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Wilderness Turning New Friends Into Family

This post was written by Kylee Jones, who works for the Sitka Conservation Society. We got Trapped at White Sulphur Hot Springs with Kylee, Amy, Lynnlee, and Jackson, and had a great ol' time. Kylee Jones was born and raised in Sitka, Alaska and has always been passionate about family, community, wild foods, and her role in caring for the natural world around us. As a child she gained an appreciation door how vital these lands and waters are, and she tried to inspired her children by passing down the same lessons and traditions that were taught to here. Today, Kylee continues to utilize and depend upon the forest through annual hunting camps and wild foods harvesting. You can learn more about the Sitka Conservation Society work and the Tongass on website:

This past August, I went with my son, my friend Amy, and her daughter Lynnlee to the White Sulphur Springs Cabin, a remote public use cabin in the West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness Area. Our mission was to make cabin and trail improvements for the Sitka Conservation Society, a Southeast Alaska nonprofit that works to help protect wild places and support a sustainable way of life on the Tongass National Forest. Public-use cabins like the ones at White Sulphur help locals and visitors alike access these lands and waters.

The adventure began before we reached White Sulphur. As we left the protection of Kruzof Island and entered Salisbury Sound, the engine died. Swells of 6 feet rocked the drop bow as our trusted captain worked to get it running again. Soon we heard the pleasant bubble of the outboard coming to life. As we puttered through the swells back on step, we aimed for Klokachef Island to give us a small window of smooth waters. We could see where the seas calmed, but just before we reached the “safety” of the island, the engine died again. The waves were coming harder and rapidly pushing us toward the shore. Again our skilled captain coaxed the outboard back to life. From there the engine ran strong. My back and bum were thankful when we reached Khaz Bay and headed inland to Ogden Passage to take the inside route as far North as we could, before venturing back out into open water. As we glided through the waters of Ogden Passage and Surveyor Passage our captain told us stories of his family using this place to hunt and gather, as well as giving us timeless pointers on the best routes to take through some of the shallower waters.

White Sulphur Hot Springs

As we motored towards the smooth rocky beaches of West Chichagof, my first thought was “how the heck are we unloading?” The waves crashed furiously against the smooth rocks, presenting us with a daunting task. As soon as the bow touched the rocks we started tossing gear and kids onto the wave-worn rocks.

My second thought occurred as I noticed two kayaks on the beach; “oh crap, we have neighbors.” We had decided to head up a day early to beat a storm, and hoped no one was there using the cabin, as we didn’t have it booked until Saturday.

As I brought my first load of supplies to the cabin, a man approached from the bath house. “Can they have cocoa?” he asked, referring to the two children already disturbing the peace we all came looking for.

Sanesh, Nathan, Kylee, & Amy in Sitka

We completed at least seven trips up and down the bouldery beach, unloading our supplies for the days of work ahead of us. As we completed the final trip, the stranger returned, ready to brew hot drinks for our weary party. That was when we formally met the two kayakers, Nathan and Sanesh, two British Columbians who had been paddling along Southeast Alaska since April.

With the weather and wind storming all around us, we found ourselves fast neighbors, and over the next seven days, even faster friends. We created a routine of sharing our space, coffee, meals, and endless card games. As the rain poured, deep lake-like puddles appeared on the trails from the cabin to the bath house. It’s funny how excited a child can be to help work – until the work actually starts! Each child “helped” scrub the tubs for about 60 seconds before rushing out of the bath house to play in the rain. Daily, we dug small trenches trying to alleviate some of the water from our walking space. On the final day of our time at White Sulphur, Nathan and Sanesh couldn’t paddle safely out, so they joined us on the F/V Tammy Lin. It wasn’t that they didn’t have the opportunity to paddle – the 15 foot whaler we used to shuttle supplies gave out and the two intrepid kayakers rescued the supplies, captain, and children by towing them to the Tammy Lin with their kayaks!

Kayaks on the Tammy Lin

After our voyage home, we celebrated our time together with some chicken of the woods that miraculously appeared on that final day at White Sulphur and made light plans for future adventures.

The Tongass has this beautiful magic within it – it can connect people in ways you never could have imagined. You’d think a remote cabin would encourage solitude, yet here it encouraged sharing and community, creating long lasting friendships in the process.

This trip was one of the many different Tongass stewardship activities that the Sitka Conservation Society worked on this year. In 2023, our staff, partners, members, and volunteers worked on projects in the South Baranof, West Chichagof-Yakobi, and Stikine-Leconte Wildernesses to work on beloved public use cabins, trails, and recreation sites, and much more. You can learn more about our work and the Tongass on our website:

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