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Discovery by Sketch

Life in Hoonah, Alaska

Hoonah, on Chichagof Island, is the largest Tlingit community in the world. Tucked inside Port Frederick just off westward trending Icy Strait, it is “sheltered from the north wind”. The mountain behind town overlooks the harbor where masts of fishing boats rise up against a backdrop of rainforest, and sometimes at night, gulls circle in the boat lights like fireflies.

The store, the seafood cold storage plant, and the bar perch on stilts over the ocean. The rest of this community of eight hundred fills a snarl of roads which stretch back from the shore, upward into the forest. It’s the kind of place that takes for granted much that is unusual in modern America. First of all, there are no traffic jams, no parking problems, and no twenty-minute drives just for groceries. Moreover, the only place to go is out the maze of logging roads into the wilderness. The three other tiny communities on the two-thousand-square-mile Chichagof Island are all inaccessible from Hoonah — unless you own a good-sized boat. Six-seater planes and a twice-weekly, three-hour ferry ride are the only way to get to the nearest city, Juneau, at thirty thousand strong.

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