January 15, 2011 by twangg
In the spring of 2004 I was invited to use a friend’s cabin on Neck Lake Outlet, Whale Pass, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. I knew the reputation this area had for serving up wonderful portions of large
fish and was anxious to partake. I undertook to research the resources of area and finally determined that late July would be the best possible time for the trek. Plans were made, purchases made, reservations set and in the deep dark of the night that late July day, a van with five, tired, hungry and increasing short tempered fishermen finally found the right driveway to the right gate to the right cabin and it was with great relief that we watched the lights brighten the night as the master switch was thrown to provide power to our new temporary home.
All of us were entirely exhausted following our forty-five hour ordeal from my southeast Washington home. We had driven twenty-one hours to Prince Rupert, BC, Canada on leg one, arriving there about
Eleven Thirty pm. We had cut several hours off the estimated time and that, coupled with the safety margin we’d left ourselves in meeting out Six-Thirty am appointment with the Alaska Ferry, Matanuska in this most northern British Columbia Pacific seaport meant that we had some seven hours wait. We decided to do it right and rented a motel room and got a decent nap before arising at Five am and queuing up for our anticipated loading.
The six hour ride from Prince Rupert, BC to Ketchikan, AK was,
without a doubt one of the most pleasant interludes I have ever had while traveling. Breakfast was served in the galley and the food was hot, delicious, copious and quite inexpensive considering just where we were when eating it. I paid no more for my generous breakfast than I would have paid in a decent restaurant in my hometown.
The time after breakfast was spent walking the outside decks enjoying the absolute splendor of Southeast Alaska or sitting in the most comfortable lounges inside glassed walls using binoculars to watch the whales cavort as they fed
in the icy waters. Seals and sea lions were ubiquitous. But my greatest pleasure came from scanning the often very close shorelines watching closely for bears on the beach and deer and other wildlife. Eagles were everywhere. Virtually every old snag would have from one to twenty Bald Eagles perched and watching, waiting for a falling tide in a shoreline inlet to expose the salmon returning to spawn there.
Soon, we were debarking at the port of Ketchikan. It was a trip of but six hours
from Prince Rupert to Ketchikan and this put us into town with a bit of time on our hands before our reserved loading on board the Inter Island Ferry bound for Hollis on Prince of Wales Island. We used this time to purchase our fishing licenses then to shop for our groceries. We had opted for the seven day permit as the cost was very affordable and we added such other small pieces of tackle as caught our eye and we deemed ESSENTIAL at this juncture!
The trip through the Ketchikan Safeway store was interesting, to say the least… canned goods, prepared foods and the like were comparably priced with similar items in the lower forty-eight but commodities were not! Fresh vegetables were so high I thought we were buying those that had been plated in gold! Milk was very expensive, approximately two and a half times what I had paid for it
two days before in Washington. Still, we knew this was going to be the case and had planned for it. We got that which we thought we’d need for the week and went through checkout. We did not skimp on ourselves. We bought plenty and well. As we wheeled our three carts to the checkout
line, I was very afraid we’d melt down the cash register before we were done, but, in actuality, the total was around three hundred and fifty dollars or about seventy dollars per man for a week. That, I did not feel, was all that bad for the time and place. Finding room for it in our already overstuffed van was, however, not quite such an easy task.
Three Thirty pm found us safely aboard the Alaska InterIsland Ferry,
“Prince of Wales” and on out way west to Hollis. It was a three hour trip so we settled back and took our time. We visited the galley again and had some hearty, rib-sticking chili and beans. Again we toured and visited around. The islands through which we passed were even closer aboard than they had been on our first ferry leg to Ketchikan. Often we were able to see wildlife on the beaches and the time passed quickly. It seems but minutes before we were departing up the ramp on the Island, our noses now pointing the ninety miles or so north to Whale Passage and our waiting cabin.
To say that last leg was easy would have been completely untrue. We were five tired, cranky men who had been cooped up too close together for much too long who were no trying to navigate our way through unknown territories on gravel roads that were little more than passable, often on a trek that would see us pass five hours in covering a mere ninety miles plus two slight additions for wrong turns in the black of night.
It was with great good feelings that we greeted the light cast by the bulbs around this Edenesque Cabin in the remote corners of an Island at the back end of beyond. Little did we know what the week would hold when we again switched those lights off to sleep… perchance to dream… of, no doubt, large salmon jumping on the ends of long lines… and such it was to be…