Lowell Point Road can be rough on a vehicle.
For about a month I had been driving my trusty rusty 98 Ford F-150 on one leaf spring completely broken and the other pretty badly tweaked. A fairly honest friend of mine offered to do the work for me at a fairly honest rate at our garage at Millers Landing. Knowing I barely had time to sleep and shower myself, and that we were still in the thick of “tire changing season”, I was happy to have him turn some wrenches for me. I dropped my truck off in the afternoon and got a ride home with my wife and kids. We had a BBQ on the porch, enjoying the Mothers Day Eve with the great weather.
Around 6, I got a call that my truck was finished.
We did all the things that it takes to get a 5 year old and a 3.5 year old in the car and ready to go for a bit, and headed south to my grandmothers homestead. The kids happily shouted out the colors of cars as we rolled through the paved streets of Seward, then we hit the dirt road of Lowell Point headed to Millers Landing. Millers Landing if your not familiar, is our family business located about 2.5 miles down Lowell Point Road. My grandmother had settled in the area with her 6 young children before Alaska was a state, and about 40 years ago my parents started Millers Landing. Offering fishing, kayaking, cabins, water taxis, and a large campground, it grew to become a local favorite and destination for travelers. What started out as a 3$ a night dry camping on the beach has turned into over a hundred sites, a wide range of activities, a small gift shop, and a restaurant over the course of 4 decades.
Passing the cannery we started to notice more cars than normal parked alongside the road. My first thought was “whale” as humpbacks often travel and feed there during the spring and summer. It’s not uncommon this to see a few dozen cars pulled over reveling in these great behemoths giving a show.
This time, it turned out to be different.
We pulled up around the corner and saw a cop blocking the road. He informed us that some rocks had fallen, and that there were more yet coming down. The road wasn’t safe, and he directed us to turn around.
Now to be honest, I was kinda annoyed. I grew up on Lowell Point, and have dealt with many small landslides, snow slides, high tides with storms- you name it. If it can block the road, Ive usually found myself through it or over it without too much hassle, and my first reaction was “just a few rocks, let’s move them and be on our way”. Begrudgingly, I turned around. Called my fairly honest friend, and told him they weren’t letting me by. I headed home. Time to get the kids ready for bed.
By the time I got home, my phone had started to blow up with calls and texts.
A major landslide had happened, bringing down thousands of yards of rock, gravel, mud, and trees. Footage of it was circulating everywhere. Luckily nobody had gotten hurt. These things usually give you a few warning signs-luckily everybody cleared the area well before it gave way.
I called one of our deckhands who has been with us going on 8 years now. He recently passed all his Captains courses, but still hasn’t gotten the paper in the mail making him bonafide. I had him bring the boat to the harbor. He picked me up and we started moving stranded and confused people to town. We worked late into the night. Firing up our other boat as well.
Our main landing craft water taxi, the Michael A, can carry 23 passengers. It seats 16 and has a large deck for gear, and we regularly put a full load of kayaks up top. Its a very versatile and nimble vessel purpose built just for this kind of thing. Usually more for people seeking recreation- but…. It’s the perfect boat for the job!
Our other boat, the Fox Willie, is a high tunnel custom built catamaran landing craft that we designed to do a good amount of everything. Its our main fishing charter boat, we fish ten on it, but it can sit 18 passengers, carry a good load ok kayaks up top. This is the perfect hybrid boat for whatever idea you can come up with it. A particular favorite is our Best of Alaska trip, which takes you kayaking by glaciers, fishing, and sight seeing all in one swoop!
Both of these boats are normally working taking people on amazing excursions to do about anything one could imagine in the area. This is Millers Landings 40th year in business, and since we started we’ve been taking custom requests for about everything you can imagine, and if we have the vessel, land, or ability to do it, we give it a shot! Pivoting because of weather or disaster is no isolated incident in our history. The last five years have brought the pandemic, wildfires, and now this landslide! I have no idea whats next but… well make it through it!
After a few days of ferrying people back and taking care of the 100 locals needs with school and work etc we started to get some solid help from the state and the borough. A contract was put into place for the residents and local workers. The emergency response team and local leadership really pulled through in what was a completely unexpected and unprecedented moment. To them we owe great thanks! Senator Peter Micciche, Governor Mike Dunleavy all reached out and made sure things were in place to insure we were being taken care of. Normally were not one to mix politics and fishing. To each their own, but these guys really helped make things happen. Dil Uhlin from DOT, Brenda Ahlberg, Paul Mcbride, Bud Sexton, and Janelle Hames from OEM all deserve a hearty round of applause for their immense help in navigating this situation.
Some folks set up a Go Fund Me for us, which we redirected to the Lowell Point Community Council. The local American Legion put some money on a tab for us at the gas pump. Which is very much appreciated…… but heres the thing….. WE WANT TO WORK!!! If you really want to show our support, not just for us but the whole community- come stay with us! Let us take you fishing! Let’s go kayaking! Spend the night at the campground! Take it easy in one of our many lodgings! The road is open during most hours, the slide part is a thing to see- but being Alaskans you’ve seen this kind of thing many times in many varying degrees just getting from Anchorage to Girdwood! The local residents could really use your help, and what helps us most is doing business with us. We’re still open! Its actually really nice out there when the road closes. I taught my 5 year old to ride a bike the other day. Cars aren’t nearly the concern they normally are right now! Its actually really wonderful!
We’ve been doing daily kayaking trips into the state parks and National Parks lately and seeing tons of amazing things. The Humpback whales are in and feeding, plenty of Orcas and otters, calving glaciers, seals, sea lions- the list goes on. Fishing charters have been doing amazing! The weather has been unbelievable lately! Come stay with us! Come play with us! Come check out our new kitchen, Barrio cafe serving coffee and food from 530 AM until afternoon! We put in a number of new electrical sites on the river bed as well! Lots of new electric RV spots right on the water!
A hearty thank you to everyone who reached out. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our fellow Alaskans. From a business perspective, and from a fellow community member perspective. We appreciate you and are glad everyone is safe and where they need to be. We made sure of that before we started noticing how much it was costing us. Now PUT US TO WORK so we can make it back! Hire us to do what we do best! Thank you! It’s been a great 40 years. Looking forward to the next 40. Its gunna take more than a silly little mountain in the way to stop us. We tend to move those things.