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.


Anonymous said...

Hey BC,

Reading you blog continues to be a great armchair adventure! Thanks for taking the time. The hot smokey skies of our CA fire season are a long way from what you are experiencing. The mighty Death Ride is this weekend and I think the ride will "do me" this year as I've been on the bike for about the length of the death ride in the past 6 weeks. Oh well, don't want to get caught over training. I'm hooking up with Brooks and Tim for the Glacier ride the next week. That's going to be a hoot. We'll miss you. Stay away from those bugs and bears. bill

Anonymous said...

Hey Rimbeaux,

I am so impressed and envious of your trip! Congratulations on making it this far, so far, with wrists, elbows & shoulders apparently intact. It looks like gorgeous country filled with all kinds of characters & some very cool wildlife. (Would those scruffy city boys who came calling in Misty Fjords get classified as characters or wildlife?)

We watched an eagle do the breaststroke across half of Dead Bird Bay at Shuyak one day. It had a fish it wasn't about to let go of (and maybe it couldn't). Gulls divebombed it incessantly. We too thought we were going to watch it drown but it made it to shore, with its salmon. It was a nailbiter of a drama. I'll ask around about your fishless eagle, but, from your plumage description, I'm sure it was an adult. They reach adulthood at about 4 or 5 years of age. I'm guessing it went for a fish, missed, and couldn't recover flight.

I know you have Skagway in your sights, but if you get the urge to keep paddling (or trade paddle for wings), come visit! We'll both be home late July/early August & would love to see you & Carlie.
Safe travels & happy paddling -
Lisa (& Bob & Eli & Sukha)

Anonymous said...

Hi BC!
I'm sitting here in my comfortable home so glad to be here, but also, my heart is pulled north. Robin and I got home on July 4th after 34 days on the water. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and I wish you and your family the very best. This must be an amazing trip for you, life changing I'm sure.
Sue Dandridge

the Commissioner said...

Rimbeaux, I don't know whether I'm more taken by your journey or how well you narrate it. Fortunately, I don't have to decide. But what's all this about rain? Here in SoCal that word is fading from our cultural memory. This could be the beginning of a drought that turns us into contemporary Anasazis. But I digress. What about the loneliness factor? You've not said much about that. I loved your riff about the inflexibility that attends aging. I sent your blog link to my writer-editor friend Jeff in Dallas, who pronounced you "a natural writer."

I'm sure I speak for most of your friends when I say we love having you out in that wild, spectacular setting because we know you love it. Savor those final days, embrace Carlie and come home safe. I hear the sun is shining in Santa Fe.

Much love,