Yay, Comet and I FINALLY made it back to the Rez!
I'm related to many (most) in the Tsimshian Indian community of Metlakatla http://www.metlakatla.com/community.php
as my dad is from there. He's full blood Tsimshian. My mom is from Independence, Missouri, thus making me a wild halfbreed. Yep, half Indian and half cowboy.
Back when my grandmother Lucy Rainman was still alive I'd average getting to Metlakatla every couple years. I always had a VERY wonderful time each and every visit. Besides being one of my favorite places to recreate, now I'm really glad I spent as much time as I did visiting my grandparents and other elders in the tribe as most have since passed on.
I was on my way down there a couple years ago when, the day before my departure, a 17yo in a pickup truck caused the wreck of my lovely Ducati S4R Monster and the breaking of my right wrist. Consequently it's been about 6yrs since I last visited what some refer to as one of the most beautiful parts of Alaska.
It's also a fairly lengthy journey from Anchorage. First, almost 800mi of rough road to Haines. Then about a day and a half on one of our Alaska Marine Highway ferries to Ketchikan and finally a smaller ferry over to Metlakatla on Annette Island. This being my first trip there with a digital camera, be ready for a TON of photos. Since we can forever "sticky" ride reports in our 'Alaska' Regional Forum on here I've chosen to do a pretty extensive job recording (and sharing) this adventure with you, my friends and family. I hope you all enjoy it. I know I sure did!
And yes I had to drive my cage. After all, I wanted to take Comet, a motorcycle, a kayak, a mountain bike, and all the gear for each activity. I would've also taken my recumbent bicycle if I'd known it was gonna be as sunny as it was. The recumbent was a big hit down there on my last trip. I enjoy sharing my toys and activities. I also think that for many down there it's the only time they'll ever get to see and try some of this stuff in real life. While I had originally thought about taking the KLR so I could better explore the many dirt roads in the area, including the nearly completed 15mi Walden Pt Road going to the north end of the island, it proved too difficult to get in and out of the van. Even with the forks fully compressed it's tallness made it too much of a hassle to load (since remedied so maybe next time) whereas a sportbike goes in and out with the greatest of ease.
Besides, I figured some would really get a kick outta seeing a Ducati Superbike down in Southeast Alaska. That and I knew there was gonna be a parade I could ride in while sportin my well renowned Vanson skeleton leathers.
So yes, please rest assured that there is some fun filled two wheeled action in this ride report.
Here's the loaded van with Comet saying "ok, let's go already."
I saw a lot more bikes on the road when I headed down in July compared to when I returned in August. Everyone must be heeding our advice of June and July being the time to ride up to the 'Great White North'.
I was a bit surprised at how most of the bikes I saw were Harleys. This guy went thru some serious frame wobble and nearly into a tank slapper rounding this corner headed into Glennallen north of Anchorage. Scary!
It's a pretty rough road much of the way so doing the whole 800 miles in one shot isn't much fun. Been there done that. So here we are with the sun setting and soon looking for a place to pull over and get some sleep.
Now we're going through Canada. Parts of the Alaska Highway are always under construction and that means replacing cool old bridges like this one too. While all this does make traveling less toilsome I think it also takes away some of the 'ol romance and uniqueness of the journey. I'm glad I got to experience this road back in the day of when it was REALLY narrow, tight, and twisty as it went up, over, and around all types of terrain. Fun! Years ago I hitch-hiked to Haines and camped out beneath this bridge. It will probably be closed down next year as the new one next to it is nearly done.
On another trip I offloaded a sportbike and had a lot of fun running the corners around Kluane lake. WAY fun! Now that area too is being straightened out. Big big job!
Ah, finally. Some wildlife. This sow and her little cub were munching away on dandelions by the side of the road just north of Chilkat Pass.
Heading through Chilkat Pass up north of Haines.
I think the road in and out of Haines is one of THE best! It winds it's way along the river through Chilkat Valley (aka "Valley of the Eagles") with spectacular mountains on the other side.
Alrighty then, here we are in Haines. Comet was VERY happy to stretch his legs and find himself his first of many beach sticks on this journey to play with.
One of my favorite heath food stores is in Haines, The Mountain Market.
I tell folks that up here you can turn onto most any dirt road and just find yourself a place to camp out. This was one such spot for us one night in Haines. Semi secluded and nice and shaded from the early morning sun.
On a side note, I chose to go to Haines a couple days early so I could check out the Southeast Alaska State Fair for my first time. So I had to spend a couple nights in Haines. On that second night Comet and I had an interesting bear encounter early one morning. I was awakened by some splashing coming from a pond we'd parked next to. I looked out of the van to find one of two LARGE grizzly cubs playing with something in the water! The even larger mother was standing over on the other side of the pond. I thought this was pretty cool to see but when I tried taking a picture the flash caught the attention of the playful cub and it started coming over towards us!
I'm bummed I didn't turn off the flash to get a better photo through the glass. Oh well, maybe next time. Anyway, I got concerned about the smell of all the food I had on board and possibility of the bear seeing Comet as a tasty morsel so I started banging on the window and saying something to the effect of "GO AWAY!" In all my years of bear encounters I've never experienced what I saw and heard next. The sow start huffing and flapping her lips and continued doing so while backing away from the area as the cubs followed. It was pretty interesting and exciting. Bear cubs can stay with their mother for as long as two years and these must've been two year olds because they were big. I love stuff like this when everyone comes through unscathed. Fun.
Here's that tasty little morsel sitting in the lush rain forest near Haines.
More of the spectacular beauty surrounding the Haines area.
Coming up next: boarding the ferry and heading south on the Alaska Marine Highway System. Mark H.