Docked at Haines
Day 2 (Tuesday):

“Haines, here we come!”

The second full day out, and the day of our anniversary, found us docking at the small town of Haines. With a population of something shy of 2,000 people, Haines thrives on tourism dollars. The docks in the harbor are large and deep enough for the big ships, but this is the earliest in the season anyone can recall even a ship as big as the Wilderness Explorer docking at the town. There’s a raptor rehabilitation center, an old fort – Fort Seward, a brewery, distillery, a heritage museum, and the world’s largest hammer museum (yes, I said hammers), as well as a downtown full of tourist shops and restaurants. Unfortunately, being so early in the season, a good many of the shops were still closed, as were the hammer museum and the brewery/distillery.

For ops, Brittany had arranged for a local bike shop in town to lend out some eBikes, or we could walk one of the (apparently paved) nature trails just to the East, or we could simply meander around town. Still aching just a bit from yesterday’s bushwhack, we chose to nab two of the eBikes for the morning.

A short fitting session, and waiver signing, and we were peddling on the road north to the ferry terminal, just the two of us, stopping to take in some vistas along the way.

Did someone says raptors?

For our afternoon activity, we chose to simply explore town a bit on foot, at our own pace. First stop was one of the shops – The Beach Rose - just a few yards off the dock. Apparently owned by a young couple, they were very happy to see our boat come in so early in the season. We found lots of Alaskan-made goodies, such as saulves made from the very Devil’s Club we’d learned to avoid (apparently a highly-soughtafter ache and wound care), and some scented candles that were handmade by an enterprising young man in the Haines area who decided to go into the candlemaking business at the wee age of 10. “He graduates from High School this year, and we don’t know what we’re going to do… he hasn’t said if he will keep making his candles”, the shopkeeper lamented. From what we could tell, he knows what he’s doing. His Blueberry candle is amazing.

We walked a little further down main street to the American Bald Eagle Foundation and Live Raptor Center, a rescue center for injured raptors and educational museum for Alaskan wildlife. Paying for admission at the front desk, we noticed that the door to the raptors was cordoned off. “That’s okay, Ali is just working with Dylan back there. Feel free to go in,” the front desk lady waves us through. We make our way back and were surprised to realize that Dylan was not another staffer, but an Eastern Screech Owl, all of about 8 inches high, darting from Ali’s arm to several perches standing around the room. We get to witness about 10 minutes of a “training session” with Ali and Dylan, with Ali filling us in some of the cool particulars about the Eastern Screech and Dylan in particular (he’s living in the center largely because he has suffered from a detached retina, which means he can’t hunt effectively). Once Ali puts Dylan back in his aviary, we venture outside to get a glimpse of the center’s resident Bald Eagles, Bella and Vega, stunningly large and talkative birds. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch these eagles so up-close, and it’s easy to see how they are such fierce hunters and predators out in the wild.

Many of the aviaries out back are currently empty, with only a third eagle and a red-tailed hawk within, but it's clear from all the perches scattered about that they have the occasional educational session in the large yard. Could be a wonderful experience, perhaps later in the season when the center is more active.

We jump over to the other side of the building to stroll through the museum wing. Several displays of everything from animal skeletons and pelts, to interactive exhibits prompting the viewer to guess various wildlife sounds, and then a huge room in back containing over 200 different taxidermized species, from small song birds and prairie dogs to fish, octopi and bears, all perched in their relatively natural environments, together as one large ecosystem.

When at last we leave the Raptor Center, we head into the heart of downtown to do a little shopping for souvenirs for those we left behind at home. Many of the shops were still closed in Haines, but one – Alaska Rod’s – was doing a brisk business. While all of the items for sale in Rod’s come from Alaskan merchants, the owner himself also sells his handmade knives, and fudge, both of which he’s apparently quite famous for. We choose a few trinkets and shirts, resist the fudge, and have a fun talk with our Captain who is shopping at Rod’s for a fine fountain pen (another of Rod’s specialties), then we’re back on our way through town. We walk over a block or two, past the Haine’s Hammer Museum (it’s just what it sounds like, a museum for hammers, eliciting a hearty laugh or two as we walk by), to the Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center, which we’d heard from our shipmates this morning was a must see, but unfortunately we didn’t beat the clock and the Museum was closed by 15 minutes.

Onward, we happen upon the town guardian, a black puppy dog who keeps watch over the residents from the roof of the corner saloon. He apparently has free reign to come and go through the upstairs window, and will stand up there for hours.

Then it’s time to head back to the ship, stopping briefly back into The Beach Rose shop for one of those Blueberry Candles (yum!), and then to our cabin to rest a bit before happy hour and dinner. At the evening’s goings on, we heard from Margy and Bob that we really missed out at the Hammer Museum. They had stopped by, and while not officially open, the caretaker had let them in for a private tour. It was apparently an absolutely amazing experience. So if you’re ever in Haines…

That evening we pull up the lines, leave Haines behind, and motor back south toward Seal Bay.