Most cruise ships dock in Skagway rather than Haines. Both are located near Glacier National Park on the Chilkoot Inlet, off the Lynn Canal. Skagway is known for its shopping and has turned into a tourist town. I can’t tell you what it looks like because we docked at Haines, which is located a little down the fjord from Skagway. There was bus transportation for anyone who just had to shop in Skagway. Cruise ships are welcome in Skagway and the tourist who pour into the shops. The people of Haines are 50/50 in how they feel about cruise ships. One year they allow only a few cruise ships and only one at a time in the port. The next year they complain because they didn’t make any money, so they welcome the cruise ships. Then they complain because their sleepy little town is over run by tourists, so the next year they say no cruise ships. This was told to me by a local and punctuated with a knowing chuckle.
Mike found an interesting totem carving and restoration cooperative for the creative arts. He met and talked to an artist who makes, among many things, copper plate etchings and
screen prints based on the northwest coast native style. Mike had read about the place prior to leaving for Alaska, so he was really pleased when he was able to visit and purchase a print.
In the afternoon the three of us went on a “Glacier Bay Wilderness Safari.” First we went on a large catamaran through the fjord and up to a small island where we made a D-Day type landing on the beach. Then they put us on a retrofitted old school bus and we took off into the forest. The guides were young men and women who choose to live on the island during the summer season. There is nothing on this island. They use a windmill for power and grow a lot of their own food. They take turns going into Haines for an evening out and to bring back supplies. Our female guide answered a question about what it was like to return home, and she said, that the first year she went home to New York, her friends planned a night out in her honor. When she found out where they were going, she said, “Can’t we just do a campfire and
cookout?” Her idea of what was fun had been forever altered.
After the bus ride through the forest (there are temperate rain forests all around many of the glaciers) we stopped at a little camp area where they had protective gear and clothing to get us ready for our face to face meeting with Davidson Glacier. We geared up in rubber bib overalls, rubber boots, a rubber waterproof jacket, and a life vest. Then we took off hiking through the woods (no road here, just a trail) until we got to a small river/lake. This was the melt area of the glacier so the water was very silty. We boarded canoes and paddled toward the glacier. It was incredible being that close. It was quite cold, so the paddling warmed us up a little, but when we got fairly close, the wind and current became a little more difficult to navigate, so our guide turned on the little motor at the back of the canoe. Thank god for motors! Being so far back into the wilderness, and so close to the river of ice, was just incredible.
We floated and paddled around the base for about an hour
and then with the help of the motor and manpower, made our way back to shore. Over all it was about 5 ½ hours. Well worth the money.
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