Today we visited Hoonah, a small traditional Tlingit community on Icy Strait Point. The town is situated on Chichagof Island in Southeast Alaska and is only accessible by boat or plane. The Tlingit are renowned for their skilled fisherman, artisans, and hunters – and this is evident throughout the area. They also boast the largest population of brown bears on earth and the longest zipline in North America.
There is a new Adventure Center and a smokehouse when you exit the footbridge from the cruise ship. We looked at souvenirs and then quickly walked through this area.
There was a lot of gorgeous scenery right in the visitor’s area near the cruise port. As we walked through the “touristy area”, we were inundated with beauty from all sides: gorgeous views of the bay, colorful late-fall scenery, and moss dripping with rain in a huge pine tree.
There are a few restaurants in the area close to where the cruise ship docks. The Cookhouse is one of them. These restaurants are only open when the cruise ships dock. The menus are full of seafood dishes, but we didn’t eat at any of them. I do know that The Fisherman’s Daughter, a restaurant in Hoonah that was unfortunately closed when we were there, uses locally-sourced salmon and shrimp (she buys it from her Dad).
The local artisans are truly gifted. Kayla bought a necklace with a beautiful design that was originally created for a drum. We were able to speak to the artist, Jeffrey Skaflestad, who explained the process to us. She really loves the necklace and it was very reasonably priced at only about $18.
Our eyes kept being drawn out to the water and up at the beautiful trees and low fog. This area of Southeast Alaska is just so beautiful. It’s hard to put it into words or capture it in photographs. Rather than missing any of the scenery, we decided to walk the mile and a half to town so we could see it all up close and personal. Here are some of the amazing sites we saw on the way into town.
In the photo below, you can see the paved walkway and how it runs along the bay from the visitor’s center to the town. It’s an easy walk with lots to see. There is a shuttle bus that will take you both ways and, as of this post, it costs $5 for a round-trip ticket.
The town itself wasn’t really all that spectacular as far as the buildings were concerned. It was a mix of small homes that were either well-kept or very run down. There were a few small stores and one very small & incredibly expensive grocery store. For example, it had a bag of organic dried mangoes that I really wanted, but I was not about to pay $25 for it! It is true that things have to be shipped in, so there is an added cost. The same is true in Juneau, where a loaf of bread will set you back over $5. Anyway, here are some photos of the houses.
Some of the houses that are better maintained
We met a very friendly hound on the main street. Lou was on a long leash outside of one of the residences. He was a lover boy and we all wanted to take him home with us. We knew his name because the owner left a small plastic cup outside for tourists to leave money for Lou’s treats. Fred thought this was a very smart money-making tactic. It certainly worked on us, since we all desperately needed a “dog fix”.
There were examples of local talent everywhere in Hoonah. We saw quite a few totems and got to see one in the process of being carved. You can also see dugout canoes, which are each hollowed out from a single spruce tree. Plus there were benches with form-line (iconic shapes and designs associated with the Pacific Northwest) like this one in quite a few places. Kayla’s necklace is also an example of form line.
It was really fascinating to learn a little bit about the Tlingit culture, talk to the local people (all friendly and so welcoming), and see all of the beautiful sights in Hoonah. I hope to return to this area one day and spend more time hiking, eating the local seafood, and just enjoying the spectacular surroundings. It’s really a peaceful, wonderful place.