This was one of the Alaskan cities I didn’t think we’d get to, but so glad we did. Another beautiful Southeastern Alaska gem, with a vigorous hike, another “development”, more new friends, and then it all unraveled…..
The Journey IS The Adventure
For Haines, getting there truly was the adventure. The drive to Haines is about 350 miles in a roundabout way. The ferry, however, can do the same trip in 45 minutes by water through North America’s longest and deepest fjord. It amounts to just a few miles of driving. We’re calling it our longest “mileage” day even though Pat only drove about 5 miles in total from campground to campground.
It was one of the few “grumpy” days we’ve had so far weather-wise and seemed like a good day to do it on the ferry. Before we departed, we managed to squeak out one more meal with our friends Cheryl & David. Then it’s off to wait in line to board the ferry. I’m at the head of the line in lane 1, seated and ready to pilot Bisty aboard the Fairweather. Pat is back in lane 3 and behind the wheel in Lucy.
They guy on the dock starts waving people in a specific order. Those going to Juneau drive aboard first and disappear. Then those of us going to Haines queue up. I’m bringing up the rear and the guys says that way I get to be first off. I’m behind this bigger truck and can’t see Pat ahead of me at the end of the dock. We wait and wait and finally I see Lucy’s nose pull around…to BACK on board the ferry! Holy smokes! I’m dying and taking all kinds of pictures from my vantage point. There are no less than 5 people circling the motorhome and putting down pieces of wood and picking them back up as Pat inches over transition points on the ramp. Turns out all those going to Haines have to turn around to face out, but Lucy’s too big for that inside the ferry, thus the backing on.
Pat is my hero this day! I give him high marks for this park job. He says he just did what the guy told him. Took about 15 minutes at least to get him in there so the rest of us could come aboard.
I’m still all jazzed about Pat and his backing up. People are getting out of their cars so I do, too, and go back to talk to Pat. He is parked with the door and steps right next to a big pole. He doesn’t think he can get out since the stairs are automatic and would clang the pole. I agree and he hands me money out the window so I can get him a snack. Pat had planned to stay with Jackson anyway, so no big deal.
I go up to the passenger deck and browse around the snack bar as we start cruising. I’m delighted to find ice cream bars as well as candy bars. Pat will be so pleased. I’ve paid for my purchases, but now can’t find the stairwell that goes back down to the auto deck. “Excuse me”, I ask the clerk. “Where is the door back down to the cars?” She proceeds to tell me that I can’t go back down, and I proceed to show my ice cream bar just waiting to be eaten by my husband who is down below in the RV and cannot get out I explain. Anyone figured out where this is going yet? A flurry of walkie-talkie talk ensues and she trots me over to a control room to yet another stern-faced woman. NO ONE can be down in the cars she says, and dons her very official safety vest. She unlocks a cryptically marked door (why I couldn’t find it), and shoos me down the stairs like the bad little kid.
I knock on Lucy’s window and proudly hand over the ice cream bar to Pat and we tell him he has to come out. Frown. Ok, but he doesn’t think the stairs will allow it. While he’s putting on his shoes, the lady says to me “How did YOU get out?!”. I was driving the car I say. Oh. Pat slowly eases the door open and the stairs come out just inches from the pole. Ta-da! She marches us back up stairs and we apologize profusely. And that is the story of how we got into hot water on the ferry, and I ended up with zero pictures of the voyage and fjord.
So big day on the ferry and we’re tired. How about we bake that pizza in the convection oven Pat suggests. Capital idea and I start pre-heating the oven. Zzzztt and off goes the oven. Or some noise kinda like that. I think we’ve tripped the breaker, but Pat checks and says no. Out comes the multi-meter and Pat works his electrical magic. We were just extolling the many virtues of the microwave/convection oven to our Texas friends over lunch. Seems the magical creature picked this moment in our journey to die the big death.
Have I mentioned that we have never. ever. ever. used our regular oven before? Well, we now have a thawing pizza on our hands and no wherewhithal to scrounge up anything else. Pat proceeds to light the gas oven so the baking can begin. I don’t think the people who owned the motorhome before us ever used the oven either, so smell with me the odor of all that dust burning off the element. Yes, we did eat our dinner and it was fairly evenly baked pizza. And thus ends day one in Haines.
This is a beautiful spot and seems to prove what our Hyder host said. All the prettiest places in Alaska are along the coast. So far that’s pretty much all we’ve seen so we can’t argue. We originally timed the trip over here to coincide with the Alaska Craft Beer & Homebrew Festival. After getting here we learn it is completely sold out, but also that it is flat expensive. Since I’m only going to drink the equivalent of one beer total and Pat doesn’t even like anything with taste, we’re ok with skipping. Instead we set off to see the sights.
I regret that we didn’t go to the hammer museum, but I’ll explain why in a bit. We did go to Battery Point to take Jackson on a short hike.
I can’t say enough about the different variations of blue in the clouds, water and cliffs. Patti – that sailboat shot is for you! You need to be sailing up here!
The woods are just what I pictured with big tall firs, and a carpet of moss to blanket everything from the roots to the rocks.
Nice, easy softball hike for Jackson. From there we grab lunch out and then head over to the fairgrounds where they have the set of Dawson City from the 1989 movie White Fang. Disney built the set, but the citizens paid to move it here to outfit their fairgrounds.
Now we’re ready for a real hike and we stopped by the visitor center to get the scoop on where to go. The Mt. Ripinsky summit is a full day affair and still snow-covered. We are waived off of that one, but the tower hike is an afternoon option. As I’m leaving, a guy tells me about a short half-mile extension and promises a stunning overlook of the city at the end. We’re sold and off we go.
This was only a four mile hike total, but not well-marked after the first mile or so. It was extremely strenuous and we did as much climbing and clambering over things as we did actually putting one foot in front of the other. Also the first time we had to stop multiple times on any hike and retrace our steps as we realized we were no longer on the path. At one point I asked if we were on the path or in a runoff area. Perhaps both Pat declares. Fortunately we found markers that other hikers had tied to tree branches to steer us clear.
I almost suggested we turn back at the two hour point and then, wow! That guy did not lie. We had a view of the bay over my left shoulder and further out the Chilkat River. Haines sits right in between.
More shots from the top of the rock.
That rocky outcropping right above Pat’s head is where we were overlooking the city.
Zoomed in you can see the campground below. Lucy is the backed in motorhome to the far right at the end of the horseshoe drive.
The Rest of the Haines Experience
We originally had 3 days planned for Haines and then I found this wildlife center I just HAD to see. Expensive, but I was willing to spend the money on that. They had a playful wolverine after all and a moose you could pet. So day four, Sunday, is added on.
In the meantime, I have my hair cut and colored by a delightful woman named Judith. Yes, karma I think. She’s lived here for 20 odd years and just loves it all. Although she says if she’d known how hard she’d have to work to live here full-time, she probably wouldn’t have made the move.
We also find a nice little Catholic church and attend Mass. Imagine our surprise when Father Perry asks if we’d like him to come and bless our RV? I don’t think there’s a way to turn that down, do you? So we put him in our car, drive him over to the RV park, and he blesses us inside and out, including Jackson. Holy water all around!
Finally, we get a chance to join some new friends, John & Debbie for dinner. They’re also from Florida and on a similar trek as us. Former live aboard sailors, turned full-time RVers.
And this is where the wheels come off the bus my friends. By that evening, I’m running 100+ fever and Pat is not fairing much better. Sunday dawns and we are absolutely not going to the wildlife center. I am disappointed, but truly feeling so bad I don’t care. And also the reason we don’t see the hammer museum. That was only $5, by the way.
So that’s the Haines saga. Next up – Million Dollar Falls and our strategical error. See you on the way!