Sep 01, 2017 - National Geographic Sea Bird
We are anchored just offshore of historic Fort Seward, white-sided officer’s houses and green parade ground looking stately in diffuse morning light. The first excursionists are leaving the ship, bound for a visit to the Tlingit cultural center at Klukwan and a scenic float of the Chilkat River. Soon hikers will depart to climb a strenuous peak, flightseers will take off for an aerial view of icefields and glaciers, and bikers will head out to explore forest and shoreline. It’s a good day to flex our adventurous urges.
There is a road into Haines, and that makes it different from the other communities we visit. That doesn’t mean the world intrudes. We are still a long way from anywhere, and there is no evidence of strangers in town beyond a single RV camper parked in front of the grocery store, and later, the brewery. It’s just that Haines has an end-of-the-road vibe, instead of a living-on-a-forested-island vibe. There are a lot of hardworking older pickup trucks, and a lot of bicycles. Gardens around many people’s homes and boats in the harbor reflect the local resident’s self-sufficiency, a habit of gathering food from the land to supplement high priced grocery store goods. There are no fast food restaurants, no malls. More eagles than people. This morning, it’s a quiet place.
On the bicycle tour, we follow the shoreline, forest on our left and ocean to the right, spotting bald eagles, eagle nests, and diving sea ducks. Turning inland, we head upstream; now there is a river on our right, and it is full of salmon. When we stop to walk a short distance to streamside, we can see their backs breaking the surface. At the end of the road there is a big lake, and a forested path to meander along. All beautiful. But the real excitement comes on the ride back toward town: we spot a brown bear fishing in the river!
The day comes to a close with a meander through town, a chance to indulge in some small-town shopping, take in a museum, or slake thirsts bought by effort and excitement at the local brewery or distillery. There is no drink, we agree, better than a drink quaffed at the end of a successful adventure.
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