Kylie Campbell - My Best Skagway Adventure

Author: Kylie Campbell
Theme: My Best Skagway Adventure

Camping like a Childhood Dream

Choo-choo-choosing to camp in an old red caboose in the middle of the largest US rainforest near Skagway, Alaska was certainly very wet but an experience I certainly won’t forget.


When I visited Skagway  over the May long weekend, I took the White Pass & Yukon train to the White Pass summit. On the way, they mentioned a little red caboose cabin that sits at the base of the Denver Glacier trail. Of course hearing this information meant that I had to organise a trip in the summer to experience this once in a lifetime experience.

So the week before, I organised with newly made friends from Atlin music festival and hiking to rent the cabin for the weekend. Six of us went, meeting at the Whitehorse “must do” Thai restaurant.

The drive looked very similar to May, fog, cloud and rain and I’m certain Skagway never gets sun.

We headed to the Thai restaurant in town Starfire, the food was good , however, the pain and hurt of the Canadian dollar to the US meant for a very very expensive meal.

During dinner we discussed a camping spot and we found online mention of a brush dump site. Outside of Skagway town to the dump and pitched our tents and attempted to make a fire with wet wood (let’s say there was no fire). However, we had a few drinks and stood around a non-existent fire and chatted until it was well past midnight.

We awoke with everything wet, as the rain hadn’t stopped all night, but our tents weren’t needed for the second night. So we packed away and headed to the train station to board our train.

We had our own hiker’s cabin and enjoyed our short 9km journey. The caboose is red and pretty old (discovering it was first set up approximately 1994), with a few refurbishments. The cabin is $55 US ($75 CA) per night, fitting up to 6 and the train is $34 US ($43 CA) return.

We settled our things and chose our beds and decided to head to the glacier. The walk was through a thick rainforest and I have never seen anything so green. The tall trees and large leaves protected us from the drizzling rain while we hiked an almost flat trail.

We arrived to the second viewpoint and  what we believe may be the main trail end. This is where you would see the glacier. We did not see the glacier. The fog and clouds prevented any view, with only the base of some snow and water visible. However, we thought this must continue on as the path indicated so.

This part of the trail turned into some slippery boulder-like sections followed by bush-whacking through devil’s club. If you don’t know what this is, it is an evil plant. It has beautiful large green maple leaves and underneath lies stinging spikes that seem to strike in every direction.

Many were too sore and tired from slipping on the unseen rocks and itching from the evil devil’s club plant so we turned around.

The hike took us around 5 hours or so and upon reaching the caboose, it was a welcome shelter to sit and relax. We began to make a fire. It took some time, with the wood, although under the caboose and protected from direct rain, was still damp from the humidity. But with a kerosene bottle left, we were able to get one going.

Our enjoyment for the afternoon was as the trains passed and we would wave probably more eagerly than the tourists on board. We would hear the train whistle and come running out of the caboose to say hello.

A few hours of us sitting around a welcome hot fire, attempting to dry our boots, socks and ourselves, it was time to get inside as the drizzle started.

Only minutes later, while inside, did the heavens open and the monsoon begin. The dry red caboose was our saviour and we started our evening of many hours bonding as a group. Dice, cards and drinking ensued and it was a thoroughly entertaining evening. One of the most interesting aspects is most certainly the notebooks that previous guests have written in. Dating all the way back to the early 90s!

Somehow a bunch of Canadians who only just met, and me, had a great evening filling the time as though it was a century ago without electricity.

In the morning the rain dissipated but the cloud and fogs still ensued. However, it was time for us to board our train back to Skagway. Although we never left the States, we still had to get immigration checked. It’s always lots of fun being the only foreigner amongst a group of Canadians.

The overall White Pass & Yukon train company were pretty good. It was a novelty and I am happy to say I can check off my To-Do-Life-List – slept in an old red Caboose!

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