By the time you are reading this, I will have begun three days of traveling by air and ship to reach my favorite spot for photographing bald eagles at the confluence of the Tsirku and Chilkat Rivers, near Haines, Alaska. By the time I get back to Springfield I will have traveled roughly 9,392 miles. It’s a long arduous trip but well worth the effort to see what is the largest congregation of bald eagles in the world. The part of the traveling that I do enjoy is the portion of the trip on the Alaska Marine Highway System.
This state run fleet of ferries is the only way to access much of southeast Alaska as much of this part of the state does not have highways that connect to the lower 48, or to the rest of Alaska or Canada for that matter. Unless you are on one of the fleet’s fast catamaran style ferries, the trip will be slow-paced allowing time to take in the amazing scenery of the Lynn Canal and the Inside Passage.
My trip from Juneau to Haines will take roughly 4 and one-half hours which will allow time for photography (if it’s not snowing too hard or the winds too strong) and a bite of food in the on-board restaurant. The ships in the fleet are pretty amazing in what they offer. Besides the restaurant, there are typically on-board cabins for those having to travel several days, several observation lounges, showers, a movie theater, game room, and of course the amazing car deck.
I’m always surprised at just how many cars, buses, and semi-trailers can fit into these ships. During the summer, there is a mix of tourists and locals, but come winter it’s strictly a local affair. Local folks use the system to travel to do grocery shopping, get their car serviced, see the doctor, play another sports team or even to travel to the hospital to have a baby. As you can imagine, it’s a real look at real Alaskans going about their daily lives.
Once in Haines I will less than an hour’s drive to the magical Chilkat River valley. I can wait to be on the river to see the first light of the day like in the photo below to begin what is always an amazing day photographing the magnificent bald eagles.
TOP PHOTO: The final rays of the sun at sunset baths mountain tops in light as an Alaska Marine Highway System ferry travels down the Chilkoot Inlet of the Lynn Canal in this photo taken just outside Haines, Alaska.
ABOVE PHOTO: A sliver of an early morning sunrise shines on the the slope of Mt. Jonathan Ward outside Haines, Alaska near the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve.
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