I have been traveling nearly a month, promoting my new book from Denver to San Francisco. Everywhere I went people came to hear stories and see pictures not of Alaska but rather, of small-town, community life. What I learned is that Haines’ appeal lies chiefly in what it is not: i.e., Juneau, Ketchikan, or Skagway. One five-star chef from Portland told me he had just been a celebrity chef on an Alaska cruise. When he heard I was from here, he brightened and said Haines was his favorite Alaska town. His boat did not dock here. He and his wife jumped ship for a day in Skagway and came to Haines, rented bikes, and among other adventures, rode to the brewery. Haines was his favorite stop by far, precisely for what we don’t have: emerald stores, Tanzanite, zip lines, and above all, crowds. What I have learned is that there is a huge market out there for what Haines is: a quiet, safe, small town with dogs, children, a first-class library, playground and trails, and rivers and inlets that provide easy access to spectacular wilderness. We should quit trying to be what we are not and will never be – a big-time, cruise ship port – and instead capitalize on what we are, and hopefully always will be – a family-friendly, quiet, small town that looks like Switzerland with a beach. Trust me, what we have is priceless. All you have to do is spend a month Outside to know that.

Heather Lende