Day 7, July 10
Whitehorse YT to Haines AK
117 miles on the bikes, 7 miles on the Ferry
When we were initially planning this trip, we looked at taking the Alaska Marine Highway partway. We would have ridden the bikes to Seattle, then taken the ferry to Haines. After checking out prices and finding we’d be spending more than $1000 per person sharing a tiny room with the four of us and four single bunk beds we decided to ride! Today we got a very tiny taste of what that option would have been like.
We rode to Skagway and had our first foray back into ‘civilization’. Skagway is a cruise ship town, with cutesy gift shops and perfect little restaurants. We rode through without a second glance. The entire port is occupied by a half dozen water-going monoliths with “Celebrity” and “Holland America” emblazoned across their massive smokestacks. The ferry we were taking carries hundreds of cars and more people, and it was dwarfed by the cruise ships.
After loading up and lashing down the bikes as well as we could, we headed topside and settled down for the 7 mile trip. This part of the ferry ride is supposed to be one of the prettiest sections in this area, and it was very nice. However, waterfalls on distant hillsides just couldn’t compare to what we’d seen up close a few days before. Making it less enjoyable were some of the other inhabitants of the ferry, folks taking the entire summer tooling north and south on this marine highway. They take in the scenery and talk the ears off of anyone silly enough to sit nearby. Just 45 minutes of this and I was ready to get back on the beemer with my headphones in place! Maybe when we’re old and grey, the Marine Highway will be an option for a summer of fun. Then we’ll be the ones boring our seatmates with tales of how it used to be “back in the day”.
Pulling in to the dock at Haines, I could see why Mike remembered this place so fondly. This beautiful little harbor town was everything Skagway tried to be. A working-man’s slice of paradise; small well-kept homes, real local businesses that sold groceries and fishing supplies, not fake Indian jewelry and scented candles. The old officers quarters had been converted to private homes, other military buildings were now a hotel, and space for native totem carvers. Unfortunately, the building Mike used to work in as a printer for the local paper was the only one no longer standing. It had burned down years ago. As we wandered the site, we found the boiler and other large machinery still in place, this was something we saw everywhere in Alaska. Once something became derelict, it stayed where it landed, since it was too expensive to move.
After two nights of less than stellar accommodations, we’d made sure to find a room here before we landed. Mike really came through, and the Captain’s Choice was relatively inexpensive and gave us rooms overlooking the harbor. Beautiful!