And yeah, typos suck, but there isn't time to proof read! Day 1
(Juneau, AK): Mark, who we found on CouchSurfing.org, met us at the car rental and took us to his house to meet his wife, Elaine. After talking for a little while, Mark took us to a launch site in front of Spuhn Island at 4:30pm. We met some kids (Logan, Spencer, and Harrison) while assembling our boat. They ran off for dinner and came back with their parents, Daniel and Kathy. They took some pictures of us and took notes in hopes of getting our story in the local paper. As we scurried back and forth on the bach, trying to get our gear ready to depart before dark, Kathy realized I didn't have wading boots. She insisted I take a pair that her kids had outgrown -- these boots would turn out to be very useful! We launched at 7:30pm (very late!) with 1 hour of daylight left, and found a little bay on Spuhn Island and set up for the night. Day 2
: Lots of miles today. We arrived at Oliver Inlet at low tide and noticed the rapids at the entrance. We debated staying the night on a nearby beach, then go up Oliver Inlet at the next high tide -- greed, however, pushed us to attempt it that same day. At 7:20pm, we give it a try...and succeed! We arrive at the portage at 8:30pm, pull out the headlamps and unload the boat. Noticing the cart, we decide to load all of the gear on it and try for the cabin, which looked to be 1 mile away...we wanted to avoid having to set up the tent. Unfortunately, after only a quarter mile, the track is blocked by snow! We weigh our options. It is now 10pm and we are in the middle of Admiralty Island, the most densely populated area in the world by brown bears -- here, they outnumber humans 2 to 1. We decide to hang some of our food, abandon the boat in the middle of the tracks and go for the cabin with just our tent and sleeping bags. Fortunately for us, the cabin is unoccupied and we happily use it for the night. We are in bed at 11:45pm and are exhausted. We wore our dry suits for 12 hours today...they receive General Y's stamp of approval. Day 3
: Woke up at 8am to finish portaging our gear. It takes 3 trips to ferry the 300 pounds of gear. We had to meet the 12:30pm deadline (high tide) to relaunch in Seymore Canal, where the cabin is located on the other side of the portage. We bare make it and actually had to get our of the kayak a few times because of clearance issues. After that, it went smoothly and made good time thanks to a tailwind. We stopped at 6pm on a small island (no bears?) for the night. We ate A LOT and had a campfire to warm up a bit. It was a cold evening and we are again exhausted. Day 4
: We wake up at 7:30am to strong gusty winds.
The VHF marine radio calls for a small craft advisory. Outside, despite the wind that pushes south, the water is calm and the sun is shining. We debate whether to stay or go. We go for it and make fast progress, take only 2 short breaks, and spend 6.5 hours on the water. As we neared low tide, we came to a section between Admiralty Island and another tiny islet. The map showed a strange squiggly line in this area and we weren't quite sure what this meant. Yesterday when we passed an are represented like this on the map, it turned out to be very shallow waters with tiny sections of rapids. We decided to keep an eye out for any changes in the water's surface and sure enough, as we get closer to the islet, there was a long stretch of beach extending to the main island with barely any water passing over it. We went very slowly and were prepared to immediately turn around if it got too rough. Passing through at the deepest section, we made it through where the depth was a whopping 2 feet! Had we gotten to this spot just 20 min later, we probably would have scraped bottom -- not good with a rubber bottom kayak. Day 5
: Fourteen and a half feet of tide today. We wake up at 6:45am after 9.5 hrs of sleep to yet another beautiful day in Alaska. It was still below freezing at night (25 F) and there is frost everywhere -- even they kayak is white with frost. But today, no wind, so we are launching early. The water becomes very choppy, so we stop in a protected cove to change from our paddling jackets to full dry suits. We were actually debating whether to go on or not as the see looked pretty rough. However, when the tide reversed, the water looked much better. Wow, 5 days of good weather in a row...unheard of! This is another hard day of padding, with only 1.5 stops. The first break was after 7.5 miles and the second was after another 9 miles (not really a break since we just got out of the kayak to portage over a small section of land). We finally reached the cabin at 6:30pm, thanks to the GPS since the cabin was hidden. There is still snow on the ground on the North facing beaches.
It's been 3 days without seeing another human being or ship -- we are in total wilderness and we may be starting to feel it. After the long day of paddling, we are both a little agitated and get on each others' nerves a bit. Normally, Shirley could just have talk with her sister or one of her friends and all would be well with the world. But due to the lack of communication with civilization or any other people for that matter, guess who is left to deal with the situation? Poor Yannick. He's not used to handling the sensitive side of Shirley and being reeled into her "profound" conversations. He does well though and Shirley is smiling again. Well, it also helped that he Yannick fed her a giant dinner of pasta and corned beef hash -- Shirley is always happier when her hunger is satiated. Day 6
: It is overcast all day, but the seas are calm. We are on the water by 10am after saying goodbye to the nice cabin (the wood stove is definitely a must up here). We stop a couple of times to re-adjust the kayak seats and get some water...and take in the beautiful scenery. We take advantage of the slack tide to make a crossing over to East Brother Island from False Point Pybus. It goes smoothly and we make 3.5 miles in 1 hr. After a short break for lunch, we agree that the conditions are so good that it is worth making the second crossing over to Five Finger Islands despite the ebbing tide. We see pods of Pacific White-sided Dolphins during the crossings. We cover another 5.5 miles in 2 hrs and make a sketchy landing at the lighthouse on one of the islands. The lighthouse looks abandoned for the season and makes an ideal camping spot with commanding views of Stephens Passage.
We thought about Zach again. We imagined him at home, tracking our progress and exclaiming, "Nooo, what are they doing? They're going too fast!" We are planning to meet Zach on May 18th, so he could join us for the section from Ketchikan to Prince Rupert. We are going faster than our estimated 12-mile average per day though -- much faster. We thought we would encounter a storm or rough seas by now to bring down our daily average. We have been launching late in the morning, landing pretty early in the evening, and taking breaks, but it's hard to stop for too long. The only way to keep warm is to keep moving! If this wonderful weather holds, we may be in Petersburg in 3 days. Hopefully we'll have phone service there, so we can talk to Zach.
Exactly one week since our last shower in Los Angeles. Despite the grease-matted hair and salt residue covering our bodies, it is comforting to think that there are little traces of home still lingering on the skin. Normally, on a 3-week expedition, thoughts like these don't creep into the mind, but knowing the duration of this trip far exceeds any other we've taken changes the perspective of things. I can't tell if that is good or bad yet. Day 7
: Lazy start today. Shirley is sewing a few items while we wait for the tide to rise so we can head South. Sunny and dead calm around us. Only seals and birds break the tranquility of this place. It looks like another perfect day in Southeast Alaska. Yannick packs he gear and prepares the maps for the next leg of the journey. His sleeping bag is barely warm enough -- he's been cold pretty much every day during the last hour of the night. Shirley loves the warmth of her 10 degree bag though!
Although the stay at the lighthouse was great, it is difficult to feel stuck in a place, waiting for the high tide that would allow us our exit from this island. We have one window of opportunity and could only leave if the weather and seas are favorable at exactly the right time. We wait until noon...and then we are off! Mother Nature is spoiling us. Another perfect day on the water -- very calm during the crossing with a little wind on our backs. We spend 7 hrs padding with just one short bread -- we would have liked to take more, but the coastline wasn't suitable for landing. We use the pee bottle in the kayak for the first time during this trip. We land at 7:30pm, which is late. We cook dinner right away on the beach, then make a fire and sent up the tent in the dark. Since the tent is in the high grass, we should stay clear of the water when it reaches high tide during the night.
Time flies. We wish we had more time to read and anotate maps, but we are always rushing...and still, we rarely launch the boat before 11am. Day 8
: We thought we would have an easy day today, but ended up covering a lot of miles again. We stopped on beautiful sand beaches and made contact with our first human being since we left Juneau. Jim told us about a forest service cabin 3 miles past where we wanted to stop (Ruth Island), so we went for it and had a chat with him on the cabin porch. We are planning to see our first glacier (Baird Glacier) since we started the trip. All in all, it is a 20 mile detour that will delay us for a day, but it should be well worth it. As usual, we enjoy our stay in the cabin and the use of a wood burning stove very much. We are famished and have 3 cans of food for dinner, plus some pasta...yummy! We are in bed at 11pm tonight. Day 9
: Jim came to the cabin at 7:30am (he slept in his boat) and we went on a 3-mile hike in the rainforest. We notice some of the destruction caused by heavy winds -- trees have been blown over and block the trail a few miles in. Next, we take Jim up on his offer to go to the Baird Glacier using his sailboat. We motor up 5 miles and zodiac another mile up the channel created by glacial flow. The propeller touched bottom, so we land and continue on foot for another mile to the glacier proper. This glacier is the way some people approach the Devil's Thumb.
We make it back to the cabin at 4:15pm and decide to stay here one more night. It was nice to take a day off from paddling. Tomorrow, we'll head to Petersburg if the weather allows; we hear over the VHF marine radio that a low pressure system is moving in. Hopefully we'll make it to town before things get nasty! Day 10
: We wake up at 6am under rainy conditions. Our first rain! We get an early start of 7:50am. Although it is lightly raining, there is no wind and the water is calm. We make the 20 miles to Petersburg by 3pm. We stop at the Harbor Master's office to register our "vessel" and ask some questions about town. We take our first shower in 11 days at the dock for $1.50...worth every penny! Jim sees us on the dock and tells us to stop by later that evening. We walk through town and make stops for fish & chips, laundry, groceries, and ice cream...mmmm!
Back at the dock, Yannick overhears some fisherman talking about how bad the winds will be tomorrow. Bad weather in Alaska? We were starting to think Alaskans made up the whole "cold weather" and "grizzly bears" story to keep away tourists! :)
We end up at Jim's place and meet his wife (Kelly) and son (Liam). We spend the evening chatting until after midnight...waaay past our bedtimes! Hard to keep track of time when in such good company.
Library closes at 5pm today and closed tomorrow...we'll have to finish this later!