Raining in the morning so we skipped our planned walk through the woods to a beach. Instead we drove to the boat ramp and enjoyed the beautiful view before heading into town.
There we drove through Fort Seward, a military camp that was occupied first in 1904, but gained military significance in 1943 when General Eisenhower determined that it was necessary to protect against Japanese invasion; it was deactivated again right after WWII and sold to private investors. The most noticeable part of the area is Officer’s Row – a line of huge Victorian homes where, as expected from the name, the officers and their families lived. Most are still in decent repair and some have been repurposed – a bed and breakfast, condos, hotel, hostel, private home.
In town we visited the Sheldon Museum which has historical and craft displays. We particularly enjoyed the explanations and exhibits of Tlingit finger weaving, but there was also a great deal of information about early Haines. To our surprise, we learned that Sears Roebuck used to run an Alaskan lending library that came in large wooden boxes monthly aboard boats. When the program was ended, the books were donated to Haines as the foundation for their first physical library. Haines now has a new library, built in the last few years, which we visited for a short while in the afternoon so we could use their Wi-Fi. Like the Petersburg library it is a stunning building which is heavily used.
Our next museum was the Hammer Museum. We weren’t sure of what to expect, but it was listed as a “can’t miss,” so we went. It was fascinating. The owner, Dave Pahl, displays a collection of over 2000 hammers with information about their design differences. The displays weren’t just informative, they were attractive. Who knew there were soft metal hammers, glass hammers, wooden hammers, multiclawed hammers, special hammers for gaining attention by tapping on glasses at weddings and banquets, … We were quite pleased to find a baling wire cutter patented by William Cronk (David’s great-grandfather) among the hammers and cutters used in wire work.
After the Hammer museum we stopped at the “Salmon Shack” for a lunch of halibut, salmon, and fries, and headed to the American Bald Eagle Foundation Natural History Museum and Wild Raptor Center. This is a “don’t miss” if you are in Haines. They have an incredible collection of taxidermied Alaskan animals – each numbered with excellent information provided about each. They also have live birds on display with very knowledgeable guides to tell you about them. Displayed today were a barred owl and red tailed hawk.
The foundation had an interesting movie about the bald eagles returning to the Chilkat river for the late salmon run in October. Over 3500 eagles congregate along the river at that time since it is one of the last unfrozen rivers with running salmon each fall. The eagles will basically not have fish again until spring – subsisting on human garbage, carrion, and the few unlucky rodents who venture out.
At 2:30 they promised a bald eagle feeding program. It was less a feeding program than an informative lecture about eagles with a bald eagle standing by waiting for pieces of fish and rabbit to be tossed to her. However, it was fascinating and full of good information. We learned more about the practice from 1933-1955 of providing a bounty for killing bald eagles; the bounty was offered in the mistaken belief that the eagles were depleting the salmon population. By the time the practice was stopped and the eagle became a protected bird in 1955, more than 100,000 eagles had been killed for the $3-5 dollar bounty – about the same number of eagles as are alive in North America today.
We drove south of town to the Chilkoot Lake State Recreation area for the night.
Chilkoot Lake State Recreation Area Review: 32 sites perched above the lake (about 6 sites are right on the lake). All sites are large, level, and well-spaced with trees between. No hookups, no dump, hand operated water, and pit toilets. Trash and recycling for plastic and aluminum.