Being an aviation enthusiast, I knew I would enjoy the flight from Skagway to Juneau, but I wasn’t even close to understanding just how great it would be. Wings of Alaska is the only airline serving Skagway Airport (SKG). It operates the Cessna Grand Caravan on scheduled services. It also operates several other aircraft on scenic tours. Skagway airport is a small, one-runway operation without a control tower. It is situated near where the cruise ships dock, so look out for it if you visit.
The flights are very informal and in fact many of the regular passengers were recognized as they came to check in for their flight. A few planes came in carrying cargo prior to ours. Wings of Alaska is responsible for many of the town’s supplies being delivered … things like produce and fresh fish.
It was getting close to flight time and I was excited to hear that we had all checked in — all nine of us (it was a fully booked flight)! A guy in jeans and a tee shirt came out and said, “OK, you guys ready? I’ll meet you out by the plane.” Unbeknown to some of us we had just met our pilot. We all happily loaded into the plane and buckled up. Eric (our pilot) said, “Alright, let’s go fly over the ice field!” After a sip from his coffee in the cupholder, he put his headphones on and fired up the plane.
We rocketed down the runway and precariously lifted off over the bay and the mountain pass ahead. I have now learned that we actually took a different course than usual. Our pilot navigated the plane though a mountain pass over an ice field! At times it felt as if we could reach out and touch the mountains! The flight was absolutely amazing! I took many pictures along the way. In fact, having just downloaded my photos I found out just how many — 197! In a 40-minute flight I took 197 photos, that’s almost five pictures per minute! It was truly that amazing.
You might asking why we flew to Juneau, especially since we had driven everywhere else. Well, Juneau is the only capital city in the United States that is not accessible by road. There simply is no way to drive to the city of Juneau. Oddly enough, Juneau also is the largest capital city in the United States by area because the city limits include the surrounding forests. It’s a great town and also the end of our journey.
The Baranof Hotel is a classic Art Deco–style hotel that still retains the charm and character of that golden age of hospitality. It’s film noir–style rooms and lobby make you feel like solving a crime or getting dressed up for dinner in the Gold Room. The Gold Room features a fine dining menu unmatched in Juneau (and perhaps even Alaska!). Be sure to have dinner there if you get a chance.
As the Baranof is a full-year hotel, we had to conduct two training sessions. The room we used had floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the sidewalk and it was great to practice the FISH! philosophy by waving at the passersby and those who stopped to see what was going on.
With all the ships in town, I am getting anxious to return to the officer life. Just a few more days to go before I’m back out to sea.
Anthony, a crew purser, is on a special assignment for Westmark Hotels, a Holland America Line company. Questions about Alaska, the Yukon or Westmark? E-mail Anthony at email@example.com.