Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Winter Weekend in Haines!

Jen and I have talked for years about going to the Eagle Festival in Haines.  There are 3,000 to 4,000 eagles that congregate on the Chilkat river to feed on a late run of chum salmon.  We didn't make it to the festival, but the weekend after had clear weather in the forecast, so we jumped on the early plane (6AM departure) to Juneau and then stood by at Wings for their flight to Haines.
Here are some photos Jen took--keep in mind she is very disappointed with the quality of photos after being uploaded to the blog.  We are working on a new Sound Sailing website where she is going to keep a page to display some high resolution photos.
It was a fantastic day for flying--we could see all of the Coastal range to our right and the Fairweather range was clear to the left.  We had considered taking the boat, but as I watched the 40 kt winds blowing spray off the combers in Lynn Canal below us, I was happy we had decided to fly!

There wasn't a cloud in the sky, but it was cold.  As a matter of fact, it was so cold, that ice started forming on the inside of the windows in the Caravan (a 10-seat airplane).

We flew in on a Friday, but there had been a big storm Wednesday that dumped 42 inches of snow.  They were still busy clearing snow at the airport as we landed and you can see lots of planes were waiting to be shoveled out.

On the ground at the Haines International Airport.

Beautiful downtown Haines, looking out over Lynn Canal.

I don't know why they would need cold storage--to keep the firewood fresh?

Here are the Council Grounds where rumor had it that hundreds of eagles congregate.  As you can see, there is one lonely eagle perched above the sign sniggering at the two fools shivering in -4 degree temperatures.  The Toyota Corolla we had rented was buried in a snowbank somewhere, so they upgraded us to a Camry.  It was a little slippery not having 4-wheel drive, but we managed to keep rolling and not get stuck anywhere.  Because we got bumped from the first Wings  8 a.m. flight we only got a few hours in on the first day.  The sun went down behind the mountains around 1:30, so we lost our good light and headed back to town.

Jen was so cold after a few hours of driving and traipsing around, she couldn't get warm even in our spacious hotel room at the luxurious "Eagles Nest Hotel".  We borrowed a space heater (in addition to the regular heat) and with all her clothes on, she was almost thawed by bedtime.  Even the locals were complaining about the cold.  We had a great pizza at the Klondike restaurant--our waitress was dressed in full ski attire, including down jacket and warm hat.  We took the table next to the moniter heater and enjoyed our pizza while noting the ice on the inside of the windows.

We got up bright and early on Saturday so we could be out on the river for sunrise at 8!  It was colder--we showed minus 4 degrees for most of the day.  There was a mist that moved in and out through the river valley, but again we didn't have a cloud in the sky.

The scenery was incredible, but the eagles had pulled out after the storm.  We talked to one photographer who told us that there were "hundreds" in the trees earlier in the week--we saw a handful, but the vistas and mini-adventure were well worth the trip.

The sun shining through the mist hanging over the river valley.

There were more photographers around than eagles!

As I recall, this was Porcupine Crossing.  This is about 25 miles north of Haines.  We stopped at the 33-mile roadhouse for a late breakfast.

After breakfast we continued up the road just to see the scenery--which was spectacular!

We went as far as the Canadian border (39 miles from Haines) before turning around and heading back to town.

It's sort of hard to see in the picture, but this shows you why it's not a good idea to stand under an eagle tree unless you have a big hat or an umbrella. You can just make out this guy's beak as he checks over his right wing to see if he hit Jen.
The uploader really cut down the resolution on these photos, so it's hard to see what's going on.  This eagle is ripping the head of a chum salmon apart.  In full resolution, you can see the jawbone and salmon teeth.

Taking a break between bites.

If you look really hard, you can see the salmon's jawbone with the teeth at the end to the left of the eagle's head.

This was in the place where we got a report of "hundreds" of eagles like tree ornaments" a few days before the storm.  We saw maybe a dozen in the same trees.

After lunch.


We loved this trip to Haines.  The 30-minute flight from Juneau in the Caravan made it worthwhile on its own!   The snow-covered mountains were beautiful and we did get to see a few eagles.  With food, lodging, and car rental, I've calculated our cost at about $50/eagle, so it's a good thing we get to see all the eagles we want at home!

Summer Sailing 2011

Since I haven't posted anything to this blog, I thought I'd better update things.  Yes, we are alive and well.  2010 was supposed to be my last year of running sailboat charters.   I've been looking for a partner or buyer for our boat and business for a few years, but it is a bad time to be selling a small business.  So, I have been running the boat on a reduced schedule and here are a few photos from last summer.
This is the anchorage in Dundas Bay, which is actually part of Glacier Bay National Park.
Here is the boat anchored in Dundas Bay--we had the whole thing to ourselves!

As we were headed out of the bay, I saw two fuzzy objects in the water that I assumed were sea otters.  As we got closer, I was surprised to see that they were brown bears swimming from one side of the bay to the other!

We called this one "Big Ears".

This one had silver tips on his ears.

Silver Tip checked us out and then continued to shore.

Here's a shot of Mt. Edgecumbe, Sitka's dormant volcano from the back side.

This is one of our favorite anchorages on the outside of Kruzof Island.

Trolling for salmon in Shelikof Bay.

 We found this brown bear sow feeding on mussels at the tideline on our way up Glacier Bay.

 She and her three cubs checked us out and then pretty much ignored us as we drifted along beside them for over an hour!

This is the John Hopkins glacier, one of the few advancing glaciers in Glacier Bay.

On our way out of Juneau, we pass by the Pt. Retreat lighthouse on the northern end of Admiralty Island.

This young marten visited us while we were tied up to a float in Funter Bay.

He seemed hungry and looked everywhere for something to eat.

At first I chased him off the boat, but I finally relented and let him help himself to a snack.

Eventually, I had to hoist all our crab bait (in the white 5-gallon bucket) to keep the marten out of it!