Tenakee travels: A tribute to our sister

Long ago, residents laid dynamite to the pool to enlarge it

Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Our sister community, Tenakee, is a fascinating place.

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A couple of days ago, my son Allan saw a big brown bear up close on Tenakee's main street. This is a common occurrence. In contrast, we have more of the black bears around Juneau. The brown bear is a much more scary and menacing sight.

Three husky dogs barked and nipped in the bear's direction to frighten him away. When Allan walked about a mile to where he was staying, the biggest Husky, a real giant named Bowser, marched ahead for some of the way as a special sentinel and guard, without being asked.

Another wonder is the hot springs. It is a cleft in the rock about 20 feet above the high tide mark. About six can fit in. The water will come up to the chin of a tall person. It is comfortably hot. It runs constantly coming up from the bowels of the earth in a stream of bubbles at the speed of open taps in your bathroom sink.

What a glorious feeling when you rinse with a bucket of hot water, than soap up, then rinse again and hop in. And it is free. There is no municipal charge that might be customary in a larger community such as Juneau.

You can understand why the miners from the Klondike fields loved this place, to spend the winter in bliss, to avoid minus 50 below and to return rejuvenated to wash out their pile of tailings if they were lucky.

It wasn't always peaceful at the hot springs. Long ago, some of Tenakee's citizens wanted to enlarge the size of the pool They laid dynamite and blew it up. To their consternation, the flow stopped for three days. Then the Lord answered their prayers, and the water came again. They were chastened in the biblical sense.

Sometimes we have to be satisfied with the way things are or have become.

Tenakee also has a fine new library and elementary school building.

Thanks to all my readers who have shared "On the Waterfront" with me. I hope to write again in the spring, when the pussy willows start to bud along Gold Creek.

• Lifelong Alaskan Elton Engstrom is a retired fish buyer, lawyer and legislator (1964-70) who lives in Juneau.

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