Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Day 22- Canada/Alaska: Haines.

What a lovely little place to wake up to! This was the view I saw when I drew back the curtains.

It wasn’t a great morning. I was so SLEEPY

After the shenanigans of the first night of our trip, Megan’s snoring and sleepwalking had been fine. But unfortunately, the snoring reached new heights last night. Seriously, I could almost believe someone snuck a megaphone into the room and she was using it. At one stage I raised myself on an elbow to see if she was sleeping on her back, so that I could tell her to roll over. But no. She was already lying on her side.

You know how if you get up, you REALLY wake yourself up? I decided that if I got up and started rummaging around in my suitcase for the earplugs I brought with me, then I’d be wide awake, for the rest of the night. So I lay there and tried to drift with the movement of the ship.

It was a restless night, which was made worse by the guy, (not our lovely regular butler), bringing us our room service breakfast. We ordered it for 7 – 7:30, but he brought it 10 minutes early and SWITCHED ON THE ELECTRIC LIGHTS, instead of drawing the blinds.

Bloody hell.

Even though it was early, my poached egg and avo on toast was stone cold. It’s not the recommended temperature to eat them. My Americano coffee was normal-strength coffee.

Like a first-world hero, I set aside these huge drawbacks and struggled to the dock on time to meet our tour guide. I was sleepy and quiet.

Megan was very apologetic, but it’s not as if she deliberately set out to make a noise proclaiming, “I’M FAST ASLEEP AND YOU’RE NOT HAHA!”

But I told her that when we get back to the ship, I’m reserving the right to take a nap.

This was one of the ‘free’ excursions we selected before starting the cruise. All we had were tickets saying, “Tour Haines Summit Viewing.” We had no idea what we’d signed up for. I was assuming it was a quick bus tour up and down the only street of Haines, but I was wrong.

We were asked to bring our passports. That should have clued me in. We were popping back to Canada!

Incidentally, one of the things I really like about Alaska and Canada is that they have planter boxes filled with flowers all over the place. The councils have them in public places, but they’re everywhere in private homes too. My hypothesis is that when the snow melts, they have a limited time to enjoy seeing colour, so they go all out.

Our tour guide for today was a very jaunty woman named Elora.

“This is my first time being allowed to take a tour by myself,” she said as she took our tickets. We had to sign waivers… “We DO live in bear country!” she said as she handed them out.

There was slight confusion as 8 people turned up to take the tour. “I was only told 7,” said Elora. When we turned up to the bus, only 7 people got in. Elora, being her first time in sole responsibility, got flustered. She went looking for the unidentified person, and it was only when she returned to the bus that I asked her for the waiver forms and started calling the names out from them.

Like good little students on an excursion, everyone answered – except an Asian lady who had filled out a different form and then disappeared, presumably on her proper tour, never to be seen by us again.

You can take a teacher out of the classroom, but she never loses the skills. I know how to keep track of many people on an excursion, even when I’m sleepy.

Around 20 minutes later, I woke up completely. I was in the front seat of the bus, idly wondering if I should use the tine to take a nap, when I found myself yelling, “BEAR!!!!”

Frogdancer Jones, one of the most unobservant people on the planet, was the one to notice a fine fat Grizzly, sitting in a gravel pit by the side of the road, eating dandelions.

Elora jammed on the brakes and slowly backed the Pelican up so we could all get photos.

l was so pleased with myself. I’ve now seen both the black and grizzly bears.

I kept an eye out for the rest of the trip, but the grizzly was the only animal on offer.

We were held up by roadworks for a while. There is only one road in and out of Haines, so when an avalanche demolishes part of it, it’s a real drama. Parts of the highway were built up so that prevalent avalanche spots can pass underneath the road.

This river beside the road is one that never totally freezes, so it has the last salmon run in the area, usually in November. Around 4,000 Bald Eagles come, as well as bears, to feast on the fish.

That’d be a sight to see, for sure.

Suddenly, we were at the border. A polite Canadian border officer rifled through our passports and then let us go on our way.

Soon after we crossed the border, the vegetation changed.

“This here’s the tundra,” said Elora.”It looks like we’re on another planet, don’t it?”

I snapped this shot to show you what the scenery was like as we were travelling around in the Pelican. The mountains are huge.

We were heading for the summit at 3,500 feet/1,066 metres.

“A week ago all of this ground was snowcapped. It’s melting pretty rapidly. The river by the side of the road wasn’t visible last week,” said Elora.

This place is incredibly isolated. It’s an 8-hour drive to the next town, called Whitehorse, so it’s actually quicker and cheaper to take a 2-hour ferry ride to Skagway, and then drive 2 hours to the town. The weather is completely unreliable, so if someone leaves town to do some shopping, they may find that they have to spend a couple of extra nights in a hotel before they can get back home.

“Costco is the cheapest,” said Elora. “Whenever someone goes to Costco, they take orders from people. For example, a 4-pack of toilet rolls is $12 in Haines. In Costco, you can get a 48-roll slab for that price. So whenever we go to Whitehorse, we CLEAN UP!”

They used to go to Juneau to the Walmart, but it had to shut down because of theft, so now the good people of Haines go to Whitehorse instead.

“Do you people have overnight delivery?” asked Elora. When we all said yes, she continued, “We order non-perishables from Amazon, but they take 3 weeks to here. Half the time, I can’t remember what I ordered by the time the package gets here!”

As I was getting out of the bus to view the summit, a tiny movement caught my eye around the bush near the sign.

It was a ground squirrel.

I stood there taking pictures of it while everyone else was standing right nearby, oblivious. After a minute or so, it decided to quietly go away.

We stood there in the cold and wind when a truck came rushing past. It wasn’t the most well-used road I’d ever seen. Later, Elora was complaining about “all the traffic” she had in front of her on the way back to town.

There were two cars.

You could see how thick the snow was by the side of the road.

The highway was lined with these poles on either side of the road. These are for the snowploughs, so they don’t lose track of where the road is and drive off the side.

I can’t even imagine how deep the snow might get here.

We had some time to kill so she showed us the local newspaper. It’s released every two weeks and is this thin.

Everything has to be put in it, even the police reports.

The crime rate is so low that there are only two police assigned to the town.

Here are some of the 911 calls the intrepid police had to handle:

A request for assistance for two dogs quilled by a porcupine.

A man was reported trespassing on the road.

A vehicle was reported parked more than the posted time limit in the town centre.

A backpack was turned in.

A wallet was turned in.

You can enlarge the items and read them. There’s certainly not much excitement happening in Haines!

The views changed from the windows every few minutes.

We stopped at the US border crossing post for a toilet break. This little building caught my eye.

A very American sign!

To think that I pull out any dandelion I see in my garden. It’s probably a wise move – they attract bears.

We set off again, and then to our surprise, Elora pulled off to the side of the road. We were going to have a picnic! Or as Elora phrased it, we were going to “break bread together.”

This caused a bit of consternation with the British members of the Pelican, who were worried that she was going to pass a loaf of bread around and that would be it.

Honestly, that woman was working her arse off. There were supposed to be two people but they were running low on staff, so she had to drive, talk to us about everything we were seeing, prepare the lunch and answer any questions we may have. She was already thrown by the mysterious appearance and disappearance of pasenger number 8, but she was doing a cracking job.

Look at the scenery!

Honestly, everywhere you look in this country, there are amazing vistas around every corner.

Looking forward to the road we’d soon be travelling on, back to town.

Over lunch of chicken wraps, a bag of potato chips and a chocolate chip cookie each, people told Elora that they hadn’t seen many bears. She kindly shared the following two videos with us.

Here’s the first video Elora shared with us.

This was taken on the summit where we had just been.

How wonderful! And a little scary…

This one was taken at the local weir. The salmon are shut off except for one point where wildlife officers count how many go through. Meanwhile, the bears come down and eat their fill.

Once we were back on the bus, I asked Elora if love or freedom was the reason she’d left the law and come to Alaska from New Jersey. She laughed and said, “Good question!” Then she grew a little sombre and turned off the microphone. She leaned towards me and said, “A bad divorce does things to people. I didn’t want any memories, so I came to Alaska. There ain’t no memories here!”

Once we were back in town, we went for a wander to look for souvenirs.

Like when I found my beautiful moose antler sculpture in Sitka, I felt in my waters that there might be something here at this pretty little place.

A jewellery maker had his wares here. Look at this amber! I’ve never seen anything like it. The jeweller said that it was formed in seawater.

When we came back to the room, I went straight to bed for a nap before dinner. Megan said, “I’ll sit here on the couch and do my puzzles while you sleep.”

I woke up 2 hours later to this:

It made me laugh!

Dad joke of the day:

1 Comment

  1. sandyg61

    How wonderful to spot the bear and the countryside is beautiful. We still talk about our Canada/Alaska trip from 2017 like it was yesterday. The scenery is so wonderful and peaceful.

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