We have often written about the routine of stopping to reprovision, do laundry, refill water, etc. This is something we need to do every 2 weeks or so, then we’re good to go again. Each time we stop, we get to explore a different town on the water’s edge. Each town has its own characteristics – some charming, and some less so. We are always looking to experience the unique.
The town of Petersburg has a Norwegian influence. The traditional Rosemaling painting appears on storefronts, signs and sidewalks. The town is clean, the people are friendly. They seem anxious for the visitor to enjoy being in their small town, which they obviously take pride in. We enjoyed our stay there, and found provisions with ease. One thing I noticed in Petersburg, is that the ravens (which were featured in an earlier blog post) have a different dialect. Their utterances are more a clicking/rattling sound than a squawk. Their appearance though, is the same as their raven brothers we saw and heard in Wrangell.
Sitka provided a lovely stop for resupplying. This was a larger sized town, and we enjoyed seeing the Russian influence and history there. Good shopping, nice gift shops and street vendor fish tacos made our stay pleasant.
Tanakee Springs is a town, but of a different sort. Colorfully painted homes dot this isolated coastline for about a mile. The one “road” is a dirt track traveled by ATVs. We saw no cars. We did see men getting dropped off after work by helicopter, their lunch pails in hand. We spoke with them as they stopped by the store to pick up supplies for dinner. The “downtown” area also features a floatplane dock, so people can travel to this remote town by air. Another item of interest is a communal hot spring bath. There are separate hours for men and women, and the large, sunken tub is designed for group soaking. Perhaps the most unique thing we saw was the combination community greenhouse/self-serve restaurant. Community members plant, tend, and harvest from the small greenhouse. Just adjacent to that is a tiny café with 4 stools at a counter. Someone makes coffee; someone had made enchiladas, which were in the refrigerator; someone had made cookies and displayed them in a jar. A local informed us that the procedure is: Go in, drink coffee, warm up the food and serve it on the plates. Eat your food, wash your dishes and put them away, leave some money in the jar. What a concept! Unique and wonderful! Again, there were friendly people, eager to share their way of life with us.
On to the Native Tlingit village of Hoonah. In normal tourist seasons, cruise ships stop at a huge dock north of Hoonah, called The Cannery. We suspect it was built on the site of an original cannery, but it definitely has a “new-built-to-look-old” appearance. It has an upscale cruise ship passenger appeal. In this year of Covid closures, The Cannery was not open, and we did not stop there. Instead, we docked at the town itself, and walked around. It was a Sunday, and pretty much everything was closed. A young Native girl on a pink bicycle stopped and said, “You’re not from here, are you?” It was apparent that we stood out. We said, “What should we see here?” She pointed to a small store specializing in Doritos and other snack foods. Once again, a friendly, helpful individual seeking to share the things she values.
A real highlight was our stop at Warm Springs. This community can’t really be called a town. There are no stores. There are a small number of homes along the shore, and tucked back into a hill. A lot of the residents seem to come seasonally, but there are a hearty few who stay year round. Boat and floatplane provide the only access. There is a natural hot spring that has been developed very nicely. Soaking provides a great source of Ahhhhhh….. for a weary traveler. One way to soak, is to follow a boardwalk up into the woods. There are natural rock pools beside a roaring waterfall, into which some hot springs water feeds through a pipe. I don’t know which is more enjoyable – the hot pool or the waterfall. It definitely is an outdoor, rough luxury experience. We enjoyed this on the first day.
The second day, we resolved to use the beachside “bath house.” The community has built and maintains three 8 foot oblong tubs (about 3 feet deep). Each tub is in a 10 x 10 foot wooden room with a door on one side and a curtain on the other (for privacy). The 3 rooms are connected. There is generous room for 2 people in each tub. There are pegs for hanging your clothes, a plug for the tub, 2 hoses: one for cold water, and one for HOT! You plug the tub and fill it to your desired temperature, climb in with your sweetie, and open the curtain. No one can see in because you are above water level. But you can see out to the bay, and a view of the waterfall. Wonderful! I don’t know which soaking experience we enjoyed more. We might have to return and try it all again to determine the answer.
There is no charge for using the rock pools or the tubs. There is a donation box to help the community continue to provide this wonderful resource. There is a spray bottle of disinfectant and a brush for scrubbing your own tub when you finish. We love the generosity and common sense of the Alaskan culture we have encountered. People truly want to share the good things they enjoy, and not for their own profit. It’s a fine way to live.