We left Haines in another morning of cold, wet rain, stopping for breakfast at a small cute cafe where the couple just ahead of us told us about their night Bullwinkle, no doubt in the town's old hotel -- no heat, but they stripped one bed and snuggled in the other for warmth. It made us appreciate our shipshape motel room. Breakfast, however, was an adventure because the motherly baker, not expecting early-season tourists, was overwhelmed, and placed a quick call to her staff who threw their clothes on and rushed to the restaurant to help cook and serve. We enjoyed great bowls of steaming hot oatmeal and raisins and brown sugar, plus home-made focaccia toasted with butter and jam. Yummie!
As the road climbed into snowy mountains towards a 3500-foot pass, we worried about driving conditions, but as it turned out we had no trouble crossing the mountain passes, changing countries and time zones as we reached British Columbia and, later, the Yukon Territory.
Our first wildlife of the morning was a crowd of eagles fishing the icy Mother and cub Chilkat river. The huge birds were perched on roadside tree branches, on posts in the water, and even on the river's banks. The area hosts several thousand eagles during the fall salmon run, but we were excited enough to see the residents. We took a short nature walk and learned that eagles use the same nest year after year. The eggs will hatch in the next two weeks, but the eaglets will stay in the nest until August. The eagles like to perch in open-branched trees, but they build their nests in the tightly packed coniferous spruce trees, so we didn't spot any nests today.
After hearing local recommendations, we had bought a thick guidebook to Northwestern Canada and Alaska, called The Milepost. It scored immediately by alerting us to the eagles, then followed with a note to WATCH FOR MOOSE at a certain mile marker. Sure enough, our first Canadian moose was waiting for us almost on the spot, standing by the roadside chewing spring leaves. Healthy and tall, it posed briefly and then trotted into the bushes. "This is a pretty good guidebook," we agreed.
The sun was coming out as we came down off the mountains and dipped into a valley freer of snow. WATCH FOR BEARS at a certain river, said the Milepost, Haines Junction and there they were -- a brown mother and year-old cub digging for roots or rodents in the soft dirt near the river. We spent a half hour watching the grizzlies, who are unmistakeable with their large humped shoulders and inquisitive face and rich brown fur.
Later we saw two more moose, then another moose, then a flock of pintails feeding on a lake just beginning to melt. One reason to come to this country is to see wildlife, and we were richly rewarded today. We also felt elated since we had seen no moose in nearly three months of travel in eastern Canada last summer.
Approaching Haines Junction, which is on the Alaska Highway, the sun came out and provided one gorgeous view after another of snowy mountains and lakes and waterfalls and rivers and forests. More athletic tourists may visit by boat or bike or on foot, but we're content, nay, delighted to drink in this majestic countryside from the comfort of our truck and a few nature trails designed for all.