"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Yakutat Journals, Chapter Eleven

Chapter Eleven: In which things get spooky

Right up front I want to tell you I don’t consider myself psychic. I’m not a telepath; I can’t read minds. I don’t do séances. I don’t have ESP and I don’t see dead people. I don’t have a sixth sense—or any sense at all at times, for that matter.

I will admit that strange things have happened to me over the years, things I cannot explain. Sometimes—especially when I was younger—I somehow seemed to know things. I don’t have a name for it, and if I had to describe why it happens, the best I can come up with is perhaps at times I’m particularly in tune with my surroundings.

Other times, I’m oblivious, which is how I almost ran over a sandpiper in my driveway this afternoon.

But I wanted to get all that out of the way so there aren’t any misunderstandings later, after we re-entered the rainforest late that night in Yakutat, when circumstances got a bit out of control and approached eerie.

Looking back at all the photographs I took on that whole journey, initially I didn’t pay any attention to this photo. I took it earlier that afternoon as we were leaving Russell Fjord and climbing back into the rainforest. Just an anomaly, I thought, looking at that streak of whiteness. So what? Many of my photos have flaws or are not worth posting here.

Leaving Russell Fjord.

Then, late that evening as clouds were pocking the sky and making for a terrific sunset, we drove back to Cannon Beach to decide where to camp. This would be our last night in our tents. Tomorrow night, we would stay at the Yakutat Bay View Lodge and clean up before we reentered civilization on the ferry. Real beds. Showers. No mosquitoes.

We went back to where we’d camped the night before at one of the cannons and re-hydrated our freeze dried dinners. The beef Stroganoff with noodles doesn’t look very appetizing, but it’s tasty and filling, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.

Out on the beach, it was still very light, despite what this photo into the sun looks like. But in the forest, it was getting quite dark.

Sunset at Cannon Beach

We decided to drive in the opposite direction and try to find the campsites we’d heard about. We found the first one, but it was occupied, so we drove farther. At least a quarter mile farther, if not a half mile. We found site number two and stopped to check it out.

Cannon Beach camp site.

Darkness had swallowed this site. The opening to the beach was light enough, but behind that it was dark and dreary. And unsettling. I looked around and didn’t see any place I wanted to pitch my tent. I hastened back to the truck. JJ did the same.

“Let’s try number three,” I said. We were silent for a while and then I said, “I didn’t like that spot.”

Old military roads near Cannon Beach.

“I didn’t either,” she said.

“I think something bad happened there,” I responded.

“It definitely gave off bad vibes,” she said. I noticed JJ was driving a little faster than normal on the dark, narrow gravel road.

Driving through the forest near Cannon Beach

Now that that was out in the open, we then proceeded to tell each other the kinds of stories that no one should recite if they are going to camp in the forest primeval with nothing but mosquito mesh and a thin sheet of ripstop nylon between them and eternity.

We found site number three. No bad juju here, except once again the campsite was deep in the trees. “I’m camping right here,” I declared and spread my ground cloth on the gravel next to the truck. It was not out of fear. The parking spot was in the open, light, and had no clouds of mosquitoes. They were all in the trees waiting for fresh blood and a feeding frenzy.

JJ did the same but soon found she couldn’t drive her tent pegs into the hard ground. She gathered her stuff and went down to the campsite.

JJ (or her ghost double) near Cannon Beach.

I stayed right where I was, got my tent up in record time, my air mattress inflated, and my sleeping bag ready.

I woke up the next morning. And that, as they say when people find themselves still alive, was that. All the bad juju was gone. I still feel something evil lurks around site number two. The photos I took that night are eerily similar—fuzzy, with streaks of light.

Enough. We woke up. The sun was shining.

Now was the time to check out the two-sided log structures we had seen.

Open air outhouse guarded by devil's club.

It had an accessible wheelchair ramp.

And a metal contraption holding a toilet seat.

But the toilet seat went nowhere.

We had found the Outhouse to Nowhere!

I think you’re supposed to insert your own bucket under the seat and empty the contents in the vault toilet back at the main Forest Service group area.

Then we were off into town, taking the long way around. We found waist high chocolate lily…

Yes, I know the shirt and pants are way too big for me. I was camping, for Pete's sakes. Look at the chocolate lily instead.

And huge skunk cabbage.

JJ and the giant skunk cabbage.

And a train under a protective roof. These are pieces of equipment from one of most unusual railroads in the world. Built in 1904, the Yakutat and Southern Railroad operated for about sixty years, hauling salmon from the banks of the Situk River to a cannery and wharf in Yakutat. The entire line was only eleven miles long, but was a principle factor in the economy of Yakutat for six decades.

Yakutat and Southern Railroad preservation site.

During WWII, the railroad was used to transport troops and equipment to the shoreline of the Gulf of Alaska.

(For more info: http://yakutat-southern.org/historypage2.html)

Afterward, we drove back to that enchanting pond we’d seen earlier.

People had told us we really shouldn’t miss this. So, once again, we started into the rainforest…

(to be continued. Cheer up, we're almost done with this trip.)


  1. For the love of Pete or I should say the love of Alaska...I love the scenery and all but I sure do love my comfy bed more.

  2. No, I don't want it to be over soon. I'm enjoying your trip too much for it to end.

    The Outhouse to Nowhere -- wasn't that a Steven King novel?

  3. Spooky spooky! With pictures to prove it! I'm glad you made it back in one piece! I am so very much enjoying your pictures and the description of the scenery and your trip. You could make it into a book and make a bizillion dollars.

  4. There is something malignant in the shadows of Yakutat, perhaps mortal. At the Loran towers, heard a shot one night and went to look, silhouetted in the transmitter space doorway. This was in 1978, and I was painted by what I later learned was a laser sight. I would never willingly go back there.