On the other side of the Alaska Peninsula – about 50 miles away from Port Heiden as the raven flies – are three communities collectively called “The Chigniks.”
These villages, from east to west, are: Chignik Lake, Chignik Lagoon, and Chignik itself.
Forged of Aleut, Alutiiq, Russian, and Northern European stock, the Chigniks’ folks are hearty and make most of their livelihood from commercial fishing pursuits.
Their coastline is a paradise of life and the ocean acts as a road system, connecting them to Kodiak (200 miles to the east) and one another. Though the seas can sometimes be spooky, prone to fogs and unpredictable cloud cover.
The Chigniks are each about 15 miles apart and have long, intertwined histories. In fact, way before the western side of the Alaska Peninsula and much of the eastern Aleutians were permanently settled, residents of the Chigniks used these vast lands as their summer hunting and fishing zones. Many residents of Port Heiden either come from the Chigniks or have family there.
A number of years back, the National Park Service published some books on the area. They’re free and surprisingly captivating reads. And they were great historic backdrops for my brief stints there.
I didn’t anticipate the awe-inspiring natural beauty of these communities. The villages’ hills are set against the Pacific seas, with houses placed along the ridge lines with picturesque distribution.
It’s a little hobbitastic. But familiar rural Alaskan hallmarks are visible too. And they’re sad additions to the scene: dilapidated structures that probably need tearing down, mechanical odds and ends cluttered outside domiciles, and trash was strewn about or picked apart by packs of rough-looking village dogs roaming here and there.
Despite that, this is still a seriously stunning place and I wish my only visits there weren’t just stopovers, but future times might include hiking the challenging, divine-looking terrain.