Note: Paperback includes map, Kindle digital version does not, suggest getting map below.
May 13 – Onto the Alaska Seaplanes afternoon Beaver run, helping a heavy native gal with a bandaged foot and a bag full of prescriptions and her husband carrying a full MacDonald’s bag of something….
Beaver pilot barely old enough to shave and then we are off with the big radial engine throbbing to pull us into the sky, 40 minutes to native village of Angoon where children waited with a crutch for our passenger and were so visibly thrilled at the bag of cold MacDonalds’ burgers: ahhhh, the native life…. Freight off – mostly Amazon packages – then into the air and across Chatham Strait and Lower Chichagof Island to Tenakee.. where it turned out our freight was frozen meat and… the ice cream for town… which had to be rushed to the store freezer!
Then the plane rumbled off into the sky and I grabbed my backpack to walk down the street to my cabin.. and wow… the silence hit me….no cars. no generators (they have one for the whole town, but you can’t hear it…)
Sweet little cabin, with the one restaurant/ bar on one side and the communal hot springs and the store on the other.. separate hours for men and women, as it is nude in the springs…
May 14 – Bear Cabin, Tenakee Springs – Let’s see.. outside you can hear the ravens talking to one another, and every now and then the footsteps of someone probably headed over to the hot springs for a morning soak, but other than that it’s purty quiet..
This is definitely before the season has started here – most of the places are seasonal – everything from old log cabins to brand new modern places shingled with eastern white cedar shingles in a style that would have done Nantucket proud. And the higher end places with their big 4wd vehicles – not really trucks but a big step up from the four wheelers…
Was hoping for a bite at Rosie’s Blue Moon Cafe right next door (order in advance) but it was locked up tight, so made do with cheese, crax and a nice bottle of red.
May 15 – Tenakee – mild, a few clouds.. Big doings yesterday – the new plane came to town – a shiny Cessna 206 on floats, which takes 6 passengers and lots of freight to Juneau in 18 minutes compared to 40 in the Beaver.. And rumored 50$ fares into Juneau. But wow.. what a machine – the pilot was even hauling bags out of the floats!
Hit the hot springs yesterday morning and wasn’t that great – not a soul around. Large, clean, outer room for changing, then you step down into this large concrete room with a big high cupola of a skylight – making it a pretty nice space…. The pool itself is about the size of a large hot tub with concrete rim and a concrete shelf for sitting about waist deep. But below that is just glass clear water and the natural rock with some slow sulphur bubbling from the fissures where the water comes from.
So that was really nice.. then stopped in at Rosie’s to say that I was going to come in for a burger later – she was just sitting at a table playing solitaire…
Hiked down the waterfront path to the west, past all manner of homes from modest shacks to immense undertakings still under construction with pallets hooked to pulley systems in a big tree to move construction materials two stories up and then inside – wow some of these places are just real tributes to Alaska ingenuity and hard, hard work!
And many, particularly the further you got from ‘downtown’, where the lots were larger, had more of an Alaska homestead flavor – big gardens already planted, seaweed put down, seedlings under milk jugs, etc…
For what’s really special about Tenakee as compared to places like Point Baker, Port P., Pelican, Port Alexander, etc… is that it is all built along along a strip of fairly flat (at least for the first row of houses) shore, even sandy in a few places, but.. all facing south.. which makes a huge difference – Point Baker especially, is a dark place… especially in winter when the sun won’t get above the trees. But Tenakee gets the winter sun no matter how low it is.
Anyway, great walk, then into Rosie’s for a big burger, fries and a beer – San Miguel, but definitely on the stale side – she has cases of Dos Equis, etc. that must have been years old.
Pretty interesting story – She is from the Phillipines, told of how during the Japanese occupation, she and her family were hidden in the hills and could only cook at night as during the day the smoke from their cook fires would give them away, and how her mom would arrange a little fire pit with all the food for the family for the next day arranged over a small space so that the fire could hardly be seen either. Came over here, working in the canneries around town with her husband, got her bar going, remembers hundreds of seiners and trollers in the inlet all rafted together, her bar busy, busy… “Why they alla time wanna fight… why do they have to hit each other with my chairs..?”
But the present day – she is slowed down.. think she is around 80.. doesn’t get many customers: “They all want to eat and drink at home…” Plus no cannery workers, natives, loggers or fishermen..
Then hiked down to the boat harbor, and OMG… the kids all swimming and I don’t mean just dipping.. these kids were hanging out in the water.. Pretty good lifejacket program as well – all the kids had them on..
Wrapped the day up with a walk west to the very nice library and chat with the librarian about Tenakee issues – how they got another family with a couple of kids so that the school could stay open – hired the dad on the school payroll. How the broken down ferry Taku affects their economy; the possibility that there might not even be any ferry service in the future, the issues of an aging community, etc, etc. She an ex- state attorney moved out there full time from Juneau via Mexico, very much involved in the community…
Picked up a great John Straley book at the free library and had good sleep, one last soak in the hot springs.. clean up the cabin, get in a last good visit with Terry, my landlady, and the Alaska Seaplanes agent… then in comes the Beaver: a little Amazon, some solar panels, etc etc….
And back to Juneau…