A Hammer and A Whale
Haines Junction to Juneau
June 10, 2017
Miles Driven: 173 (+80 miles on the Alaska Marine Highway)
Sunrise (Haines Junction): 4:40am / Sunset (Juneau): 10:01pm
Latitude: 60.75N to 58.30N
National Parks Visited: 0
Wacky Roadside Attractions: 1
The road leading over the pass from Haines to Haines Junction was spectacular. No, we weren’t winding down cliffs with a 1,000 foot drop on one side, nor did we spot any sort of significant wildlife. It was, however, quite beautiful and very eerie. The latter I say because I was reminded of An American Werewolf in London – those scenes across Scottish moors with isolating low clouds and rolling fog out of which any sort of terror might emerge. The former I say because the landscape varied with interesting browns and greens, snow-covered areas, and rolling hills with the sun streaking mottled light across it all. To be honest though, as Nicole reminded me, you can experience much of this scenery just driving around the Pacific coast. Truly though, it was gorgeous.
Descending down into Alaska, we came to the quaint coastal town of Haines, which mercifully was without cruise ships. And for the first time this entire trip I saw a lot of totem poles. It seemed unusual to me that after the entire journey through culturally-rich Native American territories I only finally came witness them here. Clearly the coastal communities, from northern Washington on up to the Alaskan panhandle make use of them. We did see chainsaw carvings in Chetwynd, many of which were influenced by totem technique. Perhaps I didn’t visit all the right locations or museums; perhaps I am guilty of generalizing that cultural heritage across a much wider territory (i.e. all of Alaska); or perhaps their use is more limited because of material or tool restrictions than I imagined. Needless to say, in retrospect I find it intriguing.
Since the local heritage exhibit with its totem poles was closed, I visited The Hammer Museum - a kitschy counterpart to the cultural center. Wow, if you are a fan of wacky roadside attractions, this is an absolute must. At first, I thought the ‘Hammer’ in the name denoted a surname of some donor. No, no. It literally meant a museum about that finger-flattening tool, the hammer. A veritable plethora of the implements adorn every surface of the museum’s modest interior. There are hammers for every possible use and many for uses of which you’ve never dreamt. Take for example, the dainty ‘applause’ hammer which was in prevalent use during the age of Speakeasies when clapping was considered gauche. They even had a Roman hammer that looked like a d20 (i.e. 20-sided die) – talk about combining the best of my nerdy pursuits! Anyway, stop by, if you are ever in Haines. You won’t be disappointed.
After a beer sample at the local brewery, during which time I regaled Nicole with descriptions of hammers (for which she was patient for about 5 minutes – yes, I can spin a tale well past its expiration point), we headed for the ferry. After travelling nearly 5,000 miles, I found myself wishing we had another week or so just to cruise around on The Alaska Marine Highway. If you’ve been on a cruise to Alaska you will have experienced some of what such a trip entails. Anyway, the ride was peaceful with glacier-laden fjords drifting by and that slate blue water stretching out before you. I even saw a whale!
Until tomorrow from home,