The Eagles Have Landed

Story and photos by Michelle Theall


A few days ago, my 13-year-old son Logan and I descended in the Southeast in the tiny hamlet of Haines, Alaska—aka the Valley of Eagles. I take photographers here in October and November for the annual spectacle of the thousands of bald eagles that congregate on the Chilkat for the last of the chum salmon run. They fight and soar and spend most of their time trying to figure out how to steal a fish from another bird, rather than snag one of their own. But spring here is a different story. Yes, there are eagles, but the natural landscape takes center stage—even for a teenage boy.

Our VRBO for two weeks here cost more than our monthly mortgage—after you gulp and gasp as I did, I’ll tell you it was worth every penny. Our cottage sits at the end of Mud Bay Road on an isolated inlet aptly named Paradise Cove. It overlooks aquamarine waters that remind me of the fake plastic lake we made a month ago for Logan’s diorama on the fantastical book series, Amulet. Except this place is real. From every window, we gaze out at the snowcapped range of mountains and their reflections in the chrome stillness of the bay, with Rainbow Glacier as the star performance. The 5,200-foot, 1.5-mile hanging glacier sports blue ripples of ice with twin waterfalls cascading down its granite amphitheater. Just down the road from our VRBO, we find Chilkat State Park. While Logan sleeps in every morning, as teenagers do during summer break, I drive out the road and have the entire area to myself.

All this grand beauty seems to be helping Logan get through the withdrawal of his “digital detox” here. He gave up on “media” after trying to work the tape cassette player and VHS in his room. We’ve gone on two hikes, toured the Sheldon Museum and the Bald Eagle Foundation, and driven up the Haines Highway almost into Canada. We’ve yet to see a moose or the grizzlies I’ve promised him. But every day, we keep looking. He’s taken a spare few photos with the Olympus Tough I bought him, but surprises me every now and again when he pulls it out of his pocket. Though the transformation is taking place at a glacial pace, I see movement. I remain hopeful here in Paradise.   


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