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  • Stephanie Lambdin

Haines Junction


Haines State Ferry Dock is still over one hundred and fifty five miles further south. I should have plenty of time, that is, if there are no unexpected break downs, accidents, severe weather, and large wild animals falling in love with or being enraged by the small bright red sports car.

continued from "Rough Road Ahead"

Haines Junction is the only place to refuel and hopefully find lodging and food for the night. I find one gas station unoccupied but pumps that are credit card acceptable. As I’m pumping fuel into the Vette, an SUV towing several ATVs pulls up to the next pump. The driver starts pumping fuel while looking at the Corvette. Smiling he says to me, "I sure wouldn’t be driving that beauty on this road." I have a nagging mind flash that this sounds as though there may be some rough road ahead.

"Dakwakada," a Southern Tutchone word meaning "high cache," was the original name for the site of Haines Junction. It was common for Southern Tutchone native people to use raised log caches to store food year round or temporarily while they hunted and fished in an area.

The region was also an important travel and trade route for First Nations. Its proximity to the Chilkat Pass, one of only three passes that allowed travel between the coast and the interior, made for extensive use by coastal native tribes.

The establishment of Haines Junction dates back to 1942. As I already knew, a major portion of construction of the Alaska Highway occurred during WWII. The following year a branch road was built from Haines, Alaska over Chilkat Pass to join the Alaska Highway. Portions of ancient travel routes became pioneer roads built for vehicle traffic. Situated at the junction of these two roads, Haines Junction were a construction camp and an important supply and service center for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers building the road way.

The same year as the construction of the highway, the Kluane Game Sanctuary was established. In 1972 most of it was designated the Kluane National Park Reserve. Haines Junction is the headquarters for Park administration and the community is also the main staging area for their operations.

"How is the road to Haines?" I ask.

"Depends on where you’re from," he answers.

"Sitka. We have fifteen miles of road," I tell him as I hang up the fuel hose.

"Is it paved?" he asks, still smiling.

SH *#@#* ! I then tell him my predicament about transporting the old classic auto from Anchorage to Sitka. The SUV driver shrugs and says, "Good luck."

I drive around the small town looking for a room to sleep in and dinner. The few motels have No Vacancy signs. The town seems filled with travelers stopping for the night. I drive around the outskirts of town with no luck.

Cruising back along the main town road again, I notice one motel now has a flashing Vacancy sign. Wheeling quickly into the motel parking lot, I jump out of the 'vette and run inside the office. The Alcan Motor Inn (http://www.alcanmotorinn.com/) office lady is nice and lets me know the small restaurant next door (Northern Lights Restaurant) is excellent. "Nice car by the way," she says as I am walking out the office door. Lucky again as the room is nice and, even better, it is on the ground floor with a big front window.

At the junction of the Alaska & Haines Highways...

Panoramic views of the majestic St. Elias Mountains & beautiful Kluane National Park

I head on over to grab a bite from the establishment next door. Not the fastest service due to an epic soap opera scene going on (lover's quarrel), but after a savory meal and a couple glasses of vino I walk twenty five feet over to my motel room.

I, again, sleep with the window curtains and one eye open to watch the Corvette. Later that night I am awakened by voices outside the window. I sit up and see two older folks and a younger man looking at the classic car. I listen to their conversation and watch their movements. All seems harmless. I lie back down.

9:30 AM - I am preparing to depart Haines Junction. Just prior to hitting the road, I add one quart of motor oil to the spotless engine just to be safe. There are still no observable leaks or oil burning smells.

As I am loading my ditty bag into my ride, I am approached by the three folks that I had observed the night before around my old car. The older man declares "Nice car! Sixty four, right?" He and the younger man look at the Corvette’s engine and interior. "Wow! She’s in great shape. Looks damn near original. Do you have the fuel Injection unit it came with?"

This is someone who knows Corvettes, I think to myself. I answer, "No. I don’t have the fuel injection unit. Wish I did. I just bought her and am driving down to the Haines Ferry and then to Sitka."

The older fella replies, "We’re heading that way too. Putting our son, here, Ben, on the ferry to Seattle. He’s going back to college. That’s his motorcycle in the pickup truck. By the way, I have a restored 1956 Corvette. Don’t get to drive her much. We live way north of Anchorage. It’s too cold and snowy in the winters for driving a classic car. My family all love Corvettes."

We all introduce ourselves, shake hands, and promise to watch for each other in case of break downs on the road to Haines.

Haines Junction Cross Roads, Yukon Territory

Before leaving Haines Junction, I call Steph to let her know I am checked out, south bound and rolling. She informs me the Haines state ferry dock is over one hundred and fifty five miles further south and hopefully the weather front may not be as severe as projected earlier. My reservation check in time on the ferry is for 7:45 PM this evening. This will allow me plenty of time to drive the last leg of the road trip. That is, if there are no unexpected break downs, accidents, severe weather, and large wild animals falling in love with or being enraged by the small bright red sports car.

The morning begins immediately as another spectacular road cruise with amazing scenery.

Alaska Highway near Haines Junction, Yukon

Soon the distant vistas and open roads temp me to increase speed several times to 80 mph in short bursts. The engine’s high lift camshaft performs perfectly at full throttle. There is still slight surging at slow speeds. The car wants to run fast. She feels like the polo ponies I used to ride. Chomping on their bridle bit so I would give them their head (loosen my hold on the horse’s reins) and allow them to blast off in frantic pursuit of the little white polo ball.

This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."

Jeremiah 6:16


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