Taku 2014 - 5: Family History
June 23-24

1990 plat for the lodge homestead

At my brother's request, no photos of his family are included in this brief trip report.

After two years of trying, we finally organized a family trip up the Taku with my parents, me, and my brother’s family (Mike, Amelia, Guo Zhong, and Jia Jia). We picked the weekend a month in advance and were lucky enough to have sunny skies and calm winds. There were too many people and dogs for one boat, so Mike and Guo Zhong left with me and Cailey at Douglas Harbor, meeting up with the rest of the crew on the Kathy M just outside in Gastineau Channel. The water was glassy calm. On the way I showed Mike Mary Joyce’s cabin (which I’d explored earlier in the summer) and talked about Was’as’e (the mountain giant that makes up the Scar in Taku Inlet) and the Taku Village near Point Salisbury. I led the way through the river, but it was such a nice high tide that there wasn’t much risk of going aground. At the cabin I dropped everyone off at the dock and then tied the Ronquil to the log upriver. The kids and I walked to the cabin and opened up while the Kathy M unloaded. The three of us then walked upriver (avoiding the bustle in the cabin) to the motion sensor camera and retrieved the memory card, stealing away upstairs with my laptop to peruse the videos. We found two good videos of bears nosing the camera and showed them to the others downstairs. The blueberries were ripening around the cabin, so the kids went outside picked, Jia Jia saving hers for pancakes in the morning (we later salted them to remove the bugs). That evening we ate ramen and veggies for dinner, then chatted until bed time. Cailey was intolerant of Yogi’s close proximity in the cabin, so we kept them separated, Yogi in the living room with his family and Cailey by the wood stove or on my lap.

I had a restless night, waking up often. At 7:10 Cailey woke up and, while I successfully ignored her into laying back down for 20 minutes, there was no stopping her pacing by 7:30. I dressed and snuck out past Mike’s family, downstairs, and outside where Cailey and I wandered back to the outhouse, down the trail past the shed and through the woods before turning back to the river. Everyone was starting to get up when I returned. I made Mexican hot chocolate for Mike and the kids, then blueberry pancakes with Jia Jia’s berries. There was more dog drama between Cailey and Yogi, mostly about food but also at transition times when one dog was coming in where the other already was. We continued to separate them inside by keeping Yogi in the living room and using the chair I sat in (the big wooden one) to block it off.

Our goal that day was to visit the lodge to show the kids where Mike and I grew up. Mom and Dad stayed behind to work on projects at the cabin while the rest of us took off at 11:20. It was a gorgeous sunny day for a walk. We followed the trail upriver, stopping for ripe nagoons here and there once we reached the meadows. After we entered the woods and crossed the Bradley-Ogden Bridge, we searched for boundary markers along the road to indicate where Mike’s property started, which was also the edge of Forest Service land. We stopped where we first found survey tape on some trees and looked around a little, but found nothing other than what looked like cleared areas and a trail of some sort (in retrospect, perhaps an area where downed trees had been harvested).

A little farther on we came across an obvious trail on the left which we followed to the edge of a cleared compound on the river with a house and shed on it. Private property signs kept us off the lot, but there was a wide, cleared path running north-south along the edge of the property, so we followed that until it ended. There was a wooden stake on either side of it there; the one on the river side said “corner lot 15” and the one on the other side said “corner lot 16” (see photo to right). I looked at a picture of the plat that encompasses the entire original lodge homestead and saw that lot 15 was the southernmost lot against the river and we were now standing on the Forest Service boundary. The path we’d followed was, in fact, one of the roads through the lots. Closer to the river I found the boundary marker for corner #4 (of the original lodge homestead), set back from the river bank to avoid eroding away just as our own corners are on Bullard’s Landing.

We followed the very subtle boundary trail (we lost it in a number of places) back to the road and found a Forest Service  boundary sign there on a dead tree offset from the road. We crossed the road onto an obvious trail there and Mike soon found a stake with a flagging attached about 60 feet in—the edge of his property surely! We continued to follow the Forest Service trail from there, pacing out the distance of Mike’s property—340’—but didn’t find another marker at the end. There were marks on the trees indicating the boundary up to that point, though, so we could be confident we were on the edge of the property. Unfortunately, about where Mike’s property ended, the trail seemed to veer away to the north (though the boundary line is straight). I left the others behind and kept going on the same course, crashing through brush between stands of huge cottonwoods. I made it far enough to get a tantalizing view of the mountains, but never found any markers or other signs of a boundary. Since the others were waiting for me, I headed back and met up with them on Mike’s property. I had seen enough, though, to know that my land there includes massive cottonwoods and spectacular views. The five of us continued on to the lodge, another ten or fifteen minutes walk away. Cottonwood cotton was all over the ground and I showed it to the kids. 

We were glad the dogs were on leash when we stepped onto the property, as a black bear (looking rather like a large dog) was resting in the shade under the cottonwood tree. Another was sleeping in the branches of the spruce tree next to Totem. We met up with Curtis, who was very gracious, and he showed me where the first corner to the lodge property is (right on the corner of the boat house), showed Mike the battery system that the generator charges in the basement, and showed us an old plat of the property, which turned out to be the one from 1990. I took turns with the others going in the lodge so someone could hold the dogs and we also showed the kids our rooms in Killisnoo, now a rec room. We also wandered back to the fire pit/dump area and looked for and found Mary Joyce’s root cellar, much like it was many years ago. On the walk back  it finally sank in that the unusually shaped spruce trees growing around the licheny patches of the road  were not spruce trees at all but something else entirely. I took  photos of the soft leaves and the alder-like bark, later discovering that they are fir trees--a highly uncommon tree for Southeast Alaska (species yet to be determined)!

When we got to the meadows, the kids took off ahead. It was hot and gorgeous. I caught up to them trying to push themselves through the spruces trees south of Debbie’s Meadow and suggested they try another route. They seemed dubious about going through the dense branches at the right spot but understood immediately when they saw the path on the other side. 

The evening was calm and lovely. It was already 4:30 or so when we got back, so Mike started an alder fire in the cooker for hot dogs and corn on the cob. I got the kids to help me put up my tent and, after dinner, they helped Mom and I put up her tent, which turned comical as one of the poles was short a length and stealing a length from of the other poles (they are not permanently connected) made it floppy. But we fixed it somehow. The kids wanted to sleep in the tents that night, but Yogi won’t allow the family to be separated in situations like that, so they stayed in the cabin. That night Cailey curled up on the chair with me again (adequately separated from Yogi) while Mom played cribbage with Jia Jia and Mike played Magic with Guo Zhong.

Blueberry pancakes

Forest Service boundary on the road

Taku River Road

View from my property (probably)

Cottonwood stump and bear's bread

View from Killisnoo

View from my room at Killisnoo

The lodge lawn and flagpole

Outhouse my dad built at the lodge

Mary Joyce's root cellar

Lodge property corner #4

Hole-in-the-Wall Glacier from the southern boundary

Fir tree!


Cailey is sleepy

We stayed up later than the night before and had a more festive evening. I slept in the tent on the river side of the spruce clump in front of the cabin and slept better than I had the night before. I made more hot chocolate for the kids in the morning and we all had a slow start. Finally the kids helped Mom and Mike inflate the two-person kayaks my mom had bought while I put the paddles together. We packed up for the trip, distributed walkie talkies, and carried everything down to the dock. I made the kids name the kayaks, suggesting that it could be named after something it reminded them of (or maybe a Chinese boat name or an actor or character they liked) and Jia Jia named hers Banana Split; hearing that, Guo Zhong later named his Apple Split. We pushed the riverboat into the water and piled aboard with both dogs and the kayaks. Mom drove us into the slough (we touched bottom briefly over the bar at the entrance) and stopped at the tributary coming from the big avalanche behind the cabin. Mike’s family paddled in and Mom and I followed as far as we could, then lingered on the boat and watched fingerlings in the slough for a while when it got too narrow. We used the walkie talkies to communicate briefly with both that group and Dad checking in from the cabin. Eventually, Mom and I walked up and went to find the boundary marker, corner #3, on the north side of the avalanche. I thought it would be easy to find since I remembered it so clearly, but a lot of snow had melted and I was disoriented and not sure I was using the right rocks for landmarks. Photos were too small and bushy to be much help. I had given up a couple of times when I finally stumbled onto it in the dense vegetation. It was not far, a little north and downslope, from a very prominent rock growing trees out of the top of it—not sure why I didn’t figure that into the location strategy the first time.

The rest of the group had left the ice cave they were exploring and were playing around on huge rocks when we found the marker. They headed back down and Mom and I went and checked out the cave—wonderfully cool—before heading back down ourselves and following them out. Yogi was fanatically following his family everywhere and Mike was concerned that he was wearing himself out, so they spent some time trying, and eventually succeeding, in getting Yogi into Mike’s kayak. It didn’t last long, and they decided they’d had enough kayaking shortly thereafter. Mom and I took a quick trial spin in the kayaks and then we drove back to the dock, Jia Jia in the back with Mom and I and Cailey.

That afternoon Mike made macaroni and cheese for an early dinner. I played with catch with Guo Zhong using his big throwing disk he got for his birthday--we tried to catch it in our arms and on our heads, and attempted to throw it in different ways. Both our dogs got involved briefly and wound up with Frisbee collars.

After dinner we packed up and headed out with opposite passengers. I touched bottom in the same place as usual and tried to warn Mom, but they went aground there; she had to push the Kathy M off and they wound up some distance behind us. We slowed down and watched seals coming up on and off at Taku Point. We kept in touch with the other boat by walkie talkie. The rest of the ride back was calm and gorgeous and the two parties split outside Douglas Harbor.

Unusual flower at the avalanche

Huge rock near corner #3

Mom explores the ice cave

The Kathy M on the way home