Inside Passage Route, Alaska Marine Highway
The Inside Passage Route, (known as the Alaska Marine Highway) was the third route I used for my “Feisty Old Woman goes North to Alaska from Texas” adventure This is what most people think of when traveling to Alaska is mentioned. When I expressed my desire to drive to Alaska someone remarked, “You can’t drive to Alaska!” Please do not tell the Canadians. http://www.northtoalaska.com/Maps-and-Routes/Inside-Passage-Route.aspx
Hello, Highway Here I Come
Getting back on the Highway and driving to Haines, Alaska made more sense to my budget than taking a ferry from Homer. Hello, Highway here I come for another ten-hour drive back to Tok where I picked up ANOTHER rock in my windshield. I slept in my car and drove to Haines the next day. If you don’t like collecting rocks and want to take the ferry: http://dot.alaska.gov/amhs/
Haines, Alaska is not as large a city as Homer, but the views are stunning. Haines is very close to the Glacier Bay National Park and is located on North American’s longest Fjord, the Lynn Canal (not a man-made structure but a natural inlet.) I had a full day to explore the area and made full use of my time there. At 4 o’clock my Subaru found its way to the ferry landing without much help from a very sleepy, not-at-all-feisty, but rather grumpy old woman. I was looking forward to NOT driving.
This is a photo I took from my table at a local restaurant. Because the locals view this every single day, I consider them to be pretty lucky folk.
I got my windshield “tag” and parked my car in line. Managing to snag a cup of coffee from the ferry terminal, the morning began to unfold before me. Alaska has a delightful habit of topping the last most-beautiful-thing-you’ve-ever-seen with something even more stunning. I’d never seen a Fjord before. The Alaska Marine Highway ferry system takes you through an enchanted land filled with wonder and magic.
If you have a set schedule then it is recommended that you make a reservation on a ferry. I had no reservations for anything too far in advance. I do have a good phone service and could get online to book hotel rooms, Airbnb, or campsites, but ferry service was not a worrisome problem to me.
Marine Highway Time
Time was my friend. If that ferry sliding south through the icy waters of the Alaska Marine Highway was full, I could stay an extra day and take the next one. What? You say the next ferry doesn’t leave for another three days. No worries. I will just sleep in my car, hike around and experience the “beingness” of a Fjord.
In the photo on the right you can see Haines nestled in the palm of mountains, glaciers and a Fjord.
The Ferry To Juneau
The four-hour ferry ride to Juneau, the capital city of Alaska, was incredible. Porpoises raced alongside us and distant whales sprayed plumes of water high into the air. The views of Alaska’s many glaciers were brought closer with the binoculars I carried with me, but my phone just didn’t have the zoom power it needed for great shots. Once we landed in Juneau-Auke Bay Ferry port I immediately went inside the terminal building and got my ticket to Ketchikan Ferry Terminal-Ketchikan and Prince Rupert Ferry Terminal-Prince Rupert British Columbia. I had three full days to spend in Juneau.
Alaska Hotel & Bar
Treating my feisty self to a room at the historic Alaska Hotel & Bar was money well spent. Sleeping in my car for most of the trip helped my budget stretch for an occasional hotel stay. Here is a blurb straight from their website:
“The Alaskan Hotel is the best-preserved and oldest operating hotel in Southeast Alaska. The Alaskan Hotel was built in 1913 by four men in six months time. The hotel was built in the late Victorian “Queen Anne” style, as can be seen by the transom windows and string course out front. The Alaskan is by far the most economical and centrally-located hotel in Juneau. Our historic turn-of-the-century bar is a local center of activity all year round. The Alaskan Hotel is the winner of the local paper’s reader’s choice award for “Best Live Music”. ” http://www.thealaskanhotel.com/
If you stand in the lobby of the Alaskan Hotel, or in a quiet hallway, you can hear ghostly echoes of men’s spurs as they jingle their way to their rooms. After a long day of mining, or fishing, a soft bed with clean sheets captured their weary bones for much- needed rest.
The Red Dog Saloon
Once you park your car 47 miles up the mountain, walk back to the hotel, check-in, and freshen-up, you are ready to hit the town. The Red Dog Saloon is a “must see” in Juneau, Alaska and I readily agree with that recommendation. Here is a blurb directly from their website:
“Originating during the heyday of Juneau’s glorious mining era, this world famous saloon has provided hospitality and fellowship to weary travelers and local patrons alike. Early day proprietors, Earl and Thelma (Pederson) Forsythe provided dancing and long time entertainer “Ragtime Hattie” played the piano in her white gloves and silver dollar halter top. During territorial days, during his tenure of over twenty years as owner, Gordie Kanouse would meet tour boats with his mule that wore a sign saying ‘follow my ass to the Red Dog Saloon’.” http://test.reddogsaloon.com/about-us/
The best thing is not the live music, which is great, or the fun decorations hanging from every square inch of space, but the food is REALLY good.
First Nation, Native People
The Canadians call the indigenous peoples that lived there before ships arrived from England, “First Nation People”. I like this term. It recognizes that they were here “first”. We don’t use that wordage here in the USA. I am terribly guilty of still using the term from my childhood, “Native America Indians” which causes one of my son’s eyes to start twitching due to my lack of political correctness. I do try not to offend anyone, but breaking old habits is hard.
I learned a lot visiting the “Sealaska Heritage” museum which uses the expression “Native People” on their website, so I guess either term is acceptable. The exhibit at the time showed how much the First Nation Tlingit people suffered after the US Military shelled Angoon on Oct. 26, 1882, and destroyed their livelihood. Many people starved to death. When the video ended there were tears in my eyes and I wondered, once again, if the world would ever know peace.
There’s no guarantee that they will still have the same exhibit when you go, but the Sealaska Heritage is a great place to visit no matter what’s on exhibit. http://www.sealaskaheritage.org/
Taking one of the walking tours I learned much about the city and enjoyed learning about the early Russian connections.
There weren’t Russians living in Juneau at the time this church was built, however, there were many local Tlingit people who had relatives in nearby Sitka. Those relations had been baptized during the Russian period (1741-1867) and were allowed to worship in their own language. United States government restrictions advised other churches to avoid preaching in any other language besides English. So the Tlingit people of Juneau were drawn to the Russian Orthodox faith and built their own church.
I have yet to find a church where I feel completely “at home” but I do enjoy learning and visiting churches. If you would like to know more about this faith community here ya go: https://stnicholasjuneau.org/
The ferry left for Ketchikan at 4 am but you could board soon after midnight. Instead of paying for another night at the hotel, I drove to Auke Bay and spent some time walking around visiting very old trees that remembered when the Paleoindian people walked from Beringia into what is now Alaska, and on toward more southern points in the Americas.
Auke Bay makes for a lovely walk.
Auke Bay Village
I drove back into Auke Bay Village and hung out in a little bar that had great food, free internet, and men almost as old as trees. They remembered the time when the ferry system was just a few men with old boats. The history of the Alaska Marine Highway can be read here: http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/history.shtml
Juneau has many wonderful tourist destinations, and you will surely find something to add to your “must see” list when visiting Juneau.