Wildlife: Humpback whale; dall porpoises; eagles
If there’s a prettier place on earth than Haines, Alaska, we haven’t found it yet.
The weather for the cruise from Juneau to Haines was perfect. We spent the night in the Juneau ferry terminal parking lot so we could be on hand for the five a.m. check in.
We only saw one whale, and three pods of dall porpoises along the way. But the scenery rising up along the fjord was superb. At every turn, snow-peaked mountains rose to either side, and glaciers stuck out their tongues.
The campground in Haines, Oceanside, run by Joyce, was not beautiful to look at, with campers parked side-by-side with little room to spare. But there was nothing in front of us but water
and mountains. An eagle spent most of the two days perched atop a spruce overlooking the campground.
Rebecca liked Sitka better, but I was partial to Haines. In addition to the beautiful setting, the town was a real Alaskan settlement, with shops catering to the needs of the residents, with only a slight reliance on the cruise ship mobs, most of which bypassed Haines in favor of Skagway, the last stop before the end of the inlet.
Haines is a conglomerate of the town and the borough (read: county) and includes the formerly separate township of Fort Seward, the first American fort built in Alaska. Fort Seward is a “mayonnaise” collection of small white buildings in an orderly array, formerly part of the “fortress” but now an assortment of shops.
One of the shops houses a totem-building workshop. Another hosts a gift shop run by a former mayor with whom we engaged in spirited conversation about the current state of Alaskan affairs – the oil-dependent state economy is suffering mightily due to the price drop in petroleum and is in a deficit of half its budget. No wonder we’re not hearing from Sarah Palin this go-round.
While munching on fish ‘n’ chips at a road-side stand, we made the acquaintance of a fellow traveler who is photographing national parks for a book timed to the centennial of the national park service, next year. Apparently the first parks were run by the military.
Our favorite shop was a distillery, where we were served excellent cocktails at non-Alaskan prices. There’s also a brewery in Haines, but sadly it was not open when we went its way.
We did not make it to the cannery, or the locale where one is supposed to see bears eating salmon, but we did take a nice hike to a point along the water. The trail was quite rooty. But the most significant aspect of the hike was that Rebecca rode her bike to the trailhead, without incident.
The road out of Haines, the Haines Highway, leads to the Yukon (via a few kilometers of British Columbia). The road follows an old native trading route. There are more glaciers to be seen along the way than even in the fjord leading to Haines.