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Imagine a place so remote that even the weekly ferryboat bypasses it. I arrived on a hazy morning by small plane from Juneau and stayed a day longer than I had planned--not an unusual event along the Inside Passage, where fog or rain can close in and make air travel impossible.

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It was a bumpy ride in the little Cessna, over a salmon cannery at Excursion Bay, the only visible settlement in sight, ringed by snowy mountain peaks and deep-blue waters. Then directly across the water, up over the mountain, and down to the small airport at Gustavus. Gustavus is on a peninsula, not on an island, but for all practical purposes it might as well be an island for the sense of isolation it contains. No ro lead in or out of Gustavus, except the gravel road to Glacier Bay where boatlo of summer visitors come to chase retreating glaciers and their blue calves.

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They also arrange overnight or two-night cruises and tours, staying at Glacier Bay Lodge at Bartlett Cove in the park. The inn is an old farmhouse, built in by a family of homesteaders with nine children. It got a new lease on life in when Dr. Jack Lesh, his wife, Sally, and their eight children moved to town.

They had come to Alaska from New England to get away from it all, and they found their dream place here.

Jack and Sally Lesh still live right down the road, and several of their grown children remain in the community. The inn has, for four years now, been run by their son, David, and his wife, JoAnn, who have four small children. The young family has just moved out of the inn into a new house in back of it. Early settlers in Gustavus tried growing vegetables and raising cattle. Most of the year-round residents are artists, charter-fishing operators, guides and others who can figure out how to make a living on their own.

What makes the inn special, besides its location so far off the beaten path, is the gourmet meals that are dished up to guests three times a day. The tradition was begun by Sally Lesh, who set the style for the place and developed the menus.

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Most of the cooking nowadays is done by David Lesh, while JoAnn tends to the children, and a small staff takes care of the other duties at the inn. David Lesh has already gained a reputation as a gourmet cook.

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The three-day cooking sessions are in May and September. On Saturday nights, except in midsummer when the inn is full of guests, David and JoAnn open the inn to neighbors.

The tables in their small dining room and the six-seat bar are filled with guests and neighbors. A big garden is another trademark. They grow their own garnishes and herbs along with all kinds of vegetables. Desserts feature fresh raspberries, wild strawberries, rhubarb. Pastries and bread are baked every morning, filling the place with wonderful aromas.

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Breakfast consists of light sourdough hot cakes, wild berry jams, freshly gathered eggs and plenty of good coffee. Lunch includes homemade soup with vegetables from the garden, salad, a variety of cheeses, sourdough or whole-grain bread.

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One dinner menu of note featured baked salmon, spinach souffle, rice, carrots, kelp pickles, a choice of wines. And for dessert: grasshopper pie or blueberry cheesecake.

Mainly, I suspect, because of the chocolate crumb crust and the generous splashes of creme de cacao and creme de menthe in the filling. For those who worry about gaining weight on such a lavish diet, a fleet of one-speed bicycles is lined up outside the door. For miles around the inn the countryside is flat and the scenery serene, forests of hemlock and spruce marching from hillside to roide, grassy moors drifting to the waterways.

One can head back to the airport and dream of faraway places while looking for the occasional small plane to descend.

Or pass by the little school with graduating classes that from one to five and littler post office. In another direction are the pier and harbor that face onto Icy Straits. But first, stop the bicycle and listen.

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Silence will engulf you, and then it will be shattered by the cry of gulls or passing ducks. There are blankets and pillows on the couch and the easy chairs are chubby and soft. Listen again, late at night, for the soft warbling of swallows under the eaves, quiet, as befits a song in the dusk of an Alaska midnight.

The largely Indian community of Angoon, only town on 1,square-mile Admiralty Island, is probably even more remote than Gustavus, but it does get ferry service about twice a week. To get to Angoon from Gustavus, one must fly to Juneau and then either charter a floatplane south to Angoon or hop on the ferry for a beautiful five-hour cruise along Chatham Strait.

A few years ago, when the state allocated several million dollars to upgrade the ferry system, most of the money was spent on huge ferryboats.

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Rumor has it that this made the Tlingit Indians of Angoon so angry that they put a curse on the fleet. Specifically on the Columbia, the large ferry that runs the Seattle-Juneau-Skagway route. Whenever the Columbia has engine problems, scrapes bottom, or when things go bump in the night, the alleged curse of Angoon comes to mind. He felt that the worst of the troubles were in the past.

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But then, Angoon has ferry service now. Angoon also has a new bed-and-breakfast inn, the Favorite Bay Inn, that overlooks the boat harbor at the entrance to Favorite Bay. Forest Service.

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He also owns the new Whalers Cove Lodge nearby. The lodge is at Killisnoo Harbor south of Angoon.

Getting there

Admiralty Island, preserved as a national monument, has secluded beaches, natural hot springs, sea caves, not to mention passing whales, bald eagles, salmon, a brown bear population of about one for every square mile, miles of pristine shoreline. Not to be outdone, a third visitor spoke of the bootlegger who buys liquor in Juneau and offers it for sale under the counter.

Angoon is a dry community. Gustavus Inn, Box 31, Gustavus, Alaskaphone All Sections. About Us. B2B Publishing. Business Visionaries. Hot Property.

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