The Trip to Haines, Alaska – Day 71-72 (Aug 28-29)

Aug 27 we left the Denali Highway and headed down the Alaska Highway towards Haines, Alaska. This trip took us almost two days. It included the worst section of the Alaska Highway, through the Yukon near the border. For us, it was a nightmare.

Glacier view from the Richardson Highway
Delta River beside the Richardson Highway through the Alaska Range before the Alaska Highway.
Fall starting in the Alaska Range

The road and our experience mellowed out at Haines Junction, and the Haines Highway (leading back across the border into a small piece of Alaska) was just as beautiful as the literature claimed – or even more so – since the fall colors were in full bloom.

Haines was under thick overcast, but that never stopped the Grizzlies catching salmon near the town road where everyone could observe from the safety of their cars. We were only there one day and then took the ferry to Skagway and headed straight down the Alaska Highway toward home.

The Trials and Tribulations of Wandering Through the Wilderness.

It has been said, “It is more fun to tell about an adventure than it is to experience it.” After our trip down the Alaska Highway in the Yukon, we would agree.

Our first morning on the Alaska Highway started early – and with promise.
In the early morning light after a storm, even an old burn is beautiful.
Near the border, the Alaska Highway goes through miles and miles of Boreal Forest of thick stands of scraggly, monotonous Black Spruce.

About an hour into the Yukon we stopped at an overlook. The Tahoe would hardly start, kept trying to die, and would only keep running at high throttle. We didn’t dare let it die. We didn’t know what the problem was – only that we were in dire straights. We were about 2-3 hrs from any possible mechanic, and that spells a BIG tow bill. Plus, I wasn’t wanting to sit in the cold rain waiting for who knows how long before someone would see our dilemma and stop to help. Traffic was rare, and there was no cell service. So, we kept the gas up, the gear low, and dodged and bounced through mud, potholes and frost heaves at 25 miles per hour for a couple hours – praying the engine would not die and leave us stranded in the middle of this vast and desolate place.

We eventually passed a cell tower near a small isolated native village and  connected with  Chad – our Montana Mechanical Crisis Consultant. He diagnosed the symptoms and confirmed our suspicions that we had probably got bad gas at the last station before the border. We had stopped at a rundown remnant of a “Wilderness Resort”  because gas in Canada is MUCH more expensive. We never realized until later that this place was going out of business and they were emptying their tanks. Most of the ancient pumps were closed, and we evidentially got the last old gas from the bottom. Our only hope was to keep running till we got to Haines Junction and a fresh tank of gas.

With nerves jangling and prayers ascending, we FINALLY pulled into Haines Junction with an empty tank – and shut off the engine. We filled with high test and held our breath when we hit the starter. It ran like a charm and hasn’t missed a beat since!

The Incredible Haines Highway

Everyone says the Haines Highway is worth the drive. We agree! Especially when it is alive with fall color. We drove it in the rain, so photography was limited, but it was Jackie’s favorite scenery  of anywhere on our trip. For miles the road runs along the edge of the Kluane National Park – the best part of the Yukon. This park adjoins the Wrangell-St Elias National Park in Alaska -which by itself is six times the size of Yellowstone.  Together they make up a “UNESCO World Heritage Site”, an international park set aside by the United Nations as a special place for all mankind to enjoy.

Late evening on the Haines Highway.
Even the side ditches are interesting.
Another photo taken in the rain and wind. Kluane National Park from the Haines Highway.
Early morning near the pass on the Haines highway. Strange light through the storm clouds created an eerie atmosphere.

The Grizzlies at Haines

The highlight of Haines, for us, was watching the Grizzlies fishing for Pink Salmon spawning on the Chilkoot River near town. They had lost their fear of people and would wander through traffic jams, ignore flocks of photographers, and jump into the river after the Salmon. It was simply amazing. After all this, it is going to be a transition to settle back into our daily life in Ohio.

Bear Sign. It reads in part: Yield to Bears on Road. Always respect Bears.
Griz at Rest.


Bear fishing – method #1.


Bear fishing – method #2.