Island hopping via ferry – Skagway, Juneau and Hoonah – Southeast Alaska

We left  Million Dollar Falls campground and  headed back into Alaska.  Alas, we had to go through another border crossing into America.  For the first time, we were asked to pull over and step out of the motorhome after our passports were checked and we answered some questions.  The lady officer checked Betsy, opening several cupboards/cabinets and the refrigerator.  We were asked if we had any fur, feathers, wild animal souvenirs and so on.  After 15 minutes of inspection we were cleared to go.  Whew!

We set camp at Haines, which is the terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway,  a state-run ferry system  operating passenger and vehicle ferries between cities.  Access to towns and cities in Southeast Alaska is either by float plane or via Alaska Marine Highway  ferry  for there are a few roads through this region.  We booked our ferry rides for Skagway, Juneau and Hoonah as soon as we arrived.

Skagway, Juneau, Hoona
The towns we visited – Skagway, Juneau and Hoonah
Alaska Marine Highway Ferry Boats
Alaska Marine Highway Ferry – MV Matanuska

We first took the 45-minute fast ferry to Skagway one rainy day for a day of exploring.  When we arrived there four (4) cruise ships were already docked pouring hundreds of tourist into the little town.  We took a stroll around town viewing false-fronted buildings of the gold rush-era, now converted into various stores.  This town is known as the gateway to the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898 and its colorful history is still evident with the preserved buildings.  Next we hiked 4 miles round trip to the historic Gold Rush Cemetery and Reid Falls. This is a famous cemetery where the infamous characters such as “Soapy Smith” from the gold rush days were buried.

Skagway, Alaska
Historic downtown Skagway
Skagway, Alaska
In the left corner is the Red Onion Saloon – Skagways best known water hole.
-The A B facade is made of 8,883 pieces of driftwood nailed to the front wall.  5,300 are originals successfully preserved since 1899.
Skagway, Alaska
Skagway is also known as the “Garden City of Alaska”
Skagway, Alaska
Story about who’s who in the Gold Rush Cemetery
Skagway, Alaska
Gold Rush Cemetery
Skagway, Alaska
Soapy Smith, the famous outlaw during Klondike gold rush
Skagway, Alaska
Skagway is one of the major ports of call for cruise ships

The following day we took ourselves and the car on another ferry for a beautiful 4 1/2 hour ride to Juneau.  As you probably know, the only capital in the US  not accessible by road  is Juneau and it claims to be America’s most scenic state capital.  We agree with that claim as we have seen its beauty first hand.  This city has a different feel compared to the other two big cities – Anchorage and Fairbanks.  It has its own charm, and being an active port city with an inspiring wilderness setting it is also a port of call for cruise ships.  There is a lot to do but we did what we could during our limited stay.  It is here that we tasted the freshest and sweetest Alaskan King Crab ever!  We took time to visit the Alaska State Museum which has excellent displays talking about the native Alaskan people and their culture.  There is also a description of the political history of the state and the various claims of ownership.  It was well done.  Finally, we rode the Mt. Roberts Tram up to the 1800 ft, platform where we did some hiking and enjoyed the fantastic view of the airport and city.

Downtown Juneau, Alaska
Downtown Juneau
Juneau, Alaska
Juneau is one of the favorite ports of call for cruiseships during summer
Juneau, Alaska
Glacier Botanical Gardens
Juneau, Alaska
Pose at Mendenhall glacier which is accessible by car from Juneau
Juneau, Alaska
A piece of 200 year old glacial ice displayed at the Visitor Center
Juneau, Alaska
Juneau viewed from Mt Roberts
Juneau, Alaska
Pricey but the freshest, tastiest, Alaskan King Crab legs
Juneau, Alaska
Entrance to the Native American History at the Alaska State Museum

The following day we caught yet another ferry for another 3 hr trip to Hoonah, which has a population of 868  and is also a cruise ship port.  Aside from tourism, fishing and logging are the main industries there.   We visited my high school classmate Wilma and her husband Randy.  They are really Alaskans for they have lived here for 20 years!  They are both commercial fishermen aside from teaching.  In seven hours they fed us Wilma’s killer Halibut Chowder and grilled King Salmon,  gave us a tour where we saw two whales near the harbor, two bears just a few minutes from their house and most exciting of all we went blueberry picking.  One of the summer pastimes of Alaskans in August is berry picking and we picked blueberries from the roadside.  In an hour we managed to picked two galloons of wild tart Alaskan blueberries.  Steve and Randy watched for bears, since blueberries are one of their favorites and we didn’t want them to see us stealing their food!

Hoona, Alaska
With my Alaskan girlfriend, Wilma
Tlingit Totem Poles
Impressive Tlingit Wall wood carvings
Wild Blueberries for the picking Alaska
Wild Blueberries for the picking abound
Wild Blueberries for the picking Alaska
Showing off our harvest – ML, Randy and Wilma.  Steve took the picture while watching out for jealous bears.
Wild Blueberries for the picking Alaska
Our bear security force – the rifle is in the back of the truck, just in case
Wild Blueberries for the picking Alaska
A bear doing some blueberry picking of his own
Wild Blueberries for the picking Alaska
Yet another grizzly bear
Wild Blueberries for the picking Alaska
These two Humpback whales were playing close to Hoonah harbor

After four days of city/town hopping we boarded our car and us via MV Malaspina back to Haines.