Mawlers’ Big Adventure ’04:
Haines to Haines Junction

Friday, 13 August 2004

By the Numbers
  • Distance Driven Today: about 220 km
  • Gas Purchased Today: 9.138 gallons
  • Total Cracks in Windshield: we are in denial, and would rather not talk about it
Wild Woolies
  • Porcupine: 1

It is a beautiful sunny morning with no smoky haze; a brilliant morning like we have not had in days. The sun in streaming in the window, which overlooks the harbor, so we stay in bed and enjoy the morning. Hey, stop thinking like that.

Today promises to be interesting. My aunt and uncle happen to live here in Haines. Every family has peculiarities and mine would be a knack for spreading out to the four corners of the earth. As a few examples, I have an aunt and uncle in Omaha, an aunt in Tucson, a cousin in Rhode Island, and this aunt and uncle pair in Haines.

The last time I saw this particular aunt was probably 1976. Apparently, we only get together on major national anniversaries, so I am probably bucking some serious trend by not waiting until the 250th anniversary of our country. I like to live dangerously.

Yesterday, I called my aunt and we agreed to do lunch at 11:00, so we cannot stay in bed all day, regardless of how nice it is.

What kind of person...
Drops in to visit his/her aunt and uncle and takes not a single picture??? That is correct, I visited my aunt and uncle, having never met the latter and only seen the former in 1976, carrying 30 pounds of camera gear, and I took zero pictures of them, their house, their boats, their pets. Nothing.

Really makes you wonder what is going on in my head, eh?

So with our usual early start, we set out looking for my aunt’s house. I have the address and the road is marked, so it should not be hard to find. Except that I must be on the wrong road and no one has a number on their house.

At one point we are turning around for a different pass at the road, when we meet a local coming out of the driveway we are using for a turn-around. When this person asks if we are lost, I say "sort of" and that I am looking for somebody. When she asks who I am looking for, I tell her and am not at all surprised that she knows where my aunt lives. The most peculiar thing is that the woman giving us the directions has a New England accent, which is where my parents and their families originate.

Emboldened by the new information, we set off. However, as an object lesson on how two people can hear things differently, Lea Ann believes that I have gone the wrong way. Fortunately (for me), the house appears right where I thought it should be. Nyah, nyah.

We have arrived just in time. It has taken a bit longer to find the house than I had intended (and yes, it does have the street number posted clearly in front) and they almost started lunch without us.

Like any good household, they have a number of furry critters. When we drive up, we are greeted by a small bear. Actually it is a very friendly and slobbery Newfoundland, but the bear resemblance is striking. The dog is about six feet high at the shoulder… Well, maybe a little less, but you get the idea. Whenever we are outside, he is our constant companion, wearing a brightly colored vest so that hunters do not confuse him for bear. Probably a really good idea.

Inside the house are a couple of cats. We only see one, but that one complains loudly about being shut in a side room until my uncle convinces my aunt that the cat should be freed. This cat carries the same personality as our youngest – Mary. It sits in the window seat, staring at our lunch and voicing the opinion that we are rude to not invite it to partake. I suppose we are drawing arbitrary distinction between species.

After lunch we find that we have more in common with my aunt and uncle than we had imagined. We start by comparing cameras, which, as you can see on this web site, tickles our fancy to no end. We follow-up with a discussion of the unusual flora and fauna that graces their yard; my aunt knows a fair amount about plants, so we get to ask a boat load of questions about all the plants we have been seeing on the road. Lea Ann gets an up-close fly-by from a bald eagle. (Not carrying a camera.) My aunt also has a knack for cultivated plants, including apples of various types and a quince bush that she pollinated herself with a paint brush. (Some people are just more determined than others.)

Speaking of boat loads, did I forget to mention that my uncle is a shipwright? Lea Ann’s family has a wood shop in the basement and her grandfather could build just about anything. In a similar fashion, my aunt and uncle have a large barn / shed in the back yard and it appears that they could build almost any wooden boat in there. Listening to their stories (and seeing the actual floating evidence), it seems they have built (and repaired) quite a few boats.

Despite being of an age that many of my friends back east would think of as "retired", my aunt and uncle are still building boats. They have a boat nearly done right now. The thing is over 20 feet long! (They told me exactly how long, but I lost that information somewhere.) I am not sure I could manage a 4x8 sheet of plywood right now, let alone over 60. (I am not speculating beyond 60; that would be impolite.)

The visit sums up quite nicely when we learn that the 20th of August will be my aunt and uncle’s 55th wedding anniversary. My uncle says simply "I have never regretted it". What more is there to say? Happy anniversary!

We finally manage to get going when my aunt points out that the afternoon is about over. Considering that we are pretty far north, the time has really slipped away, so with hugs and handshakes, we head out, bound north across the border back toward Haines Junction.

The scenery is ok…
if you like that sorta thing.
We took a bunch of pictures on the way down, but that does not prevent us from taking a bunch more on the way back north. This place is beautiful, even in the dark.

Well, we do not head out right away; it is not quite late enough. Instead, we go to the local granola store (you know, sells granola to fruits, nuts, and flakes) known as the "Mountain Market". This place convinces me that I could live here. They sell great coffee, organic foods, and excellent sandwiches and light fare. What more could you ask? We get a couple cups of coffee (the Aztec Mocha is great) and a couple of sandwiches. We went with the slightly morbid sandwiches: the "To Die For" and the "Died and Gone to Heaven". Both relied on great pesto and cheese. Can you go wrong?

Finally, we drive north with the setting sun—very romantic. Except in romantic movies, the protagonists never have to stop and pee.

As this is definitely not a movie (or if it is, it has a very low budget), we have to find some place for our protagonists to make a pit stop. This is a minor challenge considering that there are just slightly over zero people between the Alaska/BC border and Haines Junction. Fortunately, there are some strange little pull-offs, including some oriented toward the road maintenance crews.

Camping Necessities
Small bills. Unmarked.

Well, just kidding about the unmarked part, but if you plan to camp in remote parks, carry small bills. You often will need to self-register by putting your bills in an envelope and taking a receipt back to your vehicle. It would kinda suck to get to a campsite at midnight and not have any money left except a 50 for registration!

Oh yeah, a flashlight might be good too, if you plan to arrive at midnight.

We find one of these places and there is an outhouse. Lea Ann considers that this one may have been cleaned some time during the last ice age. Regardless, a certain tension is relieved, as it were.

The interesting thing about this pull-off is the small cabin. It is about 10 yards from the outhouse and contains enough stuff to while away a significant snow storm. Seems like a really good idea out here, though you would be hard pressed to find it in a full-on blizzard, even if you knew where it was. Our interest in the cabin and the sunset wanes as the wind picks up. It is really cold out here.

Did I mention that our plan is to camp tonight?

Driving up the road toward Haines Junction is largely without incident. We do surprise one large porcupine on the road. By the time we get stopped and turned around, he has disappeared into the bushes on the side of the road, so we continue north again.

Finally, we arrive at Kathleen Lake, in the Kluane National Park, which is in the Yukon. (Pretty neat that we hit three states / provinces on this little drive.) We cased this joint on the way down, so we know where the good campsites are and the procedures for self-registration.

Guess That Sign!
Today's feature:

Before we can get settled for the night, we need to take pictures. What? So we drive down to the lake and lock the tiny plastic digital camera on the 10 lb metal tripod and take long exposure shots of the lake in the twilight.

We finally go back up to the campsites and park in one of the only remaining sites. It turns out that the air temperature is much higher here than it was farther south. We set up the tent in record time (we are getting good at this) and eat our fabulous sandwiches from the Mountain Market.

We go to bed staring up at the stars in the clear, cool air. Bringing the tent was such a good idea.

see it on a map

The previous installment:
Haines Junction to Haines

The next installment:
Haines Junction to, uh, Whitehorse

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All materials © 2004 Lea Ann Mawler & Stuart Mawler