Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Alaska Cruise Part 5
Hoonah, Alaska....this is a fairly new port of call for cruise ships. There are only 2 ships a week that stop here at this time. And this summer was the third year that the community has accomodated tourists in this manner. If you look at a map of Alaska you'll see Icy Strait just below Juneau. On one corner of Chichagof Island is the Tlingit community of Hoonah, Alaska. This was our third port of call. This native American community doesn't want the cruise ships in their harbor so we were "tendered" off the ship to the dock in Hoonah. As it turns out we were "tenered" in the ship's life boats. (BIG FUN, to ride in a life boat and not have your home away from home disappearing into the sea behind you.) It was about a 15-20 minute ride from the ship to when we landed on the dock of their former fish cannery building, all converted to shops (featuring mostly native craft items) and even a snack bar, latte stand and restrooms. We had all signed up for a 2 hour sightseing tour of Hoonah in one of their very comfortable mini-buses. We would learn of the history and culture of the Tlingits, learn about the inside passage, the importance of the Alaska Marine Highway, the fishing industry and the Tongass National Forest. The driver of our bus was Ora, a young man in his early 30's and the narrator was Candy, both raised in the town of Hoonah and both Tlingits. Candy was home for the summer having just completed her first year at Stanford University, in California. This community was by far the most pristine and pure area of the entire area that we saw. There are 871 people that live in Hoonah (there was 870 but Ora & his wife had a new baby in June). There is one school, K-12 with about 150 students total and 10 teachers. Their police dept has four officers and their fire department is totally volunteer. And it seems that everyone is related in some way. They were excited that they just got their first cell tower, they have one chain store, a small Ace hardware. There are 5 churches and 2 taverns. The houses along the main road all look about the same, as many years ago a fire wiped out a lot of the main street dwellings. The government sent a huge boat load of pre-fab houses so they could quickly and cheaply rebuild their community. In the last few years the fishing industry has taken off as there are many licensed charter fisherman in the community. We saw one boat come in with a 35 pound halibut (ugly fish) and several very large salmon. To get there, people fly into Juneau and then fly a short 40 air miles over to Hoonah. Ora and Candy told us that the airport in Hoonah is only closed 20-30 days a year due to bad weather. All of their groceries, mail and anything else needed is brought in either by plane or by a passenger-car ferry that comes in several times a week. Their electricity is supplied by deisel powered generators and their water supply comes from several different creeks, that is then treated and piped to the homes. They seem to be very sport's minded. They have a very large covered building that houses a full size heated community swimming pool and another that houses a basketball court and viewing stands. They spend their long winter evenings swimming and playing basketball. Basketball seems to be a big thing in these Alaskan towns. Again since we only had a few short hours in Hoonah, there were things I didn't get to do and would love to go back and see it all. We were all back on board by 3:30pm and at 4pm were off for the start of our journey down the beautiful Inside Passage. Hoonah was absolutley the place that left the greatest impression with all of us. I even bought a Hoonah sweatshirt...I bought no others.
Posted by Linda's World at 11:48 AM