Haines AK, Valley of the Eagles (and bears!)

After our trip to Juneau, we had a free day to explore Haines. It is a small town of 1,800 with a shopping district down by the docks. They have a nice selection of restaurants, shops, 3 hardware stores and an award winning library. It’s really quite lovely but so far from everything. It’s a 5 hour ferry ride to Juneau (with vehicle) or a 6 hour drive to Whitehorse YT and that involves a border crossing! You really have to plan your visits to these big (pop. 32,000 and 23,000, respectively) cities.

Most of the time we miss the Farmers Markets in the towns we visit but we lucked into being here for the Haines market. It’s open only 2 hours on Saturday so we planned to start our day there. We were on a mission to find tomatoes but they had a very limited selection of vegetables, mostly root vegetables, not enough sun for tomatoes. They did however have live entertainment at the Farmers Market and the brewery located at the fairgrounds was open for business.

Next on our agenda was the local museum but we found that it did not open until 1:00pm. With time on our hands, we decided to investigate a local coffeehouse. We don’t make coffee at home so it is a treat for us. We chose the Rusty Compass Coffeehouse because we liked the name. They had very good coffee and baked goodies. We relaxed in a cozy nook and took advantage of their wifi to browse on our iPod Touch.

Fortified with the coffee and snacks, we walked across the street to the Sheldon Museum. Some on our caravan are getting “museumed out” but we still find the history of this area fascinating. This local museum was enjoyable and simple to view, great Tlingit stuff and maritime history.

We learned about Jack Dalton who developed a series of trading posts along an existing trail. In 1899, he began charging a toll to use the Grease Trail which the Tlingits used for trade with the Athabascan people of the interior. They called the trail “grease trail” after the eulachon oil (extracted from the tiny candlefish) that was the most important item of trade. Prospectors called it the Dalton Trail, not to be confused with the Dalton Highway named after James Dalton, an expert in Arctic engineering.

Later in the evening we drove the 10 miles to Chilcoot Lake SRA for some bear viewing. It was cool and raining, perfect weather for bears to be out in the lake catching salmon. As we drove along the river, we spotted parked cars so we stopped. Sure enough, one walked out of the woods and across the road about 100 yards away. He didn’t stay long before returning to the woods. We drove to the end of main road and at the turn around spotted another bear just below the road edge – too close for comfort, we stayed in the truck and drove some more. One more pass along the river and we were headed for home when we hear shouts of “Bear!” from the fishermen on the shore. We pulled over and watched (from a distance) a third grizzly fishing for salmon and playing in the river. What a great way to end our day.

Jim and Debbie
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3 responses to “Haines AK, Valley of the Eagles (and bears!)

  1. Seeing the Sheldon Museum reminded me of a bit of Presbyterian history in Alaska. The Rev. Sheldon Jackson, shortly after Alaska became a U. S. Territory, traveled widely establishing churches, a hospital, and schools. Have you run across any mention of him in the museums? (Because of the availability of public education, Sheldon Jackson College closed a few years ago.)

  2. I have a good feeling that we were on the same park as with your caravan. For when I did my laundry there, I remembered seeing a park full of Airstreams! So you were one of them!

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