From Thorne Arm to Icehouse Cove, and Everything in Between

We decided to go on a trip to see an old mine, lighthouse, and homestead, with a few stops in between of course. Now, we have found by experience that not everything goes as planned, which in this case didn’t disappoint, now here is how our first trip of the winter went.


Sunrise on the Narrows

Sunrise on the Narrows



Putting the Skiff in the water in Thorne Bay


Day 1. We planned on heading out a couple weeks ago and were all ready to go until the night before when we realized we had forgotten dentist appointments the next day. We postponed until the next week, we left in the early morning of  Friday January 20th, it was looking to be a absolutely beautiful day, starting with a spectacular sunrise as we made our way down the Tongass Narrows. Our first stop was the fuel dock; otherwise we wouldn’t have been heading anywhere. As soon as we had a full tank we headed south to Thorne Arm, where the remnants of an old gold mine were still to be found. Dad had visited the mine some twenty five years ago with his grandfather, they had found a narrow gauge locomotive rusting away in the woods. We were excited to retrace their steps and to see how much everything had changed. After securing the boat to the mooring buoy, we quickly put together the port-a-boat, but our hopes were almost dashed when the outboard refused to start for the better part of ten minutes. Imagine our relief when it sputtered to life! We quickly hopped in and sped toward the beach, as soon as the skiff scraped bottom the little kids were out and running around and climbing the rocks. We meandered our way looking carefully for any evidence of the mine, we found some cabins that had been built more recently near a pile of tailings, we followed a trail up into the woods and found the mine shaft opening, it was mostly collapsed with just a small opening, we peered through it and found long icicles hanging from the ceiling. We also found a couple of old barrels, train tracks that had been pulled up and thrown into a pile, a hit and miss engine overgrown with grass and weeds, and pilings all aloThe Opening To The Mine Shaft ng the shore and into the woods. We looked around quite a bit (not quite sure where it was) for the locomotive but were unsuccessful, we were rapidly running
out of daylight so had to make our way back to the boat. That night as we ate dinner we discussed the possibilities of where we could look, sadly we were pressed for time with an approaching storm that was due to hit in the next few days, we were only able to stay that one day. We decided as soon as we had the time we were going to come back and do some more exploring. Before we headed in for the night we baited and set our crab pot near the boat, hoping to have some fresh crab the next day.



The Water Frozen Around Us

Day 2. We awoke early to find that during the night the water had frozen over, there was about an eighth of an inch of ice surrounding us and a little way down the shore. We warmed the engine before pulling the line attached to the mooring buoy and crunched our way through the ice to open water. We picked up our crab pot on our way out, finding four large crabs sitting inside, we started some sea water to boil then started cleaning them for the pot. Our next stop was Ryus Bay, where there was an old run down homestead, this was to be our second visit to this particular spot and were excited to return! The trip there was a little rough, upon arriving and dropping the anchor we once again hopped into the skiff and made our way (very warily and with a tight grip on the outboard, with our last visit forefront in our minds) to the rocky shore, after securing the skiff we made our way down the beach, watching out for Moon Snail shells among the rocks. We found the large concrete disks lying on the shore in even more disrepair then the last time we had been here, we still haven’t quite figured out what they had been used for. As we walked up the creek to the fallen chimney we found millions of dead krill laying in clumps in the creek and washed up on the beach, it wasn’t until we returned to Ketchikan that we found out what they were. We explored farther then we had last time, finding an ALS_1103overgrown board walk leading to a field in the woods, also the axles to a truck and lots of chicken wire. After spending some time walking around we headed back to the boat, we set out shrimp and crab pots again before turning in for the night.


Day 3.  The next morning we found no change in the wind, which was still blowing from the North East, we had been hoping (from listening to the weather station) that the wind would change to the South East. Upon finding it not so we were all quite disappointed, for with the wind unchanged as it was we would be unable to go and visit the lighthouse on Mary Island, which was the highlight of our trip. So we went and pulled our traps, finding one female crab full of eggs which we set loose, and about twenty shrimp all too small to eat, we once again set them all free. We pulled anchor and set out, not sure yet where we were going, as we looked at the charts we saw a bay that was quite near that looked like it would be  protected from the wind and waves, and it was a place that Dad had been wanting to visit. We made our way there, spraying sea water as we headed into the wind, soon reaching the opening to the inlet. We motored in to find that it was little better in there, so we turned around and decided that we were going to head to Icehouse Cove for the night. A place that every time we visited was a pleasant place to stay. As we passed Village Island, one of our favorite places and at the top of our list to revisit, we all waved and once again said goodbye as we found the anchorage was to rough to moor in. The next couple of hours were fighting against the wind as we made our way North once again. It had been a long day by the time we reached calmer waters and motored into a perfectly calm and glassy Icehouse Cove. This place was given it’s name for the lake that was near by, it had been used to cut blocks of ice, which were then hauled to Ketchikan an hour away. As soon as we were tied up to the mooring buoy we once again hopped into our skiff (which we had been pulling behind us for the duration of our trip) and went to set our shrimp pot in a promising spot nearby. That night we had a barbecue, we sat outside on deck and laughed and talked about the places we had just visited, making plans for if we went back._PAS9291


Day 4. We pulled our shrimp trap the next morning to once again find the catch to small to eat, throwing them back into the water we went back to the boat to pick up the others and go explore. We hiked up to the lake (about fifty feet from shore) to see what it was like, we found it frozen over, not really strong enough to hold any of us except for in a few places. We wandered around a little exploring the woods around the lake, stalling for time before we had to head back to town. But we soon ran out of things to do, so climbing back into the skiff we went back to the boat to head home. The rain hit as we were leaving the cove, thankful for the rain fall to wash all the salt off the boat, because the dock had no running water. We made it back to the dock about midday on Monday January 23rd, as soon as we reached home we sat down and started looking for another weather window to take the boat out again and find a new place to explore!




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