Sunday, May 31, 2015

Second Impressions

The Fish Trail
Another day at Yakutat revealed more secrets found in this unique location.  After resting up from our overnight excursion, we were off with the bikes to ride the historic “Fish Trail,” an 11-mile overland route built in 1903 by Yakutat and the Southern Railroad, which ran between the Situk River fishery and the Yakutat Cannery.  
The Fish Train
The overland route was much safer than the hazardous ocean route and helped enhance Yakutat’s economy for many years.  The railroad’s first engine was steam powered and had provided service in New York City before arriving in Yakutat.  It was replaced by a second engine that consumed two tons of coal every round trip, necessitating replacement.  A new and improved diesel engine was used from 1949 until 1969.  Fish today is normally frozen or processed for packaging rather than canned, greatly reducing the need for canneries.  Yakutat no longer has a cannery but does have a fish processing plant, a source of employment for its residents along with fishing lodges and other tourist related jobs.  
Fish Train Steam Engine
We turned off the Fish Trail onto Airport Road and then followed a graveled side road leading out to Cannon Beach along Tawah Creek through beautiful marsh land.  
Beautiful Marsh for Nesting Birds
The area is abundant with numerous bird species and other seasonal wildlife such as wolves, coyote, lynx, and bear.  Over a bridge and through the woods, we arrived at Cannon Beach where we hoped to find the cannon placed there during WWII.  A local who happened to be at the beach pointed us in the right direction, behind some trees on the bluff.  
Cannon Emplacement at Cannon Beach, Yakutat
As with most historic cannon sites, the nose of the gun has been removed and lies nearby in the bushes, still impressive nevertheless.  
Cannon Beach
Even more interesting is the WWII Landing Craft found at the park just upland from the beach.  
WWII Landing Craft
To our astonishment the craft is in surprisingly good shape, it still contains the big radial engine with spark plugs, hoses, and wiring.  We found zincs still attached to the tracks.  It was a timely find for Leonard who has been reading a book titled, “Voices of the Pacific” by Adam Makos detailing personal stories from WWII.  
Landing Craft Tracks
We bicycled back to Airport Road and continued southwest to the old WWII Hanger that still remains at the airport.  Eleven thousand solders were once stationed at Yakutat which is how the airport came to be built in this remote location.  
Landing Craft with Radial Engine
The Airfield was constructed in 1940 as part of the long-range defense program for Alaska during the Aleutian Campaign.  
WWII Hanger
A few locals are currently putting together information and collecting artifacts to start a small museum in the hanger.  Our day was slipping by and it was already late afternoon.  We wanted to get back in time to attend a play being held at the school.  With weary legs we made our way back to the marina, having completed a 20-mile round trip bike ride.  Several of the locals had seen us out biking, many of whom we had gotten to know.  Thankfully, one of them gave us a ride to the play so we didn’t have to bike to and from town again.  An unexpected event in Yakutat, the Macbeth Shakespeare Play turned out to be excellent, directed by David Edgecombe and his group out of Anchorage.  We never would have guessed in a million years that we would be seeing a Shakespeare play in the wilds of Yakutat.

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