August 21, 2009

Haines (Aug Vacation Part 2 of 5)

Filed under: Photography,Travel — Susan Stevenson @ 6:40 pm

Read (Part 1) North Pole to Haines


ARRIVAL IN HAINES – Tuesday, August 11th

Just after descending from the mountains that surround Haines, we came to the US Customs station. We were so worried about what we would face at the border crossings – both coming and going – and there was no reason for it. Crossing was a piece of cake. We were asked a couple of questions, the most important one being “Do you have any firearms or ammunition”, with “Are you carrying any alcohol or tobacco products?” as the second most asked question.

Canada asked us if we were transporting pets, but didn’t ask to see any documentation on them. The other border crossings didn’t even ask about pets. I’ve heard horror stories from folks crossing in and out of the US from Canada, so I’m sure that there are occasions when things don’t go as smoothly. In fact, one couple we met told us a story of one of their friends having their entire RV ‘tossed’ and searched by border agents – a three hour ordeal, which resulted in several broken items and a huge mess that they had to clean up (the agents don’t put things back when they’re done). I’m so glad that wasn’t the case with us.

FishwheelOn the way into Haines, we passed several fish wheels spinning in the Chilkat River. This is the area where the largest gathering of bald eagles migrates through in the fall – with the Haines Eagle Festival held in November drawing thousands of bird watchers and photographers to the area.

Haines MapWe arrived in Haines around 5:30pm and found our RV Park easily (Haines Hitch-Up RV Park). The park is impeccable in cleanliness and tidiness. Each site is grassy and level, the rest rooms and showers are immaculate, and it is located within an easy walk of downtown Haines. (Map of Haines at right – click to enlarge)

We made a quick dinner, and then drove out to Chilkoot Lake State Park – 11 miles from downtown Haines. The drive to the park is lovely, skirting Portage Cove, Chilkoot Inlet, Lutak Inlet and then finally the Chilkoot River, until the road ends at Chilkoot Lake.

The river and lake are known for good fishing opportunities, and where there’s good fishing, there’s bound to be bears. We were told by several folks to visit the park near sundown for a chance to see the bears fishing – especially near the weir which is operated by the Alaska Dept of Fish & Game.

Steve was chomping at the bit to do some fishing. It hasn’t been a really good year for him, and he loves the challenge of the catch just as much as actually catching something. At this time of year, the fish aren’t what he calls “keepers” (fish snob that he is!), but it’s enjoyable to hook them.  We parked the truck at the end of the road and he joined several others on the bank of Chilkoot Lake. I wandered around with my camera, taking photos of the amazing scenery.

Chilkoot River Chilkoot Lake Chilkoot Lake
Chilkoot Lake Tall Spruce

Steve was happily fishing in Chilkoot Lake, getting a lot of strikes and watching the pink salmon jumping out of the water. I walked over to stand near him, watching the action from up on the bank.

And then I heard a loud exclamation: “BEAR!”, and everyone who was standing on the bank dropped their rods and climbed to higher ground. Steve didn’t hear the original warning, as he was at the far end of the river bank, so I yelled at him to get away from the water.

The big brown bear lumbered around the corner, wading in the water, with her nose down sniffing. The particular area where she was standing was thick with fish – both live fish and bits and pieces from fish that had been caught and cleaned.

I noticed she had a tag in her ear, and a radio collar around her neck. I looked for information about radio collars and found this on the internet:

Radio collars are fitted with a short piece of canvas fire hose that is intended to rot, allowing the bear to eventually shed this man-made device. While collars are an unnatural intrusion in the bear’s life, information on bear movements, habitat preferences, reproductive success and survival are otherwise very difficult to determine.  While getting a collar on a bear is a complicated operation, locating the bear afterwards is done from a distance by aircraft. A radio-collar is built to emit a different signal when it has not moved for over 4 hours. This occurs if the collar has fallen off the bear, if the bear is dead, or if the radio malfunctions. Knowing how bears die is important information for wildlife managers. Research shows that only one grizzly bear in five dies a natural death. The other 80% die through a combination of hunting, poaching, collisions with cars and trains, and nuisance kills, usually in the protection of livestock or property. Retrieving a collar from a dead bear can be dangerous. Because sources of protein are rare in these mountains, other bears may feed on the carcass and may aggressively defend such a prize.

In my experience around bears, more specifically while viewing the bears with Chris and Ken Day, I have enough sense to know that you don’t want to encroach on a bear’s space.  The photos below were taken while using a zoom lens, and from a safe distance near our truck. What disturbed me was the number of people standing on top of the hill to the side of the bear, hanging over the bear with their little cameras, using their flash, and creating a ruckus. If the bear wanted to, she could have been up that hill in two strides, and who knows what may have happened to the people standing up there.

Likewise, another (professional equipment) photographer climbed down onto the gravel beach, only yards from the bear, to get a ‘better shot’.  He snapped his chewing gum in his mouth as he moved closer and closer to her where she fished.  I shook my head in disbelief.  This is not Disneyland, people!

Brown Bear Fishing Brown Bear Fishing Brown Bear Fishing
Brown Bear Fishing Brown Bear Fishing Brown Bear Fishing

As the sun set, Steve packed up his fishing gear and we made our way back to the camper. The views were beautiful in the fading light. The blue light of evening set over the inlet. It was still a comfortable 55F – a perfect first day in Haines.

Weir Counter Chilkoot River Haines Cottage
Haines Empty House Haines and Mountains


EXPLORING HAINES – Wednesday, August 12th

We were up fairly early, and planning to attend an eagle demonstration that the RV park lady told us about the day before. She told us it was at 10:30am, so we grabbed some pop tarts and coffee and off we went. When we got to the American Bald Eagle Foundation Museum, we discovered that the presentation was at 10am and we just missed it. Bummer.

Fire Dept TotemOn the way to the Museum, I noticed a huge tent set up next to the Haines Library. Beneath the tent, several men were carving a long totem which lay on its side.  I asked Steve to take me back to the tent so I could watch them work. On the way, we passed the fire department building to check out the Killer Whale Totem they have in front.

When we arrived back at the tent where the totem was being carved, Steve and I talked to designer/instructor Jim Heaton about the design of the pole, the meaning of each portion of the carving, and the upcoming erection of the totem outside the Haines Library at the end of the month. We wish we could be there for that, as it sounds like a wonderful event and ceremony. I did some reading online about erecting totem poles, and it’s not just a matter of standing it up with a crane and mounting it in place.

Erection of a totem pole is almost never done using modern methods, even for poles installed in modern settings on the outside of public and private buildings. Instead the traditional ceremony and process of erection is still followed scrupulously by most artists, in that a great wooden scaffold is built and hundreds of strong men haul the pole upright into its footing while others steady the pole from side ropes and brace it with cross beams. Once the pole is erected a potlatch is typically held where the carver is formally paid and other traditional activities are conducted. The carver will usually, once the pole is freestanding, perform a celebratory and propitiary dance next to the pole while wielding the tools used to carve it. Also, the base of the pole is burnt before erection to provide a sort of rot resistance, and the fire is made with chips carved from the pole.

Here is a panoramic photo I took of the totem laying down. It’s made of yellow cedar and will be colored with stains and not paint. The totem is hollow behind the design to allow for even drying of the wood, and also reduces the weight of the pole.

According to the information they had on site – beginning at the bottom and working up to the top:

  • The base will have two rows of rope carving to show how the library helps to bind the community together.
  • Next is a crouching female figure, representing the start of the Haines Borough Public Library by the Haine’s Women’s Club. The woman is presenting the Chilkat Valley with the Box of Knowledge (from the Tlinget Song “Now We Open the Box of Knowledge”. This box will be constructed and bolted to the figure. Tim’s idea for the box is to use it as a time capsule with the whole community contributing “letters to the future” to its contents.
  • Raven in profile on one side, Eagle in profile on the other side – representing the people of the valley with the human figure in between being the patrons of the library.
  • Tinahs (shields?) – one on each side, one in the middle – represents the cultural wealth which the library protects. The three Tinahs also represent the three incarnations (buildings) the library has had.
  • Carved Chilkat Blanket represents the Chilkat Valley
  • Dragonfly – represents the Dragonfly Project and also traditionally represents a seeker of knowledge.
Cody Fisher-Hotch Jim Heaton Carving Totem
Joe King Jr Totem Face

We parked the truck and walked downtown for a little while. I love that so many houses in Alaska have the most gorgeous gardens, hanging baskets, and window boxes. With the growing season being so much shorter here, it’s as if everyone gets those colorful flowers out there on display as a formal celebration of summer. The contrast of new, fresh bright flowers, against old, weather-worn wood is quite striking. I couldn’t resist snapping photos of some of the buildings in town. While not all of the businesses had flowers, most of them did have something colorful about them.

Purple Flowers Flower Boxes Haines Old Building
Blue Glass Seafood Bamboo Room
Downtown Haines Downtown Haines Relative?

Since we had already visited Chilkoot Lake State Park, we decided to go in the other direction and visit Chilkat State Park. (All these ‘chils’ can be confusing!) The campground sits in a mixed forest of evergreens and deciduous trees at the edge of Chilkat Inlet. There’s a log visitor center, which offers incredible views of Chilkat Inlet, Rainbow Glacier, and Davidson glaciers. The center also has wildlife spotting scopes so you can spot the inlet wildlife, such as seals, porpoises, and whales. There’s a huge waterfall that comes out of Rainbow Glacier, and viewing it through the scope was really incredible.

Jenny and John from CA are the park hosts, and although we didn’t have a chance to talk to John (he was talking to other visitors), we did spend a good 20 minutes or so chatting with Jenny.  She is a delightful woman, with a great love for this part of Alaska. I enjoyed hearing about spending the summer in a cabin with no running water or electricity! I suppose with views like they have, going without the comforts of home isn’t such a hard thing to do – temporarily. Spending the winter that way might not be as exciting.

From the huge deck of the visitor center, you can see both glaciers, Chilkat Inlet, and the waterfall without the use of the spotting scopes or binoculars. However, to really appreciate their beauty, Steve and I took turns looking using the magnification. I put my zoom lens on to take a few photos.

Ripples People on Sandbar Haines Scenery
Haines View Fish Processing
Rainbow Glacier Waterfall Davidson Glacier View
Davidson Glacier Chilkat Beach Spring Water

When we came back into town, we stopped at Fort Seward to look around. Nearby were more totems and a few gift shops, as well as a couple of museums and an Arts Center.

From the Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center Website:

In 1902, Captain Wilds P. Richardson was sent to Alaska for his second tour of duty. He was designated as quartermaster to build a new fort on the Lynn Canal, near Haines. The new fort was to be a showplace – a symbol of the Army’s strength in Alaska.  Colonel Thomas C. Woodbury was the post’s first commander. He arrived in November 1904 to find two large barracks and officers houses fringing a grassy parade ground. There were also a fire hall, guardhouse, Post Exchange, dock, icehouse, warehouse, stables and cable (telegraph) office. Ninety-odd buildings, including houses for non-commissioned officers and a hospital were part of the completed fort.

Officer’s houses had the very latest in appointments and conveniences with indoor flush toilets, six feet long, claw-footed bathtubs, and marble topped wash stands. Although there was no central heating, there were stoves in each room. The living and dining rooms each had coalburning stoves set into a tile faced fireplace graced by an oak mantelpiece. Enlisted men were assigned to keep these fires going, empty the ashes, clean up kitchens, and at times, help with parties. These men were variously known as “strikers” or “dog-robbers.”

The post surgeon, commanding officer and their families were housed in single family dwelling. Other married officers (lieutenants and captains) lived in two-family or duplex houses, the lieutenants in the smaller houses and the captains in the larger. Bachelor officers were housed in separate quarters. Non-commissioned officers and their families lived in duplex houses of similar architecture. However, the non-coms’ quarters were built in an area apart from the officers’ on a street that came to be known as Soap Suds Alley. The story goes that the non-coms’ wives did laundry for the officers and their families. The soapy water was discharged into the street where it flowed downhill and into the bay, thus giving the street its name.

Fully garrisoned, the post had 400 enlisted men and 15 officers. The men performed usual garrison duties. No fieldwork was required as in other areas of the Territory where roads and telegraph systems were being built. Post labor was devoted largely to beautifying the grounds and improving the target range. Large gardens supplied many of the post’s vegetables.

Life for the men at Fort Seward was relatively relaxed. After their usual soldierly duties, and sometimes as part of it, the men could hunt and fish. They blazed trails into the woods and built cabins where they would go for R&R on 3 day passes. Travel was by dog sled or skis during the winter or by mule drawn wagon in the summer.

In May of 1941, possibly in anticipation of war with Japan, F Company was transferred to Sitka. Soon after, E Company moved to Anchorage leaving only the Quartermaster Corps and the Signal Corps at the Post. Chilkoot Barracks became a training and staging area for men headed for combat in the Aleutians. By the end of World War II, however, there were just two men at the post tending to its closure.

In 1947, the entire post was declared surplus property and sold to a group from the lower 48 states headed by five veterans. They had great plans for the creation of a new community called Port Chilkoot. Some of the plans became reality: the establishment of a hotel; regular sea transportation to Skagway and Juneau; and the revival of Indian arts and crafts through a school for that purpose. Several of the original Port Chilkoot pioneers continue to live in Haines, but many did not remain in Alaska.

As of this writing (1988 and unchanged in 1999) the bachelor officer’s quarters and commander’s house are the Halsingland Hotel; the hospital building is the home of Alaska Indian Arts; the chief surgeon’s house is a bed and breakfast; and the E&R hall is now the Chilkat Center for the Arts. Replicas of Indian tribal buildings have been erected on the parade grounds and house a salmon bake. All officers and non-commissioned officer’s houses are in private ownership. Several have been converted into apartments and one is a condominium. The cannon that once saluted the raising and lowering of the flag sits mutely ornamenting a lawn.

They sure had it good back in those days, considering. The houses are beautiful and much larger than the homes our current soldiers live in (well, except for the top brass). It must have been nice to have such elegant homes back then. It seems they did a lot of entertaining.

Tall Totem Totem Close Up Door Painting
Totem Door Close Totem being repaired
Totem Building Volunteer Fire Co Cruise Ship in Port

All of this exploring only took us a few hours, as Haines is not a very large town. Nevertheless, we were starving, so we took a break to come back to the camper and have an early dinner. Steve grilled up a couple of chicken breasts, and we made a nice meal of it by adding stuffing and veggies.  Stuffed to the gills, we decided to put a movie in to watch.  (We certainly don’t rough it when we camp!) At around 6pm, we headed out again. It was a nice day (60s and partly sunny) and we had several more hours of daylight left.  We planned to go back to Chilkoot Lake and River later that day, so Steve could fish and I could look for some bear activity to photograph.

We drove in the same direction we had earlier – towards Chilkat State Park – but this time we took some side roads to see where they led. Most took us to private homes and private drives, but there were interesting things to photograph along the way.

An old boat on the beach:

A pretty way to camouflage an old stump:

A beautiful ranch with horses, nestled up against the mountain:

The RV Park lady told us that there might still be vendors over at the SE Alaska Fairgrounds, so we took a drive over to check it out. The fair was held the week prior, so we missed the festivities, but there were still a few shops open for business – as well as the brewery.

These fairgrounds are where they filmed the movie “White Fang”. The set depicting Dawson City is built here, and in the ‘town’ is the Haines Brewery – a must visit, if you like to try different kinds of ales. Steve and I sampled a pint, and walked around checking everything out.

The colorful booths are boarded up now, and the carousel is closed for the season, but the community garden (also at the fairgrounds) is doing well.  We noticed that their zucchini and tomatoes weren’t doing nearly as well as ours. The man watering that day told us that it has been a very dry season in the Southeast.

Here’s my husband looking like a lush, holding my beer too:

White Fang Set Garden Tub
Flower Box Poppy Garden Colors
Steve Klondike Creative Art Bottle Caps
Fair Booths Green Chair
Lolipop Good thing
I didn’t have
a sweet tooth!

It was nearly 7pm, and that seems to be the ‘magic hour’ for the collared bear, so we took off for Chilkoot State Park. No sooner had we parked and Steve put on his waders, than a woman came running down the road yelling to the men in the river: “BEAR!!!”

It was the same collared bear from the night before, and she was slowly meandering along the shoreline. Folks standing next to us said she does the same route each evening: down one side of the river, cross, up the other, then go to the lake. She varies the direction of her circle from day to day.

We followed her on the road, watching her at the river’s edge. She picked up a dying fish from the edge of the river and ate it right in front of us. I used my long lens to get close.

Bear Eyes Bear Bear
Bear Bear Bear
Bear Bear Bear

Because the bear had left the area and was heading down to the bridge about a mile away (before she’d cross over and walk the other side) Steve, and others, waded into the river to fish. I stayed nearby, in a parking area where I could see Steve clearly. He was standing out in the middle of the river. He seemed to be doing well, and I watched him unhook a fish and let it go (snagged in the back, rather than hooked in the mouth). It was all about the casting and catching for him, and he had no intentions of keeping anything he caught.

And then I saw her making her way up the opposite river bank, heading right to the area where Steve and the other men were fishing.  I yelled out a warning to him, and he turned to watch her. She didn’t seem to care about the men in the river; concentrating instead on the fish splashing below her in the water. But I held my breath for a long while, and hoped that today wouldn’t be the day that she changed her game plan and added fisherman meat to her diet.

Steve catches a fish, the bear is still looking:

She knew where to go for some easy eating: the weir. The salmon pooled against the gate, creating a buffet for Ms Bear. I watched her eat a half dozen fish there, while the fish counter sat oblivious, concentrating on fish passing by below, while listening to music in his headset.

Got one!


I feel something breathing down my neck:

Steve grew tired of the mosquitoes making a meal out of him in the river, so we decided to go back up to the lake. I was hoping there’d be a good sunset over the water. Unfortunately, the clouds started to roll in, and the light of day quickly disappeared. It made for very moody photos though:

As night fell, and the light quickly disappeared, we started for the campground. Suddenly, three bears came barreling out of the wooded hills on our left, ran across the road right in front of us, and made a beeline straight for the river. We screeched to a halt, and I put my long lens on my camera. I couldn’t get a good focus because it was so dark. I upped my ISO (grainy) and opened up my lens to let as much light as possible in. But their quick movements resulted in quite a few blurry photos. I was so disappointed, but at the same time I was thinking “Wow – this is soooo cool!”

They looked to be juveniles, and all about the same size. They ran through the water, splashing and diving head first into the river, looking for fish. They were not the best fishermen, and we laughed at their antics. It was like watching little kids splashing in a kiddie pool!

Steve started video taping (I’ll share some of that footage at a later time), and soon a half dozen other vehicles showed up, with people jumping out with cameras, etc.  I wanted to go to the bridge, as they were making their way in that direction, and I wanted a good vantage point on the bridge before anyone else got there. We tried to move, but we were blocked in by another truck. We asked the older gentleman to let us out, and he did.

We raced to the bridge, and by that time others had the same idea. Again, some dumb people stood on the river bank, close to the bears, using flash cameras. The flashes and the crowds spooked the bears and they soon ran off into the woods.

I managed to get some photos that turned out OK. Some are blurry, but in a ‘movement’ sort of way.

The Three Bears The Three Bears Two Bears
The Three Bears The Three Bears Fishing Bear
Splash The Three Bears Fishing Bears
Swivel Head Bear Splashing Bear Fishing Bear

It was quite an amazing and full day for us, and we really enjoyed our time in Haines. It was a clear night as we made our way back to the camper. The town lights reflected in fairly calm waters under a deep blue sky – the perfect end to a perfect day:


LAST DAY IN HAINES – Thursday, August 13th

Tonight we would take the 10pm ferry to Skagway. We made arrangements with the RV Park to stay in our spot until 4pm for an extra $2/hour fee for every hour past 11am. We made arrangements with the ferry people to leave our camper in our assigned staging line the rest of the afternoon until it was time to go back and prepare for loading at 9pm. We decided we’d sleep in and have a lazy day until it was time to leave the RV Park. Then, after dropping our trailer, we’d take a drive back up to the lake and river, for one more glimpse of the bears, and a little more fishing.

We didn’t really sleep in, but we did have a lazy morning. We packed up most of the camper, popped a movie in and chilled out until 3pm, when it was time to hook up and make our way to the ferry. When we got to the ferry parking lot, there was one other camper dropped, and two Winnebago type campers sitting empty in another lane.  We unhooked ours, and decided to go get some dinner in town. We chose the Lighthouse Restaurant on the harbor.

The food was pretty good, and we washed it down with a Haines brew. Just as we were getting ready to leave, a couple came into the restaurant, and Steve recognized the gentleman as the man who had us blocked in the night before while watching the bears fish.

We stopped by their table on the way out and asked them if they stayed long to watch the bears. At first they didn’t know who we were until Steve reminded them.  They did stay longer, and they said that a fourth bear eventually showed up – a bigger bear.

We found out that they were also going to Skagway that evening, and it was their camper that was parked in front of ours at the ferry! We formally introduced ourselves and they told us their names were Jack and Diane. Of course “a little ditty about Jack and Diane” started playing in my head and I sort of laughed out loud. Diane said everyone sang the song when they learned their names. *grin*

Jack and Diane live in Colorado – at about 8000′ – so they’re accustomed to winter and snow. We talked a little bit about the similarities of living in a state with severe winters, and told them we’d see them later that evening. We then headed back to Chilkoot State Park.

No sooner had we started up the park road, than we saw that Ms Radio Collar was already dining, only this time she was having her meal in the middle of the road. Folks crowded around watching her. I took photos from the safety of the truck – with my long lens.

I also saw an eagle in the trees above:

And later, Steve caught a nice size fish:

And then it was time to say goodbye to Haines and go to the ferry.

When we got to the ferry staging area, there were three RVs behind ours. Steve hooked up the camper, and we went over to say hello to the couple parked behind us. Susan and Bruce are from South Dakota, and they’re full timers. They had a 5th wheel being towed by a huge tractor-truck. Susan was sipping on some wine, and that looked like a good idea to me, so Steve poured me some too. We brought out the lawn chairs and sat and visited with them until it was time to load up. When Jack and Diane arrived, they joined us. It was really a lot of fun.  We exchanged cards and I hope to stay in touch with them all.  (*Waves to Jack, Diane, Susan, and Bruce*)

Getting onto the ferry was fun. They cram you in like lego pieces – knowing exactly how to configure your rig to take as many people/vehicles as they can. I took pictures because it was pretty neat.

Ferry Ferry Parking on Ferry

Ferry Pier:

Bye bye Haines, we’ll miss you!:

Read Part 3 – Skagway


  1. LOVE the pictures!! You know I gotta go there now! lol


    susanstevenson Reply:

    Lori, you would love it. It’s a gorgeous drive! I do hope you’ll make the trip sometime. I’d love to go back again. Haines is a beautiful Alaska town, and it’s the only other place I’ve felt the ‘comfort of home’ in, outside of Fairbanks.


    Comment by Lori — August 22, 2009 @ 12:02 am

  2. Your writing is as good as your photography Susan. Thank you so very much for sharing!



    susanstevenson Reply:

    Thank you Von. That’s quite a nice compliment coming from you – an experienced travel writer! I like to share as much information as I can while on my travels – especially when we visit someplace new.



    Comment by Yvonne Bennett — August 22, 2009 @ 3:54 am

  3. I didn’t think it could possibly get more beautiful than the Alaska I’ve already seen through your photos, but I was wrong. That area is just gorgeous! What an awesome vacation! Love the pic with Steve fishing and the bear in the background…thats awesome! Atleast you got your bear viewing in for the year! I can see why you enjoy your travels so much by how friendly you guys are and how you meet so many people along the way! What a fantastic trip to an area probably not alot of people ever get to visit!


    susanstevenson Reply:

    Steve and I both loved Haines. Immediately upon arrival, I felt a sense of calm and ‘belonging’. It’s hard to explain, but I haven’t felt that way since we arrived in Fairbanks. I felt the same sense of Alaska spirit there. I even asked Steve if he thinks he could live there someday. That’s the first town we’ve visited while traveling throughout the state that’s made me ask that question. Unfortunately, due to medical needs, we have to stay close to a VA center. But I certainly do hope to revisit Haines again and again – in all seasons.

    I’m happy you’ve enjoyed reading about our adventure!



    Comment by LynnMN — August 22, 2009 @ 5:10 am

  4. When we move back to Alaska my husband wants to get a trailer and I know that we will go to Haines. It looks absolutely stunning there. Wow.


    susanstevenson Reply:

    I think you’d love Haines. I know we did. We’re also thankful for our trailer, as it allows us to travel without having to pay the higher lodging prices in summer. We also save a lot in dining, by being able to prepare meals in the camper. It’s a good investment living here.

    I look forward to returning to Haines. It’s a really special place.


    Comment by Tammy Kauffman — August 22, 2009 @ 5:18 am

  5. Susan, even though you didn’t get to make your trip to view the bears as you had hoped, it seems as though you got to view a fair number of bears – AND it was “free”! As always, I love your pictures and your commentary. I would love to get up there to AK a 5th time. We’ll have to wait and see.

    Marylyn – NC


    susanstevenson Reply:

    I was thinking the same thing about the bears, Marylyn! How wonderful to see them in the wild – and for free too! We had such a great time watching the bears fish. They were wonderful entertainment.

    I do hope you will come back to AK. It’s truly a special place to live – and visit.

    Thank you!



    Comment by Marylyn Jessup — August 22, 2009 @ 7:49 am

  6. I have lived in Haines for 36 years. You did such a great job of telling and showing off the place and flavor of our town and area. Thanks
    Are you a travel writer? Surely you are an accomplished photographer.
    Dick Flegel Haines AK


    susanstevenson Reply:

    Thank you for such a lovely comment, Dick. I am happy that you enjoyed my account of our visit to Haines. My husband and I both loved Haines, and we do hope to visit again.

    We’ve only been in AK for 6 years, but as soon as we arrived in Fairbanks, I felt like I was ‘home’. I like living here in the Interior because there’s a great sense of community, despite being a fairly good size city. I felt that same ‘at home’ feeling when we were in Haines. In fact, Haines is the only place in AK (since we’ve arrived) that incited me to ask my husband, “Do you think you would like living here?”

    You are fortunate to live in such a beautiful part of AK. I can only imagine the splendor of Haines in all seasons.

    I am not a travel writer, although I do enjoy writing about my travels. I began blogging before we made the move to AK, and I enjoy sharing this great state with my readers.

    Thank you for your kind words. Your comment brought a smile to my face.

    Best Regards,


    Comment by Dick Flegel — August 22, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

  7. Hey Susan,
    When I checked out your blog to find you posted part 2 and it was heavily laden with journal and pictures….I told my husband I had to quickly put a pot of hot tea on the stove…This is goona be Great!!! and it was Wonderful 🙂
    Thank-you for sharing…looking forward to part 3


    susanstevenson Reply:

    Hi Liz! Your comment made me chuckle. I’m happy to hear that you are enjoying my writing and photos with a nice cup of tea. I think I shall join you while working on the remaining parts.

    Take care,


    Comment by Liz McCollough — August 22, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

  8. Susan,
    Thanks for writing and sharing your adventures and pictures of Alaska. Your photography is amazing!! I’ve been to Haines and floated down the Chilkat River to look for eagles. This brought back memories of the area. I really enjoy reading your blog.


    susanstevenson Reply:

    Hi Dewise, and thank you for commenting. Did you visit Haines during the Eagle Festival, or during the summer months? I was surprised that there were only a few eagles hanging around the Chilkoot River. I thought for sure there’d be more. I suppose they found a better place to fish – or maybe their taste isn’t for pink salmon – like my husband. 🙂

    I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog.

    Take care,


    Comment by Dewise Bailey — August 22, 2009 @ 12:49 pm

  9. Susan I am so happy you saw bears! And yes you are right people need to be careful on how close they get to the bears. I saw that too in Valdez when the juvenile bear would frequent the Salmon hatchery for dinner. I had my zoom lens on too.

    Oh all the pictures are gorgeous and I love Totem Poles so I will definitely have to take pictures of those when we get to Haines.

    Thank you also for taking pictures of how they load the ferry. I will have to show Bo your journal entries. I am so excited now. Although I know to be ready for wind and cold if we leave in December but I heard it is gorgeous around that time.

    I can see falling in love with Haines. 🙂


    susanstevenson Reply:

    It was such a thrill to see the bears enjoying themselves fishing. They were like little kids and I couldn’t stop smiling.

    The totem poles are all over Haines. There’s one area where there are a couple (near old Fort Seward), but you’ll find them in front of some businesses too. The school has one, as well as the fire department, and by the time you get to Haines, the library totem we watched them working on will be up.

    My friend said that Haines in December could have a lot of snow as they get more snow than we do here. But the temps won’t be -40F so that’s a relief.

    The ferry was pretty cool. They really know how to load you up!


    Comment by Abby C. — August 22, 2009 @ 10:48 pm

  10. Susan,

    I’m a people photographer and HS Math teacher in Haines. You do some great work. It is inspring to see Haines through your lens.



    susanstevenson Reply:

    Thank you so much for commenting, Matt. I appreciate your kind words. You live in a beautiful part of Alaska, and my husband and I loved the time we spent there. I’d love to visit in the ‘off season’. I can only imagine how gorgeous it is there when everything is cloaked in snow.

    I checked out some of your photographs. Sure looks like you’ve got a fine group of young people living there. Continued success in your business.

    Take care and thanks again,


    Comment by Matt Davis — August 23, 2009 @ 12:29 pm

  11. Susan,
    Your travel narrative of Haines is spectacular. You are a very gifted photographer and writer. I have lived in Haines for 6 years and it was interesting to see how a visitor sees beauty in things we take for granted. My husband is also a photographer here. Take a look at his website to see more wildlife from this area. (see his website listed above) Your photo of my stump is stunning. The flowers are pretty well spent after a week of wind and rain and I never got a picture of it. Could I have a copy of yours?
    Thanks, Jacque Horn


    susanstevenson Reply:

    Hi Jacque and thank you for commenting. I’m happy that you enjoyed my entry. I suppose it is interesting to hear how a visitor sees your town. I know I like hearing what people have to say about Fairbanks too.

    I checked out your husband’s website. He does spectacular work. I loved the eagle shots, as they remind me of my annual trips to Homer to see the eagles in March. We weren’t able to go this past March due to Mt Redoubt erupting. I’d love to come to Haines when the eagles are there in large numbers.

    I don’t mind sending you a copy of the photo I took of your stump. It’s cropped from the original. What size image are you interested in? You can email me privately at

    Thank you again for commenting. I enjoyed Haines immensely and hope to come back again.



    Comment by Jacque Horn — August 23, 2009 @ 2:01 pm

  12. All of the photos from your journey have been absolutely stunning! I love the bear pictures but I have to say that the picture of the eagle in the tree is one of my favorites so far. Thank you so much for taking us with you through your words and pictures!


    susanstevenson Reply:

    I was really hoping to see more eagles, but only saw a handful. That one stayed in the tree for nearly an hour, just surveying the scene below. I love the majesty of an eagle, and the strong stare of their eyes. When he looked right at me (it sure looked like he was looking right at me!), I just had to snap a few frames.


    Comment by Lisa J — August 27, 2009 @ 6:14 am

  13. Oh Susan, what an awesome experience, just reading your words and viewing your photos. I was totally taken to Haines. I, too live in Fairbanks. I am here for a short while, traveling and working. I have seen the bears at Valdez, it was amazing and I even got some good shots with my canon power shot, am just learning to use the lenses etc… There are one or two of your photos I would love to hang in my home. DO you sell your photos? I will look on line to try and find you in the meantime.
    I really appreciate the information on the ferry, I may travel there soon on vacation, and I am very eager now that I have read your accounts.
    Thanks so much for sharing.

    Warm Regards,



    susanstevenson Reply:

    Hi Dawna, and thank you for your lovely comment. We truly loved our visit to Haines and hope to go back again soon. I felt totally ‘at home’ there, a feeling I haven’t had since arriving in Fairbanks. I could see myself living there. We were so lucky to visit at a time of year when the bears come down to the river and lake to fish!

    As for my photographs.. I so sell prints. I haven’t updated my gallery in a few months, but just about any photograph you see in my journal is available as a print. Which two are you interested in? You can email me privately at with your request.

    We really enjoyed our short trip on the ferry. It was such a nice way to save time (and fuel) to make the trip from Haines to Skagway. We’d do it again.

    Enjoy your time in Fairbanks! If you have some free time and would like to grab a cup of coffee, drop me a line. I love to meet new people.

    And now for some shameless promotion: I have a calendar available for 2010, that has many photos from AK included. There’s a thumbnail at the top of my blog that will take you to the info page.

    Take care, and thanks again for writing!



    Comment by Dawna Davis — September 27, 2009 @ 6:40 pm

  14. I loved your pictures & the stories!
    I grew up in Haines until I was 13, now I live outside of Seattle, WA but my heart will always belong to Haines. My grandparent homesteaded around the canery, which I really enjoyed that picture. So glad you have kind memories. CHEERS!!!


    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Guinevere and thank you for taking the time to comment.

    We truly enjoyed our visit to Haines. We love the town, the people, the views, everything!

    How lucky you are to have spent your childhood there. I can understand why your heart is still in Haines.

    Thanks again,



    Comment by Guinevere Shabo — July 10, 2010 @ 5:41 pm

  15. Susan – Thank you for the comment you posted on The HAT. I had to come over here and check out your blog. Awesome Awesome Awesome! You love Haines as much as I do. I have a feeling you are going to be a future Hainesian (with how you write). We would be lucky and happy to have you. You captured this sweet little town wonderfully.
    Are you going to do some traveling this summer season? Looks like you need to come visit again so you can update the blog. Come and capture the Gold Rush of 2011 in Haines Alaska. hee hee
    your Haines Alaska Tourguide,
    Holly Jo Parnell


    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Holly, and thank you for stopping by. I would LOVE to come back to Haines. I talk about our trip there all the time – trying to convince some of my gal pals to make the trip with me for a girl’s trip. I hope someday they’ll do it.

    I loved Haines so much. It felt very homey to me… comfortable. I could definitely envision myself living there. Who knows? Perhaps someday.

    In the meantime, I do hope my travels will bring me back soon.

    Have a great summer! Gotta love summer in Alaska!



    Comment by Holly Jo — May 21, 2011 @ 9:08 am

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