There was very little that was charming or quaint about Skagway, Alaska.
Vast rugged wilderness and natural beauty is what Alaska is all about, although for a brief period, just before the turn of the 20th century, Alaska was all about GOLD!
Tens of thousands of dreamers and schemers passed through the virtually uninhabited Glacial Valley the native Tlingit called Skgagwei; all contributed to the raw and raucous two-year period from 1898 to 1900 at the core of much of Skagway’s history; at least the bulk of history Violet shared during our one hour tour of Alaska’s first incorporated city.
Most prospectors were looking at 30 trips (it took about 6 hours to hike the 1,500 steps) up the "Golden Stairs" to haul all the equipment needed to travel the remaining 500 miles to Klondike.
"Men shot them, worked them to death and when they were gone, went back to the beach and bought more. . . . Their hearts turned to stone - those which did not break - and they became beasts, the men on the Dead Horse Trail."
writer Jack London
Perhaps if those iconic images I pilfered from the Internet had been part of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s July 17, 1897 newspaper article credited with creating the ensuing gold rush, maybe the foolhardy prospectors who’d invested approximately $1000 ($27,000 in today’s dollars) to make the trip (that’s not counting the loss of life or limb) might have reconsidered.
Then again, many Americans (80% of the prospectors were from the U.S.) had lost all hope during the depression that had followed the Panic of 1893 when news of this ‘golden’ opportunity hit the streets.
History is sooooo humbling; and so fascinating, especially via field trips involving one charming tour guide and driver with a penchant for non-stop storytelling. Did I mention that history included one of the most notorious con men of the 19th century?
That's right! Not all the prospectors to arrive in Alaska were up for the grueling hike to the Klondike. Many made their fortunes fleecing their fellow man, the best of them a man I've dubbed the poster child for Skagway.
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