Alaska Marine Highway Adventures Await: 2015’s far-flung ferry ride

Today is Thursday, better known as “Book Day.”

It’s how I get through my week. There’s “Me Monday,” “Magazine Wednesday,” and “Freelance Friday.” I thrive on structure, and as a journalist who works from home with distractions at my elbow (or under my feet, ahem, AK Dogs), a schedule like mine is often the best fit.

But back to Book Day Thursday.

A new year is on my tail, and 2015 looks to be a fantastic opportunity for AKontheGO, namely in the form of Alaska On the Go: Exploring the Marine Highway System with children, the second book in my now-series of Alaska family travel guides. Excited? Me, too! While AK Dad, Kid, and I have ridden the ferry miles and miles, and slept umpteen nights in AMHS staterooms, we still have a few routes left to complete.


The Alaska Marine Highway System's Southwest route. We're on it. [image AMHS]

The Alaska Marine Highway System’s Southwest route. We’re on it. [image AMHS]

Like the Aleutian Islands Chain. Yes, THAT Aleutian Chain. Dutch Harbor/Unalaska, places of fishing lore, wild sea creatures, and notorious weather, that place. We’re going there. On the ferry. In June.


The MV Tustamena, or "Trusty Tusty" will be our vessel. [image Unalaska/Dutch CVB]

The MV Tustumena, or “Trusty Tusty” will be our vessel. [image Unalaska/Dutch CVB]

Why? It’s as Alaskan as a destination could be, and I owe my readers at least one wild, rugged place where they can say “I went THERE with my kids, and it was great,” because I know it will be.

On June 2, we’ll sail from Homer at 10:30 p.m., cross a whole lot of open water in the Gulf of Alaska, and stop by Kodiak on our way across more open water to the “official” beginning of the Chain. We’ll visit the communities of Chignik, Sand Point, King Cove, Cold Bay, False Pass, Akutan, and finally, our arrival city of Dutch Harbor/Unalaska on June 6 at 6 a.m. Whew.

The Port of Dutch Harbor and the city of Unalaska are home to 4,700 year-round residents, but almost twice that in seasonal workers, most of whom are there for the fishing and crabbing industry. You know, the Deadliest Catch guys. It’s famous, and sometimes infamous, but so, so much more than reality television.


The Port of Dutch Harbor. [image courtesy Unalaska/Dutch Harbor CVB]

The Port of Dutch Harbor. [image courtesy Unalaska/Dutch Harbor CVB]

The Aleutian Chain, in fact, boasts: 

– A rich cultural heritage in the 10,000-year history of the Unagan (Aleut) people, whose traditions I look forward to experiencing in a very hands-on way.

– Tragic, yet fascinating history of WWII, a Japanese occupation, and the removal of hundreds of Native Alaskans from their homes during the conflict.

– Rugged, scenic, wild places with hikes of significant adventure and scope, even for kids. I cannot wait to walk the pathways created by both nature and humans.

– Unexpected wildlife, including a small herd of wild horses. Wait, what? Horses? Indeed. I’ve heard stories of how these equine residents manage to survive, or even thrive, on this barren area near Unalaska, but I’ll also be finding out why.

The wild horses of Summer's Bay. [image Unalaska/Dutch CVB]

The wild horses of Summer’s Bay. [image Unalaska/Dutch CVB]

It may be windswept and wild, but I’m also betting it’s pretty wonderful, too.

In six months, we’ll find out.


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