Haines, Alaska

Today is a travel day and we think the welcome sign into Haines Junction as we leave is pretty cute. Not bad for a backdrop too.

It is -8C as we leave and head south to Alaska. Only 300km but it is 15 degrees warmer there. On the way we get spectacular mountain ranges , all covered in a good amount of snow.
Our car is performing well in these variable, often slippery conditions.

We are all set with another warm soup in the car and some deluxe sandwiches that I made pre departure. It is therefore no problem at all that there is not even a petrol station on the way to Haines.  We continue to have to stop and enjoy the scenery , André is in his element. So hard to take these views!!
We did not realize when we planned this route how beautiful the drive would be. This clearly can be a tricky road in the middle of winter as the pass we climb to reaches 1140m and we get to have a snow plow pass us twice. The area of the Chilcotin pass is notorious for avalanches but right now there is not enough snow to worry about that.
We depart the friendly side of the border and experience the ” welcoming ” on the other side. Alaska seems not to have left autumn yet and we have this ” Scotty, beam me down” feeling of arriving in a different dimension and totally different climate. The grass is still very green and the bushes are just loosing their leaves, quite the strange feeling having been in deep winter for over two weeks.
The purpose of our travels to Haines is the final autumn feeding on the last salmon run of a huge gathering of bald head eagles. There is a healthy resident population of eagles here but due to the run of Chum and coho salmon from October to December about 3-4 thousand eagles arrive on the Chilcat river. An eagle preserve surrounds the river where the salmon spawn. There is an annual eagle festival here in early November when an injured and rehabilitated eagle is set free into the wild.

We see many eagles as we drive into town, some perched on the trees around the river with a good vantage point to spot the spawning salmon and many others on the river bank fishing. The bald head eagle is a huge bird and as we watch the interactions over the fish we see how powerful the talons are and the thrust of the wings.

I video a rather gruesome scene of an eagle hauling out a salmon in its last moments partly rolling over ready to die. The eagle grabs it with its huge talons. Then while the salmon is still writhing the eagle hoes into the fish around the gills. It was a tough thing to watch. Of course there are lots of surrounding opportunists, other eagles, some juvenile, many varieties of gull and raven. Apparently “piracy” is quite common when one eagle does the fishing to then be robbed of its dinner by another swooping eagle. We spend the day watching the interactions and finish by going out for some Auroras. These turn out to be stunning and quite different to what we have seen before.

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