We made it to Haines! It was a looong trip, but beautiful.
First, we headed through many construction sites down the Alaska Highway from Tok. While that was a little tiresome, it is to be expected in Alaska. Summer is the only time they have for road repairs. The road heaves that look like ribbons of highway waving in the breeze are caused by permafrost melting.
Ciao did fine on the roads, but as ambassadors of Texas we stopped to help a woman and her Mom who had a flat tire.
OK, that was an exaggeration. Our little air compressor inflated their spare tire, but the real work was done by a kindly Florida man who stopped. Most of the Alaska Highway (half of which is in Canada, by the way) iis quite desolate, so people help where they can- there’s no cell phone service to call AAA for help and gas stations are hours apart. RV’s are wonderful helpers along the way because so many resources are aboard.
In fact, did I tell you that the NPS ranger in Eagle (lived there 38 years), said that he didn’t know whether it was an actual law or not, but it used to be that if someone was broken down on the side of the road, you HAD to help them. It was at least a moral requirement. People are very hospitable here because everyone needs everyone else- it is people against the weather.
The border crossing back into the Yukon Province (“Yukon: Larger than life!”) of Canada was fine- the border agent read our “Notice of Approval to Travel with a Minor” letters with great care and asked if Ned had created it.
When I told her that we did them together, she handed it back saying it was the most impressive letter she’d read. I admitted it was gleaned from a form on the handy “Family Lawyer” software package.
We were trying to make it to Kluane (“Kloo-wah-nee”) National Park but decided to call it a night at the Lake Creek Provincial Campground ($10), and enjoyed a lovely walk along the river before bed.
The next day we saw the UNESCO World Heritage Site sign for the Kluane portion of the Wrangell-St. Elias – Kluane site. We’d see the Wrangell-St. Elias portion many hundreds of miles earlier. We also stopped at the Kluane National Park building and enjoyed the touch museum, the telescopes on the area’s mountain Dall Sheep, and talking with the ranger. The building was so small and unassuming that we presumed it to be an outer ranger station, but that was it.
We enjoyed the personal time talking with the ranger. Part of the joy of travel is seeing how expectations and reality jar to create an impression.
We crossed the border again in the afternoon, this time back into the U.S., which went very well. The agents were very nice and we joked around about how they were obviously waiting for us. It is a slow border crossing in general. He did not ask about Ned’s whereabouts and we provided nothing more than our passports. He did open each passport and say “hello” to each of the kids. I think he was a little surprised how big Jazy has gotten since her passport picture was taken. (It is just not fair for a 13-year-old to be taller than her Mom! We won’t talk about how short and pudgy she makes me look in pictures either!) The agent provided us a tourist newspaper of Haines with a map, which was kind.
Grizzly on Haines Highway
We saw a grizzly bear! It was right along the Haines Highway, about 30 yards away and we video taped it. He had a very long snout and some sharp looking teeth! I made sure we had the RV in gear in case he came our way.
We also saw a bear cross the road in front of us as we were driving into the Chilkat State Park campground! There were so many cars of Peepers lining the road that we had to hit the brakes to avoid the bear. I could not BELIEVE how people were within a dozen feet of a grizzly bear- outside their cars! We thought they were looking at something living in the water. Good grief.
Thank goodness we were crawling along at a slow speed. Apparently it is common for bears to fish for salmon near fisherman at the Chilkat River, although 100 yards between the two are advised.
Let me just say that the Haines Highway is incredibly beautiful! The snow-capped mountains with glaciers are sometimes at eye level as you come through these beautiful enormous green mountains. It is a shocking experience, to be honest, with surprising vistas around every turn! Then, as soon as you come through the mountains and across the U.S. Border station (which is 20 miles south of the Canada border station- what’s up with that?), the entire environment changes to glacier riverbeds and rainforest lushness. All of Alaska and Canada are gorgeous, but this road was extra special!