A land where the population of bears exceeds that of humans, few places on earth can satisfy the wanderlust of the off-the-beaten-path adventurer in search of the wild nature and the cultural richness of the Tlingit Indians like Baranof Island.
Baranof Island, along with Admiralty and Chicagof, compromise the ABC Islands on southern Alaska’s panhandle, part of Alaska’s Inside Passage. Slightly smaller than Delaware, it’s the tenth largest island in the United States, most of which is designated as Tongass National Forest, the nation’s largest national forest. Baranof is remote, rugged and picturesque, from its towering peaks to deep lakes.
We journeyed aboard the Westward with an outfit called AdventureSmith Explorations an eco-adventure tour company promoting responsible and sustainable travel. The Westward is an 8-passenger/3-crew historic wooden yacht, just 86 feet long, which allows it to enter coves in Alaska’s Inside Passage which are too shallow for larger ships to safely navigate. The seldom-explored, secluded bays, channels, and islets are ideal for sea kayaking and whale watching.
Sitka, Baranof Island
Sitka, semi-protected on the outer banks of Baranof Island, just might be Alaska’s most picturesque seaside town. The town is not reachable via roads from the mainland, but serves as the main port for tourism, cruising, and aircraft.
5,000 years ago, Sitka was settled by the Tlingit Indians. A quarter of the residents claim to be descendants who are deeply rooted and celebrate their culture by carrying on the local artist traditions of totem and silver carving and basket weaving.
In 1799, Alexander Baranov established the first European settlement which now bears his name. Until 1867 Sitka was a Russian fur-trading post and hub for Russian activity in North America.
Hiking trails through Sitka National Historical Park wind and zig zag through masses of mossy spruce and hemlock. The trail leads past the information-filled visitor center, whose wooded area is sprinkled with towering, intricately carved and colorfully painted totem poles, and past the Pacific Ocean and shoreline filled with fireweed, a bright pink wildflower abundant in Alaska.
Read entire article about Baranof Island in Huffington Post.