Craig, Prince of Wales, Alaska
It’s been an unusually dry stretch in SE Alaska, and the locals are complaining a bit. Not enough rain! Although we’ve had a few showers, it’s been pleasantly dry for much of the past several weeks. That means walks in the evening, when it’s cool enough to enjoy and dry enough to lure us out.
The roads are lined with raspberry and salmonberry bushes. They grow wild here. You sometimes see folks picking on the side of the road. Jam making is big, and local wares sold at summer festivals…blueberries, huckleberries, strawberries.
Southeast Alaska is made up of small communities, mostly dotted across islands. Prince of Wales, the fourth largest island in the US, is home to Craig, Klawock, Thorne Bay, Whale Pass, Naukati, Hydaburg, Hollis, and Coffman Cove, and a sprinkling of other hamlets. POW has about 310 miles of paved road…that’s a lot of road for SE Alaska! I’m not sure how it happened, but there’s enough road here you can drive for a few hours. In my unofficial opinion, that’s probably the most paved road available in Alaska outside the interior. The entire road system on the island is approximately 2,500 miles, most of which was built in the logging era. That time’s long gone now.
It’s a big fishing community, and summer fishing tourists are good for the local economy. Lodges, restaurants, fishing guides, and other connections to the fishing industry appear for summer. Some restaurants and hotels are open year round, but many of the hospitality businesses are tied to the fishing. When the fishing is done for the season, the jobs and workers go too.
You can’t imagine how weather impacts life here. If the wind is too strong, float planes don’t fly, and that means the only way off the island is the once-a-day ferry, which leaves at 8:00 in the morning. The locals are used to it. They know to plan for it, and around it. It’s ok, as long as you’re not sick and in need of a fast way out. When the weather’s in the way, that can be bad news for anyone needing a medevac.
Somehow that doesn’t deter folks from living here. Approximately 6,000 people live on Prince of Wales. That’s a healthy size population for SE Alaska.
I’m always amazed at what’s in these small communities. This afternoon I discovered a fish smoking company, right next to a barbecue restaurant. “Restaurant” is really too grand a term. It was a small kitchen with a couple of picnic tables. Probably most of the customers just do take out.
Like a lot of businesses here, you have to know where to look before you can even think about becoming a customer. You have to know which little road to drive down, where to turn. I guess the owners know there’s not a lot of competition, and if the product’s good enough, people are willing to go out of their way to get to them.
I came away with smoked king salmon and a take away order of pulled pork. Well, it may be Alaska, but there’s some southern here!
We ended the day at the rec center with a workout. We may be here for just a couple of weeks, but we find the local places that keep routine going. Post office, bank, grocery….the daily needs and chores of life are here, like anywhere.
There’s a little scenery to go with!