The weather in Haines, back in early June was superb and we were told, unusually summery. First order of the day was a run, and a destination run at that. I’m not the only one in my family to fall in love with Haines as my Whitehorse brother, an architect, recently bought a property in Haines. Thus sight number one, was his lot.
His lot is on the edge of this town, in the uppermost reaches so it was quite a climb to get there and a bit too steep on the downhill to really enjoy an easy stride. But, man oh man, what a view! Then, down to the water and a run over to the Mountain Cafe, THE place for coffee in Haines. This combo healthy food store and cafe sits at the conjunction of the major roads into the town. Having verified the location of where we would breakfast, I was eager to get on with the eating and shortened my run a bit.
I do cut myself a bit of slack while on vacation particularly since my husband has had to cut back his running as my primary goal is to spend time with HIM. I’ve also cut back on travel shopping as well, for the very same reason.
The Mountain Cafe met expectations with very good breakfast burritos and local hustle and bustle. Then we walked to Fort Seward, so named for William H. Seward who negotiated the purchase of Alaska from the Russians. The fort was decommissioned in 1947 and is now privately owned. The original buildings now a combination of private residences, B&B’s, eateries galleries and studios.
Notable was the Alaskan Indian Arts centre with a gallery and studio where we were able to informally tour the studio where totem poles are made. To order a totem pole CLICK HERE It was hard not to compare the quality and pricing of the work found here to the offerings of the ultra-commercialized Juneau. Any cruise ship passenger happening upon this place would feel that they had connected to the “real” Alaska.
In the afternoon we went on a three-hour guided hike. This was quite expensive but hikers are cautioned to travel in groups to minimize the risk of a bear attack. I’ve heard various numbers cited for safety from parties of three to ten. With eight in our group, including two guides, one armed with bear spray in a holster I felt safe. Being of small stature, I’ve often thought it would be useful to have a very tall, hiking hat in the shape of some sort of menacing creature.
One of our guides, Lindy was a musician and naturalist. She and her husband lived for years in a Yurt, the portable, wood-framed and felt-covered dwelling of nomadic Mongolians. Funnily enough her band played in Ottawa last year, for the Canada Day celebrations. Lindy was able to tell when a bear had scratched its back on a tree, or whether a moose had gone by, by virtue of a few hairs left on bark or a bush. Thankfully, she was also able to tell us that the very loud and scary sound we heard was not a mountain lion or a bear but the sound of humpbacks in the water nearby.
If it had been the two of us, in fear (or at least my fear) we could have set personal best times running back to the trail head. Thanks to our guides we now cherish the memory of those otherworldly, sonorous and eerily musical sounds. Sadly, we were not able to see the humpbacks through the thick forest cover but we came upon another group who were starry-eyed having seen the humpbacks play in a cove further on. Excitedly we trekked on, hoping the whales would linger so we could enjoy the same.
The word pristine was invented to describe places such as the destination cove and all those beautiful, mostly unnamed places in the north. Wow! The humpbacks were gone however and that was a bit disappointing. Somewhere along the trail the topic of beer came up and this thread was eagerly pursued by our other guide. He promised to take us to the Haines Brewing Company located in the state fairground, formerly the set of the movie White Fang. Happily, time allowed and sampled some Spruce Tip Ale while I enjoyed a freshly brewed and delicious root beer.
From there we returned to the Fireweed Restaurant for dinner where we were greeted like regulars. I wondered if this was because our two night in a row appearance set us apart from the majority of middle-aged folk who travel Alaska via cruise ship. One of the couples on our hike were from California and they were amazed to discover that it was possible to travel down the Lynn Canal by state ferry.
The next day was our travel day to Whitehorse. Sure wish we had more time on our hands but I know we will be back.