Far North Charging
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Q: I need to take a three- to four-day getaway somewhere secluded. I’m very familiar with the outdoors and am looking for a place far away from people, perhaps even a fly-in trip. I’ve never been to Montana or any of the northwestern states. I might like to rent a cabin deep into the mountains where I can either fish, hike, or just sit and recharge the batteries. Any ideas on where to start would be helpful.
— Kevin Gilmore, Lawrenceville, Georgia
A: Three ideas on where to start: Alaska. Alaska. Alaska. Montana has plenty of fine cabins—those in the Gallatin National Forest south of Bozeman are particularly nice—but if you really wish to escape the company of others you’ve got to head to the Far North. The wilderness up there is worlds apart from anything in the Lower 48. If a week in a remote Alaskan cabin in the doesn’t leave you energized (and going and going and going…), then it’s time to cash in on your old battery and get a new model.
For pure scenic beauty, you couldn’t do better than the McDonald Lake cabin in southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. Located about 50 miles east of Ketchikan, the basic pan-adobe-style lakefront cabin rents for $45 a day and has one large room, a stove, and six peripheral bunks. It’s nestled on a small island of old growth cedar, Sitka spruce, and Western hemlock where you can expect to see grizzlies, black bear, moose, and wolves. The cabin comes with a dock and a small skiff you can paddle around the lake to fish for salmon and trout, or you can hike the three-mile round-trip to Yes Bay.
Misty Fjords Air and Outfitting (www.mistyfjordsair.com; 877-228-4656) can fly you out to the McDonald Lake cabin and back for—gulp—$650 round-trip for the plane, which seats three ($216 per person) or $870 round-trip for a plane that seats five.
There are scores of other cabins in the area, too, so be sure to check out the Forest Service’s cabin listings at http://www.fs.fed.us/r10/tongass/recreation/cabin_info/ktn_map.html for details on McDonald Lake and more options. To make reservations, you’ll need to contact Reserve USA (www.reserveusa.com; 877-444-6777).
Be sure to bring some bomproof raingear—the Tongass is notorious for being very wet (Ketchikan gets 14 feet of rain a year)—as well as your own food, cooking stove and supplies, sleeping bag and pad, and other basic necessities.
These cabins aren’t luxury retreats-if it weren’t for your pilot to pluck you out of there, the rugged landscape would eventually swallow you whole. In fact, poor weather can sometimes delay the return flight, so come prepared with at least two days of extra food. The boss will understand if you’re late come Monday.
If this is sounding too Into the Wild for you, visit the Alaska Travel Industry Association (www.travelalaska.com; 907-929-2842). The folks there run a good clearinghouse of information and can help you find more options on how to get the recharge you’re looking for.