If reading my family’s posts on this blog make you want to try the lifestyle yourself, there may be a golden opportunity to do so, if you have school age children, a sense of adventure, and act quickly!
Of the many places in Alaska that hold a special place in my heart, Tenakee Springs is near the top of the list. My brother Dave and his wife, Anke sailed into the tiny village once, to buy dog food. Seven years later, they finally left! In that time we visited them often in Tenakee. They built Luna there, which we helped launch; we’ve forged many happy memories snuggled aboard her in the harbor, poking in and out of the coves in Tenakee Inlet, or at the homes of their friends.
We spent much of our time in Tenakee at the excellent school building, using the computers, playing endless games of pick up volleyball. Dave and Anke even laid out Luna’s sails, and built at least one skiff there. The school has just about everything one would want to educate their children, except children. Alaska’s education funding requires that a school maintain a student body of 10. Tenakee has been close to falling below that for years, and has taken drastic measures to prevent it from happening.
The details of their dilemma and search can be found here if you search the archive. Note, particularly, the section on the school. It is, for all intents and purposes, a one room schoolhouse, as far as student body. In all other respects, well, let’s just say there’s lots of room!
Rather than repeat the information in the article, I’ll offer my impressions.
As the name implies, Tenakee Springs grew up around a natural hotsprings, corralled for use in a bathhouse that is the town’s focal point. The dark, echoing bathhouse is a great place to soak off the day’s hard work, and living in Tenakee requires a lot of hard work. The benefits can be great, for those of the right temperament to enjoy it.
For me, the odd thing about Tenakee is that I love it most when it’s at what most people might consider its worst. Nestled against the western edge of a mountain, the village gets very little daylight in the winter. It can freeze hard there and stay like that for a long time. It may be this time of year that’s my favorite there. My favorite memories include walking the long “main street” path when we had to carefully pick our way across the ice, with a cold wind sweeping along, hurrying us to the next shelter. The quality of the air at those moments, the beauty of the starlit night, and the comfort of the community are are to describe adequately. At what should have been the darkest, dreariest time of year, I felt exhilarated, even ecstatic!
As with any small town, particularly in Alaska, there are problems, disagreements, grudges, and more. Even so, the people are welcoming, more so, of course, if you’ve come to put your kids in school.
It’s remote. Jobs are few, even for the self-motivated; groceries are expensive; you won’t see the latest movies until they show up on DVD. It’s a life of hard work, make no mistake.
But, imagine giving it a try, just for a school year. Good or bad, your whole family will have an experience they’ll never forget!