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Exploring Scow Bay

The Lost Road to Lynnwood

My previous duty station stood on the arid shores of Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Utah.  One sunny and warm day, my German Shepherd and I checked out the remote and abandoned Antelope Flats in the wide open sagebrush flats at the northern end of the glassy lake.   On one hand it proved to be a little used boat ramp with no facilities, virtually no parking and a surprisingly shallow ramp.  On the other hand it proved to be an actual paved road to Lynnwood, the drown town at the bottom of the tranquil lake.  Prior to moving to Southeast Alaska this was my sole experience with boat ramps.

In Petersburg instead of the seasonal variations of a desert lake, the twice daily tide swings as much as 26 feet.  Hence, the boat ramp at the old harbor would surprise desert rats with how steep it is.  A few feet to the water at high tide and the ramp ending several feet above the ocean at a low tide.

Then I moved to Scow Bay just south of town on the Mitkof Highway.  Scow Bay is a wide spot in the Wrangell Narrows where the iceberg-bearing tide waters of Frederick Sound and the silk-laden tide of Sumner Straits meet.  If any spot on the Wrangell Narrows is tranquil and still this is it.  An elder in the community recalled walking across the ice to Kupreanof Island as a teenager.  One foggy winter night after work I took my German Shepherd for a walk out there, to the old seaplane dock. Abandoned since the building of the airport, it served as a boat ramp; a shallow one at that.  We walked down the shallow ramp, passed the high tide debris and walked out into Scow Bay a long way.  Apparently, it  was a low tide.  The concrete got slink beneath my Xtratuffs and the dog got more curios about things around our feet.  The old concrete ramp continued far out into the bay.  The sand breathed fresh air for the first time in months and the sound of clams exhaling streams of water was everywhere in the punctuated fog.

  Suddenly, a light from the South flashing through the fog; the ferry!  Then came another high beam light from her bow.  They seemed to scan the thick fog.  My German Shepherd and I strolled deep into the fog and the dry bay’s bed.  Then came the fog horn.  Usually a fog horn blast is long followed by a long silence, while awaiting a mating call from another boat lost in the fog. But that night the ferry’s horn sounded hysterical.  That stopped me.

The ferry appeared close.  A flash of light sneaked beneath the fog, revealing we just stood feet from the channel.  It must be a minus four tide!  I would be able to touch the ferry from dry land.  And they’d freak out, if they saw a boy and his dog in the middle of Scow Bay!  We scurried away in to the darkness so as not to be seen.

 Author - William Moulton