Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Haines, Alaska - Moose, bears, bald eagles and Gold Rush.


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.
Fortunately, Haines has attractions and charm apart from its mythical wildlife. It is one of the few towns we visited which doesn't host three or four cruise ships every day and with just 2,500 people it has a small town, off-the-grid feel. The centre of town consists of a couple of local grocers, a very quirky museum dedicated to nothing but hammers and one or two small shops and galleries with beautifully handcrafted art and crafts. These are all strung out over three or four long, wide blocks, making the town seem even less populated than it is.

Downtown Haines

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.
The view of a glacier the Seduction Point Trail.

  • 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.

Fort Seward was seemed to be a magnet for old cars.

  • Drive along the highway toward Whitehorse but don't forget your passport, Canada is less than two hours away.
6 Aug 2015

For my next post in this series click - here

For all my posts on Southeast Alaska click - here

50 comments:

  1. I know how disappointing it can be when you plan and research for a trip, and then things don't turn our the way you hoped. Total bummer that you didn't see the promised wildlife. But it looks like y'all had a great time, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery instead. The photos are wonderful!

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    1. Thanks. We had a great time despite the lack of co-operation from the local wildlife.

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  2. Those mountains are so beautiful! Being from Louisiana (where there are absolutely ZERO mountains), I'm always in awe when I see mountains like that!

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    1. Try living in Australia. You can stroll to the top of our highest mountain.

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  3. I know how disappointed you feel! I went on a safari in Uganda in 2007, and we didn't see any big cats, which I'd really set my heart on. Oh well - I tell myself there'll be a next time!

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    1. Haines is still a great town to visit and I'm sure we were just unlucky.

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  4. That would be a disappointment for sure. I guess it is serendipity for whatever reason but Haines does look inviting

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    1. I'm pretty sure it was the heat. that and just bad luck but Haines was a lovely place and I would go back there even with animals.

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  5. It looks really beautiful, so I'm glad it had its own charms, but I'm really sorry you didn't get to see the wildlife you were expecting. We would be pretty upset about that too. Clearly they didn't like the heat, as you say, but a real shame.

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    1. We made up for it in a big way in Canada so in the end it didn't matter that much.

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  6. I wouldnt mind not seeing any wildlife as long as the scenery is as beautiful in the photos . Its stunning views

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    1. Chilkoot Lake was probably the pretties lake we have ever seen, partly because it was unspoilt by crowds.

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  7. Sorry to hear that the wildlife remaining elusive but at least the scenery looks stunning! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. That's the way it is with wildlife. I have lived in Australia my whole life and never managed to see a platypus, except for one very brief glimpse, in the bush. Haines made up for it with small town charm though.

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  8. Sorry you didn't have any luck with the wildlife. That sounds like my luck too! At least the scenery was stunning!

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    1. That's the thing with wildlife - you have to be lucky.

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  9. Lyn I was surprised by the lack of wildlife in Haines. I'm happy to know Canada provided a bit more 'action'. :)

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    1. I really think the heat wave had a lot to do with it.

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  10. Haines may not have been the wildlife haven you hoped for but it sure looked beautiful from the photos you took. I think I'd be happy to avoid the bears up close but I'd love to see the moose and beautiful birds.

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    1. I'm still hanging out to see a moose, with antlers. I have seen a couple of females in the wild but only once, a very long time ago, did I see a moose with horns - and now I'm starting to wonder whether it wasn't an elk.

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  11. Ahhh! It is so against my nature to go somewhere I know bears are common. I would be too paranoid to enjoy the outdoors. This place looks lovely though, and I am sorry you did not get to see what you wanted.

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    1. I know what you mean about being paranoid but we made sure we made plenty of noise while we were hiking. The best thing is to see bears from the safety of the car.

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  12. So missed the wildlife but the scenery is gorgeous. Lovely views and images from your visit. I love the Merganser with the chicks going for a ride. Great post! Happy Sunday!

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    1. Haha - I just thought it was a duck. Now I'm going to have to google Merganser - I assume it is a kind of duck.

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  13. Two more weeks and I'll be in Alaska, Lyn and hope to see some bears. I enjoyed reading your post. Nowadays I read everything I can get my hands on about Alaska.

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    1. I'm looking forward to reading your impression of Alaska. Good luck with seeing bears - you are probably going at a better time of year than we did for wildlife spotting.

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  14. The scenery is beautiful, especially the lake, but yes I'd feel cheated to if I went to see the animals and saw none!

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    1. We got a great view of a bear in Canada so it worked out in the end.

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  15. All of these are wonderful photos, but I must say the photo of the ducks is my favorite. What a cool "hairdo" mama has!
    Please come link up at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2015/08/say-yes-to-neigh.html!

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  16. Haines was my favorite town in Alaska! I will have to admit that I didn't know about the wildlife spotting there. We did however visit the smallest brewery I have ever been to, had a nice meal out, sat and enjoyed the scenery and went on a float trip at the Bald Eagle Preserve. Fantastic town! Hope if you get back you can see some wildlife.

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    1. We went to the same brewery - the one where the movie set of Dalton City is. We didn't try their beer but did enjoy a lovely lunch sitting just outside it. I agree with you that Haines is a great little town.

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  17. Haines looks very inviting, even if you were disappointed in the lack of wildlife spotting.

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    1. Yes, it is a great place to visit and with wildlife you just have to take your chances I suppose.

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  18. What a bummer! I am in Canada at the moment and while we weren't guaranteed to see any on my tour we did visit Parc Omega in Quebec to be sure we saw them all! lol....
    Your pics of the town and area looks beautiful!

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    1. We got some great wildlife sightings further south when we reached the Icefields Parkway.

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  19. Oh no, that's nature for you I guess - very unpredictable. Beautiful photos though, what a gorgeous place!

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    1. David says that the problem with 'my' wildlife is that they don't always co-operate and he's right.

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  20. Sometimes it is like that. You go to a place because of all the hype and then, it is not what your were expecting. Other times you are just walking around and find yourself in front of something you have wanted to see for along time.

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    1. I agree - one of the best things about travel is when you come across something completely unplanned. Sometimes it is better not to have too many expectations about a place. It can be disappointing when you expect too much.

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  21. Lyn, Haines? Wildlife? I've never seen too much there either, except some eagles. I like going more inland, like Denali! Love your Alaska posts! Happy Weekend Travel Inspiration!

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    1. Maybe all the locals were just having me on when they kept talking about bears and moose - lol. I once lived on Norfolk Island and the stories the locals used to spin to tourists were absolutely shameless.

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  22. Oh my goodness, that scenery is just breathtaking. I am so heartbroken for you that you didn't spot any wildlife here. It just looks magical.
    Thanks for joining in #wednesdaywanderlust this week.

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    1. Haha - 'Heartbroken' is a very strong word. Honestly, it wasn't that bad. And yes, the scenery was great.

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  23. I love posts that make me get out my notebook and jot a few things down. "Don't count on wildlife." Check. (Sorry that happened - or didn't - for you!) Vintage cars in the Fort William H. Seward district (which I had never even heard of!). Check. Seduction Point Trail. Check. Thanks for the tips! :)

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    1. My pleasure. It is great to feel like I may be helping fellow travellers a little

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  24. I like the variety of photos, the last of the house could be in an American town. The scenery is fantastic. It's amazing that certain politician and corporations can be so cavalier about Alaska's natural (as in nature) resources.

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    1. Haha - it is in an American town - but I know what you mean. I am not really plugged into to domestic US politics, but being cavalier about such beautiful natural resources is a shame.

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  25. When we drove i Kruger we drove for 8 hours and saw nothing. On our way back after 8 hours... we saw hyenas. We were sad already and something surprised us
    Your day seemed like it turned out good too. ☺

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    1. We are going to Africa next year. I hope we have better luck than you did.

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