My Commute Down Tenakee Trail

A structure I pass on my way to work.

To get from my cabin to my museum collection workspace, I take a 15-minute stroll along the only road in Tenakee Springs: a gravel trail that runs right through the heart of town along the inlet. Though I’ve now walked the trail many times, I still find something new to appreciate about it every day.

So now: imagine a soundscape of crows cawing, rumbling handcarts, and waves lapping against the shore… and we will begin your virtual tour of Tenakee, as experienced on my walks to and from work! 

In my yard is an apple tree decked out with maritime gear.

Now on the trail…

Crab pots: almost every house has a couple of these stacked outside.

We are now in the center of town! Aesthetically this part of Tenakee has changed very little since its heyday as a rowdy pioneer settlement. (Note the lack of cars. Instead people use bikes, ATVs, and carts.)

The Post Office with its lovely window boxes!  Mail is transported by seaplane, arriving at the dock next door.

Across the street a young couple is building their own cabin out of salvaged wood. (Hi Merri-Grace and Flint, if you’re reading this!)

This old building is known as the Shamrock.  Right now it’s a bakery that also sells local art.  In the past it’s been everything from a jail to a brothel to an ice cream parlor.

The “bus stop” is a drop-off point for used stuff that anyone can pick up for free, like books, clothing, or housewares.

Here is Snyder Mercantile, referred to simply as “the store” since it is the only such business in town.  The store has only had four owners since 1899, three of them from the same family.  If you’ve ever wanted to travel back in time, just step inside.  The cashiers still use a register that was made in about 1917!

Some carts have painted designs, like this two-headed llama.  Tenakee is home to a tiny but lively scene of artists, musicians, and writers.

Here is the bathhouse for the natural hot springs.  Neighbors bathe communally in gender-segregated groups.  (No clothing allowed!  That took me a while to get used to, but when in Rome…)  Inside there’s stained glass, a door handle made of antlers, and a crevice in the earth bubbling over with hot sulfuric water.  Sometimes groups of women can be found soaking in the springs while singing “The Sidewalks of New York” in full harmony.

There’s usually a dog or two hanging out between the bathhouse and store.

This is the Blue Moon Café, a local favorite usually called “Rosie’s” after the proprietor.  If you want a burger, you should order it a few days in advance and bring your own pickles and lettuce!  Inside cases of beer fill most of the space, and there’s a sign that reads “Credit will be extended to customers over 80 in the company of their grandparents.”

Old-time cabins, typical of Tenakee’s architecture.

Yes, that would be an outhouse hanging directly over the beach!  It’s behind the fire hall.

About those dogs…

Lots of beautiful flowers everywhere, wild and garden-variety!  There’s a strong culture of gardening in Tenakee, homegrown fruits and vegetables being part of the subsistence lifestyle along with hunting and fishing.

The cabin in front is a local landmark known as the Tiltin’ Hilton.  It is soon to be torn down to make way for the new residence going up behind it.

A view of Tenakee Inlet!

And at last we arrive at our destination.  This building contains the city offices, library, and community center.  My temporary workspace is set up downstairs.

And that is it!  Stay tuned for an upcoming post on my favorite (read: weirdest) items in the museum collection!

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Filed under Alaska Museum

4 responses to “My Commute Down Tenakee Trail

  1. Alaina Mabaso

    LOVE! My auction-loving mom would probably kill to get a look at your “bus stop”.

  2. What are the hours of the Shamrock Cafe and Snyder’s. Friends and I are coming over Sunday, and expect to leave Tuesday.

    • The store is open Monday – Saturday, 9 to 6. They close from noon to one for lunch. The Party Time Bakery (in the Shamrock building) is open 8 to 2 on weekdays and 9 to 3 on weekends, I believe. They serve great hot food. Hope you enjoy your visit!

  3. i enjoyed your wonderful photo documentary of this far away place i would have never seen had i missed your blog

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