A Tlingit “theme park”

During our journey from Juneau to Hoonah, we passed the northernmost point in Braesail’s 21-year travel career: 58 degrees, 25 minutes north latitude and 134 degrees, 57.82 minutes west longitude. This is the scene, which includes the buildings on the grounds of the Point Retreat Lighthouse (we did not retreat!) on the Mansfield Peninsula at the northern tip of Admiralty Island.

Walt and I left Sunday’s “unpleasant” weather in Juneau and motored under the usual overcast sky on Monday, August 8, for about six hours, happy that it was not rainy and that shiny sun-shovels dug blue holes in the drifts of cloud snow overhead from time to time and scattered bright flakes of light over the surface of the sea. We saw that two nearby boats had stopped moving at one point, and then discovered the reason: a number of humpback whales were spouting, splashing, and diving nearby, flashing their tails through the spray! What a treat to see!

For a while, a brisk wind and rollicking seas were rushing at Braesail’s bow; waves splashed over it, rinsing dried mud from the anchor and its cradle and sending the boat bucking and bounding about. By the time we’d reached the harbor at Hoonah (Xunaa), a Tlingit town of about 1000 people, the water was smooth again and we docked easily.

With dancing sunbeams as our companions on the way, we the spent the late afternoon and evening exploring the town, to which a group of Tlingit people moved in the mid-18th century from Glacier Bay when a rapidly advancing glacier threatened their homes and livelihoods. We took a shuttle-tram from the older portion of the town to the site of relatively-newly-constructed facilities for the tourists who arrive by the thousands on cruise ships. An old cannery building has become an indoor shopping emporium featuring beautiful Tlingit-themed items of all kinds: arts and crafts, clothing, souvenirs, food products, books, etc. A portion of the building houses a museum that contains old canning machinery and tells and demonstrates the history and processes of canning salmon and other seafood and shipping it around the world. We dined at the nearby Duckpoint Smokehouse Restaurant and enjoyed its panoramic ocean views and locally-sourced food. This attractive, well-laid-out “theme par k”
area, about a mile from the town of Hoonah, gives tourists the opportunity to ride the world’s longest (at about 1 mie) zip line, to take various guided tours and excursions on land and water, to try a ropes course in the forest, and to ride gondolas to the top of a mountain and back (the “SkyGlider”).

We walked the mile-long path along the shore, past tangles of thimble berries and devils club and several small waterfalls, from the cruise ship docks on Icy Strait Point back to the town docks, reading the information on the plaques along the way and stopping at the general store to buy a few items.

Walking along the shore from Icy Strait Point to the older town of Hoonah

The day’s step total was about 11,300, and we were happy to crawl into bed! Tomorrow we motor on to the small village of Tenakee Springs.

Bidding the sun a good night in Hoonah Harbor

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