The Strange Story of J. Langford

A notable kayaking route across Admiralty Island jumps you from Auke Bay, via Stephens Passage and Young Bay into Oliver Inlet by way of portage and a hand powered cart running on a wooden (now steel) railway.
My studio on Horse Island is a stones throw from Admiralty Island Wilderness, and you can see right into Young Bay, and the open waters of Stephens Passage.
The Oliver Inlet route has been used by locals for decades. Today it is encompassed by the Oliver Inlet State Marine Park, but for decades this was just multiple use National Forest Land and the kayak route was local knowledge
If your “mode” is kayak, canoe, or light boat, anything you can lift our of the water with your own strength, this is an exciting and interesting adventure route If you are experienced with your kayak, and experienced at wilderness travel, a self guided kind of excursion you can plan and execute yourself.
Please READ my article on the hazards of traveling in a Kayak or Canoe on the waters of the Inside Passage. My advice: DO NOT use a canoe.

After the Gale. Horse Island Studio, Devita Stipek Writer. South into Young Bay and Stephens Passage Alaska
There is another fine kayak “advanced” route from Stephens Passage across Admiralty Island’s mid-section over to the Native village of Angoon.
Keep in mind this is also the territory of the Kooshdaka: spooky barks and guttural wailing calls of the Kooshdakhaa, brief glimpses in the shadows and a powerful suspicion that you are being tracked: these stories of the northern panhandle of Southeast Alaska are not unknown. But to hear one first hand from the old man who had lived it was a real treat.
Johnny Langford, known as West Coast Johnny to his friends, was an old timer living alone on the west coast of Horse Island where the family homestead (and Summer Studio) is located. We met him the first summer we began clearing a building site. Ross and West Coast became friends over a pint of Southern Comfort, stories of prospecting on Admiralty Island, close calls with bears and one particularly terrifying evening with an “unknown”.
Given that today this country is popular for wilderness adventures and kayak excursions, if you are planning such a trip to the wild country on Admiraly Island from Angoon and around Funter Bay and northward, this tale should put the shivers down your spine.
When we met Johnny he was an old-age-replica of the muscle-knotted wirey man he once was, a hunched over, shriveled and apparently toothless. But make no mistake, Johnny, even in old age, was still strong and looked to be tough enough to take on a grizzy bear.

You can read more about this in our book, Remote Possibilities revised and updated Homesteaders Handbook.

He had lived in Southeast Alaska Near Juneau most of his adult life, fishing, moon shining, and doing a little Gold Prospecting. In his later years most of this prospecting was up the little creek on Admiralty island directly across from his Horse Island shanty of beach wood; planks and surf-chewed plywood salvaged from the beach.

He never told us if he found any gold, but today one of the largest gold mines in the country is located just a few miles south of there on Admiralty Island, so it is likely he could have found enough color to keep his hopes up.

The Kooshdaka is a spiritual animal. But tales of Yeti are part of the fabric of history to the fishermen and hunters and gold miners who settled Alaska. Years ago we spent a few days on Naknek Lake joined by a short river to Bristol Bay. This was in the fall, and we encountered only one kayak the entire trip. These big lakes are still wild and can have a decidedly spooky feel to them. We saw moose and bears up close.

Our friend, Tim, had spent years in that country alone. Like most old-timers, he told his stories straight. To hear him tell of experiencing first hand the Yeti that lives around Naknek Lake we were fully convinced.

A cautionary note on believing the stories told by the old timers. If you are a little green behind the ears, like many visitors, they can take great delight in pulling your leg for the fun of it, or more often obscuring the truth to avoid revealing too much to an excitable and unappreciative chicako.

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About Me

Alaska Artist Devita Stipek WriterDevita Stipek Writer is an established Alaska landscape painter and muralist. An estimated one million people experience her public work every year. In 1964 she left art school to marry an Alaska fisherman. There followed a life of adventure, tragedy, and triumph.

Note: If you own an original oil painting by Devita that you would like to sell, please contact the artist.