Alaska, Day Five

Skagway, Alaska is a small quaint town with an interesting history. And as much as my journals have shared facts about my travels, the internet here sucks (honestly, I didn’t even want the internet on this trip except if we could stream episodes of Schitt’s Creek to enjoy before bed, which, sadly, isn’t possible) so I can’t do too much homework on what was likely a town of native people overrun by Americans trying to dig gold out of the ground, and the ensuing boom and burst of the town, the earth, and of society as a whole. A repeat of basically every town in the west, albeit a little higher, colder, and more remote than the others. 

What the internet did tell me, slowly returning to the land of Verizon LTE, is that my across-the-way hangar neighbor was tragically killed in a plane crash. A week prior to our vacation, I had opened up my hangar to some of the kids in the neighborhood, talking about airplanes, how they fly, and the amazing career opportunities that exist in the aviation world. After our little tour, I had left something in my hangar that I needed for work. Having succumbed to the grumpies a few days later, I found myself late one night taking a drive by myself to go to the hangar, to get that which I had left earlier, and maybe blow off some steam before returning home. 

Thinking no one would be out so late at the airport, I called a few friends and did what we normally do and talked about what Stefani calls “nonsense” like what songs would we want as our walk-up songs if we were ever that important, how Taco Bell continues to blow our minds, and other necessary drivel. Chatting about life and work, I was surprised to see Creighton working late at his hangar. Telling my buddy Jeff I had to go, I secured my forgotten item, closed up my hangar door, and walked over to see what he was wrenching on. 

Being brought up in aviation, his hangar was a museum of general aviation, fashioned in what some might say would be the least organized way possible. Pacers, Cassutts, Cubs, and the various parts necessary strewn from wall to wall, floor to ceiling. Creighton was excited for this last Reno Air Race, and, having spent a year mourning the sudden loss of his father away from the hangar, you could sense the emotions trying to make their way out of his friendly disposition as he put the final touches on Race 15, dubbed Last Lap Player, eager to get back to the Valley of Speed. 

Spending a few moments talking about his dad, his Cub, his Cassutt, and our usual conversations about local airport politics and the future of aviation, Creighton was truly a disciple of flight. His sudden departure into the life to come will surely be difficult for his wife and family, and those who knew him better than I. But today, I’ll take comfort knowing that he knows that there is more than this life for him to enjoy his friends and family, and that where he’s headed, the Salt Lake City Department of Airports won’t be there to mess it up. 

Logging off the internet, we made the brief walk to the rails that basically met the bow of the boat and boarded the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad for a morning journey into our neighbor to the north…err…east. Twenty or so miles up into the mountains, our heated passenger car afforded a few of us the opportunity to enjoy the views from the platforms on either end of passenger car #259, historic in the fleet for being the car that took the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh up to Whitehorse in 1959. Staring into the mountains, breathing the fresh air, a look of bewilderment cast among the men of our party outside the car as a bridge came into view that didn’t quite make it all the way across the gulch. Slowly we scanned the horizon for a mischievous coyote hauling around some ACME brand gear. 

Passing through the USA/Canada border the quickest way yet, we returned back to Skagway and had yet more on the agenda. A brief hike into the forest to learn about how lush an area like this can be, how many men and how much weight they carried traversing this very trail, and whether or not those red berries on the trail were edible. Then, a nice float down the Taiya River, watching pre-balding bald eagles soar and play near the riverbanks, sea otters swim upstream for dinner, and catching Bryan noodling salmon out of the river after staring into the gravel bars for bear tracks. 

Walking back to town, a town that thrives on these thousands of tourists who float into town every day, I was surprised to see most shopkeepers close their doors before the ships left their ports. An interesting perspective seeing the nose of our floating vacation rental down Broadway Street, I framed up the image above and found a passerby who could help push the button. One of my favorite pictures of this trip. Not because we’re just a bunch of beautiful and handsome people, but between all eight of us is twenty-one children who are learning and growing from men and women who I truly admire. Being brought up with amazing examples of selfless service, infinite love, and finding joy in serving others, I know for a brief moment we’re all missing our kids. A quick FaceTime with them warms the soul and relieves us seeing that the house is still standing in the background. 

Knowing what I know now, I’m grateful to be in such great company this week, and anxiously await future adventures with them. Tomorrow, however, Stef and I will take some time to ourselves to enjoy those moments I’ve longed for these last few months.