Driving the Golden Circle, Whitehorse-Skagway-Haines

Yesterday was the first our of 2-day drive around “The Golden Circle”. Although it deserves much more time, we’re basically just killing time while the Yukon Quest mushers get to Dawson where we’ll meet them again.

We were away from Whitehorse at 08:00, with the temperature sitting at -24°C (-11°F). We made a few stops before reaching the Yukon/BC border on the South Klondike Highway at Windy Arm. It’s getting to be quite shocking to see how little snow there is here.

Nearly-bare Yukon peaks in February
The Welcome to the Yukon sign offers a great place for a group photo. In the summer there are often lineups to do that – in February, not so much 🙂

Welcome to the Yukon sign
Another photo stop at what’s called “Outhouse Hill”, near the White Pass summit.

Any thoughts of “stopping for a cool one” quickly melted away!

We checked in at the Alaska ferry terminal, got our tickets and vehicle tags, and then went exploring.

After looking around Skagway, we drove over to Dyea. There’s not much left now, but during the Klondike Gold Rush, Dyea was Skagway’s rival. A very thick layer of ice, on everything including the road, eliminated any thoughts of walking through the old townsite, but the wharf pilings still hint at the town’s past.

120-year-old wharf pilings at Dyea, Alaska
Although the thermometer read -4°C, the sun was wonderfully warm on the beach.

Dyea, Alaska
A stop at Nahku Bay to enjoy the stunning view, and to read new signs about the recently-identified wreck of the bark “Canada” which can be seen in the bay at low tide.

Nahku Bay, Alaska
At a viewpoint overlooking Skagway, we saw our ferry approaching the dock.

A ferry approaching Skagway
In Skagway, even the garbage cans are friendly 🙂

A friendly greeting on a garbage can at Skagway
We were back at the ferry dock, staged just before the requested 1:15 time. Vehicles started to drive off the little ferry MV LeConte shortly after that. She’s 235 feet long, and carries 235 passengers and about 33 cars.

Alaska ferry MV LeConte
There weren’t many people or vehicles on board.

Vehicles on the Alaska ferry MV LeConte
At 2:00, we pulled away from Skagway for the one-hour cruise down Taiya Inlet to Haines.

Skagway from the Alaska ferry MV LeConte
I went up to the solarium for a few minutes. In the summer this is a wonderful place to both enjoy the view and meet people (and on longer voyages, even to set your tent up), but I was the only one there. My guests were probably the only tourists on board.

Solarium on the Alaska ferry MV LeConte
This day got a 10 – quite a difference from our tour in 2015, which might have rated high as well, but for adventure, not beauty!

Just after I shot this photo, I spotted a pod of orca in the distance.

Sailing down Taiya Inlet, Alaska in the winter
And shortly after, we got a pretty good look at the whales, as fleeting as it was.

A pod of orca in Taiya Inlet, Alaska
It’s quite incredible to be able to go from mid-winter in Whitehorse to this in a day. Even in the winter – perhaps especially in the winter – The Golden Circle is a wonderful trip.

Taiya Inlet, Alaska in the winter
Our first look at Haines, with historic Fort William H. Seward the main feature.

Our first stop in Haines was at Alaska Indian Arts. Located in the 1904 hospital at Fort William H. Seward, it’s a fascinating facility, established for the creation and restoration of Native art of all sorts, though mostly in wood.

An artisan at Alaska Indian Arts
Lee Heinmiller, a director at the center and the driving force behind it, gave us an excellent talk about the centre and a wide range of associated subjects. Lee is a fascinating guy, and it sometimes sounds like his head is going to explode because of all the information stored in it 🙂

Lee Heinmiller at Alaska Indian Arts
The main workshop, which usually has a totem pole in the process of being carved or repaired.

Alaska Indian Arts, in Haines
The amount of really high-quality pieces stashed and stacked in various rooms is quite astounding.

Alaska Indian Arts, in Haines
Before going to our motel, we also paid a visit to the Sheldon Museum & Cultural Center, to get a broader look at the area’s history.

From Native art to a huge lighthouse lens and an entire room of material from the 1990 filming of the movie “White Fang”, the little museum has quite a collection.

We got to the Captain’s Choice Motel just after 5:30. It’s not fancy, but always provides clean and comfortable rooms. And the view across Chilkat Inlet from every room is stunning.

Captain's Choice Motel in Haines, Alaska

Captain's Choice Motel in Haines, Alaska
After a short break, we all walked down the street to The Bamboo Room for their famous halibut and chips and some excellent local beer. It was the perfect ending to a spectacular day.

The Bamboo Room in Haines, Alaska

In just over an hour, we head back to Whitehorse via the Haines Highway and Alaska Highway, with the weather forecast one again calling for clear skies.


Driving the Golden Circle, Whitehorse-Skagway-Haines — 2 Comments