Thursday, August 16, 2012

Haines, Alaska

After leaving Dawson City we headed down the Klondike Highway towards Whitehorse. There is just so much Alaska to see and each road has its own special vistas. We boondocked one night and the next day pulled into the Walmart in Whitehorse, shopped and decided to wait until the next day to head out towards Haines. Besides the McDonalds in the store has free WIFI.  We had another lovely meet up with Sprinter/Sharon (This being pre-gas leak problem.) The Walmart in Whitehorse was the one that put the neat “Thank You” note on all the windows back in June.  

With a fresh start we made it all the way to Haines in one day. I had been told by other travelers that the Haines Highway was picturesque and it is.  The large sweeping valleys are definitely the work of ancient glaciers. Some of the valleys were almost treeless.  After crossing the boarder to head back into the US the terrain changed dramatically. As we dropped over the mountain and headed back down into the thick forest and the moist damp weather of the seacoast. We drove past the Eagle Sanctuary and I spotted several down by the river and in the trees. In November they migrate to this area from all over because of the warmer climate and the river that hasn't frozen over yet.  There numbers at that time are in the tens of thousands.  Haines holds their festival in the middle of November at that time.

I really enjoyed Haines and its museums and walking around the town and the grounds of old Fort Seward.   Nan and I also discovered what will probably be or favorite campground.  If all RV parks had owners as gracious as this lady we would be so lucky.  She really made everyone feel welcome and appreciated.  And well there was her Crab/Potluck Dinner!   For six dollars you got to join in the fun and bring a dish to share…and there is a huge crab with your name on it.  

On the drive down to Haines we stopped to potty the pups at the site of an old Roadhouse.

A old picture from the front facing the road.

And a picture from the side.

And further down the road we go.

A couple of those intrepid cyclists that I wrote about...riding in the rain.

Over the mountains and back into the misty coastal region.

A young eagle graced a spot in one of the museums...but he was huge

Don't want those pesky Halibut to sink the small boats and when you see how large some of them were it is amazing that the native crafts made it back in one piece.

Herschel was happy to tell me that his days as a potential pack animal are history.

In the morning the owner of the RV park solicited assistance in retrieving the crabs for the evening meal.  We walked down to the small boat harbor and out to the small boat to find the crabs stored down in the water waiting for us.  (The weather was not cooperating with crab fishing and she thought that the 15 her friend had caught for her would not be enough and later went down to the cannery and purchased 15 more...just to be sure that she would have enough for everyone that might chose to come. She does not orchestrate these meals for a profit that is for sure.)

We were given instructions to pick them up from the back and to watch for the other guys pinchers. 

Then the assembly line was started.  As you might guess some just offered to hold our cameras and take pictures.  One of the other guys started with me in the picking up the live guys and doing the initial cracking them open but after getting pinched by some of the crabs they decided to move on to the de-gutting portion of the program.

So maybe a few of the folks did refer to me as the "crab killer" but I noticed that they were pretty good at picking the guts and lungs out and no one said that they weren't interested in eating the crabs after they were prepared.  I guess that all those years watching my father clean fish paid off.   (We sure did like those tasty fish.) 

The crabs were put on ice and Nan and I headed off to explore more of Haines. 

The officers quarters at the top of the hill on what was old Fort Seward. It was the original army fort in Alaska from which the army sent off men to explore the area and later determine other places for military settlement.  After WWII it was decided to decommission the fort. A group of veterans bought the ground and tried to create businesses that would sustain the buildings and area.  That venture failed but enough people stepped up to buy and maintain most of the buildings and try to make business or housing ventures that would keep the places from falling down.

Looking down from the front of the officer's houses across the parade ground towards the inlet and the enlisted men's barracks.

I am thinking that being called a "dog robber" might not have been fun.

Did you know that there is a hammer museum in Haines?   You might not think that hammers are all that exciting but as you walk past the walls they speak of history and so many jobs and trades and ways to make a living.

These are posted for my brother. He would actually know what to do with most of them.

The owner said that he often gets rare and specialty hammers sent to him or left with him from strangers that just want the hammer to have a good home and know that it will be appreciated.

Sorrt that this one blurred a bit but if you can read the fine print it talks about how many strikes it took to make a file.  My arm got tired just thinking of it. Good tools were precious.

This hammer actually leaves a "cut" X in the middle of the check.

After our walk through the museums and the stores and the bakery.....we settled back to read and wait until supper time.   Steaming the crabs was also a community effort.   First requirement is to drink the barrel dry so that you can use it as a steamer.....  Apparently our group was too late to help with that job so we moved right on to the cooking.   Timing was involved.  The "cook" had to wait until they crabs came to a hard boil and then turn the heat down and let them steam for 8 minutes.  When the timer said "enough" the first load of crab were gently taken out and needed to be rinsed off on the drain to get the foam off and to cool them down.   They were put in the done pile and the second batch was put in.

Those that cook do and those that don't take pictures.

No pictures of us eating. Lots of fingers were involved with little need of crab crackers. Apparently steaming the fresh crabs leaves their shells a little softer than we were used to.

After the crab fest Nan and I drove down several miles towards the state recreation area past the ferry and to the area were the bears have been coming to the river to eat salmon.  We saw several. One crossed the road right in front of us with a fish in his mouth and headed up the back into the trees on the left side of the road.  The road had a wet track of bear prints and it was apparent that the bears used this section as their highway back and forth to the river.

We would have actually gotten pictures of the last one as we were parked waiting patiently for him or her to climb back out of the water and take dinner back into the woods....except for the idiot in the van than pulled past my rig and then realized that the bear was right there in the water. He gets out of his van and starts to approach the bank.  A young man working the salmon weir counting salmon realized what the guy was trying to do and had to come "cuss" him back into his van.  The bear did not appreciate his dinner being interrupted by loud and offensive language but then he also did not charge the human being with the camera right on top of him and chose to take to the woods and wait for those dumb humans to move on.

And then the next morning we lined up at the ferry for our short ride up to Skagway.   The called Nan right away and she ended up being in the front. I figured that if they got her down they could fit me.  Nan may mention it in her blog but she said that the ship has a series of hydraulics that they can life and lower on the bottom of the ramp to help with that potential "butt" dragging issue.  

A small Born Free and myself were the last to go one (except for that huge 33 foot dump get to see him later.) but then I got to watch all the Class A's and C's and camper trucks and cars and motor cycles.  Mario the man in the lot with the radio worked hard work with the crew below deck to sort us out and get us loaded in an order so that we all fit.

For those that are interested Nan and I drove out to the Ferry Terminal first thing as we came into Haines and we when we asked about possible room on out going ferries to Skagway, the gentleman said, "Fine, when do you want to go?"  We made our reservations for day after next to give us time to visit the town of Haines for a day and a half.  By the morning the ferry left it was full but just thought folks might want to know that some years or times of the year, the ferries just aren't booked weeks in advance. 

And yes, I really liked Haines and the people we met there.   It had the feel of a real Alaska town.....and then we went over to Skagway....   More on that later. 


  1. Loved this post. This was a very interesting place. You didn't tell us the name of this fabulous RV park. Inquiring minds want to know. Great pictures.

  2. The park is Ocean View or Ocean "something?" and is the only one right down on the water front. It is small 24 unit park but with filled with hospitality and nice people.

  3. Great post! I'm looking forward to the Haines hwy and Haines. Will have to look for that RV park too.