Friday, October 14, 2016

"Icy Strait Point" Excursions, History and more...

Named after the nearby Icy Strait, it is a privately owned tourist destination gem located on Chichagof Island just outside the small village of Hoonah, Alaska. The only privately owned cruise destination in Alaska, Icy Strait Point is owned by Huna Totem Corporation. Most stops are owned by the cities in which they are located. The Huna Totem Corporation is owned by approximately 1,350 Alaskan Natives with aboriginal ties to Hoonah and the Glacier Bay Area.  Many of them are of the Tlingit people.

Rapid glacial advance drove them out of Glacier Bay, after which they settled in the town of Hoonah. Oral stories are told today of the ice advancing “as fast as a dog could run”. After the ice receded, the landscape they returned to was scraped clean.

Welcome to Icy Strait Point … 

It’s 7:30 in the morning and we are at the dawning of another beautiful day. In another photo, which I will not show here, the sun is rising and reflecting on the water.

7:30 a.m. and the sun is reflecting on the water to the right of this photo
We arrived at Icy Strait Point at 9 a.m. and spent the entire day. We had to be back on board ship by 4:30 p.m. If we were viewing this scene from the air, we would see the point, where ships dock. They have built a beautiful entrance ramp giving passengers a welcome feeling when they go between the ship and the Point.

Ramp used by passengers between the ship and Icy Strait Point
This was a beautiful place. It is amazing how many hidden gems are places just waiting to be discovered.

Historically speaking…

Tlingit people settled in the vicinity of Hoonah and Icy Strait Point in the mid-1700’s.
The Northwest Trading company built the first store in 1880.
In 1887, 450 to 500 people were wintering in the village.
In 1901, the U.S. Post Office opened, and the town was renamed to Hoonah.
The packing company opened in 1912.
1914, the Hoonah Packing Company canned an amazing 2,367,020 cans of salmon.
In 1944, Hoonah village was destroyed by fire; residents made the cannery their home until it was rebuilt.
The city of Hoonah was incorporated in 1946.
The year 1953 was the last year for the Icy Strait Salmon Company to operate as a full-fledged canning operation because of poor fish runs and competition in the area.
In 1971, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act passed Congress.
In 1973, Huna Totem Corporation incorporated in November.
In 1990, Huna Totem Heritage Foundation was incorporated.
In 1996, the cannery was purchased by Huna Totem Corporation and leased to Wards Cove Packing Company for three years.
In 2003, the City of Hoonah proclaimed the Hoonah Cannery Buildings historic.
In May, 2004, the cruise ship Celebrity Mercury made the inaugural call at Icy Strait Point; 32 ships visited this year.
In 2008, a Travel to a Better World Award from the Travel Industry Association and National Geographic Traveler Magazine was awarded Icy Strait Point.
In 2012 Travel & Leisure awarded Huna Totem Corporation its Global Vision Award…
In May 2014, the ZipRider opened and eighty ships, the most to that date, visited.
In 2014 Icy Strait Point celebrated its 10th Anniversary.
In 2016 was the Grand Opening of Hoonah Cruise Ship Dock Company cruise dock, Adventure Center, and Duck Point Smokehouse.

Jumping Off Point and More…

You might say that Icy Strait Point is a jumping off point as far as shore excursions go for cruise passengers. The most well-known of these is the Zip Rider zip-line. It opened in May 2007 and measures 5,330 feet. It claims to be one of the longest and highest -- at 1,330 feet -- in North America. Eighty ships visited Icy Strait Point in 2007 when the Zip Rider opened.

Twenty-plus excursions were available, including wildlife search, whale and marine mammals cruise, expedition on ATVs, sightseeing and tribal dance, as well as fishing and many more. We chose the Forest Tram tour with a seasoned native guide. He spoke to us in his native language and then translated each sentence into English.

Forest trail on tram excursion
The tram trail was nicely paved and took us through the forest as well as along the water, where I took the following photo of one of the tours they offered.

Fishing tour boat taken from our tram tour
Bald Eagle Setting on Her Nest

This is one of my prized photos! It was next to impossible to see the Bald Eagle with the naked eye. However, the Tlingit people had a telescope set up on a tripod on the side of our paved trail. The telescope  was pointed toward the eagle setting on her nest. My height made it impossible for me to bend over and see through the telescope to view the eagle, whose nest was very high in the tree. But, I had an idea and it worked – the lens on my camera was a perfect size to hold up to the eye on the telescope. I positioned my camera up to the eye of the telescope, taking great care not to move the telescope. I pushed the shutter on my camera to take a photo, and this was the photo that appeared.

Eagle on her nest
Communicating with the Bears…

Our native tour guide talked much about the people, their history, and their connections. When they came to the land of Icy Strait Point, there were a lot of bears, and there are still a lot of bears. I will remember his telling how they, as a people, somehow communicated with the bear. They expressed feelings that they were not there to hurt the bear, but explained how they were driven from Glacier Bay and came here because they needed a place to live and take care of their people. Strange as it may seem, the bear seemed to understand. He said the bears know where they are at all times. They see bear, but they are not bothered by them. On days when tourists come in on the cruise ships, the bears are rarely seen, and do not bother nor scare the visitors who come.

The Family…

They have a complex society. Children inherit their clan through their mother and are either of the Raven or the Eagle. When a person marries, they traditionally will marry a person of the opposite clan (or moiety).

They enjoy a modern life today, but still retain strong connections to their culture and traditions, while embracing their homeland.

This building with the painting of the totems was where we exited our tram tour. The Tribal Dance Show is held in this building.

Totems painted on the building where Tribal Dance show was held
Hoonah Packing Company Cannery Buildings

This renovated cannery houses over ten Alaskan-owned shops. Selections are carefully chosen as Alaska Native art and crafts, wild Alaska salmon, local Native remedies, fashions, books and Icy Strait Point logo items. Alaskans staff the shops. Many live in nearby Hoonah and source their products locally. Entry on the street side is through double doors from a paved area.

Hoonah Packing Company Cannery Buildings overlooking the water
This packing company was built in 1912. Icy Strait Salmon Company purchased it in 1932. A fire destroyed the town on June 14, 1944, and many residents made the cannery their home while the city was rebuilt.

We purchased a ticket to ride the bus 1.5 miles to Hoonah. When the bus stopped to leave us off, the driver told us of a totem just up the street.  As we approached the building, we found this totem on the other side of the building where a Tribal House Carving Project is in process.

Totem
The man working on the Tribal House Carving Project in this building told us a short fifteen-minute story of how he met with the elders to learn the important things to include when creating the totem, which will be taken to Glacier Bay National Park upon completion. Creating a totem pole tells a detailed story of a clan or people. It requires one to gain proper knowledge and then use very involved craftsmanship to create such a piece with intricate historical value. Some of the not-so-tedious, perhaps repetitious, work may be performed by less skilled labor leaving the most important details to the skilled craftsman.

Building where Gacier Bay National Park Totem Tribal House Carving Project is being created

One of multiple Totem figures in process on this project
As we took the bus back to the Cannery complex, I quickly snapped this photo of a church up a hill on our right.

Church on our right as our bus left Hoonah
Two Eagles landed in the pines

If you can see two small white spots in the upper right pine tree, that would be the two Eagles that are sitting in the pine tree. My camera has a 5x zoom, is on full zoom, and the white spots on the Eagles are still very hard to see.  After we got back on board ship, we enjoyed watching the Eagles as they went from point A and B to another location further away.

Two Eagles in the Pine Tree
Day’s end found us enjoying dinner in one of the main dining rooms. We were then free to wander about the ship, where there were activities galore for everyone…any type of dancing you could think of, game show, showtime at the Stardust, and more. Nice, easy-listening music by a singing guitar player in the Windjammer Bar caught our attention as we strolled the inside walkway, so we sat down and listened for a good hour. Later, as we strolled back to our room, this sunset appeared through a window of the cruise ship.

10:20 p.m. sunset taken through cruise ship window
Another sunset photo opportunity presented itself just after midnight from our balcony.

Sunset photo from our balcony just after midnight
Thank you everyone for visiting and following my adventure. Feel free to make comments. In my next post, we will dock in Skagway.

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