We pulled into the quiet and sleepy town of Haines Alaska, population 2,300 and to the first gas station we came upon. Surprisingly this station was 24 hours at the pump. We filled our tank and headed for the Ferry Station. The Ferry Station was way down on one end of town. Cell phone service was good right in town but once we were at the Ferry Station, the service got very spotty and non-existent.
It was a tiny Ferry Station but not any smaller than the one in Homer. Actually I think it was bigger than Homers. The parking lot was empty. Nobody was in sight. The lights were all off, the rain was still misting down and it was about 5 a.m. We pulled right up to the door and Darren jumped out, open at 6 a.m. the sign read. We were an hour early. What to do now? It was a good 10 minute drive back to town if you factored in the construction we had to go through. We drove down the road a little further, came back to the station and then decided to sleep lightly until someone showed up. Being that we had a vehicle, we figured space would fill up very quickly on the ferry. Most of the ferries only carry about 35 vehicles so we were anxious to be the first one in the office to get that last spot if there were any left. We dozed a little bit waking up every 5 minutes or to any sound of a vehicle passing by. Finally, an old beat up Subaru pulled in and a woman got out and went into the station. It was 10 minutes till 6 a.m. We waited a little longer until finally she came to the door and unlocked it. Darren jumped out to inquire about a schedule and rates. He came back quickly and requested I join him inside.
There were two women inside. Both looked miserable and unhappy. Darren and I are both very up-beat people and enjoy being optimistic rather than pessimistic and we don't like to be around people who are the opposite as misery and depression can be contagious. The woman seemed bored by our questions. Her answers were short with no additional information or personality. She solemnly informed us that there was room on the ferry leaving the next morning to Bellingham, that it would take 5 days to get there and the price would be roughly $1600 for the two of us and a truck. OUCH! Sixteen hundred dollars? That was as much as it was going to cost us round trip to drive from Utah to Alaska and back. We were thinking it to be about half of that, and for half we were ready to jump aboard. We asked if there would be stops along the way, where at and how much time we'd have if we could get off and check the towns out but she seemed annoyed at the whole question and disinterested to look the information up. Finally, this poor miserable woman suggested perhaps we should take a ferry up to Skagway Alaska. That way, she explained, we wouldn't have to drive back the same road we'd just come down. It only took 1 hour by ferry and it would cost $100 for the two of us and the truck. One hundred dollars was more than the gas would have cost but depending on fog it would have taken us 3-5 hours to drive. Darren had never been on a ferry before. I had taken a ferry before from Homer to Kodiak and from Whittier to Cordova so I knew what to expect. I always enjoyed going on the ferry and thought Darren may too. We decided to book the ticket. We were told to be back to the station no later than 11 a.m. We paid the woman and left.
Now being about 6:30 a.m. we hoped to find a good little restaurant to eat at. We hadn't eaten anything except for macaroon cookies, potato chips and strange things my family had packed for us so to keep them from going to waste at the cabin through the winter so breakfast sounded delightful. We drove back through the construction and into the tiny town of Haines. The iPhone didn't help much at all in locating any restaurants and I wondered if people in Haines even knew what an iPhone was. After driving around the small dreary town we decided on the bar/restaurant overlooking the teeny tiny harbor. I was disappointed in the little harbor. When I thought of Haines, I thought lively fishing village. I was wrong, way wrong. There couldn't have been more than twenty boats in the little harbor. It was like, the party had happened...but the people never came. It felt empty. We found a spot to park in the small parking lot. There was some construction going on in the parking lot and Kenai didn't like the four or five men moving about so she kept barking at them making the whole back of the truck shake back and forth. We walked inside the little restaurant. The bar was on one end and the restaurant on the other. The restaurant side had lots of windows looking out. Looking at the construction of the building, you could see it had been added onto, and added onto. A nice thin lady with a shoddy blondish dye job and harsh liquid eyeliner welcomed us pleasantly. Between the strange man sweeping the gas station parking lot and the ferry lady we couldn't say the people of Haines were very friendly, outgoing or exuding personality. This lady at least had some personality, although she too seemed sad. So far, Haines was just depressing. Between the people, the rain and lack of excitement I could see how one could become sad. We sat in the furthest corner of the restaurant from the kitchen but closest to the harbor. Darren and I like boats and this was the reason we chose this place to eat, was to look out over the quiet, boring harbor of Haines. We reviewed our menus, the nice lady gave us water. You'd think being in a state with lots of pristine water everywhere that the water you'd be served would have a great amazing taste but it does not. It tastes heavily of chlorine. A major disappointment if you ask me. The place was dated. The tables, chairs, all of it, had to be the cheapest crap you could find in 1990. The chairs were brown square metal frame, the tables were faux wood with the look and feel of a school cafeteria. The place needed an overhaul big time. I kept my thoughts to myself and kept my fingers crossed that the food would be exceptional. Darren ordered the Breakfast Burritos. He asked the lady what she thought and she said she'd order them because they were "different." Darren eats breakfast burritos all the time here in Utah so her reasoning for choosing it seemed funny to us. I ordered the Eggs Benedict, eggs poached hard please. Chef Gordon Ramsey would slap my face and call me an effing idiot with no palate for ordering my eggs poached hard but I don't like jiggly eggs. I have a hard time with eggs as it is. We ordered some coffee as well but quickly wished we hadn't as soon as we'd tasted it. I've had bad coffee but this coffee took the cake. It was watered down, I wondered if they'd been using the same coffee grounds for the last month and the worse part was the coffee tasted like they'd burned the water somehow. Oh lord it was awful!! We poured cream in, added sugar, tested, poured more cream, more sugar, tested, yuck. Oh goodness it was awful. The sweet lady offered us more and Darren and I had to try hard not to run out of the place in an effort to stay away from the coffee.
The nice lady, with her black liquid liner doe eyes was trying hard to read our expressions and we tried to graciously decline the offer of more coffee. As we waited for our meal I inspected the place some more and was disgusted to find several dead flies starring into space next to me on the window sill. Oh my! How long had it been since they'd just wiped down the window sills in this place. I began to wonder just what we'd gotten ourselves into. Did this place ever have a crowd? I wondered what my favorite reality chef, Gordon Ramsey would say if he saw this place. I figured the lady serving us had to be the owner or have a large share or interest in this place. She looked tired, bored and depressed. She'd lost interest in the whole restaurant idea by the looks of it. Poor thing. I thought to myself, wonder if the bar is the thing that keeps the doors open here. I didn't want to stay in Haines any longer than necessary and since we were leaving in a few hours I wouldn't get the chance to see what bar life was like here. Thank goodness. The meals came out. More coffee was offered and we declined again. I think she was confused as to why we were suddenly so anti-coffee and I wasn't about to tell her unless she specifically asked as she really looked like she was in a fragile state of sadness and depression, I didn't want to add to it more by telling her that her coffee is crap and to maybe give up the whole idea of ever making coffee again. The burritos looked simple and to the point and so did the eggs benedict. I quickly checked my eggs, they were good. Phew! Gold star for the cook back there. We dug in. Darren scarfed his meal as usual and I made my way through mine. It was all edible. It tasted good, good enough to eat all of it but it was nothing to write home about. We thanked the lady, paid and left.
It was a relief to get out of the depressing restaurant and out into the refreshing ocean air and misty rain. We decided to walk the harbor. Things were livening up slightly. A few people were down at the harbor on their boats. We were stopped by an older man and younger woman on a boat. They started up a conversation with us and we quickly found out why they were so friendly. Turns out a cruise ship was on it's way in that morning and they were looking for people to take out on their boat. The man showed us the pictures he had at the ready and boasted of the great catches they'd gotten on past trips. Clearly, they were fishing for more customers. We declined and the conversation ended abruptly. It was very clear that they were only friendly if you had money to spend.
It didn't take long to walk the harbor. We still had a couple hours so we decided to pick up some bottled water at the grocery store in town. There were two grocery stores apparently but with no parking on the street. We chose IGA and parked on the side street where there was a covered stairway that led straight up to the the actual store itself. It was odd and decrepit feeling. Once inside the store, it struck me even more odd as to why people even live in this town. The lighting was poor, the florescent lights flickered. The greens looked wilted, the apples looked mealy. Everything was expensive and they had only a couple six packs of water bottles. We bought water and some candy bars. The main reason we bought water was to give it to Kenai. We weren't sure what our water options would be on the ferry or when we got off in Skagway so we wanted to be sure to have something for her to drink just in case. When we got back to the truck, I looked back at the odd stairway and the ugly building it led to and tried to envision it during winter. Ugh! It had to be awful.
After that we decided to check out some little shops that we'd seen earlier in the morning. One place we stopped at was a vintage shop. The man greeted us, as though almost excited we'd stopped by. This was the first person who, although helpful, was not so depressing and not so "i'll talk to you if you spend money" like the guy on the boat down in the harbor. He was lean and had hair long hair past his ears. His little shop was filled with vintage stuff. Everything you could think of but all was priced at retail prices. I looked for that special thing that I couldn't live without but found none. He informed us of the lady next door and pleasantly wished us well on our journey. I actually felt kind of bad for not buying something in his shop as he seemed so sincere and was so pleasant. The lady next door was nice, but reserved. She didn't seem so depressed as some but she also didn't seem interested in having us in her shop, it almost felt more like she was annoyed we were in her shop. But it was in her shop filled with all sorts of vintage goods, native-made goods and other little things that I found something I had to have. A little eskimo doll, made by an Alaskan. This little doll was made of wood and wore a neatly made little leather outfit with a hood over the head trimmed with overpowering beaver fur. This little doll looked just like a little eskimo and it was oh so cute! I had to have it, so I bought it. I asked this woman how business was. She said it was much slower this year. I mentioned I'd seen many For Sale signs on homes and she said she didn't know of any home that had sold in the last year. Talk about depressing.
Our next stop was to a shop that had great curb appeal but lacked everything I hoped it would have inside. It was called the Lily or the Iris or something. It had a little white picket fence, a beautifully kept garden and a lovely little path leading up to the door. Turns out, this shop was really a converted front porch. It was about 10 feet wide and 25 feet long. That was it and the rest was a lived in house that had nothing for sale. A tall, skinny eccentric man with dark hair, plaid shirt and khaki docker trousers greeted us. This man was overwhelming and had an obnoxious maniacal laugh that drove me nuts. He would say something... pause a good 5 seconds, one .... two .... three .... four ... five and then laugh this off the wall shrill maniacal laugh. It was nice to finally get out of that place. I wondered if maybe he took people into his house and if those people were ever seen again. There was some other dock on this end of town. Apparently it was the cruise ship dock and the ship had arrived. People were beginning to filter off the ship and down the wooden dock. Time for us to go. We didn't want to get caught in the midst of tourists gone amuck so we then drove around some dirt roads up on the hill side and looked at homes. There were some nice homes with some nice views but Darren and I knew we'd never plan to come back to this town. It was just interesting to look around.
Time was moving slowly. We headed back to the ferry station. We still had at least an hour before we were suppose to be there so we parked our truck at the beginning of the row number we were to be in and slept.
We woke to the loud "bang bang" of a hand smacking the hood of our truck and some guy in a reflective vest yelling. It was time to drive the truck onto the ferry. We sat our seats up and followed the directions we were given. We pulled into the belly of the Columbia ferry. Parked, reassured Kenai we'd be back soon and went up the stairs to check out the ferry. You cannot stay in the vehicle deck. On long ferry rides they allow you to access the car deck every couple of hours. Dogs/pets are not allowed outside of the vehicle deck. Even though I've always enjoyed my trips on the ferry, i've always found them to be drity and grungy feeling. The crew on board look suspicious and untrustworthy as do most of the people traveling aboard. You worry about your car, you worry about your purse or bags if you should fall asleep. It is not a relaxing trip, you are constantly looking over your shoulder and keeping your space between yourself and others. It was a good little trip over to Skagway. We passed some beautiful waterfalls raging down the mountainsides into the ocean. There were some birds that people lunged to their feet to take pictures of but other than that it was pretty quiet and we were left alone. An hour was plenty of time. Darren quickly decided he was glad the price was too much and that we hadn't opted to take the ferry to Bellingham. I felt the same way. We would get bored, surely and poor Kenai would only get to see us every couple of hours for 15 minutes before being cooped back up. It was better this way. One hour was perfect to explore the areas we were allowed to explore of the ship, look at the food options and know we didn't want any and decide driving was the best. Then finally Skagway began to emerge from the mist.
Thanks for reading. Our time in Skagway Alaska is next.