01 July 2012
South Eastern Alaska and the AMHS--Part 1
I love Haines! Let me start with that. It is a darling little town that is not owned by the cruise lines. Several towns along the inside passage are, and the one we visited was completely not interesting to us. Our original plan was to go to Skagway, but we kept meeting people who said we should go to Haines instead. So we took everyone's advice and changed our plans.
We rolled into Haines and stopped at the visitor center to chat with one of the most helpful people we had yet encountered. She told us about two different campgrounds and we chose the state park campground. It was beautiful, and once again we had the whole campground to ourselves.
We had been given a coupon book at the visitors center, and directions to the Haines Brewing Company. It was located at the fairgrounds, in one of the buildings in the set built for White Fang. The brewmaster was a kick and we had a great time talking beer and trying tasters. Down at the end of the set was a pizza joint. We headed there and had a dinner of really fantastic pizza.
One of the truly amazing things we saw in Haines were the bald eagles. Not the ones at the American Bald Eagle Foundation (which was a bit of a let down, to be honest) but the ones flying over our heads and out over the bay on the way to and from our campsite. We had to catch our first ferry on the American Marine Highway System on the afternoon of our second day in Haines, so we rode to the opposite end of town from our campground where we heard there were more of them and bears. We were not disappointed at all! Sat and watched bears for a good hour,but also got to see more bald eagles.
Later in the afternoon, we headed for the ferry dock and got ready for our first trip. It would take about 7 hours,dropping us off in Juneau. Although this was not our destination, we had to stop there to change boats in order to get to Sitka. We would be in Juneau from 11pm to 8am. We needed to be at the ferry dock between 6 and 6:30 to get checked in and in line, so that left us a few hours in the middle of the night during which we needed to get some sleep.
As we were undoing the straps holding down the bikes, one of the crew members told us about some picnic sites on the coast with covered tables. He said they were large and really nice, with enough room underneath to pitch a tent. We rode off the boat and found the sites pretty easily. We left the bikes up on the road (after checking to make sure there were no "No Camping" signs anywhere) and walked down a slippery staircase, in the rain (duh), and found one of the picnic pagodas. The coast was really beautiful--what we could see in the midnight twilight and rain--and we quickly set up the tent and got a few hours sleep.
We made it to the ferry dock in time to talk with a few motorbikers on their way north. In the parking lot, in the rain, I talked to the first female rider I had seen on the trip. She was a little older than me and much more interested in talking to Josh, so we didn't talk about much. But it was good to see another female motorbiker. We told them about road conditions up north and what the weather had been like. W wished them luck and they loaded up.
We had another half hour to wait before we loaded, so we spent it playing silly games and smacking each other in the helmet like children, much to the amusement of the other passengers dry and warm in their cars. We were on the "fast ferry" that morning, a catamaran, and it took about 4 hours to get to Sitka. As it was early afternoon, we drove downtown, parked at the visitors center and wandered. It was good to get off the boat and we were ready for our 3 days on Baranof Island.