Road trip 2017…Skagway and Haines-Day 12 & 13

We woke up early and had oatmeal and toast.  We did several loads of laundry, broke down our canopy and headed to town.

We checked in at the ferry office and learned that we would be assigned a lane and would need to be in line by 1:30pm.  That was an hour earlier than we thought so we needed to hurry to see everything.  They measured the pickup, we received our lane assignment and left the pickup at the ferry parking area.

Between the ferry and the cruise ships is Pullen Creek.  There is a fish ladder at the bottom as Pullen Creek enters the ocean.  We watched as the salmon ran the fish ladder and one opportunistic seal waited.

The actual town of Skagway is not very big and easy to walk around.  Since it was the starting point to the Klondike Gold fields in Dawson City, there is a lot of history to explore.

The plow that was used by the train to keep the tracks clear in the winter is on display.

The National Park Service has numerous buildings, full of exhibits, showing the history of the gold rush.  At the Junior Ranger building, you can pan for “gold”.

There is a replica saloon..

We found a picture of what the town looked like in the Gold Rush days, and then took a picture now.

There is a unique building in Skagway, which currently houses the Convention and Visitors Center.  It used to be the Arctic Brotherhood Hall.  The organization’s symbol of a gold pan and nuggets can be seen near the roof line.There are 8,883 pieces of driftwood on the front of the building.  In 2004-2005, all the driftwood pieces were removed, as much of the wood was deteriorating.  40% of the driftwood (3,533) pieces had to be replaced, while the remaining 5,300 were re-installed.  It is said to be the most photographed building in Alaska.

Skagway, has its share of shops, where we bought a few treats.  We couldn’t resist the Seasalt Caramel Corn or the fudge.  We love the names….

We still had about 3 hours until we needed to be in the ferry line, so we decided to drive to Dyea.  This was the original port and town for the Stampeders to arrive on a ship.  Dyea is around the mountain from Skagway.  It’s bay is not as deep as Skagway so it had a very long pier.  The trail out of Dyea was also prone to avalanches.

Once at the townsite of Dyea, there is a trail and information signs.

There is not much left of the town, but the paths show how large it was in the heyday of the gold rush.  Our next stop was the cemetery.  It was moved to a new location in 1979, as it was being washed away by the nearby Taiya River.  On April 3, 1989, the Palm Sunday Avalance struck the trail were the stampeders were hiking.  60 people were buried under the snow.  This was one of the final straw for the settlement of Dyea, as new Gold Stampeders were told that the route out of Dyea was dangerous.  The final straw was when the WP&YR railroad opened in Skagway.  The cemetery was very quiet.  It was humbling to read the headstones.  We found 3 people from Idaho who were buried there.

On the way back, we stopped to look at the harbor of Dyea.

We had planned on seeing the large waterfalls near Dyea, but the clouds had set in and it began to rain.  We headed back to Skagway, stopping at the overlook above the town.

We went and got in our assigned ferry line.  We noticed that the clouds were rapidly descending so we snapped the only picture we got of the glacier on the other side of the bay. We grabbed some snacks and waited for boarding to begin.  The cruise ship passengers were very curious of the ferry line.

We were ready to board and head to Haines.

It was a very organized and smooth process…we drove in one side, then drove all the way around to the other side.  You were parked according to what port you would be getting off.

We took our last pictures of Skagway.


Once we were underway,  we did a bit of exploring.  We found the Recliner Lounge, which had very comfortable chairs.  The upper deck is partially covered.  If we were to be on the ferry for several days, this is where they allow you to set-up a tent to sleep.  We also found the cafeteria.  We ordered a cheeseburger and fries and a clam chowder.  While the burger and fries cooked, we talked to the cook about life on a ferry.  She works 7 days on and then has 7 days off. Her home port was Ketchikan, AK.  Her room is under the car deck so it can get abit noisy.  She told us that she had just been in Stanley, Idaho for the Solar Eclipse…small world!!!  The food was very yummy and warm.

Our hope of seeing beautiful scenery on our ferry trip were soon vanishing and we were only able to see the bottom of the mountains and waterfalls.  It had started to pour, so visibility was  limited.

We had enjoyed our short ride on the ferry.  The de-boarding process was just as interesting as the boarding.

The ferry terminal is south out of Haines, but it is near Chilkoot Lake.  We had been told that bears might be gathered on the banks of the river for the salmon run.  We didn’t see any bears  drove to the lake and thought about staying at the campground, but since there were bears in the area, it was raining, and the restrooms were not close to the site we would be in, so we decided against it.  The low clouds did make for interesting scenery.

We were feeling  disappointed with the lack of bears, but we were amazed at the spawning salmon.  There were long black ribbons in the river, hundreds of them.  As we looked closer, they were salmon, huddled together, resting against the current.

The road into and out of Chilkoot Lake is narrow and there were a lot of people and cars looking for bears.  Finally we had success…a bear across the river.  The rain and low light made it difficult to get a great picture, but it was interesting watching the bear catch and eat the salmon.

The river was beautiful with the low clouds…

With the rain letting up a bit, we decided to drive back to the main road and drive along the tidal flats.  Jim had spotted a mama bear and her cub on the tidal flat and was looking at them with his binoculars, when a bear came running out of the grass.

We couldn’t find him again, so we continued down to the end of the road to look at the water falls.  On the way back, we spotted the bear again, catching salmon by the bridge.

With darkness setting in, we head toward Haines to find a spot for the night.  We came around a corner, seriously, there is nothing prettier than a cruise ship at night.HB4116

We found a spot and set-up our canopy as it had started to rain.  We quickly boiled water and had Mountain House Beef Stew.  This was our least favorite Mountain House meal, we loved the others!!  At about 3am a storm came through with very strong winds.  We hurriedly got up to take down the canopy, it was all we could do to hold onto it so it didn’t twist around the pick-up.  After a struggle, we finally got it down and in the pick-up, now to try and go back to sleep.

The next morning it had stopped raining, but was over-cast.  The cruise ship had left port, so there was not much activity in Haines.  We went and looked at the harbor, as Haines is home to one of the largest Halibut fishing fleets.

There is an old army post in Haines, Fort William Seward.  The fort was closed as a military facility after World War II.  Most of the buildings are occupied as homes or businesses.  There are only crumbled remnants of the barracks.

Sine the weather seemed to be getting better, we thought we would try the Chilkoot Lake area in the day.  We saw no bears, but were lots of birds and fisherman.  Along the river, there is an area set aside for Native Americans to fish.  It is marked with a totem pole and a sign asking not to enter as it is considered scared ground.

On the river, there is a weir set-up.  This is a fishing counting station.

On the way back to Haines, we saw a Bald Eagle on the tidal flats.  This got us excited, as we were going to drive up Hwy 7, the Haines Highway, right past the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve.  There is so much to see….