So much wildness and wilderness along the Klondike Highway, it was a shock to our systems to arrive in Skagway. Huge cruise ships docked in port; people all over the sidewalks and people standing in the street as though the street was closed to traffic-it wasn’t ! After 20 minutes in Skagway we were longing for the open road but figured we would make the best of it. We went to the Alaska Marine Highway ferry terminal to figure out when we could catch the ferry to Haines.
We knew we were going to spend the rest of the afternoon wandering town and checking out the Gold Rush Museum. And then in the evening we had a train ride reserved for the 3 hour round trip to White Pass. So we figured we would leave for Haines Thursday evening. We aren’t shoppers so the train ride and museum and a tour of town would be enough city life for us .
But first a cold beer and good burger. The gal at the railroad ticketing window recommended the Skagway brewery but we got way laid at the Bonanza Bar. Good call, delicious Bonanza burger for me that was topped with bacon aioli-omg I have to get a recipe for that. Jim had the pulled pork.
Both sandwiches were delicious and the ice cold Denali Gold Beer hit the spot. After eating , Jim took care of purchasing his Alaska fishing license while I sat in a little park people watching.
Next up , the train ride. We were seated at the depot and I struck up a conversation with the woman next to me. Small world, she and her husband were from Burien, WA, close neighbors to us when we lived in West Seattle !
She told us what side of the train to sit on going up the mountain (the left side), for the best view. It doesn’t matter , because at the top of the mountain they do the “shuffle”. You introduce yourself to your neighbor across the aisle and switch seats with them-the seats flip over so you aren’t riding backwards and they now have the great view going down the mountain. Fortunately on our trip we had plenty of room-TIP– take the late afternoon train ride-the cruise ship folks can’t ride it because it doesn’t get them back in time for their departures.
I definitely recommend this ride. My friend Amy recommended it to me-Thanks Amy ! The scenery is amazing-hey it’s Alaska-what isn’t amazing here. There was still snow at the top and when we passed hillside waterfalls the cold air off the waterfall felt about 20 degrees cooler.
You will see the old wooden trestle that is out of service; tons of waterfalls; canyons; maybe a bear or two; a distant view of the deepest fjord in the US; and an overturned caboose that left the track years ago and is still stuck on in the trees on the steep hillside.
The train wasn’t occupied when this happened-it was on a test run-so don’t worry about your safety. We said goodbye to our Burien friends once we arrived back at the station and agreed to stay in touch and get together once we were home.
We had no idea where to camp- we didn’t want to stay in town. We checked out the campgrounds and it was wall to wall, bumper to bumper parking lots of RV’s. We knew the abandoned town of Dyea was just north of Skagway, about 15 miles and there was a National Forest campground there, so we headed that way. What we didn’t know is that it was a dirt road that we had to travel. No worries, it was fairly decent and well packed, narrow in spots and it followed along the water. Another top notch drive.
We checked out the Dyea Campground and found a spot that wasn’t completely in the shade so we could still get a decent solar charge. Pit toilets and clean sites were the amenities-$12 for the night, $6 with our Senior pass . Only a few mosquitoes and close enough to the river that we took a brief hike the next day.
Guess who showed up at the campground ? Our Burien friends, we said our hellos and good nights, they were as tired as we were, so off to bed. It was raining when they left in the morning, we hung around for another hour or two and the rain stopped so we took a little hike to the river. It’s a pretty little campground and it gets you out of RV world and cruise world in downtown Skagway and that makes it a winner in my book.
We checked in early for the ferry to Haines; hung out at the dock; met some fellow passengers and took a nap. The ferry was a little late in leaving. We were supposed to be boarded and ready for departure at 830pm. We didn’t start boarding until 845pm. Interesting boarding process. They pull folks out of line based on what size vehicles the loader wants and the final destination of the vehicle.
You have to go down a steep ramp to be at the side entry to the ferry. When you get to the bottom you are stopped and a person on each side of your RV checks to see if you are going to hit bottom when you leave the steep ramp. If you are going to hit bottom, they manually insert enough boards under your rear tires to ensure you don’t hit bottom. No way would I ever drive a class A or 5th wheel down that ramp – my heart was in my throat just watching them.
Then when you get to the bottom you have to make a 90 degree turn to enter the ferry. No problem for our Roadtrek-smooth sailing!
It was only an hour ferry ride to Haines from Skagway, 150$ for us and the RV one way. We discovered getting off the ferry was almost as fun as getting on. One way on, same way off. The vehicles behind us all had to back up one at a time to what was the front of the ferry. Yes class As and 5th wheels had to reverse it the length of the ferry, make a 90 degree turn to access the side exit. We couldn’t believe it-amazing.
Coming into Haines, it was the twilight hour-well as much as it could be twilight at 1030pm. We had no idea of where we were going to camp. A couple we met from Germany snagged the first pullout, just shortly up the road from the ferry terminal.
We pulled into the rest stop , about 2miles past the pullout. It was perfect. Clean restrooms and a field of flowers with the water and the mountains right at our feet.
The next morning Jim was thinking of fishing the Chilkoot River so we camped at the Chilkoot River campground for 3 days. Alaska state parks offer no discounts, unless you are a resident of Alaska. But not so bad, 15$ per night, clean pit toilets and a great campground host at this one. Weather was cool and overcast-the cold air kept the mosquitoes away-great.
When we left, we headed into town and stopped at the library. Great wifi connections I took care of my photos; paid some bills; sent some important emails and figured out what groceries we might need. We also took a little tour on the road that is on the other side of the Chilkoot River, flowers were everywhere.
We had gotten a tip from some campers at Chilkoot about an artisan well outside of town on Mud Bay Road. We headed that direction . We got a little turned around but eventually straightened out and found the well on the side of the road. We filled all of our gallon containers and used one of the containers to fill our water tank. You know how cold and delicious mountain spring water tastes? Nothing quenches your thirst better than that cold spring water.
As we were driving north, heading for the Chilkat River now, Jim spotted 3 bald eagles circling overhead. He pulled off the road for me to get some great shots. I did get some great shots, unfortunately , I also got a great fall.
I had just climbed over the metal guardrail, both feet were firmly and safely planted on the other side of it. I took my first step and I honestly don’t know what happened. I don’t remember if I stepped in a small ditch that threw me off balance or what. It felt more like something blocked me at the knees and I fell face first. I was carrying my camera in one hand and a sandbag in the other. I dropped the sandbag but held onto the camera. Wish I would have dropped the camera in the grass. But I didn’t. I fell full force to the gravel and concrete pull out where Jim was parked. My camera fell at the same time with me and hit full force on it’s bottom left edge. I had my 100-400 lens on it and I was more worried that I may have cracked my lens. I felt the pain in my hand and my knee and started crying. Not from the pain , but because I thought I had just lost my lens.
When I regained my composure and Jim’s heart rate returned to normal I discovered the lens was undamaged. But , my camera would not work. I first thought ,well maybe the battery was dead. I swapped out three different batteries-no go. I shut it off, tried to turn it on, pressed every button I could and still no power. I smacked it a few times thinking maybe a I could smack a loose connection back into place-silly me, nothing was working. Once I realized that , the tears came non stop. Foolish me, I felt so stupid and so clumsy. Here we were, not even a week in Alaska and I was without the use of my camera with my favorite lens. What would I do?
I got my wits about me and stopped crying. We came up with plan 1-have my brother mail my other Canon camera to Whitehorse, It wouldn’t be that far out of the way for us to pick it up (100 miles one way). And Fed Ex expected to deliver on June 15th-okay I could breathe again. Stay tuned for the rest of this comedy of errors.
We are off to explore the Haines Highway, see you in Whitehorse ! Again….
Happy Trails and safe travels, and remember what Old Blue Eyes sang:
I’ve been up and down and over and out But I know one thing: Each time I find myself flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race.
That’s life, I can’t deny it, I thought of quitting, But my heart just won’t buy it. Cause if I didn’t think it was worth a try, I’d have to roll myself up in a big ball and die- Frank Sinatra, “That’s Life