Haines and Skagway

June 18th, 2008

Nice view off of Seduction Point

A bear on the Haines HighwayOn our way home we decided to take a long detour through Haines and Skagway. Even though they are only 17 miles apart no road connects them, so we had to take a short ferry ride on the “Marine Highway” which we felt our Alaska trip had been missing. I was familiar with the names of the towns from the ski movies I watch, so I was excited to check them out. The drive down into the mountains on the Haines Highway did not disappoint. Crazy clouds on the mountains heading into HainesWe came through in the evening with nice dramatic lighting and even a bear sighting. More no-hassle border crossings too (how long will our luck hold?) Haines itself was very much like Seward or even Valdez: small fishing/tourist village nestled on the side of an inlet with towering mountains all around. We got into town late so we just hit the bar for a couple of drinks. The bar, the Fogcutter, Some alpine glow on the Wrangells off of the Haines Highwaywas nothing to write home about but they had some unique brews I was excited to try. They had a very good locally brewed stout, an interesting-but-not-altogether-enjoyable Jalapeno beer from Juneau and some kind of fantastic blueberry beer in a bottle. It tasted like the blueberry juice we drank after sea kayaking in Valdez, but was 8% alcohol. I need to hunt up some of this lady-killer when I get back to Bozeman. :P

The Davidson Glacier in HainesThe next day was rainy so we didn’t feel like doing anything. When drove over the pass on the Haines Highway all of the snow had us dreaming of a ski day, but with the rain and the prospect of additional border crossings we ended up just… hanging out. I did some touristy shopping, we visited the historical Sheldon museum (very informative, but not as nice as the Pratt in Homer), we Rainbow glacier from the Chilkat Peninsulabrowsed the gear store… nothing special. Then we decided to drive out towards the end of the Chilkat Peninsula to camp at a proper campground instead of the side of the road. Just before heading out there however we decided to act on one of the posters we’d seen in town advertising crab right off of the boat. $5 per Dungeness crab. We called up a guy, met him on the dock, picked out two big crabs from his boat, some deranged old salty dog showed us Delicious fresh dungeness crab legshow to clean them (grab the legs and whack off the body, fast and brutal - I wish I’d had the camera) and we had dinner. Out on the Peninsula we steamed the legs and enjoyed all the buttery delicious crab we could eat. I’d been wanting to get full on crab for cheap the whole trip, A mother moose with twins that came through campand we did just that. More than we could eat actually, and we gave some away. Of course, while Drew was off giving away crab a moose cow with two calves came through the campsite, but I kept the picnic table between myself and them. We had some good beer to top it off and got a little drunk after the crab feast, making a fine end to a rather blah day.

A lovely flower on the Chilkat

Drew on the rocky Seduction Point beach trailThe next day we decided to go for a hike out towards the very end of the Peninsula to Seduction Point. There is also a trail up into the mountains but the clouds were low and we decided to mix it up and hike on the beach instead. There’s plenty of mountains An unlucky moose on the beachin Montana, but no beaches. It was a really nice hike, even with hangovers. We had great views of the Rainbow and Davidson glaciers, saw whales blowing way off in the distance, found a moose carcass, saw a seal and even had another bear encounter. The whole hike is 12 miles round trip but the going was rough and slow on the rocky shore so we only did 10 miles to make sure we had time to catch the ferry to Skagway.

Cool seaweedDrew posing in a rock arch on the Chilkat PeninsulaA working fish wheelThe Davidson Glacier accross the Lynn CanalA salmon weir outside Haines

The Davidson Glacier with flowers in front

Rollin onto the Skagway ferry in HainesWe caught the ferry with plenty of time to spare (it was empty anyway) and enjoyed chilling on the deck as the fjords slunk past us in the dusk. No whales or calving glaciers, but it was a nice boat ride. Skagway was just like Haines… but times 4. Whereas Haines didn’t let cruise ships dock for a few years, Skagway has been suckling on that fat teat for years. About two ships a day dock, This was posted at the ferry dock. In HAINES ALASKA.and some days as many as six. The town’s population can more than triple, and the tourist infrastructure of gift shops and jewelry stores testifies to this. All the bars were deserted, and we asked if it was just because no ships were in port. The bartender side yes, but they never are at night anyway they just stop for about 6 hours during the day. Usually locals Arriving in Skagway on the ferryand the seasonal workers (outnumber the year around residents two to one) are in the bars, but there was a solstice party tonight everyone was at. So, we had to go find the party. We did, actually, without trouble at all, but it was winding down by the time we got there. The drunk bouncer let us in without paying but we didn’t really manage to break the ice with dwindling crowd so we bailed. We drove up towards the beginning of the historic Chilkoot Trail to camp that night.

Hot equipment indeedWe awoke in the morning to the sounds of rafts being unloaded for the cruise ship tours later in the day. They do a two mile hike up the rafts and float back. Yay for awesome cruise ship day activities. Some of the people there were about hike the Chilkoot trail, which is a cool 30+ The Duke. Nothing but a raccoon tail in the back. Yeah.mile hike over the trail the old gold rush stampeders used to take since it’s one of only three glacier free corridors in the interrior through the costal range. It’s a nice hike over a pass with campground and you take the train back to town. It sounds like a nice hike and The kitschy driftwood tourist info place in SkagwayI’d like to do it some time. Anyway we touristed it up in Skagway a bit, gawking at the menagerie that disembarked from the cruise ships for the day. After and oil change and a stop at the Skagway Brewing brew pub for lunch (where I tried a mix of raspberry beer with some double chocolate stout, both drafts, that blew my mind) we set off on the journey home again.

Sweet crags off of White PassDrew up on White Pass outside Skagway

Sunset as we leave Alaska

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