Tracy L said – how about circumnavigating Vancouver Island?
Traci C said – how about summer 2018?
Tracy L said – how about circumnavigating Vancouver Island?
REI has a registration page with 100 spots for the slideshow on 9/30/2014. Might be a good idea to sign up if you plan to come.
Correction to the last post – the presentation is TUESDAY, September 30th, 7pm. My fingers shouldn’t t override my brain… or I shouldn’t post late at night.
The two T’s, Traci and Tracy, will be giving a slideshow presentation of their trip at the downtown REI on TUESDAY, September 30th, at 7pm. Come here stories first hand, and ask any burning questions you might have!
12:30 Thursday August 9th
Ketchikan AK after a hot shower with a double application of shampoo. Of course, I still have my giant wad of knotted dreadlock hair in the back. That’s beyond the work of a simple shampoo. Terry’s house above the float plane docks and harbor is great! The laundry is just finishing up its second rinse and final spin, so I am just 15-20 minutes away from clean laundered clothing and hair! The tent is drying, hanging in the laundry room and making the entire basement smell like a little chief smoker. I just want to get it totally dry and when I get home I can do more maintenance work on it. It has been the bright yellow roof of happiness over my head for the past 7 weeks and it needs a proper wash, disinfection and drying out all around.
Yesterday at the black sand beach it poured and blew all afternoon. It was a proper little storm and a great last day to be outside in Alaska. It made coming in from the rain a no brainer.
We paddled over after packing up this morning. Since there still was some wind and swell I surfed a few rollers across the bay towards the Tongass narrows as salmon jumped all around me. Chums are running up the rivers here now, but I see pinks jumping all over the place. No fishing for me this morning, just heading into the busy port and customs. On the way in we stopped at Saxman village. It was early since the rain started pounding on the blue tarp at 5:00 am and neither one of use slept that well in the very damp air and hard ground next to the picnic shelter. We left the beach, an easy launch on the black sand after a breakfast of oatmeal with dried fruit and coffee in the sprinkling rain.
At Saxman, we met a nice native gentleman who told us the fee was $5.00, but since we had no money, we just visited with him for a while and decided to come back another day when we had money. In the morning, before all the tourists from the cruise ships come in. Every morning 4 or 5 gigantic cruise ships dock up here in town and it is a parade of boats, planes, and water taxis heading out with tourists. Then back again they return in the afternoon. To ears that are not used to a city, Ketchikan sounds are those of motors, airplanes, jet engines, diesel fishing boats. Motors all day and all night. You can hear them from 10 miles out.
We passed Alaska fisheries and dozens of salmon boats offloading their catch on the way into port. I shot a few pictures for Knut as we zig zagged, maneuvering in and out between the large netters. Then around the pier besides 2 enormous cruise ships. Princess Oceania and the Westerdam. Today over 8,000 people came to Ketchikan on 4 different cruise ships. As we tied our kayaks off on the dock next to the river you could hear stadium like cheering coming from one of the ships. Now this was not a sound I expected to hear in the harbor. It sounded like we had parked next to Safeco field during a Mariners game. Traci C called the customs number located on a sign at the top of the ramp and we took turns giving the nice lady our personal numbers and information. Then we hung out at the top of the ramp, next to the rosy pink Federal building watching a young African American local boy catch large chum salmon on a pink jig as they swam up the small river. Tourists took many pictures of this as they strolled along the older board walk part of town just up from the ramp. Our customs officer came out to verify our information. He is a kayaker as well. He also brought smiles and candy for us. After a nice visit, checking out our kayaks and looking at our pass cards I called Levi and we made arrangements to be picked up at the Potlatch pub just up from the Ketchikan yacht club docks. We paddled over to the dock, past the little river and boy, who had caught another salmon.
Everything here works on a rhythm, determined by the flow of salmon or tourists up rivers or off of the cruise ships. The shops open or close based upon the incoming and departing ships, netting as much money from the migrating tourists as they can before they pass through. The fishermen pull their nets out and in doing the very same sort of rhythm just outside of town. Everyone is grabbing what resources they can from this modern swimming migration. Whales bubble net, men gill net and purse seine and shop keepers cast their lures of sales and souvenirs.
Levi picked us up in Terry’s car complete with 2 kayak racks and we did what we now do best. Unloaded our kayaks (for the last time really), and carried our boats up the ramp and onto the awaiting car. Part 1 of this day was over.
This day was like 2 complete and separate days. Part 2 of Thursday – Civilization.
Levi helped us load and haul our gear then drove us up to Terry’s house on Water street. Up narrow twisting steep roads to a great spot overlooking the North end of Pinock island and a float plane dock. Never dull as there are floatplanes taking off and landing all day long and numerous fishing boats anchored out in the bay behind the island. We put our kayaks down in the garage, thanked Levi, then showered and did loads of laundry. I wiped down and set up the tent for drying. Then we drove Terry’s car down to Safeway to purchase whatever we needed and wanted. I got my contact solution (used up the final bit yesterday), waterproof mascara, a couple of apples and a diet coke. Traci C purchased her orange juice and a bag of fresh fruit. Then we ate a delicious large vegetarian Stone deck pizza, washed down with an Alaskan amber ale, delicious!
Then back to the house to finish up cleaning my kayak, tarp, washing out my gear and drying everything out. As the afternoon went on, I ate a box of milk duds and drank my diet coke and in between I managed to eat a couple of apples and an orange. Oh yea, stopped by “Art at the Point” had a snicker doodle and latte. (Oh so yummy and so civilized.) I am sort of surprised that I don’t really have any food cravings. Must be a good sign that we ate well this second half fo the trip… except I would love to eat more chinook salmon.
Last night after all the cleaning and organization was done, we uploaded our pictures and videos on Traci C’s i-pad. Sure was fun looking at them. Some great pictures and I think with hours of editing, some good video clips. Our plan is to make an open source e-book.
Mile 832, Ketchikan!
Conditions: cool and grey
Late in the afternoon yesterday the rain diminished a bit and the wind abated somewhat. More reasonable conditions at least – the rain was coming down so hard and fast that we were developing a moat around our picnic shelter, and sleeping on top of the picnic tables looked like possibly the only option for not sleeping in a lake! I got out my trusty trowel and dug a trench to help drain the moat, which was partially successful.
During the night Tracy got up and stoked the fire a few times. Everything is smoky and soot-covered, but we are reasonably warm and dry. I didn’t sleep well – I kept expecting the rain to pick up and flood our tent.
Tracy is unstoppable. I think she would continue to Juneau and beyond if we had time. Me, I’m ready to come in. She said today: “I don’t get homesick because I know I will make it home”. Interesting concept. I know we will make it home, but that doesn’t stop me from missing folks. I think she must live in the moment better than I. Don’t mistake me, this trip has been fun, difficult, amazing, beautiful, awe-inspiring, dreadful, funny, and more, but I’m ready to move ahead and go back home to my family. Interesting too, is that when Heather and I traveled in Europe, we both felt the same way in about the same time frame, even though that was an entirely different adventure. Perhaps my homing beacon kicks in around six weeks of absence.
Anyway, we woke to a wet, grey morning; Raven “borked” us awake again – get going, sleepy heads! We broke camp for the last time, had an easy gear slog at the high tide, and set course for Ketchikan, less than six miles away. Without a fishing pole and extra water weight, Tracy quickly outstripped me. Just amazing how many gears that woman has. After 800 miles I have one pace left – f***-ing slow – but I have the endurance of an ox.
We reached the Tongass Narrows, probably around 7am, and other than a few boats the coast was clear. A mere hundred strokes or so took us to the other side. We stopped at Saxman Village and tied up on the beach. We were wearing our drysuits, knowing we’d be spending some time here and at customs, hanging around wet on land. Both of us found the suits way too warm for paddling, even on the cooler days. My paddling armor of choice has been my JL polypro top (worn every day), Lotus capri paddling pants (should have brought full-length fleece tights – if only for bug protection; I started wearing my she-beast tights over the capris to keep the bugs off), Kokatat Gore-Tex light paddling jacket when needed (maybe 50% of the time?) – this is my standard paddling jacket at home. Naked feet in Keen sandals until the last week, then added gore-tex socks over wool socks. This works great until I step into water deeper than 6-8 inches. I want knee-high gore-tex socks!
At Saxman we found the totem poles, but as paddlers we weren’t prepared for the five dollar admission fee. I want to come back and check out the lodge and carving studio.
Back to the kayaks, and now at 7:30am there is a steady parade of smaller charter boats heading out of Ketchikan. Two enormous cruise ships are visible in harbor from miles away. These things are so gigantic they can obscure small islands. As instructed by customs a few days ago, we continued past the Coast Guard station, past the breakwater and cruise ships, and into the customs dock. Tracy wanted to charge land, but I made us play by the rules. What a stickler! However, I’ve read horror stories about cold, wet, tired paddlers who crossed the street for a muffin while waiting for customs… I called the customs number and got a very nice woman who took our information and sent an agent our way. We had to wait a bit – no idea how long exactly, we are completely off the clock at this time – but very grateful for our drysuits so we weren’t cold. When the agent arrived, he was very nice. A paddler himself, he was more interested in our trip and gear than official business. He even had candy from the woman I talked to, who was worried about us on the dock. Welcome to Alaska!
Tracy called Levi, a friend of Terry’s, who came to meet us with Terry’s car. Two sets of kayak racks, this is too easy!! Levi helped us carry gear, brought us to Terry’s house, and our journey is complete. Great house on the hillside over the Narrows and floatplanes. Houses here are built right into the hillside, reminiscent of the Berkeley hills, only way more rugged. Roads are an afterthought. Shower, laundry… so welcome!
Clean and dry, we headed out for lunch. We stopped at Safeway where my first purchases were a new toothbrush (yes!), OJ, and some good crunchy apples. We found a pizza shop and got a large pizza for lunch, and the two of us easily took down the whole thing. The waitress was impressed. If she only knew…!
We spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning and managing our gear – what we do best. Terry’s lower bedroom has a Costco foam mattress. Heaven. Internet too, so we caught up on email. Email first, then sleep, sleep, sleep.
3:10 Seattle time 2:10 Alaska time Wednesday August 8th.
Got up and raced the tide to get of off last nights campsite on the tiny spit between Revi island and the islet next to cone island, while it was possible. Last night I got up once to put the fire together again around 2:00 am and it crackled and smoked all night long covering our odor with the smell of fire. After yesterday evening and today, lets just say I am well kippered. It was an easy 13 miles here to the black sand beach with a pushing current. I trolled, but our speed was too much. Although, when I stopped I got a salmon on only to lose it at the kayak before I could get the net out. It started raining as we passed the south end of the Ketchikan suburbs heading across the channel to Grabina island and this black sand beach. It is a really nice bay with a big gently sloping black sand beach surrounded by kelp beds. When we arrived there were several private fishing boats out salmon fishing. 20 – 30 footers, deep V Grady white style set ups. I think many of them are charters for people off the cruise ships. We saw 2 of those in the harbor off in the distance.
Its quite a site, the bustle of Ketchikan, even from 5 miles away. We saw our first car since Nanaimo, headlights far off on a shore road. Heard jet planes taking off, I thought it was thunder at first. Lots of boats, cruise ships, fishing trawlers and water taxi’s taking cruisers on tours around the area. Quite a contrast to our past several weeks of travel. It is also pouring down rain. Even though there is a nice picnic shelter here I had almost an hours struggle to get the fire going. Everything is wet and we are dressed in our dry suits in order to stay warm and dry. I even had to put up my blue tarp in order to keep the rain from drowning out the fire and its a big fire. Now its starting to blow, the fire loves it, but not our blue tarps. Small lakes of rainwater have formed around this shelter. Thank goodness this bay has tons of driftwood even if all of it is wet, (soaked). I had to look into hollow logs and under boards to find wood to use along with some white gas from my stove to get this fire going. We put the tent up on a picnic table to air out, hopeful it will not rain all day, so we can get it down on a tarp on the ground this evening to sleep. Its somewhat dry under this shelter – warm due to the fire and very smokey. White caps are forming as it starts to gust in the bay.
Good news: less rain. Bad news: no fishing this afternoon for me and no fish for dinner.
This weather makes it a whole lot easier to head into Ketchikan and finalize our journey. It also makes you very glad and grateful for each and every day without pouring rain on our trip. I am pretty sure it will dry up a bit this evening, that has been the pattern. In the morning we will put on our dry suits with clothes underneath and paddle over to Saxman village to look at totem poles. Then head North up to customs.
I called Terry today to make arrangements in town. He is so amazing! He is in Skagway right now and will return Friday morning on a 8:30 am flight. He gave me his house address and internet code and contacted his friend Levi, who will meet us at customs tomorrow and take us to Terry’s house. That will go great. Give us a chance to clean up and organize before our host returns. It is going to be lots of fun visiting and looking at pictures and telling stories in the next few days. Since we are ahead of schedule, the weather is really bad, and Traci c is tired of paddling I thought we might see if we could book an Alaska Ferry northward and then come back south. Don’t know if that’s possible but we both think it would be great way to see more. A mini cruise and luxury on the deck with showers and being able to go inside. So who knows?? We will check it out in the next few days. As I write this I am eating chocolate bar #36 I think, and finishing off a tube of Adams peanut butter on it. Woe! A major wind gust just came in and carried along sheets of rain with it over the water. Not forcasted, that’s for sure. We wouldn’t be able to go into town now even if we wanted to.
7:20pm Seattle Time. Two whales are spouting out in the bay. Finally it is calming down – still raining. This fire is great!
Mile 826, Black Sand Cove
Conditions: wet, storm building, and did I say wet?
Cool, grey, gloomy start. Rain last night/this morning, but dry for our launch. Nice. But this site is not so nice, so power/energy bars for breakfast on the run. We’ll make hot food when we get to our campsite.
Tracy isn’t ready to come in from the wild yet, and I’m game for another night or two, so we skirted past Ketchikan (got a clear view though) and set course for Black Sand Cove on Galvina Island. This will set us up for an easy six mile paddle to Ketchikan.
Rain spit on us and started falling in earnest when we landed. A fine, newly built shelter with two picnic tables greeted us, as well as an easy, gently sloping black sand beach. Easy in and out – yes! Super wet though. We set up tarps, Tracy managed to build a fire (tough going there, everything is soaked), and other than smoke in my eyes wherever I go, it will work for our last campsite. No lingering tomorrow though, in to town we go. Tracy contacted her friend Terry and it sounds like we’ll be all set up. Hallelujah!
With all the rain, we’ve now got much cleaner drinking water than we’ve had in weeks. Big Blue, my tarp, is putting in one more night of service. She has sheltered us for several rainy nights, or served as a ground tarp. Folks laughed at her when we launched, she was bulky on my deck, but she has served well, popped grommets and all. She will be retired with high honors in Ketchikan.
GoPro video by TracyL
Tuesday August 7th
My description of Summer in SE Alaska:
You can see it, on the horizon. Its where you just camped to the South and its up North on the horizon, where you will be in a day or so. You can see the sunshine, its just that you can never get to it. Kind of like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You chase after it, but can never reach it. But If you do get there -(GOLD IT IS!)
10:10 pm. Sitting by my big fire journaling and making sure it will burn late into the night. We are camped on Revi island in the only camp-able spot we could locate. It is on a large cobble strewn spit right next to a game trail that I checked out and there is old bear scat right in the middle of it. The tiny spit has sedge grass and you can see it has been chewed off in places. If not for that, this would be a great place. I built a fire between that trail and the short distance to our tent that we placed between our kayaks. All of our food and garbage is near the trail and we are behind the fire, on the opposite side of this little beach/spit. That’s about all I can think to do. Of course we hardly cooked much and we ate on the opposite side of a big rock on this islet which is attached to the spit to hide the smell of cooked food. This should be our last night having to deal with big animal predators. Tomorrow is an island on a black sand beach 6 miles from Ketchikan. (I think it’s an island.) Looking forward to not having to deal with all these predators, it’s a pain.
I cooked up some coke colored water we collected at a stream on the fire and added Castile soap so we both had a warm fresh water chamois bath next to this fire. Traci is great about collecting and purifying water. We always have had an ample supply on this journey. Its all these little things you do when camping that make it comfortable and keep your energy up. Like nice fires, bathing, having plenty of fresh water, setting up a comfortable and secure camp, keeping all your gear as dry and maintained as you can.
Tonight I found a new use for my favorite algae, fucus. In order to set up as secure of a site as we could, the tent area was covered in large cobble stone. We had to move some rocks and I piled up washed up fucus on top of the area. Then Traci put down her big blue tarp, folded up to make a very comfortable tent pad on the shale and cobble between our kayaks that we have resting on beach logs. Fucus has many uses. For example; I have not used toilet paper in weeks as fucus is much better. Its the best for washing out your bowl and cook pot, hands as well and now….A great cushion for our tent.
Today we passed the 800 mile mark. We are less than 20 miles from Ketchikan. I trolled for many hours today and only caught a small black mouth. I let it go of course. I had a hit that broke off my new hook and I never felt it. So I trolled with my small buzz bomb. I set up a new hoochie tonight on my favorite salmon killer spoon. So tomorrow I hope to net my first big Alaskan salmon. Oh yea, I let another rock fish go that hit my line when it sank. Most of our paddling today was off shore and across bays in choppy following winds in the morning 1 – 2 foot SW, then it calmed down when the current shifted in the late afternoon.
Mile 813, Cove Point
Conditions: cool, grey, light rain at times, S/SE/SW variable wind, high 50s; barometer ???
Lovely summer evening last night with a bonfire. Colors fading into the muted blues and greys of evening, with the warm glow of the fire were beautiful. Forecast for rain coming in though; we sea gypsies will proceed in the morning.
A bit of swell and SW wind greeted us, and we headed north with Tracy fishing. Constant low thrum of boat engines now, we are out of the wilderness. Conditions calming as we go north and stop for lunch at the Slate Islands. Shortly thereafter we cut across Behm Channel for Point Alava. We see one semi-likely beach, but we prefer islands and peninsulas, and with a slight assist in the current we keep going. Lucky Cove, but not so lucky for campsites. The last spot we visit though has a stream, so I collected four liters of coca-cola coloured water. Not sure if we’ll drink this; probably heat it up for a fresh water bath. On to Cove Point/Cone Island, passing a few purse seiners. All the other fishing boats have been gillnetters, so this is a little different.
Not much in the way of campsites at Cone Point either, but we’re not going any farther, so we make do with a spit of land above high tide. We discover a trail though, with bear scat at the center. Crap. Oh yes, crap. It’s not fresh, but it is present. Clearly the bear has come here to eat the sedges. We quickly revise our camping scenario – food and garbage by the trail, tent between the boats on the opposite side. After tossing rocks and filling the low spots with fucus (Tracy’s favorite algae), and laying down the tarp, we make a surprisingly comfortable tent site.
Tracy built a toasty fire between us and the food, and we thankfully slept the night away uneventfully.