Friday, July 27, 2007

Skagway, End of the Line

Perfect weather into Skagway this morning--calm with a mix of sun and clouds. I found myself paddling slowly and putting off the arrival into town. In fact, when I got to the last point of land around which is the Skagway harbor, I stopped, pulled out my gorp, and spent 10 minutes out there snacking. Then I rounded the corner, paddled past the cruise ship and into the marina. No bands were playing and no one was paying any attention to me. I paddled up to the dock next to the boat launch and began the post-trip de-rigging. It seems anti-climactic, but really, it's just the end of a week-long party on my part. I think I've been going through the end-of-trip process since Juneau--the last time I'll have to re-pack food, the last time I'll have to hang my food at night, the last time I have to raise the tarp, the last time I'll have to use the tent... And Skagway is the last time I'll have to unload the boat.

Skagway is also the place where I first looked at the bottom of my boat, and it's been scarred by the trip. Nothing serious, but all the gelcoat is gone in one spot from dragging the boat on shore.

So now it's time to get on with the rest of my life, I guess. Carlie flies in tomorrow (!) and we catch the ferry on Monday and arrive in Bellingham on Friday. And normalcy no doubt will return to my life.

I want to thank everyone who has been reading my ramblings and especially those who have commented or emailed me. I feel like you've been on the trip with me, and your company has been much appreciated.

I'm sure I'll post here again, but not sure when. I expect to get my journal onto the computer so anyone who might be planning a similar trip can get more details of my trip, but that will take a few weeks.

Feel free to write

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Haines, July 25, Day 84

One more paddling day left, sports fans!

I've had a real mix of weather on this last leg from Juneau to Haines. It started in fog as I tried to negotiate the tidelands of the Mendenhall Bar for 2 hours, followed by beautiful sunshine the rest of the day. Then 2 days of cloud, rain, and 15-20 knot winds that, luckily were at my back. I did alter my route somewhat to stay out of the biggest seas, and I'm glad I did have alternate routes to turn to. Then today the winds died to nothing, and I had a beautiful paddle into Haines with spectacular views of steep mountain ranges and glaciers in every direction. Even the camping on this stretch has been good and the sites plentiful. Nice change from earlier in the trip.
With the end of the trip in sight, I find myself thinking about what this trip has meant for me. And, as usual, I don't have a good answer. If only I had found god, or denounced god, or renounced my evil ways, or something grand. But no, I'm still me, and I doubt Carlie or anyone else will recognize a change in me. But I will value my family, friends and strangers more, and, of course, the creature comforts of house and home. And I will be proud to have covered the distance I did, just as a cyclist would be, having ridden from coast to coast. There's something about connecting the whole length that gives the trip significance to me.
Some have said this would be a life-changing trip, and in some small ways, I suppose it has been. But what is more surprising to me is how little I feel any different from before the trip. I think it's healthy for anyone to spend a few days alone, to understand who that person is apart from spouse, kids, friends, job, etc. But for me to do a solo trip of this length, I expected more insight, I guess. I found instead that the person I am out here, alone, on a long adventure, is not so different from the person I am at home (except for the talking to myself). And there's a certain consolation in that. The person you've known, and I've known, is pretty much the person I am. To some of you, I'm sure that may sound obvious, but with all the noise in our lives, it's not always a given. So to those of you who were hoping for an improvement in my character, give it up!
One thing I have to give credit to is my body--it hasn't let me down. No tendinitis, no debilitating arthritis or blisters, no saddle sores, no sicknesses or anything. Sometimes I wonder if my body will outlive me, but probably not. Some of you younger ones may not be able to understand that one's body is not something to take for granted. It does indeed start breaking down in time.
Anyway, I suppose what a trip like this does is reinforce the universal truths. And for me, the most important one is the value of love and friendship. So raise a glass with me to a journey almost complete and to the family and friends that make our lives so worthwhile.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Juneau!! Yahoo!

The last 2 days of gorgeous weather was just turning with freshening 15 knot wind and threatening sky as I paddled under the bow of "Serenade of the Seas", one of 4 cruise ships docked in the harbor. Float planes were coming and going, and I imagined myself the paddling version of a NYC courier dodging traffic as I made my way through the traffic and under the Douglas-Juneau bridge to the small boat harbor.

In some ways, I feel like I've arrived. I'm still going to Skagway, but if I think of a ribbon that I will break through at the end of my trip, that ribbon stretches from Juneau to Skagway. So if you will forgive the immodesty, here begins a week-long celebration of the end of a long journey.
I wish you all could be here to celebrate with me. But I know you're smiling and nodding with me as you read this. I miss you all.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Signs of civilization, for what it's worth

I hit the water early today (5am) to keep the option open of paddling all the way into Juneau, some 35 miles, if the spirit, or driving rain, moves me. It was a beautiful morning as the sun was shining on the mountains of Admiralty Island as I crossed Port Snettisham.

Lots of gill netters operating in this section. I guess the salmon like this part of the coast where the waters are deep right off the shore. I've come to recognize that where the fishermen like to fish is where I'm not going to find any campsites because the terrain is too steep. And that whole section to Stephens Passage is steep-to.

I had an interesting encounter with a fishing vessel as I was crossing the mouth of Taku Inlet. The last of some lingering fog had disappeared, and it was a beautiful, calm sunny morning. The 3+ mile crossing was easy, though the cross currents were pretty strong.

As I neared the far shore, I could hear a boat approaching from behind me. I glanced back and could see it was one of the gill netters not too far off my starboard stern. As it neared, I expected it to turn or to cut its engine. Maybe the skipper is a kayaker and wants to shoot the breeze for a few minutes, I thought. When the boat was 50 feet off my stern, I could see what looked like a young couple on the bridge, both waving me aside. There was no one else near us, but I turned away in case there was something I was interfering with that I wasn't aware of. Maybe I was in the exact spot they wanted to put their net. I don't know. As they went by, at no more than 50 feet, I could see that they were both talking to me, but I couldn't hear anything over the engine noise.

Just as they moved past me, I realized I had better steer further away from their wake. And when the wake did hit, it completely washed over my deck and surfed me sideways so I had to brace on my paddle. And the fishing boat motored on. I could imagine them giggling over their little prank. For me, it was the only rude act I've encountered on my whole trip. I guess you have to figure there are a few like that no matter what world you're in.

Then I saw that the boat had pulled up alongside a fish tender about a half mile ahead, and other boats were headed in that direction, too. I paddled up to have a word with the skipper and discovered there were 3 on board--the skipper, a young guy in his 30s and 2 teen-aged boys. I called the skipper over and told him that had been a dangerous stunt back there, and he was immediately apologetic. He said he had been asleep below, but that the boys had said they had slowed down for me. There was no way for me to know, but I hadn't noticed a change in the engine rpms.

Then one of the boys chimed in, saying they were headed straight for the tender the whole time. I asked them if they thought I had changed my course, and he said, "No, but we were just maintaining our course, too."

That's when the skipper spoke up again and said all the right things--it was their fault, I'm sorry, I'm responsible, it won't happen again, you're in the right, etc. And he sounded sincere. I only hope those kids learn something from it.

Teen-aged boys... You have to wonder how so many of us survived, don't you?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Holkham Bay, Stephens Passage

After a wet layover at Sand Bay, I paddled into Holkham Bay amidst a whole group of Humpbacks. The bay had lots of small bergs drifting around, and Sumdum glacier hung over the bay in the background. The view was stunning. And the temperature was chilly. Water temp 44 F; air temp 49 F.

I went over to Harbor Island where a group of kayak rangers are headquartered, and as I coasted the shore, I met 2 groups of kayakers. Tim Johnson and his wife, Vicky had their Kleppers they brought from Maryland and are on something like their 20th trip to the west coast. They were headed up Endicott Arm to avoid the cruise ship traffic in Tracy Arm. Both arms are popular because they have tidewater glaciers calving into the sea. Anyway, we didn't talk long, but they clearly have done some interesting trips that I would have liked to hear more about.

The other group of yakkers were 3 guys from Maine--Bob, Dave and Mike. They had been dropped on Harbor Island by a shuttle boat to be picked up in a week. They were recovering from having made a miscalculation on the tide and had lost 2 bear canisters of food, a life jacket, a paddle (which was later found), and I don't know what all else. But they had successfully scrounged what they needed to keep going, and they, too, were headed up Endicott. They've also done some interesting kayak trips including to the Dalmation Coast north of Dubrovnik and to Viet Nam.

I found the kayak rangers who have a large wall tent and kayak and gear racks all tucked into the bush and totally invisible from the shore or water. The reason I wanted to look them up was to see why there were kayak rangers here at all. Turns out they do similar work as the rangers in Misty Fjords: they contract with cruise ships to come on board and act as interpretive guides. But they also monitor the smoke stack emissions from the ships, and some have resulted in citations for the cruise companies.

I decide against a side trip up Endicott even though that was part of my original plan. I knew barn fever would set in at some point, and I have to admit that I'm feeling it now. Juneau is only 2-3 days away, and in some way, it marks the beginning of the end of the trip for me. Over the years, I had dreamed of paddling to Juneau, and just within the last few months did I decide to go all the way to Skagway because someone told me the scenery is incredible up the Lynn Canal.
So I passed through Holkham Bay amid the frolicking Humpbacks and continued north along the Snettisham Peninsula. The sun is out, the air is warm, and life is good.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pea Soup

I woke this morning to fog. I had about 30 minutes of this stuff yesterday afternoon, but I think I'm in for more of it today. I just passed Fanshaw Point yesterday so technically I passed from Fredereick Sound to Stephens Passage, and the fog started as soon as I passed Fanshaw. Not sure why Stephens is foggier--cooler air coming down from Skagway? Warmer water? Whatever the reason, I've got 100-200 feet of visibility, and the first thing I have to do this morning is make a 3+ mile crossing of Houghton Bay. It'll be the first real test of my compass skills on this trip--do I add 29 degrees to what my compass is reading or subtract it to get true headings? I discovered soon enough that the GPS map page is a good back-up to the floating compass mounted on the deck. Which is good because the test of my skills was not turning out that well.

Just before heading out into the great gray unknown, a humpback surfaced in front of me and slowly dove again. It's so magical when these huge creatures make their surprise appearances. It reminds me how alive that half of the world that's below me really is. I think I've just entered Humpback Alley because I heard them all night long.

It's very strange to paddle with no horizon. The winds were calm, and there was a small swell from the north. My eyes would try to pick out a shore line through the fog, and sometimes I could actually "see" trees on a hillside ahead. But then I would look upwards and see that the "trees" extended vertically as far as I could tilt my head back.

The bay crossings this morning went fine, although maneuvering through islands was tricky since most of them don't show up on my topo, and I didn't know if they were islands at all.
The fog persisted for 6 1/2 hours of my paddling while I covered 21 miles of coast that I never really saw At one point, a fishing boat appeared out of the fog. It was a young crabber about to start on a 14 day circuit of his pots, and he was as surprised to see me as I was to see him. No one is supposed to be moving in the shallows in this kind of fog. Later, I paddled by a seiner also, but there was loud cursing coming from below so I slipped by silently.

I stopped for lunch (a trick in itself to find a spot when the shoreline is this obscured), and while ashore, the fog disappeared and there were 2 seiners starting to set their nets nearby. I had heard there were a few one day openings for purse seiners coming up, and I guess one opening started at noon today.

But what a change in my surroundings. I now was living in sunshine,blue sky, steep, tree-covered hillsides so steep they are just cliff faces in places. My world just went from black and white to color in minutes.

But this sunny period wasn't going to last as the whole sky behind me to the southwest was solid dark gray. Rain was coming. The sun lasted an hour, then a south wind freshened to 15 knots. I expected the rain any minute, but it held off. In fact, it held off for the next 2 hours of paddling and gave me time to set up camp in Sand Bay, a few miles south of Holkham Bay, before it unloaded.

It was a good day, but I hope I don't have too much more fog. The novelty was definitely wearing off.

Monday, July 9, 2007

I packed up in the rain this morning and left Wrangell at 5:15am. The wind was calm, though there was a SE breeze once I got exposed to the back channel that runs on the east side of Wrangell Island. And the current, if anything, gave me a slight push. Clouds were low and rain was heavy at times, but I could always see the next shore I was aiming for as I island-hopped across the mouth of the Stikine River en route to Dry Strait.

I had to get through Dry Strait before low tide because the whole thing dries up then. It dries if the tide gets down to 4 feet, and today's tide at 2:30pm would be right at 4 feet. I was told that I could get through at 6 feet so I figured if got through by 12:30pm, I'd be OK. I calculated a 5:30 start would give me plenty of time, allowing for possible wind and setting current, because I really didn't want to get stuck in the mudflats on a falling tide and be fodder for mosquitoes for 4 or 5 hours 'til the tide floated me again.

I stopped to pee at one point when I reached Mitkof Island, but when the mosquitoes found me, I moved on quickly.

The shallowest part of Dry Strait was not as far from Wrangell as I had guessed, and with a push from the currents and wind, I made it through fast enough that I was actually near high tide. Even so, I grounded out on sand bars twice in the murky waters from the Stikine.

Once into Frederick Sound, I could see a few icebergs that had made it to the mouth of Le Conte Bay. The Le Conte glacier is the southernmost glacier that comes right down to the sea. But soon the bergs disappeared in the mist as the rain got heavier and a cold south wind picked up. I pulled the pogies out for the the first time in quite a while to keep my hands warm.

After about 18 miles, I started looking at possible campsites, but it was still early in the day, it was pouring rain, I was chilled when I wasn't paddling (I was damp inside my dry suit.), and some spots were on bear trails. So I kept deciding to go a little further. Before long, I was just 5 miles from a campground at the road end at the southern edge of Petersburg. So off I went to the "Tent City" campground.

When I reached the small bay with a municipal park that was supposed to be next to the campground, I couldn't find the place. When I found some people to ask about camping, they said the campground had closed and some buildings were being built on the grounds.

So another 2 1/2 miles, and I was in Petersburg Harbor. I found the Harbormaster who let me pull the kayak onto a low-lying float, and before long I had a room in a warm, dry hotel in town.

So after 35 miles and a 10 hour paddle, I don't know whether to feel smart, or just lucky, or like I'm cheating to be in a comfy room when I could be camping out in this foul weather. I think I'll go with smart and lucky on this one.

Friday, July 6, 2007


I arrived in Wrangell on a very benign day, weatherwise. It sprinkled a couple times, and that was it. It was overcast most of the day, but as I pulled up to the city dock, the sun came out and stayed out almost an hour. I think that counts as a sunny day here.

As usual, many errands to run. I think I've tracked down a place to borrow a computer so I can hopefully upload these reports. We'll see. I happened to arrive at the beginning of the weekend, and Wrangell seems to be one of those places that closes down on Sundays It's a hard drinking, hard praying towns. A lot different from Ketchikan. 1900 souls versus Ketchikan's 14,000. And Ketchikan gets the cruise ships and Wrangell gets the dregs.

Last night, at the cabin, I was pondering more on the impression that, as a camper, the ground gets harder as we get older. And that probably goes for discomfort in general. As we age, we lose the ability to adapt like we could when we were young. It wasn't a problem to spend a night curled up on a rock. OK, well it's still not necessarily a problem, but it sure is a tougher night than it was back then.

I guess it's just all about inflexibility. As we age, our corneas become stiffer and we need glasses, our bodies become stiffer and we need yoga, and our attitudes become set and we lose our ability to understand new ideas. So I guess it's not surprising that it's also harder to sleep on rocks than it used to be.

Next stoop Petersburg. And I'm starting to smell the barn. I should be seeing Carlie in Skagway in 3 weeks. Boy, am I looking forward to that!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

July 5, Berg Bay, Day 64

Since the last entry, it's been pretty rainy up here. In fact, I was looking back at my journal entries and the last day I recorded no rain was the day Cass, Barry and Hipper left. It's rained some or all of 11 days since then, and recently the rain has been heavier and longer lasting.

Yesterday I stopped at the Anan Bear Sanctuary and Observatory. Luckily their permit season didn't start until today so I had no problem getting in to watch the bears. It's a half mile hike on a boardwalk along Anan Creek to get up to the falls where the bears tend to congregate and where a viewing platform has been constructed. It feels like you're running a gauntlet as you're walking the trail because of all the bear trails that come down from the hill to the left, cross the boardwalk and continue down to the creek. Seeing any one of those trails somewhere up here would give me pause, but to see a dozen of them in half a mile gets my attention.

And so does meeting a bear on the boardwalk, which I happened to do. It was a black bear coming my way about 100 feet away. I yelled and got its attention, but it still came towards me a few more steps before turning down toward the creek. Clearly one needs to pay attention on this walk.

There were about 10 of us at the platform and a young ranger who is about to start his senior year at Highlands University at Las Vegas, NM, just up the road from Santa Fe. The rest of the folks were off a motor yacht that pulled in about the same time as me.

We saw 7 or 8 bears, one of which was a brown bear who showed up, but almost immediately turned tail and scampered away. One sow had 2 cubs with her and they were being pestered by another female black bear. So most of the time the cubs were up a tree, and mom was trying to lead the pestering bear away from them. The other bears seemed to be wandering around aimlessly.

The salmon had just started arriving a week ago so I don't think they were that plentiful yet. I didn't see any bear catch a fish though a couple were scanning the fishing holes.

It was raining pretty heavily while I was t the observatory, and I was getting chilled standing around with goretex over thin, damp capilene, so I started back. No bears on the trail this time, but you can be sure I was honking my vocal horn at every curve in the trail.

At the trail head, I had to retrieve all my food bags and canisters from a storage room because no food was allowed to be left in boats. I guess they've had trouble in the past with bears climbing on inflated dinghies and puncturing them in search of food or something. In fact, when I first showed up the ranger at the trail head said I had to unload all food and plastic from the boat! Helloo! Just about everything in that boat ad everything I'm wearing is plastic. She relented and said the plastic in my hatches should be all right. Anyway, it meant reloading in the rain was kind of a pain.

I was hopeful for a good camp because it was already close to 4pm and it was still raining and my not-so-trusty guidebook said there is "an excellent" spot right across from Anan on the SE corner of Wrangell Island. Well, maybe in good weather when the ground isn't so saturated that it pools in every footprint. If I camped there, I'd be counting on my sleeping pad to keep me out of the water.

I looked around the adjoining bay to be sure I wasn't missing something, but there wasn't anything else. I decided to try the next spot about a mile or so further up Blake Channel. I figured if that one wasn't workable, I would keep going another 11 miles to where I knew there was a Forest Service cabin. If it's anything like the Winstanley place, there should be some flat spots in the area. The problem was the distance, the time of day already, and the tide which had just turned against me and was reputed to be substantial.

The second location was terrible. Both places look good from a distance with 2-3 foot high green grasses looking soft and inviting. But usually, these grasses are growing in rocky areas with poor drainage, and this second spot was the perfect example.

So screw it, I'm off to Berg Bay where I'm sure heaven awaits in a flat needle-covered nest under a huge cedar tree.

So now I'm wondering how long it's going to take me. How strong is the counter current going to be? How long will my strength and will hold up this late in the day? Veddy good questions...

I turn the GPS on and start paddling. Surprisingly, I am doing better than 5 mph. I don't think I've ever done that without a current or strong wind behind me. I think, OK, the tide hasn't changed here yet, but it will at any moment, and when it does, I will have to head to shore and crawl along for possibly 4 hours, but hopefully just 3.

In fact, it was a gorgeous paddle, and my speed almost never dipped below 5 mph and I got to the cabin in 2 hours. I do not know what that strong current gibberish was about.

But that's not the amazing part of the evening. When I got to the cabin, it was unoccupied! It was mine for the night. What unbelievable luck. I knew that was a possibility, but I didn't dare let myself consider it.

I pulled up to the little A-frame and thought, what a little piece of heaven. I moved in with a vengeance, but a grateful vengeance. I had wet gear hanging everywhere in that cabin. It has an oil stove that I got started, and the place heated up nicely. I cranked up the heat til I was down to my skivvies and loving my little sauna. I cooked up a warm meal and hit the sack.

And that was my 4th of July. And today is the 5th, and I'm still at the cabin. I decided if no one showed up, I would layover here for a day. It's a beautiful spot, and having a day to myself in a cozy cabin sounded great. If someone showed up, I would pack up and paddle the 21 miles into Wrangell.

No one showed up, though the cabin hasn't been as cozy since the oil for the stove ran out during the night. Cabin users are supposed to bring their own and I guess I was using someones leftovers. But, even though it's been raining all day, it's not that cold and once in a while, I'll fire up my stove and let it burn for a while to take the chill off. I have lots of camp fuel so it's OK for me to waste some of it.

So tomorrow I should be in Wrangell if all my stars line up right. I'm looking forward to the paddle.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

July 1, Day after Ketchikan

What a great day this has been. It's amazing what good weather combined with a nice camp can do for my spirits.

When I got up this morning,m it was raining and it continued raining through my boat packing on the dock and through my first 2 hours of paddling. I had called a taxi for a 5:15 pick-up so I could be on the water by 6am. That would give me the last 2 hours of ebb tide to get out the Tongass Narrows Then I would do the 5 mile crossing of the Behm Canal around slack tide and have the flood tide to push me up Clarence Strait. All that meant I needed to get picked up at the hotel by 5:15am.

Everything went well, although it's kind of miserable to have all my gear spread out on the dock and getting soaked while I'm trying to get the kayak into the water and loaded. Once I was paddling, the rain wasn't a bother at all.

There were a lot of seaplanes taking off at 6 so I had to do a bit of jockeying to get through them all. I think a lot of freight gets hauled early in the morning and more flight seeing happens later. There wasn't much boat traffic at that hour, mostly sport fishing boats headed out to Higgins Point to troll for salmon.

Throughout the morning the low clouds slowly lifted and I went from paddling in a cloud to paddling under an overcast sky. The crossing of the Behm went well with just enough slop from waves and swell to keep it interesting. By the time I was across, there were patches of blue sky visible. And when I went around Camano Point, a humpback surfaced, arched its back to dive and lifted its tail high in the air. That was a sight to behold. I never saw it again so I assume it dove deep.

And not too many miles further, I came to a beautiful gravel beach with a small offshore island to protect it from southerlies. The beach has plenty of room to pitch a tent above high tide (and we're at the high part of the cycle again) and the sun is shining and I've got the whole afternoon to spend in this lovely spot. And there's a breeze so the bugs aren't bothersome.

I spend the afternoon setting up camp, having lunch, reading, dozing, repairing my hip and thigh pads in the boat with the barge cement I finally found at a shoe repair shop in Ketchikan. I swear, that stuff must not be imported into Canada because I couldn't find it there, though to be fair, Prince Rupert is the only town of any size I searched. I snooped around the forest behind camp as it was particularly open with little undergrowth. Some big stumps indicate its been logged, but not in recent decades. And I make some brownies, plan the next couple days on the map, fix spicy Thai noodles with peanut sauce for dinner, write in my journal, hang my food bags, close up camp for the night, read and go to bed.

I know my energy has been a little low the last few days because of some soggy weather and long mileage days with little time to do anything besides paddle. But days like today are re-invigorating. Yahoo! Maybe there'll be more where this one came from.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ketchikan, Day 57

Back in civilization again after a couple 30 mile days coming south from Misty Fjords. I parked on the dock of a kayak touring outfit here called Southeast Kayaks. Same folks that outfitted Barry, Cass and Hipper. It's a really friendly group of people working here. I got to spend some time with Kim Kirby, one of the owners who I met last fall in Port Townsend at the sea kayak symposium.

Another couple days of errands and exploring here. It's the nicest port of call I've come onto during this trip. It's also the only place I've stopped at where I've known someone, so that's part of it.

Tomorrow I head up toward Meyers Chuck and Wrangell. I've decided not to do the extra loop out west from Wrangell to Tebenkof Bay, so from Wrangell, I'll continue north to Petersburg. If I did the trip out west, I'd have to extend the trip a week or so into August, which I could do, but I realize that a certain fatigue is setting in. I noticed it just before I got to Misty Fjords. It's not that I want to stop the trip and head home, but I don't think I have the energy to add that loop. Before the trip started, I wondered if my energy would wane at some point, and I think that's exactly what's happening. I think if I pare some of the extra side trips, I can maintain a good energy for the rest of the trip.

Thanks again to all you who have sent comments and emails. It's great to get news of your lives out here. Take care, all.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Where Eagles Swim

Really enjoying the quiet and lack of traffic up here beyond Rudyerd. I see maybe one boat per day moving out on the water.

The highlight of this day has been watching a bald eagle swim 200 yards to shore. I thought I saw some movement on the water ahead of me, and at first I couldn't tell if the movement was just the result of water fluctuations. It was flat calm, but there was still some gentle swell. Then I thought it was a float for a crab trap. I think the eagle was resting then. Then it looked like a swimmer doing the butterfly stroke, but there was something wrong with the dimensions--the head seemed too high out of the water.

Finally, when I got close enough to see it was a bald eagle, I couldn't believe it. I had heard eagles sometimes misjudge the surface of the water and get too wet to lift out again, or they clutch a fish too big to lift, but their talons can't let loose so they drop in the water. And I thought the result was the eagle drowning. But I sat in my kayak and watched as this bird flapped its waterlogged wings and slowly moved toward shore. It would swim for a few minutes, then stop and rest for a minute, then start again. When it rested, its head was well above water, and when it started up again, it was strong enough to lift part of its wings out of the water, but soon the range of wing movement lessened, but it kept flapping. There was nothing in its movements or looks that indicated panic to me. I thought I would be seeing this bird drown, but I wonder if it could have swum for another 200 yards or more.

I couldn't tell how old the bird was, but its head and tail were solid white and there was no mottled color to the wings so it wasn't an adolescent, though I don't know at what age they develop their solid coloring. And would it have been good eating for a seal? One surfaced between the eagle and me near shore, then disappeared again.

When this eagle finally made shore and shook and flapped its wings to dry off, another eagle that I had noticed high in a tree some 100 yards off, swooped down and with its talons outstretched, knocked the wet bird down and continued flying to a low branch in a nearby tree. There was lots of squawking and screeching between the 2 birds. The wet bird got to its feet right away, and a minute later, the second bird attacked it again. Same result, but the attacker flew further away this time. Soon it flew off around the bend and out of sight as a third eagle appeared soaring above the trees. It landed in the top of a tree some distance off, and that's how I left them. The swimmer had hopped up rocks about 10 feet above the water and stood there drying and preening.

So what was going on? Was the eagle knocked out of the air by the other one? Was it a youngster that misjudged in trying to catch a fish? No idea really, but I like to think it was a teenager making some risky, flamboyant move too near the surface of the water, and when it finally emerged from the water, its mom came down and gave it a couple knocks upside the head for being so foolhardy. Any other guesses?

Misty Fjords

The gang arrived at the cabin just as planned, and other than Hipper's luggage that went to Washington, D.C. instead of Ketchikan, all went well. It was great seeing the old gang. Memories of kayaking together in Idaho one summer long ago kept popping up throughout their stay--fine memories, indeed.

We paddled to nearby inlets and even had a 20 mile day to Rudyerd Bay, the highlight of the park. Weather was cooperative--wet at first, but becoming partly cloudy, partly sunny the last couple days. We also got a good hike in up to Winstanley Lake though Barry couldn't make it due to a cranky knee (due for surgery in 2 weeks). What an amazing rainforest up here. Hopefully some of the photos will show the wet density of it all.

I thought it would be a shock to see familiar faces up here so far from anywhere and in the middle of my solo journey, but, strangely, it all seemed so normal. Of course, here are my friends, and I assume they've come from places as diverse as where I've just been. And now we'll enjoy a few days sharing stories of each other's adventures. I guess that's what I was thinking.

Anyway, it was a great time yakking, eating, drinking, paddling and enjoying a wild, beautiful setting. And a few days later, kayaks were loaded on a speedboat, and by nightfall, my friends would be back in their homes, and I would be a little deeper into the park at a camp at the mouth of Walker Cove.

I thought it might be harder to get back into the routine of paddling and camping after being spoiled by cabin life, but good weather for the next couple days helped me ease back into the journey.

Walker Bay was the highlight of my visit to the park. It isn't quite as dramatic as Rudyerd Bay, but it also doesn't have any traffic. Rudyerd Bay had the near constant drone of seaplanes flying low overhead and tour boats coming and going. It's only a 25 minute flight from Ketchikan, and with 900,000 cruise ship visitors every summer, there are plenty of people wanting to take a scenic flight. Someone said that Ketchikan has between 300 and 350 seaplane take-offs and landings every day in the summer time.

I met another kayaker in Walker Bay--Tristan, a young Aussie from the Perth area who is headed south to Olympia. We shared a camp and paddled through Walker Bay together before I continued north and he went south.