I had high hopes for Haines. The internet, the brochures, trip advisor and everyone I talked to said Haines was the wildlife capital of Alaska. All I can say is that there must have been a coup because despite promises of moose, bears and bald eagles the sum total of our successful animal spotting during three days spent in Haines was one very, very brief glimpse of a bear, a couple of swans and lots of sea-gulls. The bear may have been a grizzly, which was at least something, but we weren't sure.
I spent hours on-line researching wildlife in Haines before our trip. I connected with a local who assured me there would be bears about.
"Late June would be a great time to see bears ... often right along the highway eating clover. No need for a special tour," she wrote " you can pretty much see everything at your own pace from a rental car..... and eagles, they'll be near the water keeping their eyes out for the salmon run."
Once we arrived the advice was much the same.
"Moose, yes .... there are moose all through the woods," offered the owner at our B & B.
"Grizzlies..... they come through the campground at night. You hear the mother bears fighting off the males. The males try to kill the young just so the females will mate again," said a campground host we got chatting too.
Well, to all those very helpful people, I have news for you. Moose, eagles, black bears, grizzlies and salmon - in late June 2015 they were all on vacation.
|No bears but beautiful scenery - Chilkoot Lake|
Don't get me wrong, I understand that if you want to be absolutely sure of seeing an animal you should go to a zoo, but zero out of five (.0001 if you count the grizzly) is just pathetic. Honestly, I would have been happy with a single decent sighting of anything with four legs and fur. We didn't even see a marmot. It was enough to make me hand in my membership of the 'wild animal spotting world tragics club'.
Haines, you're a lovely little town with some very nice people, but I feel cheated on the animal front - okay. The fact that we struck a heat wave while we were there is simply no excuse.
|We did see this really cute family of ducks - the baby ducks were hitching a ride on mum's back.|
Haines even has a few local celebrities. Anyone who has ever watched the Discovery Channel TV show 'Gold Rush' will recognize Haines as the home of 'Grandpa Schnabel' and his gold mining grandson Parker. David is a huge fan of the series and so we did the Hollywood houses thing, driving past the homes of Grandpa, and Parker and his parents.
We also hiked, picnicked and generally just soaked up the small-town atmosphere, all the while revelling in the beauty of the backdrop of mountain scenery.
|Haines has stunning scenery for hikers.|
Things to do in Haines
- Look for wildlife - you never know, you might get lucky.
- Drive down to Chilkoot Lake. The lake is about ten miles north-west of Haines past the ferry terminal. There are no walking trails. According to the campground host there are too many grizzlies about for walking to be safe but the lake is beautiful; Quiet, serene and perfect for a lakeside picnic or a kayaking trip.
- Go hiking at Chilkat State Park. Not to be confused with Chilkoot Lake State Park, Chilkat State Park is about 10 miles south of Haines via Mud Bay Road. The Seduction Point Trail makes for a very pleasant few hours walk through Spruce trees and wildflower meadows before emerging onto a rocky beach which promises the chance of whale, seal and river otter sightings. Make sure you take note of where the trail joins the beach or you may have trouble finding it on the return journey. We 'rescued' a group of summer camp leaders out for a hike on their day off. They had managed to lose the trail entirely. With the wonderful enthusiasm of youth they were completely unconcerned about being lost. If you go too far along the trail you will need to know when low tide is, but chances are, like us, you will have turned back long before that point.
- Go Bald Eagle spotting at Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. Between early October and late February the preserve hosts the world's largest concentration of Bald Eagles. They come to feed on salmon which die soon after spawning. Outside of the salmon runs the preserve is said to be home to a smaller number of eagles. We went eagle spotting and saw a couple of swans, so it wasn't a completely wasted trip.
- Visit the Southeast Alaska State Fairground and wander around the set of 'Dawson City'. It was built for the movie White Fang and has been preserved as a tourist attraction. Have lunch at the Pilotlight Bakery while you are there - it was the best lunch place we found in Haines.
|Historic houses at Fort William H. Seward|
- Walk or drive around the Historic Fort William H. Seward district. The fort was built partly to provide a military presence in Alaska during the on-going border dispute between the U.S and Canada in the late 19th Century. Today the district is not so much a fort as a collection of historic houses with vintage/veteran automobiles parked on the streets outside them.
- Drive along the highway toward Whitehorse but don't forget your passport, Canada is less than two hours away.
For my next post in this series click - here
For all my posts on Southeast Alaska click - here