Back in the USA

At 9:45 PM the ferry departs Haines, AK. There are two stops along the route, so I will not arrive in Sitka until 1:00 PM the next day.

continued from "Flash Back"

September 03, 2012

11:15 AM - I enter the US customs station inspection lane. There are a couple of other vehicles stopped ahead of me. The RV and pickup truck are directed to the search area to the right. I pull up to the waiting Customs officer and greet him. He is a large young man. In a stern voice he asks "Identification. Reason for entering the United States? Origination point and final destination?" As I hand him my papers, I respond that I am transporting our "new" car from Anchorage to Sitka, Alaska.

The border agent smiles lightly as he looks over the little red car. "How was the drive?" he asks.

I answer "Beautiful! What a trip!"

I think to myself... "In more ways than one."

Handing back my documents the officer says simply "Have a nice day," as he waves me through the checkpoint.

As soon as I leave the border crossing checkpoint, the fog lifts. The road becomes quite scenic but narrow and winding. The road runs along the Chilkat River. This is perfect time for me to test the Vette's cornering ability.

At several areas along the road, I slow to have a good look at native fishing wheel weirs. I have read about these ancient salmon catching method but never seen one in action. They are crude appearing but very efficient.

Salmon in large numbers this time of year, swim up rivers and streams to spawn and then die. Many of these migrating fish get caught in the near ferris wheel appearing wooden trap and captured. Alaskans live off the salmon captured for many months. The fish can be smoked, salted, canned, or frozen and then eaten poached, baked, broiled, grilled, or sashimi style raw. All methods of consuming are Outstanding!

Four Thousand Salmon

Chilkoot Packing Company

Haines, Alaska

Shortly after noon, I arrive in Haines.

Haines was originally settled by Native Alaskans of the Tlingit culture who traveled along the Northwest Coast upwards behind the receding glaciers or came down the mountain valleys from the Interior. The area was valued for its mild climate and abundance of food. The original Native name for Haines was Deishu, meaning "end of the trail."

Tlingit group at Haines, Alaska - circa 1930

Many Tlingits of the Chilkat Valley can trace their families back generations to residents of local villages. There are Tlingit sites in Southeast Alaska where fish traps and basketry date from 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. Local archeological evidence shows fish traps in the Chilkoot River 2,100 years ago, and remnants of houses at the Chilkoot village site date to over 800 years ago.

Tlingit Tribal House Haines Alaska

In the 1940's and 1950's Haines became an important transportation link with the completion of the Haines Highway and the initiation of the Alaska Marine Highway System. The first ferry in the Upper Lynn Canal was operated by Steve Homer and Ray Gelotte, two of the veterans who purchased Fort Seward and docked in Portage Cove.

I am early for the state ferry check in. Driving around town I get many waves and smiles in the old car. There are an abundant amount of colorful small shops and surrounding lodges. Nice town. I actually find a car wash to clean up the classic car before boarding the ferry. With my stomach growling for food, I have lunch at the Haines Light House waterfront restaurant.

I pick a seat inside the restaurant where I can see the ocean and the Corvette. Several couples walk by the car and take long looks at her. Inside the restaurant, I overhear two guys trying to decide what year "she" is.

2:00 PM - I arrive at the ferry terminal to check on reservations. There is a five hour wait line on the full ferry parking lot before boarding. I have plenty of time to finally take a thorough look at our new investment. I discover several things not noticed before about the car. A few paint nicks here and there. This could possibly have been caused by flying gravel on the road trip just undertaken. Still this classic beauty handled great and she is still all together and in fine shape.

While waiting to load the Corvette, I talk with several other passengers in line with their vehicles. One is Ben, the young man on his motorcycle I had spoken with in Haines Junction. He was now on his own heading back to college via the Alaska Marine State Ferry. As we stand in line next to his bike talking about his studies and school, I notice two ladies looking the college student up and down as they take photographs of him. Many of the passengers are tourist heading back down south after having exploration adventures in Canada and Alaska.

Ben tells me he has no cabin for the long voyage but will sleep in the enclosed main viewing deck. The viewing decks are on the bow and stern of the ferry. They have nice comfortable seats and awesome views. To sleep in one of those seats for several days, however, would be extremely painful for my beat up old body. I tell Ben he can bunk with me if he’d like. I also inform him that I snore loudly, have nightmares, and emit a variety of aromas all night. He declines my invitation with a chuckle as he looks over the two friendly female photographers.

7:00 PM - Finally, time to load the car onto the ferry. I am requested by the ferry crew to move her twice for proper assignment. Parking on the ferry is tight. I am praying no one opens their vehicle door against the classic car’s shiny red body. Luckily, the crew places me between two RVs that have no doors that can open against the Corvette.

Once the car is situated, I walk up the stairwell and check in with the ship’s concierge desk to find my assigned cabin. The cabin is sparse but comfortable with two bunk beds, a very small table, and a bathroom with shower. I take a walk around the ferry looking at the facilities such as the bar, restaurant, movie theatre, and where safety equipment as well as life boats and rafts are at the ready.

9:45 PM - The ferry departs Haines headed toward Skagway, Alaska. There are two stops along this route … Skagway and Juneau. I will not arrive in Sitka until 1:00 PM the next day ... September 04, 2012.

"And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night."

Exodus 13:21

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