|Crossing the Alaska/Canada border|
Well, our voyage is underway! We departed Fairbanks around 7:30am (after a quick visit to a coffee hut) and hit the incredibly icy roads southbound to Haines, Alaska. Being that it’s just after solstice, the sun is a timid visitor to latitudes as far north as Fairbanks and the Alaska Highway. Thus, we didn’t see light until almost 11am, and even then only enjoyed a long and lingering alpenglow until around 4pm (we were considerably further south by then, thus the later sunset). Along the way we saw numerous signs of caribou herds crossing the road, several moose, and the occasional blur of an arctic hair as it disappeared into the brush. Thankfully the roads weren’t icy the whole way, and we made the entire 640 mile trip in about 12.5 hours.
|Snowy ferry terminal in Haines|
We arrived in Haines in a pretty cheery mood, especially after such a long drive in a small car (we’re driving Thomas’s VW Golf – surprisingly good in winter conditions!). We had originally planned to meet up with a host we’d connected with on http://www.couchsurfing.org, but unfortunately were unable to find her house or contact her by phone. So, we resorted to car camping at the ferry terminal. Despite the cramped space, it was actually quite delightful and we passed the hours before bed with a Mountain House meal (dehydrated camping food; we had spaghetti and meatsauce which was surprisingly good), writing in our trip journal, and reading aloud from one of our several trip books. We’re starting with A Walk In The Woods, by Bill Bryson. It’s the more famous of his numerous publications, and definitely the funniest.
|Some local Haines humor|
We awoke this morning to a very snowy scene, and made the quick drive back into Haines from the ferry terminal to enjoy a light breakfast at a local cafe. The cafe shared space with a natural foods store, and we enjoyed perusing the aisles looking at organic/chemical free products and foods. Since we’re both on a chemical free kick, it’s fun to challenge ourselves to find the cheapest, healthiest, lightest (in terms of chemical load) products we can in each community. We also like to compare general living costs by checking out the local grocery stores and eateries, as well as touring around cute neighborhoods. Haines ranked as certainly more expensive than Fairbanks, but not too surprising for a coastal town. So far on our trip, it definitely has the cutest homes and loveliest scenery. We’ll see if Skagway gives it a run for its money.
We stopped quickly into the building for the Chilkat Eagle Preserve, which houses rehabilitated bald eagles (and other birds of prey) that cannot be returned to the wild. The woman behind the counter was very friendly (as were all Haines folks we talked to) and told us about the preserve and Haines in general. She said there’s about 2,400 residents in the summer, and only 1,400 in the winter. She also said that there aren’t really any chain stores, and that most people buy all their food at locally owned businesses. How cool! We grabbed a Haines newspaper before heading back to the ferry terminal to catch our boat, and I learned that Haines was originally settled by Tlingit (pronounced clink-it) indians over 9000 years ago. There is still an active native community just up the road from Haines, and Tlingit art is some of the most renowned in all of Alaska and the native world. I’m excited to learn more about the native groups from this part of Alaska, see more of their art and culture (totem poles!), and explore the towns that now stand on ancient village sites.
Finally, we boarded our ferry (from where I write to you now), and are bound for Skagway, the legendary home (for a time) of The Outlaw Soapy Smith and frequent visitor and poet Robert Service. More soon!