Alaskan Cabin Comforts
At the southernmost tip of Alaska's Panhandle, Misty Fjords National Monument remains one of the state's little known jewels, whose 2.3 million acres—all but 152,000 of them designated wilderness—encompass old-growth rain forest, granite peaks, active glaciers, rugged sea cliffs, waterfalls, mineral springs, and hanging valleys. Brown bears share forest and alpine valleys with Sitka black-tailed deer, wolves, and mountain goats, while sea lions, sea otters, seals, porpoises and whales inhabit coastal waters. All five types of Pacific salmon return to the monument's rivers and creeks and resident avian species range from bald eagles to trumpeter swans, hummingbirds, and numerous seabirds and songbirds.
Give Me Shelter
One of Alaska's wettest areas, Misty Fjords is annually drenched by more than 14 feet of rain. Still, it's an ideal escape for kayakers seeking solitude, adventure, and ruggedly beautiful terrain. Glaciers have carved numerous steep-walled fjords, up to 25 miles long, into the landscape. And 110-mile-long Behm Canal provides access to the heart of the monument and its many dramatic arms, coves, and bays.
Finding good shoreline campsites can be a challenge here because of extreme tidal fluctuations of up to 25 feet per day. Sea kayakers are therefore advised to camp in the forest, well above the high-tide line—or they can reserve space in two public-use cabins along Behm Canal (a dozen other recreational cabins are located on inland lakes). Both the Alva Bay and Winstanley Island cabins can be reached by boat or floatplane from the town of Ketchikan, 22 miles west of the monument's borders. Paddling distance from Ketchikan to Alva Bay and Winstanley is about 25 and 45 miles, respectively.
Built right along the beach, both buildings are 12-by-14-foot cedar log cabins that sleep up to six people. They're heated by wood-burning stoves and have the usual complement of table, cooking counter, shelves or cupboard space, and outhouse. Each cabin is within a day's kayaking journey of the narrow, steep-sided fjords that project, finger-like, from Behm Canal and cut, in spectacular fashion, into the rugged mountain landscape. Good coastal hiking and beach combing are also possible at the sites.
Reservations: Up to 180 days in advance
Maximum stay: 7 days
For more information: Misty Fjords National Monument, 3031 N. Tongass Ave., Ketchikan, AK 907/225-0414; for reservations, call toll free, 877/444-6777.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication