One June 17, 2004 our entire family of thirty-two, including grandparents Rolf and Marg Hougen, six families, and eighteen grand-children drove to Skagway to begin our Southeast Alaska ocean adventure. We took the brand-new fast-ferry, the “Fairweather” to Juneau in about two hours. Al and Linnea Castagner, along with Linnea’s mother Swanie (Rolf’s sister) had gone down to Juneau a few days earlier in Krafty II, which was to be our mother ship for the week’s adventure. Al was the undisputed “Admiral of the Fleet” due to his extensive experience in Southeast Alaska and his experience in fishing these waters.
The vessels for our trip were four Nordic Tug boats – two 42’ models, a 37’ and a 32’ and of course Al’s 28’ GlasPly. We spent the next day buying groceries and other supplies for the boats. Later in the day, we received our “operational course” and check-out for the Nordic Tugs. We took possession of the boats later that evening.
We were up at 6am the next day and on out way to Al’s Secret Cove in Icy Straight. Some boats went out halibut fishing; others just relaxed and took in the breath-taking scenery. We set out several crab pots that evening. The next morning, we checked the pots and had caught plenty of Dungeness crabs – all of the grandchildren participated in the cleaning of crabs and halibut. After another great (and successful) day fishing, we had a wonderful seafood feast that lasted until well after midnight!
The next day we were off to Hoonah, a picturesque Tlingit village situated about 40 miles west of Juneau on Chichagof Island. This is the largest Tlingit village in Alaska with a population of about 900 with the economy based on commercial fishing and lodging, and more recently cruiseships. We spent a few hours there getting a few needed items and we set course to Glacier Bay National Park. It is mandatory to pre-register in order to be allowed entry into this park. We cruised into the Park Warden Centre and registered, stopped by the amazing Glacier Bay Lodge and then headed north and set anchor in a sheltered bay.
We had the most amazingly hot weather, with mostly calm seas and no rain for the entire trip. That’s pretty good for Southeast Alaska. Day 4 was no exception: we were up early and went to Marble Island which is well known for the many sea lions and puffins that inhabit there. We saw hundreds of sea lions but few puffins. From there we were off for the 3 hour trip to Elfin Cove – a small town of about 50 people. It’s a fish-buying and supply center for fishermen. Residents participate in commercial fishing, sport fishing and charter services. We took the South Inian route to this town, which was quite rough with a lot of tidal action. The people there treated us like family and even opened up the gym that evening so the 18 grandkids (and a few adults) could let off a little steam after being on the boats for the better part of 4 days.
After a foggy morning, Day 5 saw us fishing our way back to Hoonah. We paused for an hour to watch the whales put on a show and then did some serious halibut fishing. All 18 grandchildren could claim that they had landed a halibut by the end of the day! Le Grand Fromage (Rolf) caught the biggest one of the day at 73 pounds. We spent the night in the Hoonah harbour.
After a relaxing morning we fished our way back to Al’s Secret Cove for our final night of the boat trip. We got some more halibut and a few salmon, and spent the evening cleaning, cutting and packaging fish. Of course, we had another great seafood dinner.
On Day 7, we reluctantly headed back for Juneau. We had a great family trip in a very special part of the world. Southeast Alaska is so close to home, yet it’s such a different environment on the ocean – so dynamic and alive. It makes one wonder what the heck the Canadian negotiators were thinking when they were negotiating the borders of the Alaskan Panhandle in the late 1800’s. That’s another story…
Recollections by Kelly Hougen
In the tiny clapboard hospital in downtown Whitehorse, on July 12, 1920, a future Canadian icon came into the world. His mother, the now-famous Yukon school teacher, Laura Berton, delivered a healthy eight-pound boy and named him Pierre.
His childhood years were spent roaming the dilapidated streets and alleys of Dawson, where memories of the explosive Klondike Gold Rush still lingered like a fresh, though fading, flower.
He unknowingly soaked up the atmosphere of this defining moment in Canadian history. His teen years were spent working the diggings on Dominion Creek, where the mere sight of legendary Klondike gold would inspire his first and most important book of Canadian history.
Klondike - published in 1958 - was his first epic volume and would remain, until his death on November 20, 2004, at age 84, the most significant in a series of fifty important historical volumes.
The Berton family moved to Vancouver when Pierre was old enough to attend the University of British Columbia. He was a moderate scholar and said later he went to university only because they had a campus newspaper.
He became editor of that paper - The Ubbessy - and began a journalistic career which would lead to the editor's desk of the prestigious McLean's magazine in 1947, at the tender age of 27.
Moving to Ontario, he wrote a daily 1500-word column for the Toronto Star for four long years. His enterprising Star stories formed the basis of his coming books including the Comportable Pew, a tome attacking the Anglican church, and the Smug Minority in 1968, which railed against the cronyism between politics and big business. It gained him few friends on Bay Street, but many readers outside the corporate headquarters in Toronto.
In the 1970s, he continued work as a popular historian. The building of the CPR was told in the National Dream in 1970 and the Last Spike the following year. His wonderful tome, Hollywood's Canada in 1975 examines the way American films misrepresent Canada. The Dionne Years, published in 1977, showed he was versatile enough to write a real social history of the country.
He chronicled the country's early-day troubles with the United States in The Invasion of Canada in 1980 and Flames Across the Border, written in 1981.
Drifting Home, written in 1973, is an unexpected autobiography in the form of an account of a northern rafting trip with his family. It was during his publicity tour for this book that I met Berton for the first time in Montreal.
I was moderately in awe since he was not only by now a radio, television and book-writing icon, but a huge man whose size dwarfed mine. He barely fit in the front seat of my aging Chevelle as I drove him, in a torrential downpour, to his next studio interview.
During the 1980s, Berton continued writing popular history, with The Promised Land in 1984, a history of the settling of the Canadian West, and Vimy, an examination of the WW I battle in which tough Canadian troops took VIMY RIDGE in April, 1917.
His lasting contributions to the Yukon are many. Though often thought of as pompous - even unconcerned about the average person - his commitment to Berton House, for writers in Dawson, and his constant references to the Yukon, in almost every public setting, show that the man truly did care about his home and native land.
And for those who were certain he lacked any sense of humour, his final public appearance on CBC Television, teaching Canadians how to properly roll a joint of weed, should dispel that myth.
Pierre Berton, a Yukon and Canadian Idol had kept the good name of his birthplace in the public spotlight. For that alone, in the Yukon, he will be sorely missed.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
Where does the Yukon River start? Where does it go? How does it get there? So many questions. Many answered only in the eye or mind of the beholder.
Some say the source is the Llewellyn Glacier at the southern end of Atlin Lake while others say it is Lake Lindeman which empties into Lake Bennett.
Either way, Atlin Lake flows into Tagish Lake as does Lake Lindeman after flowing into Bennett Lake. Tagish Lake then flows into Marsh Lake via the Tagish River. The Yukon River proper starts at the northern end of Marsh Lake, just south of Whitehorse.
The upper end of the Yukon River at Whitehorse was originally known as the Lewes River. Then past Lebarge it became the Thirty Mile and finally it was known as the Yukon at Hootalinqa where the Teslin River joins up.
But then again, some argue that the source of the Yukon River should really be Teslin Lake and the Teslin River, which has a larger flow when it reaches the Yukon at Hootalinqua. So the definitive answer is somewhat of a mystery.
We do know that many large lakes and rivers are part of the Yukon River system including Kusawa Lake which flows into the Takhini River and Kluane Lake which flows into the Kluane and then White Rivers.
Merrily along flows the Yukon, joined by the Pelly and the Stewart before the White and then the Klondike river at Dawson and the Forty Mile further downstream. When the Yukon finally reaches Alaska the mighty river has taken a lot of water from the Yukon Territory.
The river is 3,185 km long and empties into the Bering Sea at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. The total drainage area is a massive 832,700 km of which a third is in Canada. And bigger than Texas.
For all that length it is surprising to learn that there are only four bridges across the Yukon River that can carry vehicles.
They are the Lewes Bridge, north of Marsh Lake on the Alaska Highway, the Robert Campbell Bridge, which connects Whitehorse proper with Riverdale, the Yukon River Bridge at Carmacks on the Klondike Highway; and The E. L. Patton Yukon River Bridge, north of Fairbanks on the Dalton Highway.
Plans to build a permanent bridge in Dawson were announced in 2004, but they are currently on hold because it was going to cost a lot more than first estimated.
There is also one pedestrian-only bridge in Whitehorse. And of course, the Whitehorse Rapids dam which we used to be able to drive across.
The Yukon River, a sense of wonder and mystery right on our doorsteps.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
See also: The Yukon River (1945)