SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska
Column: Humor

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to go Back in the Woods!



May 01, 2017
Monday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
A while back I was Dough-splaining something to a newcomer to Our Fair Salmon City.

jpg  Dave Kiffer

Yeah, you're wondering what I mean by Dough-splaining. Trust me, you've all done it.

It's when a Cheechako asks a question about Ketchikan, or Alaska in general, and you go into a lengthy, only slightly condescending, explanation that lasts until the newcomer's eye balls roll back into their head and they lose the will to live collapsing  in a pathetic heap on the sidewalk.

You have engaged in Sourdough-splaining.

You. Have. All. Done. It.

Because to the newcomer the question seems simple, but as nothing is simple in "The Last Frontier" and everything requires a lengthy dis-plain-ation.

But, as usual, I digress.

The Cheechakette was curious about the concept that there are things in our world that can be dangerous.

Sure, she was from a big city and was used to things like convenience store stabbings, drive by shootings and buses running over people at bus stops.

But she was having a real hard time wrapping her head around the idea that someone could step out from the friendly confines of the First City and run into trouble with Nature.

You know the type. 

Raised on "Nature" as portrayed by Walt Disney and the Sierra Club. Nature as a wondrous, beautiful thing that you can just wander into and out of as safely as the frozen food aisle at Safeway.

I bet she even harbors an "Into the Wild" sense of getting "off the grid." Good luck with that.

But, she was taking a little pause at the thought that beer and wolves might be out there in the "lovely, dark and deep" woods.

 She said she was clearly concerned about going for a hike around Ward Lake and being eaten by a bear or a wolf.

Don't forget rabid banana slugs, I added hopefully. 

That didn't help.

"Rabid banana slugs???" she wailed. "Rabid banana slugs???"

Fortunately, you can usually out slither them, I added. Unless, of course, you have already been immobilized by a bear or a wolf.

She was not mollified. 

And she will probably NOT be visiting the great outdoors in these here parts any time soon.

So why is this of particular interest right now?

I'm so glad you asked!

Remember how we were so amused when the Feds decided a couple of years ago that we needed to have tsunami warning signs all over town? And how less amused we were when the goll-danged tsunami warning siren started blasting out all the time.

Speaking of which, there was an odd convergence a couple of weeks ago. First, the tsunami siren went off around noon in a scheduled test. That was fine. That was expected.

But then there were immediately a whole bunch of sirens around Downtown. Was this not a test? Was there really a tsunami about to strike? Did we need to attain higher ground? Like now?

Apparently not. It turned out to be a small fire in a downtown building. But for a minute there, things were not all that clear and some blood pressure - especially mine - started to rise.

But anyway, back to the point of this.

There is a new ominous danger sign to be aware of. And, interestingly enough, it is at Ward Lake!

No, they are not warning you to be alert to bears, wolves or rabid banana slugs.

They - whoever they are - want you to be alert to the sudden rising of the water level at either Ward Creek or Ward Lake.

Why, do you ask?

Well, according to the sign, the folks who decide to take a pleasant jaunt around Ward Lake or even have a lovely little cookout there are in the "Connell Lake Dam Flood Zone."

Which basically means that if the dam were to fail they need to seek high ground or else  "death may occur."

Wow, that's a pretty serious buzz kill for anyone enjoying the "recreation area."

I mean, I have been going out to recreate at Ward Lake now for half a century  and it never occurred to me that "death may occur."

I might trip on the trail and skin my knee.

I might burn my lips on a marshmallow.

I might even stumble over the bear poop in the parking lot.

But "death" is usually pretty far from my mind at Ward Lake.

Of course,  there were things we do in our Ketchikan lives that could lead to death.

Trying to cross Tongass Narrows in a skiff during the storms of October comes immediately to mind.

As does taking the short route back down Deer Mountain and ignoring the trail switch backs.

Heckfire, one even courts death when you enter the scrum for the last bag of rock salt at Madison Hardware in January.

But Ward Lake? Ward freakin' Lake?

It looks so calm, so peaceful, so benign! Just like Spirit Lake at Mt. St. Helens. Okay, that was a bad example.

So, we get the warning signs even though there has never been a dam failure at Connell Lake in the 60 years the dam has been there. That just means we're overdue, I guess.

After all, there hasn't been a tsunami in Ketchikan in all of geologic history, so that means we are really, really, really overdue. Hence, the need for the signs and, hence, the frequent warning signal tests.

But if you are concerned about leaving the coast for higher ground during a tsunami, you better not go to Ward Lake either because "death may occur."

Consider yourself "Dough-splained!"


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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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