We took the ferry from Skagway to Haines. We arrived at the Ferry at about 5:30 in morning and watched them begin to load the big motor homes. The ship is a lot bigger than it first appears. This reality became more and more clear as we watched RV after RV, large and small, come down the ramp and turn into the open loading bay.
It was our turn to start down the ramp. When we turned and entered the Ferry we were amazed to see that it was still almost empty. We parked and went up to the forward observation room and watched as a parade of cars, trucks, and RV’s continued to fill the belly of the ship for another thirty minutes.
We finally pulled out of Skagway and began our one hour, 15 mile trip down to Haines hiding behind the third point of land on the right. It was alternating rain and sun most of the trip south.
The snow covered mountains on both sides of the inlet fed several great water falls as we traveled south on the Ferry. This was one of the more impressive streams.
I took this picture to show how craggy, gnarly, and wild the mountains are in this area. In geologic terms these are probably considered young mountains.
The storm clouds off in the distance made for spectacular photographs of the inlet as we approached Haines. Unlike the hustle and bustle of Skagway, we found Haines to be a sleepy Alaskan town that Sunday morning. We stopped in a local restaurant for breakfast before heading north through the Chilkat Pass to Haines Junction on the Alaskan highway and back to White Horse.
This is the area of the Chilkat River made famous each year when thousands of bald eagles come to feed on the young salmon heading down river to begin their four year feeding cycle in the Pacific Ocean before returning here to spawn. We were a bit early for the eagle gathering. That won’t happen for another month or so when the snow capped mountains begin to shed their winter blanket and fill the river behind Melinda with snow melt that will carry the young salmon out to the ocean. This is a place we will try to come back to in the future.
Nope, we didn’t spot any nests but we know they are in the area because it’s time for their young to be hatching. We forgot to bring our own binoculars and this one that Melinda is using was not very helpful. The field of vision was very small!!
The road north through the Chilkat Pass follows the ancient Indian path that the local first nation tribes ( native American Indian) used to carry pelts and other trading supplies to the inland tribes. They kept this route through the Chilkat Pass secret to protect this important trade route for centuries. When gold was discovered in Dawson City to the north, it wasn’t long before the secret trail was discovered. Once the trail north was public knowledge, the local tribes had no way to survive. Within two years, the 1897 gold rush had ended their centuries long way of life.
We didn’t see much wild life on the trip north but we did get to watch some trumpeter swans. Trumpeter swans were made famous by the story of the Ugly Duckling.
The glaciers on the Chilkat Pass are spectacular. We stopped for pictures but ended up just leaning against the car and taking in the quiet beauty and the soft sound of wind moving through these magnificent mountains. They alone are worth the trip.
This picture of the Haines Highway Summit in the Chilkat Pass gives you a better idea of what I was talking about above. It’s impossible to be here without an overwhelming sense of awe.
When you actually drive the road that follows this ancient Indian trail you can see why it would be impossible for outsiders to find their way through these mountains and the Chilkat Pass unless the knowledge had been provided and passed down by the elders of the tribe. There were literally hundreds of decisions to make as you picked your way through fifty miles of snow covered mountain canyons and passes. The pictures you see here were taken in the middle of June!!
It was a long trip from Haines to Haines Junction…..about a hundred miles. But worth the effort! This last picture was taken just before Haines Junction looking back at the Glaciers and Chilkat Pass. There are no words or pictures that will ever capture the spiritual presence that fills you when surrounded by these glacier covered mountain ranges.
It has been an amazing trip…..a three hundred mile circle that began in White Horse yesterday morning, took us through the White Pass and all of its gold rush history, a ferry ride down to Haines, an amazing trip through the glacier covered mountains of Chilkat Pass……and now a hundred mile drive back to White Horse. If this had all happened back in the 48 there would be a glorious setting sun to cap off a perfect day. But this is Alaska……..the sun won’t set for another five hours and even then it will only get gray, not dark! So instead of a glorious setting sun, we’ll have a bright sunny drive back to White Horse.
See you down the road.