Saturday, June 14, 2014

Day 5 - 6: Tenakee Springs

At about 3:00 am Mr. X awoke to find me sitting over him clutching the bear spray. We again heard stamping outside and couldn't decide whether they were deer or bear. I peeked out of the tent but couldn't see anything save beach or trees. Mr. X wanted me to keep still so I wouldn't startle whatever was there. Eventually the noises disappeared and I opened the tent to confirm they had moved on. I turned back to Mr. X and he said, "so you want to go back to sleep?" And I said, "No! I just want to get out of here".

With only 10 miles to go, I hoped we could make it to Tenakee Springs by the afternoon. The wind and waves still looked a bit rough. We decided though to take it easy, try to relax (after that uncomfortable night) and appreciate our vacation. We stayed close to shore and thankfully avoided the bulk of the wind, making decent time. That didn't stop me from humming the song Master the Tempest is Raging, however.

Finally we spotted a cabin, then some more. Finally the main waterfront of Tenakee came into view. At long last the wind was pushing us the way we wanted to go. As we drifted past the ferry dock and then the float plane dock, a man stopped us giving us the low down on Tenakee:  "Uh, you know the ferry's been cancelled, right? You can camp over there by the boat harbor under that shelter. You know about the bath house hours? And the bakery is open." He also asked, "No bear trouble?" We just stared and he answered, "Well, guess not or you wouldn't be here."

We paddled to the boat harbor, hauled out - actually some guy came and helped me because I looked like I was about to fall in, packed the boats and headed to the "surplus area" in Tenakee. Under a metal shelter we found a fire ring, shelves (to hang gear), camp chairs, wood, etc.

We ate lunch and unpacked a few things and then decided to pull everything out and take advantage of the gusting wind to dry our wet gear. A little later we realized we should have talked to the harbor master and gotten his okay to set up in this location. He said it was fine, but I'm thinking we really should have checked with him first.
 Comfrey in front of the bathhouse - one of Mr. X's favorite plants. What fun to find it growing in Tenakee

Tenakee is a place of 50 people with no cars. People have hand carts or four-wheelers and the main drag is named Tenakee Trail.We walked into town and were warmly greeted by everyone. I went to the mercantile (well, their warehouse, the store is under construction) and got marshmallows for roasting, used the public toilet perched over the tide flats, checked out the book exchange and got info on breakfast the next day. We wandered out the forest trail looking for fresh water. We eventually found Tenakee River and a suspension bridge.

The wind was gusting, but the sun was also shining. We found a park bench and sat down to enjoy the warmth on our faces. Never mind that we were still wearing long johns and fleeces. 

In the evening we wandered up to the school. Mr. X thought it was funny that the school is labeled handicap accessible when you have to climb seven flights of stairs to get to it, tucked up on the hillside.

Mr. X took his turn at the hot springs. When the float plane landed in the evening, we headed into town to see if we could change our flight. Alaska Seaplanes took real good care of us. Because the ferry was cancelled and we were a day early, they ordered up a second plane to get us out when we wanted.

I suggested we go to grave island. When we walked around the beach we were astonished at the beauty that we found. This is why I came here. Look at that meadow and those emerald mountains. Don't you just want to go hike them?

Mr. X went to bed and I took my turn at the bath house. There are separate hours for men and women because this is a no-clothes hot spring. The water was a beautiful crystal clear and incredibly hot. I appreciated the little bit of a breeze coming from the window vents in the ceiling.

After a nice, restful sleep, we finally had a sunny morning. We packed up and headed into town to the bakery for breakfast. Mr. X had pan sized pancakes with sausage, I picked the biscuits and gravy and we shared a cinnamon roll and a rhubarb and strawberry tart. The Party-time Bakery was a lot of fun. We got to see a bunch of artwork that locals make, get introduced to small cruise ship passengers in for the morning and find out about the shamrock building which used to be the dance hall and movie theater. The restaurant owner/chef came out and asked us about pack-rafting. He told us about a guy last year that was doing a major trek and got hurt pack-rafting; a local at a remote cabin found him and ran him in to Tenakee to get him out and to a hospital.

Just steps away from the bakery is Alaska Seaplanes where we went to get checked in and weigh our luggage. A fishing party showed up; they also were disappointed about the ferry and were glad they could hop our plane. They put Mr. X and me in the back on the sling seat. I questioned whether it was because we were the lightweights; Mr. X theorized it was because we stank.

We had a beautiful flight over Freshwater Bay and Admiralty island - including Greens Creek Mine - back to Juneau. The ride was pretty good but we hit a few good bumps crossing Chatham Strait and I wasn't sure how well my breakfast would sit. We roared up and over ridge lines and soared over water before landing on the Juneau seaplane pond. A wonderful trip, but just as wonderful to be home with running water and clean clothes.


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  2. I am amazed at your skills and courage. I guess only the adventurous get to enjoy the beauty of Alaska.


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