PHOTOS: Kylie Campbell
Our American neighbours do things a little differently…
I have not made the trip to mainland Alaska yet, but my experience of those oddballs and genuinely interesting characters that live in the tiny village of Skagway truly are one of a kind.
Hiking and camping are certainly a great way to get out and explore nature, and Skagway has some pretty spectacular scenery. It’s also a great way to meet new people and bond as you get cut off from electronic distractions and have to entertain yourselves.
Skagway is a windy oasis of local and mainland misfits all living in a town away from the rest of the world. But Skagwegians certainly know how to enjoy a camping hike.
1. Packing your boozebag
Does your bag weigh more than yourself? No, well then put more beer in it.
This isn’t the Yukon, where you take your motorized transport to the woods and comfortably car camp by the lake. Skagwegians pack themselves like a yak in the Himalayas.
Cases of beer are an absolute minimum requirement to any overnight camping trip. Not to mention the various flasks of whisky and moonshine. Not only is alcohol pretty much the most important component to the camping hike, but so is food.
Come the weekend, it makes sense how and why Skagway’s grocery store can be left looking like the apocalypse is coming with empty-looking shelves. I’m almost certain my weekly shop doesn’t look as big as one night with Skagwegians’ camping supplies. The main learning experience is, no matter how steep or long a hiking trail may be and no matter how heavy your pack is, beer is mandatory.
Come spring, the warmer temperatures bid goodbye to the necessity of taking camping fuel and leaves even more room for beer.
2. It’s just as “ruff” for man’s best friend
It appears to be a requirement in Skagway to have facial hair, I mean, can you be considered Alaskan without a beard? But a beard isn’t the only requirement; so too is having a dog.
These aren’t your ordinary kinds of dogs either, these dogs will run to Whitehorse and back and be ready to keep going. The good thing about reducing some of your backpack’s weight is your pup should be prepared to carry their own food as well. It’s only fair right?
3. Cut, stab, bang bang
It’s ‘Merica isn’t it? This also had my first real life viewing and handling of a gun (not a rifle, a gun like in the movies). Hearing the sound of a round being dispelled from a chamber caught me unawares; my assumption was these kinds of weapons were for use on other people. Apparently they are in case of bears; I clearly have been learning to hike and camp incorrectly.
And it’s not just a gun, but also a minimum requirement is to have multiple knives, because you never know – right?
4. Naked like the day you were born
Not sure why, but Skagwegians have no issue with getting naked and it actually takes zero coaxing to do it. To be honest, they will most likely offer to do so anyway. Whether it’s an attempt at skinny dipping on the icy lake (and getting cuts and scrapes on the ice) or getting naked at the top of the mountain, it’s Alaska, so why not.
If you want to go…
Check out Skagway Recreation Centre website for details on booking the Upper Dewey Lake cabin at SkagwayRecreation.org/outdoor-recreationupper-lake-cabin.
For information on the the various hikes around Skagway go to www.YukonHiking.com.