When I was 19, and having just finished my first year in college, I traveled to the Yukon Territory for a geology expedition. I was looking for an adventure and I sure got one!
With a few others, we drove from Madison, Wisconsin to White Horse, Yukon. At the time, the ALCAN highway was not paved but was dirt and gravel for about 1700 miles so it was a rugged ride (we got many cracks in our windshield and that was the least of it!) The ride was long and rough – but it was an adventure. We could not afford hotels so we just pitched tents each night.
Once in White Horse, Yukon Territory we left the car and went into the mountains. We climbed mountains and slid down glaciers. We wandered in the wilderness and the mountains and saw abandoned gold mining towns. We even panned – unsuccessfully – for gold.
After the expedition ended (4 weeks in the mountains?), I left the group and traveled on a narrow gauge train (the video posted here is of the famous train) from White Horse, to Skagway, Alaska. I wanted to see more of the Yukon and Alaska so I did not drive back with the others. I also had heard the train ride was amazing and I did not want to miss riding it. I doubted I would ever have another chance in my life. Yes, the train ride was amazing. It was a narrow gauge train and train track, so it felt like a giant jump back in history. It was also, as I recall, scary since the train did not seem too sturdy and the track was on the mountains’ edges.
After arriving in Skagway, Alaska, I had to begin my trip back to Wisconsin for my sophomore year of college. (My parents would have been furious if I had not returned to college!) I bought a ferry ticket, a few jars of peanut butter and bread (the staple for kids my age at the time) and traveled alone down the Inland Passage to Seattle. I didn’t have much money so I could not get a room on the ferry — instead I slept on deck in a deck chair. I think I had about 4 or 5 nights sleeping on the deck and the views were spectacular. I also met other students who were also sleeping on the deck.
Once I got to Seattle, I bought a train ticket to Wisconsin (I could not afford an airline ticket.) I had a couple days of sitting up on a train and looking at the countryside from the Pacific Ocean home to Wisconsin.
Of all my travels, I think this is the trip I loved most. At age 19, I felt like I was on top of the world and on a big adventure. Everything seemed possible. If only I could go back to that time….
For much of the trip I was traveling alone — can you imagine a young woman – age 19 – being able to travel alone today? It really is too bad how different things are now…
I found this White Horse to Skagway train video on YouTube and it reminded me of that adventure. I thought you might like to see it – it gives you a short idea of what that narrow gauge train ride is like.