Monday, August 1, 2011

Haines and Skagway

Monday was an exciting day along the Alaska Highway.

Just before we left this morning, Gene went out and made some photos of what is left of an abandoned lodge which offered food, gas, and souvenirs to travelers from 1976 to 1989.  We spent the night in front of what used to be the gas pumps.  The only building left standing is the small “office” for the service station.  Everything else has fallen down.  We’ve seen so many businesses which are closed along the highway that I wouldn’t be surprised if, in 20 or 30 years, we found nothing left of them either.

Our first stop this morning was Watson Lake for fuel and internet.  Fuel we got, but, unfortunately, internet was not available.

As we were leaving Watson Lake we noticed a young couple hitchhiking.  We had seen them a couple times yesterday and passed them by.  Today we stopped and picked them up.  We were very glad we did.  Raphael and Bettina are young university students from Switzerland touring Canada after their 3-month English Language course in Vancouver.  They were headed to Liard Hot Springs which was our destination for the night.  We were happy to give them a lift.

We are parked for this evening at a large rest area right across the street from the entrance to the Hot Springs.  Decided not to pay the high price for this provincial park just for a soak in the hot springs.

I wanted to just mention Haines and Skagway for those thinking about a trip to Alaska.  We didn’t go to either of those towns this trip because we had been previously and they are several miles out of the way.  We’re trying to save those gas dollars, you know.

Not wild, but free range

Haines has a couple things we enjoyed.  If you enjoy old Forts, there is a walking tour of Fort William H. Seward established about 1900 as the first post in the territory.  The Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve is in Haines and naturally there are a lot of eagles here.  Summer is not the time for the huge population of eagles, but there are always some around.  Haines is on the coast, so you have the coastal view, but I don’t think it is as pretty as Seward’s view of Resurrection Bay.

When we visited in 2004, we took the Alaska ferry from Haines to Skagway and did not make that long drive around.  As far as the town is concerned, we liked Haines better than Skagway, but the drive out of Skagway is absolutely drop dead gorgeous.  I would go there just for that drive.  If you’re not taking the ferry to Skagway, the road is from Whitehorse.  The Red Onion Saloon in Skagway is popular.  We went there, but it was on a day when the cruise ships were in town and we had a very long wait, shared a table with another couple, and felt rushed to get out of the way of the next group.

Our favorite thing in Skagway was the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park with it’s excellent displays and movie about the gold rush miners along the Chilkoot Trail.  We also took a day cruise to Juneau from Skagway which we really liked.  The cruise included a sightseeing bus tour of Juneau and Mendenhall Glacier.  If I remember correctly, the cruise was with Fjord Express.

CRITTER COUNT: This has been the day for wildlife.  First off this morning we pulled into a rest area just to take a picture of the view.  When I snapped the picture I realized there were moose in the pond below.  Just past Watson Lake we started seeing bears.  We saw 8 total with one trying to get into the garbage container at the Liard Hot Springs Rest Area where we’re parked for the night.  We also saw the bison heard sprawled out on both sides of the road.  A big day for wildlife.

GAS REPORT:  Gas at Watson Lake Tempo was $5.16 (diesel $5.32).  There was a station just as we were leaving town that was a couple cents cheaper.  We had stopped at Tempo because we were hoping for internet.  Oh well.

That’s all for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

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