September 19, 2013, Category: Alaska, Travel

The bay is surrounded by mountains that are covered in trees and topped with clouds, like they tried to pass through but got tangled in the trees and are stuck in place. I can see wisps of white in and around the tree branches and it does seem that the trees are holding them back. This feels like Alaska. Even the color of the water has changed to an icy blue.

Day 4: Haines, Alaska

Check out the novel: Trudge On, Soul

The icy wilderness of Alaska is the perfect place to lose yourself. But Warren doesn’t want to lose himself. He wants to lose someone else.
The book, Trudge On, Soul, is the result of three long years of late nights, critique groups, and editing. If you haven't read the blog, I'd suggest you stop reading and at least click here to read the preview chapters of the book. The blog and pictures have spoilers and the book is a much better read. Think of the website as a documentary, and the book as an engaging movie. Triumph Motorcycles did an article on my Adventure here. A Photo Album of the trip is available here. Click here if you want to jump to the start of the blog with an index of each day.

The Adventure Continues...

I was sleeping deep and warm until the announcer told us we were approaching Juneau. I woke up and felt cool air on my face; it was definitely colder than it had been. When I stepped out of my tent, a giant Alaskan Glacier was waiting to greet me. We were in the middle of a massive bay that was surrounded by giant snow-capped mountains. This was more like how I imagined Alaska!


We had planned on going in to Juneau but it was 12 miles away, we couldn’t see a bus stop, and we only had two hours. There was really no reason to even get off the boat. We used the time to pack our gear and dry out all our stuff under the heat lamps. I’m glad I got my chores done before we left because it let me enjoy the last few hours of the ferry ride to Haines, which was spectacular.

Later in the morning it warmed up enough to sit out in the mild sunshine without a jacket. I dragged a chair across the deck to the edge and took advantage of the time to catch up my journal and I wrote the following:

The bay is surrounded by mountains that are covered in trees and topped with clouds, like they tried to pass through but got tangled in the trees and are stuck in place. I can see wisps of white in and around the tree branches and it does seem that the trees are holding them back. This feels like Alaska. Even the color of the water has changed to an icy blue. Craggy granite peaks rise out of the water next to us into the sky, holding tons of ice in the bright blue glaciers that then feed the streams and rivers spilling over the cliffs in spray and misty waterfalls…all the way back down to the ocean. It is pretty amazing.

DSCN0196The mountains, waterfalls, glaciers, and icy water lasted all morning; we drove right up through the middle of it. It just never ended, one amazing view after another! And sunshine to boot! The weather and the scenery were just plain gorgeous.

While walking around I saw the same guy who had complimented my coat earlier in the trip. I nodded at him and he said, “Nice jacket.” What? Did he just say the exact same thing again? Yes, he did. Either he must really like my jacket, or this is what he says to everyone. I suspected the latter and the ego boost from the day before dissipated, leaving behind a small black hole. I filled up the hole with a self-affirmation: that’s okay, I still think it’s an awesome jacket.

DSCN0199During lunch, the ship horn boomed long and loud. My mind raced. We aren’t near a city, there must be another boat. Why are we honking at another boat, are they….suddenly sirens went off all around us, loud and shrill. Holy crap! We are about to collide with another boat. I’ll swim to shore, I’ll need to set up a shelter. I’ll probably survive but how will I let Sandi and the kids know I am okay…yes, I had all these thoughts. Then an announcer told us not to panic, it was just a drill. Uh, too late. I can’t believe how many thoughts I had in that couple of seconds! I was already planning out how I would survive in the forest. I think a part of me was actually disappointed.

We approached Haines and a nervous excitement ran through me. This was it. The thought crossed my mind that we were already too far to turn around but we hadn’t even started riding yet. Once they opened the car deck, I hurried to get ready. I was in the back, holding up the other bikes. I rushed to remove tie-downs, strap down my roll bag, put away clothes, put on my riding gear, and load my tank bag. I don’t like jumping through important tasks without taking the time to check everything off properly. When I forget something or make a mistake, it’s usually because I’m trying to rush. But that tough biker lady couldn’t get out until I was out of her way, and several others were behind her. So I rushed. We rode off the ferry without even mounting our headsets. Although I felt unorganized and slightly frazzled, I was pretty sure I had everything or I wouldn’t have left in the first place. But I was preoccupied for a bit, running over my bike and gear in my mind to make sure.

IMG_0854The bartender had also told Mike that everyone turns left at the ferry to go right into town. “Don’t do that! Turn right, go up to the Chilkoot state park, it’s only a few miles and there is a good chance you’ll see bears.” So we made a right and started riding along the ocean. On my motorcycle. In Alaska. It didn’t take long to wash away the ferry stress.

We rode several miles up, started following the river, and…did I…is that…yes! I pointed ahead, showing Mike. A hundred yards ahead were two grizzly bears. I pulled over and he pulled up next to me. I grabbed the camera around my neck and tried to turn it on. Wouldn’t you know it, a dead battery. My SLR was behind me, tied down in my backpack. As much as I would have loved to dig it out, I decided it wouldn’t be a good idea with two grizzly bears heading our way. Stay mobile. We sat on our bikes and watched the bears come closer….and closer. They were walking along the river directly towards us.

IMG_0871At about the time I was thinking we should turn around, a ranger walked around the bend, coming out of the trees ahead of us. There were several others with him, taking pictures and watching as the mother and cub looked for salmon. I turned off my bike, climbed off, and walked over to the ranger, “Do we need to get out of here?” I asked.

IMG_0889He told us we were fine as long as we stayed on the road. He was really cool. I dug out my SLR and started taking pictures. We watched the bears snack on dead salmon they found along the shore for a good hour or more. When they passed us, we drove down and waited on a bridge until they passed directly under us. A dog barked in the distance and mamma bear went charging across the street after it. The dog shut up and she returned to her cub.

We drove downstream again. There were six or so people standing on a small patch of grass by the river and Mike walked out to them while I parked. When he came back I said, what’s up? They told him he couldn’t stand on the grass, it was private property. It was a grass patch, on the side of the road. A house across the street. Are you kidding? I can’t walk six feet onto the grass to see the bears? DSCN0203From where we were, we couldn’t see them through the trees. Pretty lame. Mike and I talked for a minute and then protectors of the grass started to leave, maybe the bears were gone. They came over and started talking to us, all nicelike. “Did you see the bear run across the road?” they asked, excited. I’m thinking, you just kicked me off a little patch of grass on the side of the road, don’t try and be all friendly now. We decided to just move on. But in retrospect, that park road went a lot further up. I wish we’d taken it to the end.

We put on our headsets and headed out, excited as hell. Our conversation went something like this: Bears! Yeah, holy cow, ten minutes in and we saw bears! Bears! Yeah! Grizzly bears even! I know! Bears! Awesome! I did have to point out to Mike these bears were not lumbering, and he agreed. But this was only the first day riding. We had plenty of time for him to find his lumbering bear.

IMG_0992We drove into Haines and made a stop at a Tourist Information building. We got the scoop on campgrounds and took a drive south to the Chilkat state park. We hit a dirt gravel road with some pretty nice washboards and deep rocks. Well, trial by fire I thought. Let’s see if my heavy bike can handle this stuff. It handled it just fine. We drove the winding road down to the water and got off our bikes to admire the mountains, water, and glaciers. It was breathtaking. I was feeling pretty good until I went to start my motorcycle and it didn’t turn over. It was the same problem I had had in Bellingham and the fear lurking in the back of my mind that I tried to ignore had reared its ugly face.

My head fell, my stomach turned, and I pounded on my helmet while my mind argued with itself. Okay, what now. We can camp here if it comes to it, but it is windy and cold. That would suck. The campground in Haines would be much better. I have cables, Mike can jump me. Yeah, that should work. I’ll have him jump me, we’ll get back to the campsite, and tomorrow I’ll see if there is a place in Haines that sells batteries. A place in Haines, are you kidding, in that small town? I told myself to shut up and climbed off my bike.

Mike was out exploring, when he got back I told him it hadn’t started. It had been sitting for ten minutes and I was about to try again. I held my breath, turned the key, and pressed the button. It turned right over without hesitating at all. I was both relieved and stumped. What was going on with my bike?

DSCN0218We rode back into Haines and set up camp. We had been told about a nice pizza place and decided to go that route. Once again I held my breath as I pushed start, and it kicked over no problem. Hmmm. But we never found the pizza place. We ended up at a nice Mexican place that Mike said was some of the best Mexican food he’s ever had. I’m not as picky as most, to me food is bad, neutral, or good. This was definitely good.

Back at camp we made calls and chatted to family, which was nice. It was fun telling everyone we had already seen grizzly bears. Our campsite had an outlet so I was able to top off a few devices before turning in. I had two primary thoughts before I went to sleep: This is awesome and I’m so glad it’s not raining!

Click here to continue to Day 5.

Thanks for reading about my travels. To read more of my adventures, click here to visit my travel page.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider clicking your favorite social media platform and sharing. Click, approve, and you're done. Easy as pie :)

Leave your email address to receive an update when I post something new. Your address will be only used to send updates on this website.

Leave a Reply