The Alaskan journey for Larry and Jan continues. The blog now picks up in Haines where we catch the ferry for our travels on the Inside Passage. This leg of the journey took us to Juneau, then Sitka, back to Juneau finishing up in Skagway. We did make the two day trip to Sitka with the truck but without the RV. Once again Alaska has exceeded our expectations. Our time here (17 days) went very fast with more than enough to hold our interest and keep us very busy. We truly enjoyed the experience and would do it again in a heartbeat. The lesson learned here was our RV is almost too large for this ferry system. The ferries generally load from the side and require tight turns getting on and off. The length of our truck and rig is 56FT which was right on the edge. It required some tight maneuvers that seemed quite unnatural. Leaving Juneau the crew was much better at positioning the loading and communicating the delicate maneuvers required. To make a very long story short…when we arrived in Juneau in order to get off I had to back off (about a quarter mile) and then with the tight turns the RV was actually hitting the cab of the truck. However once we were loaded and unloaded the ferries were a great experience. Our favorite stops were Sitka and Skagway in that order.
Haines is a nice little town. No real downtown however. There is a book here written by a resident called “If You Lived Here I Would Know Your Name” which about sums it up. The movie White Fang was shot near here and the set has been moved to the Fairgrounds. Fun little experience and they even had a micro-brewery. The local museums were ok. We had a nice trip along the Inlet out to Chilkoot Lake. The lake is fed by a glacier and empties into the Chilkoot River. The Salmon were running and the fishermen were hauling them in. We had three nights here which was more than enough.
Juneau was a bit different than I expected. In the summer there are over 30 tour ships a week so there are crowds of people. You can readily see the downtown theme is one that caters to the tour ship clientele. There are plenty of hiking and biking trails so one is able to get out and enjoy the area without the crowds.
Traveling to Juneau from Haines was late in the day and very overcast. The views along the waterway were still great but the photos are not outstanding. It was interesting for us to be back south and find that sun does set. The ferry was two hours late departing and we were the last one off the ferry. We ended the day parking the RV after midnight and in the dark.
We strongly recommend the Tracy Arm Fjord tour. We booked this trip back in May based on the reviews. It is a nine hour trip and even though it rained much of the time, it was still a great experience. On the tour you visit two of the Sawyer Glaciers. The pictures tell the story.
Two miles from our RV Park was the Mendenhall Glacier. It is easy to access. We spent three to four hours hiking the trails and enjoying the scenery. The visitor center has good resources and a show that is worthwhile.
Next was the trip to Sitka. We left early morning (up at 3am). It was a beautiful day as you can see from the photos.
It was fun being in Sitka. They only get five to six tour ships a week. The hotel we chose was the Westmark which was a decent choice. The view of the harbor from our room was one of the best things.
Russia played a key role in Sitka’s history. St Michael’s Russian Orthodox Church is right in the middle of the city. It still has a strong presence today. Finding your way around is interesting as the city follows the Tlingit trails of the past. We found the city very interesting and again wished we had one more day to tour the area.
The National Park System has done a good job telling the story of Sitka. The Russian’s Bishop House is where you can learn about the Russian side of history. The National Park Visitor Center tells the Tlingit story. Yes, there are plenty of totem poles to see.
Another recommendation is the Sheldon Jackson Museum. There are other museums in town but this one is the best (our opinion). Sheldon was a Christian Missionary. His collection of Native Artifacts from all over Alaska is outstanding. We had three hours and it was not nearly enough time to get through everything.
Juneau and Sitka are both in the Tongrass National Forest (a rain forest). We managed a hike and enjoyed the time on the trail. It is a very interesting area being very green with lots of moss everywhere.
All good things do end and we headed back to Juneau in the rain…
This is a long post so the decision is to break it up to make it more internet friendly. The Skagway portion of the trip continues in the next blog…