When we left Katmai and Sasquatch Alaska Adventures we thought we had probably seen the last of the bears. We were definitely and thankfully wrong. We made a return trip to Haines, Alaska. Something we had discussed the first time we visited Haines. We wanted to return in the Fall to see the gathering of the eagles. The eagles who would arrive to feast on the salmon. Unfortunately when we traveled down the Haines Highway in search of the eagles we noticed the Chilkat River, that should have been filled with salmon was almost overflowing its banks.
We stopped along the way to talk to a local fisherman and he said this was the wettest summer they had experienced in a while. The river was much higher than it had been in a long time and they weren’t sure if and when the salmon would show up. Possibly late October. Seems the eagles must have gotten the word because we only spotted three of them as we drove through the Bald Eagle Sanctuary. Oh well, change in plans.
I do have to say the journey to Haines in the Fall was absolutely spectacular. If you remember when I first blogged about the Haines Highway I was so taken with the mountains and the views. Snow capped peaks that skirted the edge of the highway. Well, I was just as taken with those views on this trip.
The colors were jewel like, topaz, and bright citron and ruby red with sapphire blue mountains. Every corner we rounded had a new view along with inspiring colors.
Where we had snow when we traveled this road in June we now had hillsides of yellow aspens. From huge patches of them to small groups-breathtaking.
So when we discovered we were going to miss the arrival of the eagles we weren’t too disappointed. We had been treated to a beautiful show by Mother Nature. Instead of camping along the Chilkat and watching for eagles we decided to head over to the Chilkoot River. Some locals told us the bears were there eating the pink salmon that were coming upstream to spawn and die.
We spent two days staking out a spot along the bridge over the river or a spot on a pullout watching for the bears. We never did see Momma bear and her 5 month old cub. But the ones we did see were very gracious in allowing us to share their space. They couldn’t be bothered with a line of humans and cameras strung across the bridge. The bears were there for one thing-the fish !
We met Jamie, the bear monitor ( I really think she is the people monitor, ensuring no one threatens or disturbs the bears). She told us about how the bear count had been continually decreasing (bad humans who shoot them). She does all that she can to educate people on bear behavior and how to respect and honor their environment.
There were certainly plenty of salmon to go around, but most of the bears seem to be upset by all the seagulls that would dive bomb them when they had their meal. Most of the time the bear would run into the woods under a tree finish off their fish in peace and quiet and then return to the stream.
It was a beautiful 2 days, a little sprinkle now and then, a little fog here and there, but the bears made it all worth it.
We both fell in love with Haines. It’s not a big tourist trap kind of place, a few artisan shops, a museum, a fabulous library (with great wifi) and scenery that goes on and on with its beauty. We are seriously thinking of returning as campground hosts in 2018. I’ll let you know how that goes-it’s dependent on another couple and if they plan on returning in 2018-we won’t know until February or March 2018.
We thought about taking the ferry to Skagway but decided we couldn’t resist driving back on the Haines Highway-it has become my favorite drive in Alaska.
As we headed north on the Haines Highway we started wondering if we could find the Dalton Post Road that led down to the Tatshenshini River. About 15 years ago we took a raft trip on the Tatshenshini and we put in at Dalton Post. So I pulled out our backroads map and spotted the road. We drove for a bit and almost went right past it. We both remembered it was a steep drive down to the river but we thought we would try it and see how far we could get. It was 13 kilometers and not too bad for the first 10, when we got to the last 3 kilometers we came to a grinding halt.
You can’t tell from this picture but the road literally appeared to drop off the face of the earth it got so steep. We pulled off to the side (just before the hillside that looked like it was going to give out at any minute). We started walking down the muddy road and decided we couldn’t take Ruby any further. We were in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone reception and what looked like a 30% grade on a muddy road.
So we let common sense and safety rather than adventure rule our decision-and so glad we did. I think we would still be waiting for a rescue had we continued with Ruby. We vowed to come back some day with 4 wheel drive.
Don’t miss the opportunity to drive the Haines Highway if you get the chance, no matter what time of year it’s a drive you won’t soon forget.
Happy Trails and safe travels my friends, wishing you crisp Autumn days, blue skies and sunshine .