TRAVEL JOURNAL INDEX > The Birds
Haines, AK 10/16-17/06 (Day 174-175)
Our odometer on our Silverado hits 26,000 miles somewhere on the road between Anchorage and Haines. It’s a long drive and we stop for the night in a town called Tok (rhymes with, um, smoke) where it’s two degrees outside but the girl working at our motel simply scoffs when we mention the weather, shooting us a look that says “silly southerners” (it’s the not the first time we’ve gotten this look).
Nearly 6,000 of our 26,000 miles on the trip so far have been clocked in Alaska alone and we realize we’ve driven almost every inch of road—paved or unpaved—in the state except the Richardson Highway which was closed to all traffic due to flooding..
We’ve driven some of Alaska’s roads more than once, including the stretch into Haines where we’ve returned for a very good reason: bald eagles. Haines hosts the Alaska Bald Eagle Festival every year in early November when thousands of the regal birds converge on the town to feast on the last of the salmon run which remains accessible in Haines until early winter since the area’s waterways freeze later than most other rivers in the state.
But you don’t have to wait for the festival to officially begin in order to hang out with Stephen Colbert’s favorite freedom flyers. The early birds—literally—start arriving in Haines in October and once we reach the outskirts of town we see hundreds of bald eagles perched in trees, fishing on the Chilkat River flats and generally just hanging around waiting to get hungry again.
But the birds the salmon really need to look out for are the seagulls who seem perversely fond of descending on a fish—weakened after its grueling spawning journey and helplessly stranded in a shallow section of the river—pecking its eyes out, then returning again and again to snack on it while it’s still alive. Ewww. Sorry about that.