Photo Essay: Weekend Getaway in Southeast, Part I: Haines

First posted in October, 2006

On a cloudy Saturday morning, we left Skagway behind to
explore some of southeast by way of the
Alaska Marine Highway System.

As we left town, the first thing we saw from the boat was
Sturgill's Landing... a hiking destination we recently visited.
As predicted in the post I made about that hike, it's, like,
maybe five and a half seconds from town by boat.

Anyway... our first stop on the ferry was the nearby town
of Haines, a mere 20 miles from Skagway by air or water,
but 230 miles by road with two international border
crossings each way... so I don't go there often.

This was only my second visit to Haines, but
I think after this trip I may start visiting more
often - it's a great place, and we had fun.

This is most of Haines, situated at the base of mountains
on the Lynn Canal. We found this lovely tidal pool that
reflected the mountains, making for an interesting shot.

We stayed at the Eagle's Nest Hotel, which was nice.
They rent cars as well, and picked us up at the ferry
terminal... very convenient. I recommend them.

The motel also has this strange carving by the front door.
His name is Porcupine Pete, and he used to belong to a
pizza place in town, but it closed down and the motel
adopted him. One simply cannot discard such a
wonderfully eccentric carving, after all.

The void left by Porcupine Pete's Pizza was quite possibly
filled by Grizzly Greg's - also home to the Fudge Factory.
Haines appears to be big on alliteration.

The jokes practically write themselves, don't they, kids?
It didn't help that I'd seen Grizzly Man a couple of nights
before and still had Sgt. Brown's Big Fight in memory.

The pedant in me refused to buy coffee here.
It's probably perfectly fine coffee, of course.

Anyway, enough signs. We came to Haines to see eagles.
The Chilkat Valley is the year-round home of between
200 and 400 eagles, which can be seen everywhere.

I saw this one perched on one of the pilings near the harbor...

...and this one was sitting on the inlet
across the road from someone's house.

The Haines Highway runs along the Chilkat River, which is
home to the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. Thirty miles
long and three miles wide (~48,000 acres), the preserve
protects the world's largest concentration of bald eagles.

Over eighty eagle nests exist in the preserve for its year-round
residents, but from October through February as many as
3,000 eagles can be seen feeding on the salmon of the
Chilkat River, many portions of which remain ice-free.

It's autumn in the low-country of the preserve, with bright
yellow foliage and what remains of last summer's fireweed...

...and beauty everywhere you look.

In the highcountry, the world is mist with a dusting of snow.

The preserve is home to many helpful interpretive signs,
such as this one telling us how moose's digestive systems
work. (While this is an actual interpretive sign, most of
their interpretative signs were extremely educational.)

The birds are just beginning to congregate, but we did see dozens
and dozens of eagles. Most were but white specks in the trees
through our binoculars or zoom lens, but some of them roosted
in trees right next to the road, like this one did.

Bald eagles don't get their characteristic head feathers until
four or five years of age. Adults are monogamous and mate
for life, choosing a new mate only if their partner dies.
They keep the same nest and add to it year after year.
With a lifespan in the wild of about forty years, nests
become massive - sometimes weighing several tons.

This stretch of highway is absolutely gorgeous.
I took one of my favorite photographs ever here,
during my last visit in November of 2004:
Raven in Flight.

I was able to find the same exact scene this trip -
complete with autumn color, but no raven.
Perhaps it is always misty. (Kidding.)

After visiting the eagle preserve, we decided drive to
Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Site, one of the
many state parks near Haines...

I saw this interesting cabin on the side of the road.
It appears to lack any real foundation.

And there was also this rather artistic little shack,
which unfortunately had a political campaign sign on it.
The idea of moving the sign so that it didn't block the
painting at all did come to mind, complete with a plan
of "forgetting" to put the sign back (I'm not a
Murkowski fan). But that would be vandalism,
so I left the sign right where I found it,
and thus it ruins my photograph.

Note: I believe the artist might be Bill Kaiana, an Athabascan
beader, carver, and graphic artist. I tried to contact him by phone
for permission to include this photograph, but the phone number I
had is no longer in service. If you read this, Mr. Kaiana, and want
me to pull the photograph, I will very happily do so - just wanted to
show off your amazing work (found in the most unexpected place!).

We turned off the main road toward the rec site and passed
this sad little cemetery in the forest, home to maybe half a
dozen visible but dilapidated graves. (The Tlingit once had
a settlement near here, but I don't know if this is their
resting place or someone else's - the only legible name
I remember is Joe Haskus, who died in 1923.)

The road worked its way down toward the Chilkoot River.
Glacial water flowed milky blue toward the nearby inlet.

We were very fortunate indeed to see this brown bear.
Unfortunately, this was at dusk, the light was very,
very low, and all my photos are blurry.

It was very lovely sight, all the same.

The fish were running between the inlet and Chilkoot Lake, and
the place was absolutely covered up in fishermen. I was
lucky to take this image of the lake with only the one canoe.