Four months of planning, preparation, and coordination, the first Resolute Lifestyle Trip was born. A week-long itinerary only available to members, as this trip was a bit extreme and very remote. The route would take us from Juneau, Alaska through Port Alexander, then on to the southern tip of Kuiu Island at Cape Decision Lighthouse before ending in Wrangell. The itinerary was meant to be a once in a lifetime adventure, taking us through the heart of Southeast Alaska, and it did not disappoint!
Let’s break it down!
Day 1 – Adios, Juneau!
Departing Juneau on a privately charted float plane through Ward Air, we left behind a dreary and overcast city. Dry bags packed with rain gear, planned meals, cameras, merchandise, and the scrubbiest clothes for reality, we headed south on an hour and a half flight that took us across Admiralty Island before skirting Baranof Island and Chatham Strait. As soon as we hit the half way mark, around Kake, Alaska, the sky broke and our jaws dropped. All around the bluest blues, and greenest greens came pouring through our tiny windows. It was a dream, whales basking in the sun at the surface, fishing vessels working hard and dragging nets full of salmon, waterfalls spilling over rocky cliffs, and snowcapped mountains teasing us with their beauty. We could not have asked for a better flight! Circling around Port Alexander alerting the tiny fishing village of our arrival, we landed and headed straight for the cabin! A small one bedroom house right on the beach where we would call home for the next two nights. We settled in easily, then took off with haste to The Point, near the mouth of the bay to catch some much-needed rays, wine, and views! Hours passed as we unwound from our busy lives and mentally prepared for the journey ahead.
We eventually wandered, beach combed, and took the long way back to the best party house in Port Alexander, the Geoffrions! They have a magic deck that heats up in the sun like I’ve never known, so of course it didn’t take long for our pale skin to burn, but it was accepted with open arms since this summer (2017) has been a wet one! By evening we paddled home to prepare dinner and pour ourselves some gin and tonics. Did I mention we were sponsored by Amalga Distillery?! We started the generator, pulled out the hide-a-bed, got the popcorn poppin’, and started an old school VHS film no one had ever seen. It was pure bliss! Of course, we didn’t finish the movie, everyone passed out mid-way, that salty coastal air really puts you in a slumber!
Day 2 - Pour the tea, and grab the binoculars!
Waking up to the sun shining into our windows, we poured tea, made pancakes with freshly picked blueberries and salmonberries, and set out to explore! First stop? The boat graveyard! Ships, fishing vessels, and skiffs all washed ashore by sailors no longer needing their crafts. The oldest is a wooden Navy ship beached sometime in the 40’s with nail heads minted with the Navy Seal. We strolled along the back bay trying our best to not to drink the best tasting gin this side of the Mexican border while we photographed it, practicing our skills for our upcoming catalog shoot that was set for Cape Decision Lighthouse. The tide lured us back to our cabin for lunch, which we scrambled together in order to catch our ride outside the bay to harvest bull kelp. Jackie, one of our travelers, has been dreaming of making a batch of homemade kelp salsa ever since I introduced her to it back in 2015.
Quick tip for harvesting kelp; May and June are best as that’s when the new blooms sprout, always look for younger, bright colored kelp that is attached to the sea floor. Never harvest kelp that is free floating, has spots, or is big and super dark, these are all signs of older kelp and the best tasting is the young, fresh kelp! To harvest, go at a lower tide, and go with a team! It takes one person to row the boat in the kelp beds, while the other pulls the kelp up, slices as low as they can with a knife, then cuts the bulb off. You’re left with the middle section, and that’s the gold! Fill a bucket with sea water for the kelp which will keep for a few hours. Here is the recipe we used!
We let our salsa cool on the wood stove and headed back out to The Point for a bonfire, beach combing session, and another little photoshoot because the sunset was so beautiful! Wearing some favorite pieces we explored the wildflower covered rocks. I love this part of Southeast Alaska because the rocks are so rough and jagged, yet the tallest ones can have quite a bit of vegetation on their tops making them appear like little islands. Once you get on top of them you'll find even more wildflowers and bits of halibut ears from the birds.
Day 3 - Let the shutdown begin!
In these parts of the world, saltwater and winter are any structure’s worst nightmare! And recently the bears have been struggling to go into hibernation, terrorizing towns throughout Southeast Alaska, Port Alexander being no exception. Climate change anyone? We spent the entire morning draining water lines, stocking wood, and boarding up windows and doors in order to protect the cabin from the elements and brown bears. By noon we were ready to board our private charter on the Moontrapper, with one of my favorite captains, Glen Smith accompanied by my long-time neighbor and friend, Justin Mulligan. Crossing Chatham Strait is always a challenge, battling tides, winds, and swells coming off the outside water can be great cause for an uneasy trip. Luckily, we were blessed with beautiful waters, whales flapping their flukes, and good laughs along the way. Although the crossing is only 22 miles, it took over an hour to set sight on Cape Decision Lighthouse. But once we rounded the southern tip of Kuiu Island, I felt an instant relief and welcoming. I freaking love this place. Hundreds of people pass by on fishing vessels, sail boats, and cruise ships, yet very few actually get to set foot near its rocky and jagged shoreline. Incredibly difficult to access, and always challenging tides, currents, winds, and luck, the biggest challenge of the entire trip is getting onto the island itself.
As luck would have it, the Lighthouse had acquired a Dory row boat just days before in an epic journey that took three men, two kayaks, and that wooden row boat down from Kake, Alaska. An 80+ mile expedition, brave souls indeed! Steve Lanwermeyer, a board member of the Cape Decision Lighthouse Society, rowed off the rocky cliffs to escort us, our bags, and our smiles off the Moontrapper, and to the Lighthouse. I held my breath as the girls leaped off the boat and onto the rocks, praying that no one would go for a dip in these unforgiving waters!
Once again, we settled easily into one of five rooms within Cape Decision Lighthouse. Poured ourselves a drink, and explored! The further you go from the main living quarters the more you see the Lighthouse’s need of restoration. Walls are coated with layers of paint from decades past hanging helplessly to the art deco styled cement walls. Not wasting any time, we went straight to the top! The views are incredible, stretching over such a vast and wild corner of the world, salt air in our hair, and sea lions barking off in the distance. Yes, we’re here, we made it. We let it sink in, and it felt so good.
Later we met with the president of the Board, Chris Brooks, who gave us the grand tour. Showing us projects that were currently underway and meeting the other nine volunteers who had traveled from Juneau, Alaska, Tacoma, Washington, and Atlanta, Georgia. We were quickly put into the cooking and cleaning rotation and became responsible for that night’s dinner, the following days breakfast, and lunch. No problem, we got this! Butternut Squash and black bean enchiladas anyone?! Um yes and yes, and more yes.
After dinner comes the ceremonial “White Board Session” where the board members and volunteers outline progress on current projects and plan the next day’s tasks. We sat back and observed, and also in shock at the work that was being completed at a rate that was hard to imagine. Projects included a platform for tents to provide additional space for future guests, a staircase and planked boards over an extremely muddy trail, a stone path, painting, burning, deep cleaning, and so much more. We literally walked into Cape Decision Boot Camp and I couldn’t have been more excited. I specifically remember Jackie asking, “So you’re really going to put us to work eh?” Haha, yes ma’am!
Day 4 - Work like dogs, act like cats
Scraping the lead paint off the interior bedroom doors and hallway was no small feat. Perhaps the best part about Cape Decision is all the gear, ready and equipped to handle all work loads. The girls and I found some coveralls and went to work. Amanda saddled up, busted ass, and deep cleaned the bathroom and kitchen saying she couldn’t stand to stay here until it was spotless. Clean away my queen, clean away.
After work we buckled down, made a bitchin’ lunch, then relaxed our afternoon away exploring all the different rooms of the Lighthouse. Rooms and nooks like the generator room, the taint, turtle head and more. This was my fourth time to the Cape, so naturally I’ve worked up a couple of favorite spots. Obviously, the cupola is my favorite, but the roof will do when you need to spread out, kick back, and watch the sea lions huff and hunt. It’s almost impossible to not see humpback whales passing by either. This junction of the Inside Passage is incredibly entertaining, it’s a major cross road for marine highways, so much traffic, wildlife, and weather watching! There were a few times I got out onto the roof in time for a cruise ship to pass, cameras flashing while I photo bombed their images with my killer poses. There is a split second you can catch a wifi signal when a ship passes too, so it pays to bring your cell phone for an update to the outside world.
Day 5 - Stickering lumber, an all hands-on deck operation, no doubt!
Let’s talk history; Cape Decision Lighthouse, like many lighthouses in Alaska, were once operated by the US Coast Guard, and in 1989 a major fire broke out when a burn barrel fire lost control and burned and charred the boat house and ramp connecting the helipad and hoist creating an incredibly instable gangway. The Coast Guard has since dropped stacks of lumber off at the Lighthouse via helicopter, leaving it to the elements. The team spent several hours rearranging a portion of the stacks, allowing air-gaps for drainage for all the rainfall. Back breaking work, the water-logged lumber was rearranged to help protect it so that it could be used for future projects. A restoration project to save the wood, a hot commodity in these parts!
Thankfully Amanda had whipped up a batch of cookies for an afternoon treat and was good to us and only baked half of it so we could snack on the dough! Sneaking off to one of our spots for a bit of good-timing and whale watching, we took a break in the sun. Is this real life?
Day 6 – Friday photoshoot and banquet
After putting in a few days’ work at the lighthouse, we felt good enough to start shooting! I hand selected items a few months prior specifically for this location and trip. I wanted a romantic feel, mixing luxury with the rugged nature of the place. A true juxtaposition, and a real representation of an Alaskan woman. Beautifully made and standing strong amidst the storms and chaos.
There were two other women at the Lighthouse aside from us, so they had a little fun too! Showing the camera their favorite spots, Chris Bachman a volunteer from Tacoma, and Michael Kohan, Vice President of the Board and from Juneau, lead us on a little photo journey becoming the ultimate Resolute Babes.
As tradition would hold, the last evening at the Lighthouse comes the banquet! Saving the finest foods and beverages for last, and a special outfit, we gathered for live music… just kidding haha. On the menu were hot dogs, chips, granola bars, and any scrap food that couldn’t be packed out. Same went for alcohol! Bartender, pour us another tequila sunrise in our coffee mugs! And make it quick, Amanda is trying to wash them so she can shut the kitchen down!
Dinner broke and we went to work as the tides were dictating tomorrow’s departure! In these waters, tides rule. Accessing the island at high tide is best, unfortunately that was either at 6am or 6pm, and our marine radio had been sending warnings of an upcoming storm with deep swells. Cleaning, storing, pulling the Dory up and under the helipad for winter storage, capping the chimney, oiling tools, stacking wood, and draining water lines, we hit our beds with concern. There was a chance that we would have to hike out to a landing area several miles northeast to an alternate location that we could be picked up if the current was too strong near our pick-up point. The biggest concern was carrying gear, a serious discussion about bags that may have to be left behind took place as we shoved everything into dry bags.
Day 7 - Bust ass, wake up before the sun, and prepare for a knee-deep muddy hike through the woods, or bust.
Coffee poured, daylight began and by 5am we had called it. The water was calm enough near the mouth of the gut, our only loading and access point. No hike. Eric, our jet boat Captain from Breakaway Adventures out of Wrangell, met us with ease. Again, unbelievable luck. A four-hour jet boat ride with a fuel stop in Port Protection on Prince of Whales, was a great way to spend our morning. Jackie sat co-pilot grinning the entire time while the rest of us dozed off between wave sets. By noon we had set foot in Wrangell, a busy little community of 1,800 people. 4G!! Quick, everyone, call EVERYONE! We smashed it!
The trip wound down, hugs, emails, facebook friend requests, and business cards traded, we parted ways with full hearts and fresh outlooks. That feeling there, is perhaps why I love that region of Southeast Alaska most, the terrain and seas can be merciless. Forcing you to your independence and wit, working with your hands, and using what you have to make do. It is enough because it has to be enough, and that is the lesson.
If you’re interested in traveling with us on our next adventure be sure to subscribe to our email list for details on upcoming adventures! The next tentative trip will take place in spring 2018, an international destination to pick up and collect trash in our oceans while we learn to sail and become accredited with the American Sailing Association. This is a week-long voyage!
And once again, thank you to all the #ResoluteBabes out there who purchase items from our Boutique to help support trips and projects such as this, it truly means the world and you’re making our planet brighter and more stylish with every purchase, thank you in every way possible! This trip is because of your support, you are all amazing!
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A special thank you to all the #ResoluteBabes out there for supporting this adventure through your purchases of apparel, you helped restore a lighthouse!
Until Next Time,
More About Cape Decision and the Lighthouse
Charting the waters of Southeast Alaska in 1793 was no small task, and when Captain George Vancouver sailed his way through the Inside Passage, he had arrived at the “Decision” that he had explored farther north than the earlier Spanish explorers who had claimed the islands just south of the Cape. Evidence of his exploration is apparent in the names north of Cape Decision, as he named inlets, bays, straits, coves, passages, and more.
Coronation Island Ghost Story
With every lighthouse, comes a horror story. Hence the reason for it being there, to light the way when the storms and gales become unforgiving and swallow ships whole. The Star of Bengal is such a story, and there have been many eerie tales of lighthouse goers hearing voices, seeing faces, and feeling the presence of lost souls. In 1908, not only was gold pouring out of the mountains, but fish were flowing from the seas. Steamships making the voyage from San Francisco to Juneau in the spring, and returning in the fall loaded down with canned salmon and workers headed home to their families. The Star of Bengal was headed south, laden with over 50,000 pounds of canned fish, 111 cannery workers, and 20 crew. As with any sailing ship of that era, it had to be towed out to bigger water before the ship could set canvas and catch wind.
Leaving Wrangell, Alaska with an easterly breeze and mild weather, the crew felt confident in their long voyage south. A few hours into tow, a shift in the weather caused the sailors to unnerve. By nightfall, and just as they were rounding the corner near Cape Decision, the heavy winds and swells soon turned into a ruthless storm forcing the ship to cut ties with the two tow boats. Dragging anchor, the ship slowly rolled and slammed its haul against the waves towards Coronation Island’s rocky shore. The rocks, blacker than the night pierced out of the icy water. With over 100 Chinese workers below deck, huddled and afraid, the crew boarded a small life boat and watched the ship crush and bust into three pieces before shattering on the rocks and becoming consumed by the towering swells. All 111 workers died, yet the captain and some of his crew fought the unsympathetic and relentless waves through the darkness, hardly making it to shore.
For the next several days, body parts lay strewn across the rocks. Accounts of decapitated torsos knotted together and drifting in the tides were reported. Captain Nicholas Wagner’s reputation was ruined, moving back to New York where he was haunted by the memories of such a disaster. There is still slight evidence of the wreckage on the southern side of Coronation Island where divers tell accounts of ill-feelings at the site, dubbing it as haunted waters.
The last lighthouse built in all of Alaska, Cape Decision was appropriated federal funds for its construction and was completed in 1932. The light was manned until 1974 when an electric diesel system replaced the light keeper. The US Coast Guard watched over it until 1997 when the Cape Decision Lighthouse Society took over stewardship. In 2005 it was added to the Registry of Historic Places.
Today, volunteers come from all over the country to work and enjoy this special place. Cape Decision represents more than just a light, it’s a crossroads for people to connect, touch base with reality, to be grateful for the resources given, and to experience such bounty in wildlife and weather.
If you’re interested in donating to Cape Decision, or wish to volunteer, please do so here! They have a huge list of ongoing projects that could use your help! Donate today, to keep the light glowing for tomorrow.
2017 – 2018 Project Priorities
- Address pillars on both sides of lighthouse main entry stairs
- Build stairs up Huckleberry Hill
- Boathouse Foundation
- Build railing across flagpole bridge/cupola
- Repower Helga: New main, new radio, new GPS/sounder, outfitted
- Improve access from Gut to lighthouse
- Paint the Tower
5-year project goals
- Shelter at Landing
- Rebuild Boathouse
- Implement Tram Access Plan
- Dial In Potable Water System
- Engine Room Windows
- Major Trail Repairs
10-year project goals
- McArthur Trail Construction
- Cell Tower
- Restore Cupola