Thursday, July 3, 2014

Skagway and the Ferry to Haines

Going through customs just before arriving in Skagway took about 30 minutes because there were several tour buses full of people from cruise ships. I had to leave my beautiful ripe red tomato with the border patrol folks. But they gave Koka a nice big treat.

Skagway sits at the northernmost end of the Lynn Canal, at the head of the Taiya Inlet. The population of Skagway is a little more than 960, but when the cruise ships are in the harbor, the population swells by 1000 to 2000 per ship. When I arrived there were four huge ships here, so you can imagine what the sidewalks were like! Some info copied from a brochure -

Skagway was originally known by the Tlingits as Skagua, meaning "windy place"; it was used by the Chilkoots and Chilkats for hunting and fishing. In 1896, gold was discovered 600 miles away in the Yukon; Skagway acted as the starting-off point for prospectors. In 1897 a post office, a church, and a newspaper were founded in Skagway, and its population rose to 10,000. In 1900, Skagway became the first incorporated city in Alaska, beating Juneau by a day. The Bank of Alaska opened in Skagway in 1916. The first tourism boom began in the mid-1920s. During WWII, Skagway stationed as many as 3,000 troops, who worked to construct the Alcan Highway. There was a major flood of the Skagway River in 1967 that breached area dikes. The Klondike Highway to Dawson City opened in 1979. In 1994, the city dock collapsed and sent a tidal wave across the bay; the dock was rebuilt within the year. The city was dissolved in 2007 and became the first first-class borough in Alaska that same year.

A federally-recognized tribe is located in the community -- the Skaqway Village. The population of the community consists of 5.1% Alaska Native or part Native. Skagway is predominantly a tourist community, with historical Tlingit influences. Downtown buildings have been colorfully restored to reflect the history of the gold rush through the Chilkoot Pass. During the 2000 U.S. Census, total housing units numbered 502, and vacant housing units numbered 101. Vacant housing units used only seasonally numbered 47.

I had a reservation for a campsite near the harbor, and I really got lucky! Instead of being in the main section of the RV park, I was assigned one of the spots right on the harbor, and had great views of the ships and boats.

I took a walk into town but it was so crowded, with hoards of people rushing into the many jewelry stores, that I returned to the harbor to take in the views. Which is why I came to Skagway. The setting is beautiful and there is a little park that Koka enjoyed. From my chair at my site I could watch the fishing boats and a few yachts coming and going.

The next day I took the ferry to Haines. This ferry is part of the Alaska Marine Highway system, and connects the towns along the inner passage. The trip to Haines takes one hour, but the loading and unloading process takes three times as long. Understandable, because there are so many different size vehicles to load. Huge RVs 42' long, smaller RVs, cars, trucks with kayaks and bicycles on top - it's amazing how the folks loading the ferry know how to arrange things, and each time they load the ferry, the combination and number of vehicles differ. Koka had to stay in the RV and people are not allowed below deck during the trip, but she did fine. It was a short trip. There are staterooms for those traveling long distances on the ferry, but lots of backpackers choose to sleep up on the decks.

In line for the ferry.

Here she comes!

My seat, on the far right - but I spent more time outside on the deck. It wasn't too cold.

My seat just happened to be next to these ladies - they were traveling together and were having a jolly time. Quite entertaining with their southern accents and funny remarks. And Joanie, Mr Great Legs is camping next to me in Haines. Thank you Ferry Ladies for the send off as I drove off of the ferry at Haines.

Ferry ladies, this photo is for you. The ferry carrying you away from Haines and onto to Juneau. Have a great trip!

I'm in Haines now, at a waterfront camp. It's raining. There's nothing better than the sound of raindrops on the roof of an RV. I'm going to stay here in Haines for three nights. When the weather clears a bit I'll go exploring. Haines is not touristy, as there is only one cruise ship that stops here once a week. This is a very friendly camp with communal picnic tables along the waterfront, and crab cookouts. A nice place to spend the 4th of July. More about Haines to follow!

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