Haines has been called the adventure capital of Alaska. Whether you are a hiker, hunter, fisherman, kayaker, skier or any other kind of outdoorsman, there are ample opportunities for adventure.
But entertainment in this town isn’t limited to the great outdoors. With a little creativity and craftsmanship, residents have found fun ways to pass time indoors with friends during the darkest days of the year.
Haines resident Gregg Bigsby loves craps. He first got a taste for it while working on a fish camp in Utah about 15 years ago.
“We’d go over to Nevada, which was only 100 miles away for showers and rent a nice room and clean up,” Bigsby said. “I started playing a little blackjack just for the fun of it, and we ended up on the craps table having the most fun because it’s a really fun game.”
Bigsby said he likes it better than any other games at the casino because it takes more than luck to win.
“It’s exciting because there are so many bets. You can bet on any number that the dice will roll, from two to twelve. And there’s odds so you can get paid two to one. You can get paid thirty to one for some bets,” Bigsby says. “There’s systems for betting to where you can put the odds in your favor, if you have the smarts.”
When the Haines Chamber of Commerce decided to host a casino night at the fairgrounds on New Years Eve four years ago, Bigsby saw an opportunity.
“We had always wanted to build a craps table, so we did. We built a craps table specifically for the casino night,” Bigsby said.
Now, the craps table lives in a lodge, set against the dramatic backdrop of the Chilkat mountains.
Every once in a while, Bigsby hosts game nights with friends and family. No one ever plays for money. Bigsby just loves teaching people how to play.
“Everybody’s always learning because it’s such a complicated game that you’re always learning about the different odds and the different way the dice is rolled,” Bigsby said.
Sometimes crafting a custom game is necessary to fix a design flaw. Betsy Shiner and Gordon Julian built their own board game because they needed something more durable for camping.
“We were camping in the [Upper Peninsula] of Michigan and it was raining, and we were playing our friend’s board game, and it was kind of getting destroyed,” Shiner said.
“So, naturally we thought, why don’t we make our own version of this game. We could totally make this out of wood,” Julian added.
When Shiner and Julian returned from their camping trip they set to work building their own Settlers of Catan board. For those who are unfamiliar with the game, Settlers of Catan is a game where players compete to build the most powerful colony.
“All the players are competing to make the longest road, or use their resources to build an army,” Shiner said.
“It gets pretty competitive. Fights have been had.” Julian said.
Julian and Shiner used some poplar wood to make the hexagonal pieces of the board. They burned designs of all the different resources into each block of wood.
“I’d say for anyone out there that really enjoys board games, try to make it yourself. Even though it might seem like a waste of time, it’s actually really fun. It’s a good way to spend like five or six days testing your creative skills and what you can come up with with the resources you have. Kind of like Catan,” Julian said.
Some Haines residents have even made their own custom video games. Eric Forster owns Alpenglow, a pizzeria in Haines. Recently, he finished constructing a custom Pacman game for the restaurant.
“When I was a kid, there was a pizza place on Main Street and it had a Pacman table with a glass top on it where you could just sit and eat a slice of pizza and drink a soda and play Pacman,” Forster said. “Now I own a pizza place on Main Street. I feel like that’s the part I remember most about that place. I like building stuff. So combine it all, and you’ve got a Pacman machine.”
Using some scrap wood from previous projects, a donated T.V. and a Pacman console he bought online, Forster built his own custom Pacman table. He said the whole thing couldn’t have cost him more than twenty bucks.
“It looks basically like an Alaskan, homemade Pacman machine. I burned in some Pacman faces in the side of the box so you knew what it was. There’s a glass top on top so you can put your soda and your pizza on it without worrying about spilling on the T.V.”
He said he isn’t much of a gamer himself, but he loves what a Pacman machine adds to a space.
“Just the sound of Pacman. I like the sound of Pacman in the background. We’re going to make sure the volume is turned up so everyone can relive their childhood’s of the ‘waka waka waka’ because it’s kind of hard to hear that sound and not smile or feel bad when you hear the ‘wah wah wah’ when you die.”