Prospectors’ Cabin at Reid Inlet. July 4, 2011
18 July 2011 | posted at Sitka
Photo: Prospector’s cabin at Reid Inlet.
Three spruce trees stand above the willows on the terminal moraine at the entrance to Reid Inlet. It’s easy to assume that the spruce represent the beginnings of a spruce and hemlock forest, the final stages of plant succession in the Glacier Bay area. But in fact, the trees are ecologically premature, planted out of their normal order (probably in the 1940s) by Muz Ibach, a prospector’s wife. Her husband Joe discovered gold in Ptarmigan Creek around the corner from Reid Inlet in 1924 and in the 1940s they built a cabin and he started mining seriously. In winter when it was too harsh to mine, they would move to nearby Lemesurier Island.
The remains of their cabin are still visible but are dwindling fast. Between 2007 and 2011, the roof caved in and the walls collapsed. Go soon to see this bit of history.
I found the cabin by looking at a photo in David Bohns’ book, Glacier Bay: The Land and the Silence (1967), and comparing it to the landscape today. The three spruce are a lot taller but they’re unmistakably the same three trees. We had to walk around them to find the cabin. There was lots of bear scat nearby so we talked loudly as we explored.
It’s interesting to stand in this remote spot and imagine these two people who lived such an isolated life. The landscape was even more desolate then. Bohn’s book also includes a reproduction of a watercolor by Carol Janda of the cabin and the trees. A caption across from it says, “Make no mistake about it, an enormous amount of personality was invested in that tiny plot of land in the wilderness.”