“Go find Jack.”
That’s what everyone in Emmonak kept telling me. I wasn’t sure exactly who Jack was or why I should go find him and ended up following this advice quite accidentally. I somehow ended up at the fish plant while I was exploring town and two workers brought me over to his office.
Emmonak is the last stop on the Yukon before you reach the Bering Sea. It has an airport with weekly service to Anchorage and regular service to St. Mary’s and Bethel. It is the end of the road. Or the end of the River rather.
“So you need a place to stay?” Jack asked once I was in the office. “We have an extra bed in the dormitories. You’re welcome to join us for meals and do your laundry here too. And there is a computer in the other room if you need a place to book your flight out.”
Wow. Every single thing that I needed and hoped for was handed to me by the manager of the fish plant in Emmonak, Jack.
Just before I left his office my stomach dropped . . . what on earth would they charge for all of this? Hotel rooms in rural Alaska (even the ones with just the bare essentials) can cost $200 a night . . . add in meals and laundry and a shower . . . oh no. What did they expect me to pay? Surely I couldn’t afford all of this.
“Ummm. What will the room and everything cost?” I asked Jack tentatively.
“Oh. I don’t know, what do you think?” he said, turning to a woman who was working at a desk. She smiled “don’t worry about it, just be sure to mention us if you ever write a book!” And with that, they sent me off to the manager’s dormitory to eat lunch.
Off I went, practically speechless by this unexpected hospitality. Lunch was a feast. Hot food, salad, fruit “there is ice cream in the fridge if you want any” several people informed me. I cleaned my clothes and myself, booked a flight out and watched “The Big Bang Theory” with some new friends.
But there was still work to be done. About 10 miles (11 to be exact) still lay between me and the Bering Sea, between me and the end of the Yukon River. The weather for the following day was supposed to be good. I found out the tide timing. My plan was to ride the tide out to sea and then back into town. The river current was still quite persistent even in the Delta, so I knew that paddling back up River to Emmonak would be a struggle, but planned to stay close to the banks and hoped that after 2,000 miles of paddling, I’d be strong enough to make it 11 miles back upriver.