Days 37 & 38
The following morning we left the Alaskan Highway at Haines Junction. That’s where one of the most photographed monuments on the highway happens to be. It’s called a “monument to the mountains.” Others have called it “the mountain muffin” (see photo).
The Haines Highway (about 150 miles) south of Haines Junction, also has a scenic highway designation. The designation is worthy of the highway. The first hour, the highway was perfectly smooth.
Then we ran into construction. For the next twenty miles we drove on gravel which then turned into slop. By the time we got through all of that, the car had even more mud upon it. Plus that, the rear-view video camera, high up on the back-end of the RV, was coated with muddy spray. I had to pull over, take out a spray bottle and wash-off the mud!
We left the Yukon, drove an hour or so through British Columbia, then re-entered Alaska at a customs stop about forty miles out of Haines.
This day’s wildlife count during 200 miles: three dogs being walked along the roadway; three chipmunks, a few ravens and two swans. We heard from a construction flagger that we'd passed a grizzly near the Yukon/BC border, and another one near the BC Alaska Border. But hearing about them doesn't count the same as actually seeing them, does it?
We spent two nights in Haines, Alaska. There was a coin-op RV wash across the street from the RV park where we stayed. Because we weren’t going back up the Haines Highway, I washed both the RV and the car. The car’s color changed from mud-tan back to white!
Haines is a small harbor town. It was home for an Army base, Fort Seward, from about 1899 – 1940’s. The fort was set up to help control unruly gold-rushers. About that time, too, there were on-going disputes between Canada and the U.S about the border. Eventually a conference declared that the Alaska Territory and British Columbia border would run along the peaks of mountains to the east. Thus the “panhandle” of Alaska was “born.”
Fort Seward looks similar to Fort Townsend, Washington—site of filming for the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman.” Most of the buildings have been converted to businesses. It’s now mostly tourist oriented.
After exploring Haines, we followed the recommendation of the RV park’s office and drove past the Alaska Ferry terminal up to Chilkoot Lake. I’d been told that along America’s shortest (one mile) river, we’d likely see bears. Skeptical as we were, we drove up there.
And yep, while looking at a couple of bald eagles across the river, people began congregating and pointing up-river. Surprise, surprise. There actually was a sow (bear) and her two cubs! Our cameras clicked repeatedly for the next half hour while the bears worked their way down-stream. In the middle of that, a bald-eagle went salmon fishing in the river! But we didn’t get a picture of the fish it caught. What a wonderful experience.
There were quite a few people fishing in the river. Others were looking for bears. One time I was busy taking pictures of one of the cubs. A fellow tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You better move away.” I hadn’t been fully paying attention, while looking through my camera’s view-finder. One of the cubs had moved within fifty-feet of me! I took a quick picture and removed myself-- with haste! I did NOT want Mama Grizzly to protect her cub!
Great video of the Grizzly’s will be shown to Panorama friends at our Armchair Traveler’s Program. When available to non-Panorama family & friends on YouTube, you’ll be notified.
This morning we checked into the Alaska Ferry terminal at 7 o’clock. At 9 AM we were headed out to the Lynn Channel, and then south to Juneau. It was a 4.5 hour ride. We saw several whales on the way down. We’ll be in Juneau for five nights before ferrying out to Sitka.