Sunday, May 3, 2015

Haines, Alaska

After getting some new tires at Whitehorse I was on my way south towards Skagway Alaska along the Yukon Highway. The plan was to do some mountain biking in Carcross and then hitch a ferry to Haines to meet up with Erik, and old college buddy.

I found an incredible spot to camp, but it wasn't entirely legal. It was actually at a seaplane base, with an incredible view of the mountains. It was also covered, and could have been my first night sleeping tent-less. After reading at least until 10 PM waiting for the sun to go down, there was still a suspicious amount of traffic on the road, as well as some cars that stopped to see what I was up to. I decided against camping there and moved on, but the stop was well worth it.

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I ended up sleeping at a rest area, and carried on pretty early. After arriving in Carcross, I found a map next to the Visitor Center of the local mountain bike trails, and headed to one of the trailheads. After mounting up and starting off on one of the trails, I quickly ran into snow, and after seeing the deep mud and thick snow on some of the more shadowed trails I decided to pack up the bike and head to Scagway earlier than planned.

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As I approached the border to Alaska, the landscape quickly changed to what, if I was a snowmobiler, would appear to be some type of utopian paradise. There were immense lakes covered in several feet of snow, surrounded by large rocks mostly covered in more delicious pow, with diminutively picturesque trees dotting the landscape. It was surrounded on all sides by enormous snowy mountains. As the road gained in altitude, I entered the cloud layer, which spoiled some of the views unfortunately.

The border back to 'Merica was pretty uneventful. I was instinctively more careful about my speed near the border, I've come to realize how tightly those are patrolled. Canada's speed limits always seemed relatively optional, but in the US that's never been the case. I wasn't in a huge hurry anyway.

Scagway is a cool old mining town, tucked right into the end of a large waterway. I picked up a hiking/biking map after getting my ferry ticket, and having a few hours to spare I set off to find a good trail. I was quickly distracted by the city itself though, there was a lot of neat little stores, and after finding out there was a disk golf course and a brewery I decided against riding.

The disk golf course itself was really neat, tucked away behind some trees at a corner of town. Back in the woods a couple was corralling their team of sled dogs, and Yogi skiddishly met a few. I did a couple rounds before heading back to town to catch my ferry and make lunch.

The ferry ride itself was gorgeous, the waterway was surrounded on all sides by snow capped mountains. I managed to get some work done on the ferry when I wasn't taking way too many photos. I met a couple I had seen earlier, it was the people with the dog-sled team that Yogi had met earlier! Turns out they're from Colorado, and super nice people. They were heading up to a glacier in Alaska to give tours for the summer. They signed the car before we needed to get off the ferry.

Once driving along Haines, I had the top down and the scenery was probably among the best I had seen yet. The views were gorgeous, the sun was out, and I ended up needing to stop for pictures at almost every opportunity. At one there was an older couple with an enormous camera and a set of binoculars looking into the bay. I followed their lead and saw a large pod of Orca whales swimming maybe a half mile off the coast. I followed them for about 10 minutes as they were leaving the bay for the Pacific.

Haines is a great little town, and after trying to track down my friend Erik for a bit I decided to wait at the local brewery. Everyone there seemed to know not just Erik, but each other. Their beer was also great, way better than Skagway's, and they have at least 5 aged beers I have to try before leaving.

Erik got an Aerospace Engineering degree with me at CU and now lives an incredible life here in Haines. He's building a house just outside of the city, but currently rents a sweet house right off the bay. He has a boat right there to catch fish, a wood burning stove, really cheap rent... seems like an incredible setup. After some beers and a couple frisbee golf rounds (literally right next to the brewery) we left to get some food and went to the Friday night open mic night. Almost everyone I met earlier at the brewery was there, seems like they have a really cool community here.

The next day I tried to climb Mount Riley just outside of Haines. Pretty quickly me and my new bike were put to shame after I ran into pretty thick mud and large roots on the trail. I decided to stash the bike at my car and try again on foot. The vegetation is much more green and thick than I thought, it could have easily been Oregon or Washington. The mountain just barely got to the upper tree line, but the trees shrunk enough up top to provide some killer views of the mountains and the bays. Yogi got way more dirty than usual walking through all the mud, he's going to need a good bath when I get back to Colorado.

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Afterward I met up with Erik at the house he's building. I mostly helped him raise a wall and move some stuff around. The house is going to be gorgeous, there's great views of the mountains on both floors, plenty of space, the property itself is gorgeous... I'm pretty jealous and definitely going to mooch off his couch again once he's done.

A photo posted by Byron Young (@byron.a.young) on

After getting some supplies in town we head back to make breakfast burritos using some meat from a goat he hunted (again, so jealous of his life). The following morning I wake up to probably the best conceivable view to wake up to (that doesn't involve two X chromosomes), and that catches us up until now. I'm heading off today back south, but my immediate direction is north because the geography forces me to, not that I'm complaining there's some more mountains up that way!

My view waking up this morning

A photo posted by Byron Young (@byron.a.young) on


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