June 15th 2017
One day about 12 years ago I received a call from Ron, a good friend since our college days so many years ago now. “Buck, I want to go on an adventure, what can we do?” Ron and his wife, Debbie, had raised a daughter and then due to circumstances, also raised a grandson. Ron’s career in real estate, his family obligations, and life in the suburbs had kept him far away from the wild environs that I liked to play in. He wanted to really get outside. So I suggested a rafting trip down the Alsek River in Alaska which I had heard about from Rob Foster, an old friend who had spent his geology career in remote Alaska. Happily, as it turned out, Ron had seen a National Geographic documentary on this very trip and was really excited about the opportunity.
Here we are now in the spring of 2017 in Haines, Alaska, finally ready to raft the Alsek River. We had arrived in Haines on a Cessna 207 from Juneau and found our way to the 115 year old Halsingland Hotel overlooking the harbor in this small quaint adventure town in Southeast Alaska. It’s a rambling but majestic old hotel with lots of charm and comfortable rooms. Having a few hours before meeting our guides, we took a tour through the streets of Haines where we not only found a nice meal of halibut but also an odd little museum. The Hammer Museum. An admission of $5 – what was there to lose? An amazing little place, it had over 2000 different hammers from all over the world and, as we were told, 5000 more in storage, You have to wonder, why hammers? And why here? The museum was founded in 2002 by a blacksmith from Ohio named Dave Pahl, who had been collecting hammers for years. He had moved to Haines to get away to a simpler life. The museum became a non-profit in 2004. My guess is that it was always a non-profit. Ron and I were amazed by the variety of this collection of odd but technically useful tools lost to time and change but for this little building in this remote place. We had two favorites – the around-the-corner hammer and the electric hammer. See my photos below.
Our hostess while wandering through the rooms of the museum told us a great little story about Armand Hammer (the baking soda people) suing the Hammer Museum for copyright violation of the name of its museum in Los Angeles. A rafter wandered into the museum during this time period and learned of this suit. He happened to be a writer for the Wall Street Journal and, after a little investigative work, published an article about Arm and Hammer’s suit on the bottom of the front page of the paper. The suit was dropped two days later. Hooray for the good guys, and also common sense.
The annual Kluane-Chilkat International Bike Relay from Haines Junction to Haines (158 miles) is scheduled to begin in two days so the town is abuzz about the arrival of about 1200 cyclists. Since we drive up to Haines Junction tomorrow to put in our boats we will miss all the craziness.