summer trip + cabin fever on etolin island
Updated: Aug 18
2023 summer trip was wonderful of course. this place continues to blow me away every time i am there and i would imagine it will just continue to do so. it was mostly a solo trip for me although my family initially came out with me and stayed a few days. then my daughter came out with the neighbor for few days another time. i accomplished my goals and then some. the previous owner gayle also came out and we had so much fun and great conversations. wrangell being a small town i knew who gayle was but i didn't really know her personally until now. i was so glad she made it out for a visit. i was there for the month of june and flew back to montana on the 4th of july. first project up on the list as painting the outhouse.
here is a before shot. that's my mom helping me prep the outhouse ~ isn't she cute? we have done many paint jobs over the years and she always out-preps me. this project was no exception. i worked on prepping the outside. we listened to some robin rose bennet podcasts while working on this.
ta ~ da the outhouse is done. next up was painting the outside of the cabin. the cabin is small so i figured i could tackle this project in a few days and june's weather near wrangell usually has some nice weather breaks. late june was right on track we had four really nice days in a row and it happened.
here is the cabin right before i dove into painting. the prep wasn't too bad. i borrowed some scrapers from my parents, they were really nice ones. heavy-duty scrapers. i also brushed the cabin really well with like a commercial fishing deck brush.
and there she is..... at first i wasn't sure if i liked the color but i think that was because painting it was so much work. the thought of redoing it was making my head spin and it totally grew on me after only one day. i love the color ~ it matches the sky and the ocean it's what i was going for. it is nice also that the roof is brown, a lot of colors go well with a brown roof. i want to paint my house in montana as well but it has a red roof so the color options just aren't there. i painted most of this by myself however one of the days my daughter was out we painted together and it was really nice. we listened to several morbid podcast episodes and talked a lot about wrangell.
i did some harvesting as far as my business is concerned. one thing i like to make while in alaska is plantain-infused avocado oil. the wild violet + alaska plantain whipped tallow body butter is such a nice offering. gentle and nourishing to the skin and an excellent choice for folks with sensitivities. so meet alaska plantain ~ plantago macrocarpa.
i have several devil's club offerings in the shop ~ a salve, body oil, and tincture. i also decided to harvest some extra to sell just as dried herb. this went well and i sold out quickly. i am hoping to write up a blog post all about devil's club in the future. so for now i will just say this plant is amazing and very protective of itself. if there is a plant that can teach us about boundaries ~ this is it. devil's club botanical name is oplopanax horridus.
the previous owners had left a chainsaw-milled spruce slab and i decided to make an island for the kitchen out of it. this only came together with the help from my neighbor frank, he helped me design it, plus i used his tools. this is right before i started sanding the top.
gayle's visit at the end of my stay was really the cherry on top. we had so much fun and incredible conversations. i learned a ton about how things happened at the cabin, why things are a certain way, and different things that changed over the years. they bought the property in 83' so this really took a lifetime to create. i am humbled and honored to be the next to enjoy this place. i still don't think i can fully fathom the level of energy that harvey and gayle put into this place. we had fabulous meals on the porch, and zipped around in her skiff. she showed me several places nearby that are fabulous for exploring. we stopped off on islands of cedar groves, trout fished, and visited "old town"
old town is the site of the native village referred to as "kaats'litaan" which roughly translates to willow town. i can see it across the strait from my cabin. not much remains today just barely a totem pole is left. it is only still there because a tree grew up in between it splitting the totem is half and keeping it upright. the natives left old town sometime in the 1800s it was probably a slow progression. the last baby born in old town was in 1800.
the rainforest of southeast alaska reclaims in a hurry. so like i said not much of the village still remains but the land remembers and just being present on the land there was very special to me. there are rock piles where they rested their canoes still left and an insane nettle patch. many natives were forcibly removed from their land and to literally be across the strait from my ancestral lands is something i can't really explain. it is a rare thing and i feel privileged to be able to experience it.
the view from old town. you can see some of the rock piles for resting the canoes against. these mountains are on etolin island and they are called the three sisters.
the tree keeping the last totem upright.
i didn't know this totem was there gayle pointed it out to me. my mom had told me when she first went to old town in 76' she could barely make out a totem pole and thanks to that tree it's still there.
another canoe rock pile. this is looking south towards "thoms place" some folks say old town was a perfect location for a village because you could really see if someone was coming up or down the strait. it is also on the sunny side of the island. the gardens at old town were amazing and they would trade all the way down the california coast. the "tlingit potato" has a fascinating origin story these potatoes have been genetically tested and they are not related to european cultivars. tlingit oral histories indicate that the potatoes predate colonists.
i worked on seine boats in high school so seeing them always makes me smile. this was taken while exploring a "village island" with gayle and her dog "hyder" i especially love the old wooden seiners.
gayle also shared her beach asparagus spot with me. we steamed it for about 10 minutes and covered it in butter and pepper. beach asparagus does not need salt.
and this happened too ~ trout fishing. saltwater trout fishing. after gayle left i had a few days to contemplate my time here, and focus on my goals for more time spent at the cabin. and finally closing the place up and preparing to return to montana.
this is my skiff and it's how i get back and forth from the cabin to my parents' house. my parents' house is 10 miles away on a different island and a world away really. behind me is etolin island and this body of water i am in is called zimovia strait. so i was back in wrangell and so were several of my cousins
what a trip.....i enjoyed every moment even the challenging parts. i am looking forward to more time there. happy summering to you all