When leaving Haines, there are three choices. You can travel back to Haines Junction and the Alaska Highway by road, you can take the ferry to Skagway or points south all the way to Bellingham, or you can fly a tiny plane to Whitehorse. At first I thought we might take the ferry to Skagway and then drive north to Carcross. It seems a popular option, saving more than 200 miles of driving, and the cost between driving and the ferry is comparable.
Ferry fees are based on the length of your rig, both of them, including whatever is hanging off the back. In addition you pay a separate fare for each person and an additional fare for each kayak. It is 288 miles to Carcross from Haines on the road, and 65 miles to Carcross from Skagway on the ferry, just a short hour crossing from Haines. We chose to drive.
A couple of things figured into our decision, not the least of which was the beauty of the Haines Highway, the magnificent wildness of a road that is bordered on both sides by grizzly country, without many other vehicles. I may not be back to Alaska for a long time, I wanted to see the Haines Highway again. A second reason is probably a bit silly. Since we chose to drive the Klondike Loop, there is a section of the Alaska Highway that we missed between Tok and Whitehorse. By backtracking to Haines Junction and getting back on the highway there we will travel east to Whitehorse and once we reach Dawson Creek can claim that we drove every single mile of the Alcan.
It was cloudy when we left this morning, with the huge peaks behind Haines only showing their sparkling glaciers sporadically and then the skies softened into a more leaden gray as we crossed Haines Summit once again. I was glad for our day of beautiful skies on our first passing, but the grizzly country surrounding us still looked wild and magical. When we were stopped for the construction zone, I asked about the grizzly, and they smiled and said, No, he hadn’t been back, but another griz was seen this morning back at Goat Creek, where we had already passed.
Continuing north, we still had the road to ourselves, but the scenery didn’t seem quite as dramatic as the first time. It was closer to mid day, with flat light, but I also think that the drama unfolds differently depending on the direction of travel. We reached Haines Junction and turned again on the Alaska Highway headed east toward Whitehorse.
Not far from the Junction, we came to a delightful rest stop along the Aishihik River and the Tutchone community of Canyon Creek. We took some time to walk up to the bluff and the cemetery, with its small scale houses covering the graves of the people buried there.
The bluff is formed in sand from the end moraine marking the terminus of a huge glacial lake that once filled this part of the Yukon. Beyond Canyon Creek, the landscape broadened and the roadside was dry nearly white silts from the floor of the Pleistocene lake. The soils were dry, the grasses were brown, and the aspen was gray and dry from the ravages of the aspen leaf miner. Fire danger was listed as “high”, and I could definitely see why. Mo was driving and I found myself dropping off into a snooze with the boredom of this Yukon landscape.
We stopped in Whitehorse for fuel, remembering our rainy arrival almost a month ago, and continued south to the South Klondike Road and the side trip to Carcross. We hoped to boondock for a few nights, and sure enough the big gravel pullouts looked inviting. We chose a rest area, where in the Yukon you can park if you choose, and settled in for the evening behind a wall of protective trees near the old Robinson Roadhouse, now abandoned and just a shell of its former glory. After a walk exploring the area, we settled in to a quesadilla supper and some reading and writing time before we slept.
I heard on the news recently that there was a possibility of northern lights in this part of the country due to a huge solar flare, and had high hopes when I went to bed. The skies were clear and bright, but when I woke at 11 and then again at 1 to check, the clouds had returned. No northern lights for us this time around, I guess. It’s really a bit early, with the lights starting up in the fall. The night temperature dipped to 38F and our heater came on quite a bit during the night. Good to have the generator to keep things charged and ready for us to stay nice and cozy. I don’t think solar panels would be much good in this world with all the cloudy weather.
Tomorrow we will stop to explore Carcross a bit before continuing east through the Yukon toward Watson Lake on a part of the highway that we passed on our way west. Once beyond Watson Lake it will all be new to me as we travel east toward mile zero at Dawson Creek.
Miles driven today: 268
Road condition: 2 lane paved highway with some areas of intermittent frost heave, but basically 55-60 mph road.
The rest of the photos for this day are linked here