In a tangle of mountains at the end of the famed Inside Passage lies the small fishing town of Haines Alaska, population 2,200. With North America’s longest and deepest fjord in the front yard and some of America’s tallest peaks out back, Haines is an ideal place to base our adventures.
After an afternoon arrival into Juneau, you’ll fly with a regional airline on a scenic 30 minute flight up Lynn Canal to Haines. We will meet you at the airport and help you settle into your accommodations.
The next day we start our adventure in earnest upriver from Haines along the Chilkat River, which is known for huge congregations of eagles and creeks filled with salmon. We’ll start off with a drive to the home of one of Haines’ quirkiest residents, Steve Kroschel, and his wildlife center where he has relatively tame moose, porcupines, bears, wolves, and more. It is a fun way to start an adventurous day. Afterwards, we start our bike trip down a dirt road which narrows and then largely disappears into expansive river flats with towering peaks dwarfing the river and the ancient spruce forests below. Where the trail disappears into the river we will enjoy a nice lunch and meet our rafts and raft guides who are ready for a 10 mile paddle down the Tsirku River. For the adventurous in the group we will have single person packrafts available so you can negotiate the river on your own.
Then we are off down the glacial river past sheer cliffs, around “Devil’s Elbow” and towards the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. We can stop halfway down and hike to a clear water stream where there is often good fishing. We have all afternoon to savor the wildlands and wildlife. Near the end of our rafting trip the river splays out into uncountable channels and here we are likely to see bears and eagles fishing.
Wildlife, mountain biking, rafting, hiking, and fishing all in a single day. Welcome to Alaska. Once we reach the road and unload the raft, we’ll be back to the friendly town of Haines and within half an hour be chatting with fishermen and guides at the renowned Haines Brewing Company before choosing a nice restaurant for dinner and retiring to a local B&B for the evening.
Adventure #2 Starts just 10 miles away but in a world apart. The austere ice-scraped mountains loom above the the great northern rainforest with 5 ft diameter spruce and moss several feet thick. Our route through this forest is the cold and rich Chilkat Inlet, a fjord thousands of feet deep and 70 miles long.
We will head to the docks and make our way past the salmon boats where we board our water-taxi for a quick trip to our private campsite pitched between the forest and the sea with views of mountains in all directions. Once we settle into camp and stow our gear in the tents we’ll get ready for a paddle. Sea kayaks provide a good balance of intimacy with the ocean and safety from it. The weather dictates our movements and there are lots of places to explore. We can beach comb the rock islets, hike inland or even make a trek to the face of one of the many nearby glaciers.
With a 25 ft tidal range the beaches can stretch long and broad at low tide. And when the tide is in we can paddle underneath the drooping hemlock branches. Grassy flats, sandy beaches, cobbles, cliffs and the big tree forests offer a great variety of areas to explore. A sturdy and warm camp, blazing beach fire, and food fresh from the sea make a perfect end to a day exploring on the water and in the woods. Wildlife is unpredictable but the fjord’s rich waters feed salmon, halibut, cod and a host of other fish, which in turn feed humpback whales, harbor porpoise, and Stellar’s sea lions in the water and bears, wolves, fox and eagles on land. The fresh air will tires us out and we will be eager to snuggle into our sleeping bags for the night.
A tinge of smoke makes the morning coffee all the better. The sounds of the waves and birds might make you feel like you never want to leave. But before long you’ll hear the thrum of a motor as a boat arrives at our beach. Hop aboard for a quick ride back to Haines. We will stop to grab your gear from the B&B before heading out to Chilkoot River for an afternoon of fly-fishing before you board the evening ferry for a beautiful ride back to Juneau where you spend a final night in Alaska before flying home the following day.