting to ride the train would use the regular train station in town.

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A large portion of the area is part of Klondike National Historic Park.

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My mission was to reach the Gold Rush Cemetery just outside of town.  I scoped my walk through town, or at least part of it:

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1OdKrpRkeleJX

After walking through town to the railroad yard and workshop:

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The cemetery is on the other side another 1/2 mile up a dirt road.

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The carcass of an old locomotive long out of service:

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A few trains rattled past.

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Skagway - Gold Rush Cemetery

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A large parking lot for those who take an excursion or who drive their own car.  Toilets near the parking lot. 

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"Streetcars" drove past me as I walked here on the dirt road.  

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The cemetery was primarily used during the era of the 1898 gold rush but there we a few burials over the next few decades after that.

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Frank Reid played a prominent role in Skagway's history.  When I first arrived the Streetcar guide was giving a talk to her tour about Frank's interaction with 'Soapy' Smith that led to both of their deaths in a shoot out.

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Continuing through the small cemetery takes you to a trail to Lower Reid Falls.

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Skagway - Lower Reid Falls

Continuing the trail through the cemetery leads to you in the direction the falls.

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Five minutes up the trail you start hearing rushing water and eventually you see the falls.

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This is very enjoyable area and a few people came and went but it was never crowded.

A short video approaching the falls:

Returning back towards the parking lot you have two trails you can follow.  The one I came up through the cemetery or the left trail that bypasses most of the cemetery.

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Another train sounded it's horn so I took some video and scoped from area:

https://www.periscope.tv/thetwangster/1YqKDQymlmVGV

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Video of the train:

From here I walked back out to the main road and a bridge over the Skagway River.

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I walked back to town along the edge of the river.

 At least as far as I could as the river runs past the end of the runway for the airport which is fenced off.

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At this point I walked down the residential side streets of Skagway to get back to the main strip.

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5 minutes ago, twangster said:

Skagway - Lower Reid Falls

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At this point I walked down the residential side streets of Skagway to get back to the main strip.

@twangster Sounds like you have a good internal compass. Does the moss grow on the north side of the trees in Alaska? It's my first navigation tool (after the sun) in our woods. 

 

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2 minutes ago, Baked Alaska said:

@twangster Sounds like you have a good internal compass. Does the moss grow on the north side of the trees in Alaska? It's my first navigation tool (after the sun) in our woods. 

 

I'm not sure this far North.  A great question for the Park Rangers.  They have a office on the main drag.  When I stopped in they were giving a daily briefing to a group of hikers about to set out on their way up to Canada.

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Skagway - continued...

By this time it was approaching 1pm and I was getting hungry (and thirsty).  My walk back to town led me to the Skagway Brewing Co.

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The Alaskan Sandwich:

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Quite tasty.

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A couple of the Chilkoot IPA went down nicely as well.

While Skagway does have tourists by ferry and roads (beyond cruise ships) the bartender mentioned that in the evenings after the ships have left it's quite a party town for the young men and women who work the tourist trade.  Most of them work here for the summer then return South in October.

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Skagway - continued...

While in town I found a small museum on the edge of town near the train tracks.

Admission $2.  

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I was welcomed in and informed I could take pictures.  

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Bear!

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White Pass had it's own airline for a while.

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With a map like this no wonder everyone thought gold was abundant and all you had to do was bend over and pick it.  This is what led to the Klondike gold rush of 1898.  There's gold everywhere!

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The reality was a little different.

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 Now I understand why the railroad built and owned the pier:

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Outside they have an old locomotive on display right beside the active train tracks.

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The museum is all on the 1st floor and not large by any stretch but it was full of history, some native, some gold rush and some war time.  It was $2 and money well spent leaving me with memories I'll bring back on my next trip to Skagway. 

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Skagway - continued...

I walked through town and shopped some local arts shops and picked up a couple of locally made coasters.  With that I started back towards the ship.  

I was keeping an eye out for the Dewey Lake trail system and found a sign near the train crossing not far from the ship.

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Time:  3pm

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View of the town, or towards the town as the trees are blocking the town itself.  You can sort of make out the train tracks directly below me.

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Basically you are climbing the ridge beside the ship but staring on the gentler side of it.

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Most of the gain in elevation occurs along the beginning of the trail.  I was regretting those beers at lunch.  Slow and steady. 

Once "up top" there wasn't as much vertical and switch backs.

First I came along a small reservoir.

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The water surface was very still so there were great reflections.

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I kept going and came to the lower lake.

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On this side of the lake the trail was well established and packed.

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Venturing around the end of the lake there are several small streams running through the woods.

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For some reason I decided to go for the loop around the lake.

At first this wasn't too bad.

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As I continued around the lake the trail became more rugged.

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This only lasted for a short while before the trail became better defined.

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FW6KaKL.jpgThe trail doesn't always allow views of the lake but when it did it looked spectacular.

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Near the end of the lake was another picnic area.

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I noticed rails nearly covered in the dirt.  At one point this was an active mining area.  To think this was all done by hand up here on the top of this hill.  Incredible.

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Time 4:38pm

I was definitely growing tired.  It was a long day of walking and hiking.  However I was just beginning the turn around the lake's other end and making my way back to the beginning where the trail up the hill first placed me.  Diamond happy hour had started, time to crank it up. 

One last panoramic before I make haste and speed up.  Alaska really is beautiful.

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Phew... back around the lake, down the hill and to the pier!

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 Thirteen miles in just over 8 hours including stops for the cemetery, lunch, museum and lower Dewey Lake.  

Time 5:19pm. 

My walk today:

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Cemetery at the top

Dewey lake near the bottom and the ship in the bottom left.

And... back in time for my 5:45pm My Time dining reservation - after a cold beer and a shower.

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Skagway - Klondike Gold Rush National Park 

National Park Website:

https://www.nps.gov/klgo/index.htm

Entrance Fees:

Entry Fee - $0.00

Entry to Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is free. Some services, such as a hiking permit for the Chilkoot Trail or camping have associated fees.

Another good planning site http://skagway.com/

Trail map from skagway.com website:

 

Skagway-Trail-Map.pdf

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