In mid-October of 2022, we hosted our first annual Covens and Cocktails event. I say first annual because we had such a good turnout and such a great time that there is no way we won’t be doing it again. A total of 12 women from all walks of life showed up. Some came with friends, some came alone, some made new friends. Some were already seasoned witches, looking to practice with others rather than alone (which witchcraft usually is), and some simply came to have fun. We had done smaller Halloween shoots in the past but decided this year to really make it an event to remember. We started the night by meeting at Sandy Beach in Douglas Alaska. A dozen witches congregated in a cabin on the beach, complimenting each other’s makeup, outfits, props, and creativity. The energy was high and everyone was excited. Everyone was given a red candle and then we began.
We then walked to a nearby trail lined with spooky trees sprouting dark gnarly branches. We took turns lighting our candles and began shooting as one big group. We then split into smaller groups to get a little bit more creative. After the group shoots, we then walked a little bit farther down the trail to the old Treadwell mining ruins to start the individual shoots. Everyone had spent so much time and creativity on their outfits that we absolutely had to document each woman on their own.
Along the way we made photo stops at abandoned building ruins and discovered a tree covered in mushrooms. I had stocked up on smoke bombs during the 4th of July so each woman chose two for her individual photos. We also found a structure built out of driftwood on the beach, similar to the stakes that witches were burned on during the Salem Witch Trials. Of course we had to use that for our final group photos of the night. We even placed smoke bombs inside it to give the illusion that it was burning. Don’t worry, we picked up the smoke bombs on our way out to avoid littering. We took photos until it go to dark to do so, then we danced on the beach and celebrated sisterhood and female friendships.
The History of the Treadwell Mine Disaster
Sandy Beach is the location of the old Treadwell Mine. During its hay day (1882-1917), Treadwell was the largest gold mining operation in existence and was critical to the economy of Juneau. Similar to today’s nearby mines of Kensington and Green’s Creek, miners worked around the clock, both above and below ground, to supply thousands of tons of ore per day. After the gold was removed, the remains were sent in tailing pipelines from the mills to the (then rocky) beach below. Life was great at the time; the economy was booming, people were happy, and both Juneau and Douglas citizens (though competitive rival towns not yet connected by a bridge) enjoyed a high quality of life. Fun fact: there was a 45-minute time zone difference between Juneau and Douglas at the time.
Beginning on the evening of April 21, 1917, strange things began happening on the island of Douglas. The nearby Natatorium swimming pool was just about to reopen after cracks in the structure had been repaired, when the water in the pool began to disappear. The next morning, there was an unusually high tide in the Gastineau Channel. As it turns out, the area rests on top of a fault line, which causes ground instability, movement, and foundational cracking.
At 11:30pm on April 22, 1917, an engineer noticed a water leak in the mine and sounded the alarm. Over 300 men as deep as 2,000 feet underground evacuated. At midnight, there was a surface cave-in. Not long after, the grounds around the Natatorium slid, and the swimming pool, along with the fire station and an oil tanker, fell down in a swirl of mud into the depths of the mine. Finally, an hour later as the last man was evacuated, a saltwater geyser erupted out of the mine shaft, launching up to 300 feet in the air. Large cracks in the earth spidered from the site, one running through the nearby baseball field. Most of the mine’s tunnels were flooded, and the disaster ended production of the world’s largest gold mine forever. Miraculously, not one single life was lost during the disaster.
Since then, 80 acres of manufactured sand has been placed in the area stretching for 2 miles down the Gastineau Channel, giving it the name Sandy Beach. At low tide, you can still see the rusty remains of the mine, including old buildings and machinery, littered along the beach and nearby trails. The most iconic relic is the salt water Pump House, which provided water for fire protection and milling. It now is a popular landmark for cruise ships entering the town, and for local photoshoots!
After the sun went down, we rallied in the parking lot and I passed out goodie bags that I had assembled. Goodies included:
- a gift card for a boudoir shoot with Wild Iris Studios
- A coupon at Freya Romance Boutique
- A candle, mini sage bundle, and crystal zipper pull from Marthas Flowers and Gifts
- A delicious caramel apple from Alaskan Fudge Company.
Then about half of us drove to the newly remodeled Crystal Saloon for cocktails and a Ouiji themed chocolate cake from Melissa Leanne Bakes. One of our coven members, Megan, performed tarot card readings to the other ladies and we simply enjoyed each other’s company.
By the end of the night, I had a few women come up to may and say “I needed this”. The thing is, while many of us like to dress up and take photos, what this was really about was sisterhood. Creating adult female friendships. Breaking out of our shell and remembering who we are outside of the roles of ‘mom’ and ‘wife’ and ‘coworker’. We are women, we have wildfire in our veins, we are stronger and happier when we are together.
Vendors & Goodie Bag Sponsors
Hair and Makeup: Brie Artistry
Ouiji Cake: Melissa Leanne Bakes
Caramel Apples: Alaskan Fudge Company
Sponsor: Charisma Salon
Sponsor: Freya Romance Boutique
Sponsor: Martha’s Flowers and Gifts