Jan 7, 2012 Point Baker

We’re stormbound again today in Point Baker!  This is not ideal given that we’re anxious to knock some more miles off of our trip and get across Sumner Strait to begin our journey through the Rocky Pass.  We must be patient, though, as we await a weather window.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the day cozily cooped up on the boat, the wind howling outside.  I roused from my woolen nest as Pete started the fire that would keep us warm the whole day.  Water was set to boil on the stovetop and our remaining Hempler smoked bacon and eggs on the breakfast menu.  In times like these, a hearty breakfast is called for.  I finished the last of my postcards to friends and family, making three trips to the toasty post office a few hundred feet down the dock.  Each trip was an excuse for some fresh air and a visit with Darlene, the very sweet postmistress, who I had met last summer.  Darlene has lived here her whole life and has one of the best, and one of the few, jobs in town,” as master of her post office domain.  We got to talking and she expressed her disapproval of the mismanaged bear hunting, the trophy hunting charter operations that bring clients to Point Baker and kill mama bears with disregard for their orphaned cubs.  Darlene says that the locals no longer see the black bears on the adjacent flats in the spring like they used to.

I have an affinity for small town post offices, which usually have strong personalities, and don’t mind lingering in them.  The Point B floating outpost lured me in with folk music, warmth and a friendly postmaster.  I was surprised to learn that it’s officially open four days a week, 8-5.  Although the mail plane is scheduled to come those four days, winter storms get in the way.  For such an isolated community, even theoretical mail delivery that often is pretty good service!  The locals are able to order their groceries from Ketchikan supermarkets for a fee.  Darlene’s  recently been bombarded with major Amazon orders, the locals taking advantage of this newfound good deal.

After days tied up to a dock, especially under these foul, stormy conditions, it’s somehow reassuring to see other signs of life—a boat’s billowing wood smoke, a house or two along the shore sending up smoke of their own and the soft light at the end of the dock emanating from the small but mighty post office.  These small Alaskan communities can feel like ghost towns during the winter, businesses closed down and people all but absent.  I chuckled when a quarter of the town’s supposed winter population (20 people) phantasmically    appeared all at once as I arrived back at the boat after a jaunt down to the post office, some of them in boats, others walking the dock.

Keeping us company this afternoon was the local radio station out of Petersburg broadcasting NPR.  We tuned in at just the right time to hear A Prairie Home Companion.  As forecasted, the winds kicked up in the early afternoon and built in intensity, some big gusts in the evening causing the boat to heel quite a bit.  Being tied up to the dock in these conditions, instead of swinging around at anchor, surely offers some peace of mind!

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