This week we were off on Thursday so we took the Fast Ferry to Haines. It would take a few hours to drive from Skagway to Haines, but it’s just 45 minutes by ferry. We were a little disappointed that it wasn’t a sunny day, but that turned out to be a blessing because the heavy fog made the scenery gorgeous!

When we got to Haines we walked around the town for couple of hours. Haines is a small town, just a little bigger than Skagway, but less tourist-focused. There is a historic district dedicated to old Fort Seward. But the only remnants of the fort are some burned-out cinder-block basement walls, and the area is filled with trash so it wasn’t too exciting. The nearby administration building has been boarded up for a long time and is in bad shape; a brick fell from the chimney and almost hit Randy as he walked by the building. So we left that area and walked around the town. There are a couple of nice tourists shops downtown. But Haines has something that Skagway does not – a real grocery store. After several months in Skagway, it was like a visiting an oasis! We had to return via the ferry so there was a limit to what we could get, but Randy did a little shopping. So when we got on the ferry back to Skagway, we were carrying a roast in our backpack!

The Ferry trip was the most photogenic part of the trip. The fog and clouds are an important part of the scenery here, so here are some pictures of that:

Saturday August 21,

Tonight we picked up fellow-RVers Glen and Gus and drove out to see if we could find the bear again. And as we drove up to the river, there he was! Big as life and having a great time fishing.

He would splash around for a few seconds, come up with a salmon in his mouth, slosh over to the bank and have sashimi. We could hear the bones crunch. He was a bit picky though – he would eat only the best parts (well, what he seemed to think were the best parts) and leave the rest, then head back into the stream for the next one. He caught and ate four salmon while we were watching. He was not concerned with us at all; once he sat down to scratch an itch and fell backwards into the water. When he caught fish number 5, instead of eating it he climbed up the bank and headed towards the road. We backed up closer to the car while he crossed the road ahead of us and headed into the tall grass. A moment after I took this picture we couldn’t see him at all, even though we knew he was there. We had been told that we would not be able to see a bear on the meadow until he was too close for comfort, and now I believe it.

July 4th, 2010

I realize I didn’t mention the 4th of July parade - that's not right because Skagway likes to celebrate it as a town event. The evening of July 3rd they had fireworks, although we didn’t stay up to watch. On the 4th there was a big town parade – well, it’s big by Skagway standards. They don’t have flower floats, but they do have decorated vehicles. The group of people we work with were organized along a patriotic theme, so our car was decorated in red, white and blue, and I drove it in the parade.

The man who had organized the color guard for years was not quite up to marching this year, so he rode in our car. Randy walked with our co-workers, and everyone carried a sign. The signs had patriotic messages or were about Solders Angels, a volunteer group that provides aid and comfort to US forces and their families.

I think our group looked pretty good. There were some that just defied description....

Golden North Hotel

One of the most impressive buildings in Skagway is the Golden North Hotel. When the Corringtons bought it several years ago, they did a complete restoration to return it to its most historic and beautiful appearance – the late 1800s. It has not been open as a hotel for a few years, but it is still in great shape, and they recently gave us a tour.

It was built in 1898 as a 2-story hotel. After the gold rush was over, the city decided to consolidate the remaining business on Broadway Street. So in 1908 the hotel was moved to its present location on Broadway, a third story was added, it was renamed as the Golden North Hotel, and the old hotel that had been called the Golden North was moved elsewhere.

The restored hotel is really beautiful. Each room is dedicated to a famous Skagway family, and every room is decorated differently. They have beautiful floral wallpaper, and there are vases of flowers and mirrors everywhere. Most of the rooms have attached baths with claw-footed tubs, pedestal sinks and china bowl-and-ewer sets.

President Harding stayed here in Room 22 when he visited Alaska in 1923, about two weeks before he died. The legend about that visit is that he brought his mistress (instead of or in addition to his wife), then died mysteriously of “food poisoning” right afterwards.

There is one room dedicated to Jefferson “Soapy” Smith and one dedicated to Frank Reid (who shot and killed each other) - and those rooms share a bathroom.

The Gold North’s main claim to fame is its ghost, Mary. She was a young lady who came to the original Golden North to wait for her fiancé, who was looking for gold. She either got a deadly case of pneumonia, or she learned her fiancé had died and lost her grip on reality. Either way, she stayed in the hotel room until she died - maybe a year or so. And apparently she’s still there. Of course the current Golden North isn’t the actual hotel she would have stayed in, but the theory is that she's here because is the physical location where she said she would wait for her true love. Mary seems to be friendly – there aren’t any stories of her trying to scare anyone, although sometimes someone feels like they are almost choking for breath – sort of like a young woman might feel if she had pneumonia. There are, in fact, some stories of her doing good. One time someone decided to move a bucket of water that had been sitting on the floor for several days. She started downstairs with the bucket but found her path blocked by stuff, so she turned to go another way. As she opened the door to that staircase, she saw the banister catch on fire, from a carelessly disposed-of cigarette. Because she was at just the right place at just the right time and just happened to have a bucket of water, she was able to put out the fire before it could spread. Some people assumed that Mary helped set in motion a chain of events that saved “her” hotel, although personally I'd be more inclined to attribute it to the grace of God.

Mary's room was restored using a wallpaper that she may have picked out herself. The developers left a book of wallpaper patterns in what seems to be her room while they were doing something else. When they walked back into the room, the book was open to a specific page, so that's what they used. Here's Mary's room:

There was an exorcism in one of the other rooms, but not for Mary. Apparently there were a couple of ghosts that weren’t as friendly as Mary, so they were invited to leave.

August 5, 2010

Wow! We saw the bear today! After work and dinner we drove to the salmon stream at Dyea Flats. As we drove up we saw a few people standing together, looking towards the stream. They said a bear had been there a few minutes ago before moving upstream. So we drove a bit further upstream to where another family was standing by the stream. The stream is set a little lower than the fields around it, so you can’t see it without standing right on the banks. As we walked towards the family, we heard splashing. I thought it must be the spawning salmon that were splashing about, because surely they wouldn’t be standing by the stream if there was a bear right there. But then I saw a pair of furry ears through the tall grass!

He was on our side of the stream, probably about 120 feet from us. And just like that, I got scared. We were a long way from the car and it’s a lot different to be standing near a bear in a field, instead of watching it from a closed car. Randy and I quickly and quietly walked away and downstream. When we were about 300-350 feet away, we found a place where we could clearly see the stream. The bear was a juvenile, 3 or 4 years old. He splashed around a bit and caught a salmon without too much trouble, then walked up the bank and sat down to eat it. We watched him for a while and I got a few pictures - not too clear, but that was as close as I planned to get. This was such an amazing experience - can't wait to go back!

August 1, 2010

A few days ago Randy suggested we have a pizza party at Mount Vernon, with everyone bringing their favorite toppings to share. So today Randy made a lot of pizza dough and Glen made a pan of pizza sauce. In recognition for their efforts they were "awarded" chef hats!

Randy prepared the dough was in 4 ounce balls, which is a nice size for a small thick crust or a medium thin crust, and everyone took turns rolling out the dough for their own pizza.

After the dough was rolled out, each person assembled their own perfect pizza, choosing from toppings such as Canadian bacon, sausage, pepperoni, grated cheeses, artichokes, green and black olives, red and green tomatoes, mushrooms, red and white onions, zucchini, green peppers, jalapeño and fresh basil. Something for everyone!

To bake the pizzas we had an assortment of paella pans, pizza pans, tortilla pans and aluminum pans. Some pizzas were cooked in a covered grill, but most were lined up to be cooked in the oven, which was manned by Glen. And we spend the next couple of hours sitting around with good friends having good food.