Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Last Day in Yak...Return to the lower 48

In what seamed to be standard fashion we awoke for the last time to rain falling on the metal roof of the cabin.  It was Saturday morning and our last day in Yakutat.  Cabin 4 was now occupied with new neighbours that arrived the night prior.  Some USGS crew doing some geological study or the like.  I can't recall...all I knew was this mornings business would be taking place in the peace and serenity of the luxurious cabin 5. 

Red was frantically packing when I returned to the cabin and Scotty was well on his way.  I was in no mad rush to pack and took my time enjoying my morning coffee.  The boys wanted to go for Breakfast so I told them I would be staying back to have a warm shower and take my time getting the gear in order.  My wife says I only have one speed and it isn't fast.  It was just as well because the entire ordeal took me the better part of an hour to get all of my goods packed away proper.  I don't know how many times I cursed myself for bringing far too much gear and swore the next trip would see me packed with two carry-on rods, my DSLR, and one checked bag.

The boys arrived back with full bellies and told me how the pretty hispanic waitress had been worried about me and offered to pack me a breakfast sandwich to go.  It was now nearing 10:30 and our flight didn't leave Yak until 6pm that evening.  We still had a fridge full of beers that Red had made some derogatory comment about us being stupid or the like for buying too much beer the night prior.  Is it really possible to have too much beer I thought to myself.  Have you ever really kicked yourself for having extra beer? 
If you were the guy that didn't buy enough beer...well that guy would be stupid in my books.  Since it was noon somewhere in the world now was as good a time as any to crack a cold one and relax after all the morning work.  Scotty joined me followed quickly by Red the beer hater.  We discussed the game plan for the day and landed on a trip up to the 9mile bridge to pass the time and see how large the river had crested from the evening rains.  It was quite the sight and had to be at least 6' or better from when we first arrived. 

It was amazing at what unfolded while we were there and I thanked my lucky stars we got our licks in when we did.  The guys told me they had  heard the Lost River Road down to the take out was closed and that the road had washed out over night.  I wondered if there were any parties stuck on the river and how they would get out if they did made it down safely to the take out.  There is no cell service anywhere except a small window in town.  There are no roads. 

The only access is an airstrip mid river at the cabins, 9 mile bridge, and the Lost River take out.  We certainly weren't in Kansas anymore!  We took our final pictures at the bridge and headed back to town.  With time to kill I decided to snoop around Yakutat and see how the locals live.  There are not a lot of roads to travel but we did manage to see some cool vistas.  We drove back to Leonard's Landing and checked it out.  It appeared to be a fairly decent place across from the Town Marina Docks where we embarked on our Halibut charter. 
They offered cabin accommodations right on the water and would be a cool option for anyone.  We drove back into the dump in the hopes we might see a bear or two but their landfill is more of a processing station with no wet garbage outside.  I figured it was probably that way to deter the Bears.  Probably a good idea considering the species.  We checked out the Glacier Bear facility from the Van.  It had Yakutats only other Restaurant/Bar and didn't appear to be much from the outside.  I couldn't be bothered going in for a look-see for the raging downpour. 
We killed the better part of two hours driving around and decided it was time to hit the lodge for a late lunch.  Our Halibut was overweight by 2-3lbs for the 50lb checked bag airline limit so we had made arrangements to have a giant fish and chip lunch complete with fries and two side of Onion Rings.  When it came out it literally turned heads in the Restaurant.  The table behind us asked the waitress if they could order what we where having and were told much to their dismay that it was not a menu option.  I swear it was one of the best meals I had ever had in my entire life.  After downing a few cold Bud Lights with lunch I thought I better return the Van and settle up with Yakutat Leasing before I kill anymore time at the bar. 
When I filled the van up with gas I noticed the $6 per Gallon price on fuel.  Everything is flown in or floated by boat to Yakutat so for $6 you get a gallon of unleaded or a bag of Doritos.  I returned to the bar and ordered another round for the boys.  There was a wirey old  now character sitting at the end of the bar with an Native side kick.  He was a small framed man that looked like he had rode to hell and back and had the stories to prove it.  He wore a confederate solders civil war hat and on the front of it was a giant Grizzly Bear Claw.  The claw was literally the width of his head and the mere image of it sent a chill down my spine.  I could only imagine the stories this man could tell. 

At one time I overheard him tell another gentlemen at the bar that he was a Grizzly Bear Guide and held licenses all over Alaska including this region.  He gestured to the giant claw on his head and made referece to killing this one.  He was in the area scouting for a hunt.  I awaited the right moment to approach him and introduce myself but it never came to be before he left. 
I kicked myself later for not buying him a drink sooner as the stories would have certainly been worth the price of admission ten fold.  We had a few more rounds killing time before checking the bags and boarding the plane for Juneau.  It was amazing how a week could slip through the cracks and civilian life was once again a near reality.  The jump from Yak to Juneau is a mere 45 mins and before we knew it we were once again awaiting our luggage on the carousel in the airport.  We checked in to the Travel lodge and quickly hailed a cab headed for town. 
It was nearing 8pm and we were looking for a bite to ear before hitting the local establishments.  The first bar on the list was the Red Dog Saloon.  It was a famous tourist attraction seeded deep in Juneau's history.  The cab driver warned us it was a tourist trap for the cruise ships but we had to go and check it out  as we had an old Red dog in our party .  The bar was amazing. The floor was covered 4-5" deep with fresh cut sawdust.  Every inch of wall space was covered with artifacts from the State of Alaska.  They ranged from 300lb Halibut mounts to a full sized Grizzly Bear upper Torso on the Attack to a Walrus Weiner etc..etc..etc..  There is a deep history of signing your name on any and every surface of the bar. 

There were black markered signatures from every part of the world literally everywhere you looked.  We had a couple tall drafts and did one of their famous Duck Fart Shooters before hitting the streets in search of another infamous watering hole the Alaskan Hotel.  This bar was far more off the beaten tourist trail and more of a Historic local establishment.  There was a sign out front indicating it was on the National Register of Historic places of interest.  The bar dated back to the early days of Juneau and clearly resembled that Era inside. 
We had our share of local Drunk encounters but all ended harmlessly.  Red almost had a date with a fairly inebriated elderly women of Native descent that offered to buy him a drink before he got himself quickly out of the situation.  We had a few too many beers and one "Mystery" shot from a bottle in a brown bag located behind the bar.  The waitress said it wouldnt be a mystery if she told me what it was so I offered to buy her one as well and she smartly declined. 
It tasted like varsol mixed with human urine and gasoline but at least we can say we did it.  It was an interesting night  that found us  back at the hotel for midnight.  We flew out at 8 am so it was an early rise come morning.
The flight home saw us connecting in Seattle and Minneapolis before finally arriving back in the 313 late Sunday night prior to an hours car ride home.  It was certainly a travel day from Hell but well worth the price of admission for a week spent in the wilds... North Americas last Frontier...Alaska.

1 comment:

FISH TALES said...

You did quite well to hit the river when you did, my time in Yak this year was a total freezing waste.. I enjoyed your take on the River-