A Simple Alaska Life

Prince of Wales Island road sign reflects back at drivers in a roadside puddle.A Puddle Reflects a Road Sign on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska

The Joy of a Road Sign

Prince of Wales Island, Alaska – I had several favorite spots along the road between my town of Thorne Bay and Craig, Alaska. As simple as this road sign and its reflection may seem, it always caught my eye and brought me joy. For years, I told myself, “You need to take a picture of that.”

In February 2015, I passed this sign and scolded myself for not stopping. It wasn’t a beautiful sunny day with an eye-popping reflection, but something about that sign staring back at me from the puddle made me stop. The delight I received from this reflection symbolizes the simplicity of our remote Alaska life. There were a handful of stop signs and no traffic lights on the island, which is the third-largest in the country. The fast-paced city life and all its trappings did not exist out there. Sounds of Mother Nature filled the air. Bluebirds dotted the trees while eagles soared overhead. I entertained myself as I drove by, peeking over bridges and down creeks for black bears fishing for salmon.

This image reminds me of the simple, no-frills life I led for twenty years in the Last Frontier.

Now, for the rest of the story.

“You know a driver is drunk on Prince of Wales Island when they go straight down the road.” Islanders laughed at this common joke because that sharp, shot rock road was rough. Rough! Travelers zigzagged their way from town to town to avoid those nasty potholes. Once you arrived in town, a top priority was to take care of your tires and spares—that was the Alaska life. We had a flat on our first trip across the island, prompting us to purchase 10-ply tires the next day.

For years, crews worked tirelessly to widen and redirect sixty miles of road through the Tongass National Forest beginning in 1987. They blasted a route through the mountains, filled valleys with shot rock, and worked through blowing rain to create the current highway, completed in the early 2000s. The new road cut the drive time in half.

To learn more about this and other details about Prince of Wales Island, check out (Amazon affiliate link) “Profiles of Progress.”