49 Voices: Doreen Cooper of Skagway

Doreen Cooper in Coldfoot. She lives in Skagway. (Photo by Rashah McChesney, Alaska’s Energy Desk)

This week we’re hearing from Doreen Cooper from Skagway. She’s working as a volunteer at the Arctic Inter-agency Visitor Center in Coldfoot.

Listen now

COOPER: I came to Alaska in 1992 to work for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park as an archaeologist. And that was kind of my midlife crisis. I had visited Alaska once in 1986 and I was just like, “Yeah. I’m ready for something different.” And so, I did. And I was really tired of the summers in Texas. So, now I’m tired of the winters in Alaska.

I worked for them for seven years, and while I was there, I met my husband, the man I’m married to now. And he was from Skagway, and so I stayed in Skagway. After my job with the Park Service ended, I worked for the White Pass and Yukon Railroad and I was Skagway’s magistrate for a couple years. I continued to do archaeology and I was also an office manager for some people in Skagway who owned four stores. And we retired in September, and now we’re up here volunteering.

My husband was working on the Chilkoot Trail and I would hike up every other weekend, to his trail camp above the Chilkoot Trail and just spending weekends there ’cause it’s the most beautiful place in the world. They have a small cabin up there that they actually built by hand, bringing up rocks from the river for the foundations and they had tents on rocks around them and they actually had hot and cold running water from a creek that was close by. So, they didn’t use it, but I sure did. And we’d go up there and we’d listen to the radio — we’d listen to NPR on Saturday mornings — and then they went off to work and it was just a great place to read and kick back. And the rare sunny day, lay out in the helicopter pad, which we weren’t supposed to do.

Maybe next year, we’re looking at Bandelier ruins down in New Mexico. We’ve talked with them about doing some volunteer work and next summer, haven’t quite decided whether Alaska or… Roy hasn’t seen any of the great parks of the West, so we’re kind of open.