Monday, June 6, 2016

Leaving Skagway for Haines


There aren’t a lot of hotels in Skagway.  You have a few selections but you really have to search to find them.  We booked two nights at the Westmark Hotel.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it but then again, there aren’t a lot of choices right in the center of town.  It worked and we had no problem getting around the small town.

With a population under 800 people, you can imagine what happens when four cruise ships show up in port all at the same time.  One local resident estimated that on the first day we were there the ships had off loaded an extra 10,000 people.  Now that’s a zoo!  At times the walkways were nearly impassable and people started using the streets as sidewalks.  Four cruise ships in port puts a stress on the town but the shops, restaurants and tour companies thrive on it.  Actually the town does a good job of handling all the extra people.  We talked to a few locals and even though the cruises bring in much needed dollars they weren't thrilled with the crowds it brings.  Oh well ..................

Needless to say, internet reception was like being in Quartzsite when all the RV’ers show up in January.  There’s plenty of cell2alaska_12 signal but no bandwidth because everyone is using it. The streets were crowded and restaurants were slow and over flowing.  Many cruise patrons booked their tours on the ship but the rest were left to browse the shops. We couldn’t believe all the people wanting to buy the same jewelry they could probably get cheaper in the lower states.

Low clouds covered the city in the morning.  We were advised not to book any train tours if the fog was sitting low because we wouldn’t see anything.  For us that was good advice and we didn’t book the train as we had originally thought we would.  Instead we booked a tour to Diyea. 

2alaska_8I had read about Diyea and what I had read seemed interesting and there was hope of seeing bears and eagles in the area.    The wildlife sighting didn’t happen.  Our guide at Diyea was a Ranger from the National Park Service.  She was excellent but the tour wasn’t at all what we expected.  Nothing of the historic town of Diyea was left.  We just walked down the trail through the woods where it used to be.  There are plans to rebuild the town but nothing to tour at this point. 

  ---  early morning walk before cruise ships opened up the ramps  -- look quick as there are no people !!


We probably would have loved the forest had we not had a cabin located in an area similar to Diyea.   Here’s the only picture I took on that tour .


The town is beautiful looking down the main street in both directions.  It was pretty when the clouds were low and for the short time those clouds lifted later in the day.

There are many tours to the mountains, the waterways, the goldfields and even to see the wildlife.  Many of the stores on the main street are owned or operated by the cruise companies.  Some of the stores have posted signs letting folks know their store is run by locals.  


We did find plenty to keep us entertained. We discovered this snow plow train.  It moves down the track clearing it of snow. You can imagine how much snow those mountains surrounding the town must get.

Terry did buy one little souvenir in the train store.  It was a Skagway box car for the railroad set up he's working on.  So far that's the only "souvenir" we've purchased. 


Around dinner time cruise passengers started to disappear and when they did many of the shops and restaurants closed down. Our first night we ended up eating dinner at the Red Onion Saloon.  This was a brothel and servers were dressed accordingly.  Tours are offered through the upstairs brothel museum.    Menu was limited to a few selections plus pizza.  It wasn’t great but it worked.


We stopped at the Fish Company for lunch the next day and it was great.  However, we were surprised to see Ivar’s from Seattle as their offering for clam chowder . go figure!  The Fish Company is located next to the cruise ships so we mingled by the marina with the crowds for a short while.  That wasn't hard to do because people were everywhere.  


The “Smart Bus” provides transportation to and from the Klondike Cemetery, Klondike Goldfield and the Jewell Gardens.  For $5 you can ride the bus or shuttle around town all day.  It was well worth the fee.  We didn’t tour the Klondike Goldfield.  We were warned it was touristy and that warning was definitely correct.  The cruise company charged $95 per person for the transportation and tour of the gold fields.  If you do it yourself, you can do it for $35.  What a difference.


Check out the RV park by the ferry dock ---- 


While on the Smart Bus we stopped at Jewell Gardens.  We didn’t pay the $12.50 entrance fee to the gardens since most of the flowers and shrubs grown in this part of Alaska are similar to what is grown in western Washington.  They are a little later coming into bloom because of the cooler weather.  In addition to the gardens you can watch glass blowing or visit their Poppies Restaurant.  We visited the restaurant, naturally.    What a lovely place it was.  
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Since it wasn’t meal time, we opted for a blueberry crepe.   We checked out the dinner menu and my mouth watered as I read all the appetizing seafood offerings.  The prices were also much lower than expected for the area. 


Check out this blueberry crepe plus the edible flower and yes, it was as good as it looks.  When mealtime did roll around, we took a short walk to Bonanza Bar and Grill.  The rain had rolled back in and the wind was cold so a short walk was long enough. 


I was hungry for a salad and pleased to find a great shrimp salad on their menu.


The next day was Friday and it was time to visit another port.  This time we took the fast ferry from Skagway to Haines.  We were ready to go and anxious to see what Haines had to offer.  We were hoping for wildlife sightings.   We also had reservations for a rental car there. That was a good thing,  Being without a car isn't as nice as with one.

This is the fast ferry to Haines.  ----------------   

04alaska_3 On Saturday the winds were blowing about 25 mph and it was a cold, cold morning.  It takes about 45 minutes to get from Haines to Skagway. There was no chance we’d want to sit outside on the ferry.  Arrival was just before 9:00 AM.  We had a pretty hard landing in Haines.  The captain came in to the dock a little too fast breaking a few wood planks in the process. 

Our transportation to the hotel was waiting.  Now it was our turn to check out what Haines had to offer.  The good thing was that very few cruise ships stop at that port.  People weren't everywhere.  What a difference from Skagway.

……….. to be continued after we leave Haines

‘Tis life on the road.


  1. Thanks for this blow by blow tour, I am much enjoying it through your eyes and camera lense.

  2. Skagway also sounds like it is the Q during Jan. and Feb.
    The photo of the main street in town is beautiful.
    WOW...that snow plow train is HUGE!
    Was that captain drinking that early in the morning? Those winds must have got him excited.

  3. All those people would have made me want to go back to the room and pull the covers over my head. Good to know that if you get up early you can actually see the town. I'm hoping you get to see some wildlife. Loving your tour.

  4. What a grand time you're having - still can't believe it was all "last minute". The crowds would be a problem for us, it's weird that they don't time the port visits more spread out. Maybe there's just that many ships now? Love the blown glass and the tasty looking crepe.

  5. Too bad you had to compete with the cruise ship passengers, but you certainly did well despite the challenge. Nice that Terry bought a little boxcar for his railroad setup, just imagine the fun you'd have if he bought that snow plow train... ;c)

  6. That ferry docking reminded me of the pilot's phrase, "Any landing you walk away from is a good one." But, I suspect that captain is going to have to pay for dock repairs.

  7. Your trip is reminding me more and more of our long time point of residence on the coast of Norway. Cruiseships all summer there as well and we were bus guides. Nations and languages from all over the world. Was a god time then.

  8. Hope you see some wildlife..we were there 2 weeks and never saw many critters around and that's what I wanted to see. Have fun.

  9. What an awesome and beautiful adventure!

  10. Great flashback for us. I am afraid we were among the mass of cruise ship passengers;)


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