Headed for Haines
Bears, bison and moose feed along the road from Fort Nelson, BC Canada to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. This 12-hour drive takes a few hours longer because of intentional stops along the way. Got to sit and stare at the scenery while Jack my dog stretches his legs.
The sun still shines at ten o’clock in the evening in Whitehorse, Yukon’s capital city. Jack and I decide to stay for two nights. A morning walk along the thawing Yukon river is only one reason. We also enjoy the services available such as lodging, great food, beer and an oil change. This place is paradise for outdoor enthusiasts for kayaking, fishing, hiking, hunting and more. A local gal tells me that living in Yukon is much cheaper than in BC, partly on account of less taxes. She says, “BC stands for bring cash.”
Time to hit the road…after a week of driving mostly remote roads, I’m having conversations with my dog. “We finally have a short driving day today Jack, only two hours to Skagway where we’re getting a hotel.” Jack pants, nodding in approval. “Then we’ll take the forty-five minute ferry to Haines, our new home.”
Seventy miles later, things do not look very “Skagish.” A rare road sign reads, “Haines Junction.” I cannot believe that I got lost, so to speak. Only one turn-off to take from the ALCAN Highway, and I miss it? I’m almost out of gas. Luckily, a gas station appears and the attendant tells me that he lives here and had gotten lost on the one road before. I’m about 170 miles from Skagway, and 180 from Haines…so let’s drive on to Haines. Moral of this story…find treasure when lost. Black bears, moose and porcupines welcome us amongst a white carpet of frozen lakes and mountains.
Finally, through US Customs and into Alaska! The Haines Highway rolls through the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, where each November about 3500 American Bald Eagles converge to feast on salmon running up the bottoms of the Tsirku, Kieheni, and Chilkat Rivers. The captivating scenery along the road makes the drive dangerous, as I gaze at the scene and veer left to center.
Into the charming Borough of Haines, I cop a room at the Halsingland Hotel before Jack and I stroll along the Chilkoot Inlet to marvel at the snow-capped mountains. At the Fogcutter Bar I drink a cold one and Jack curls up on the floor. A biker from the “UGLIES” club shares stories about exhaust pipes, and I feel the friendliness of this town immediately.
We scope out the terrain in the morning with a drive out to Chilkat State Park. Fellow motorists wave at us and initially, I don’t know how to react. Back in Phoenix a wave from a driver usually involves the middle finger. Chains lock the gates to the park, so we walk two miles down the twisty, gravel, fourteen percent grade. Wow! I see the log cabin where Mare and I will be Camp Ground Hosts. The deck is huge and the view puts tears in my eyes.
Then reality hits…we are going to live out here for four months without running water or electricity? What exactly does a Camp Host do? I’m a bit nervous to call the Ranger…as usual I’m too early and he expects us to arrive ten days from now.