Monday August 6th
Yesterday evening when we landed here in SE Alaska paradise we decided to stay as long as this beautiful sunny weather does. Slept in this morning, only getting out of the tent at 6:10 am to pee, stretch and then most out of character, go back to bed. What a luxury!
This morning the sunlight hit the North end of the beach by 8:00 am and its slowly marching across the small white sand cove towards our cook/food station on the South end of the beach. I made crumbly whole wheat cakes with raisins for Traci and chocolate chips for me this morning. A slow work filled process when on a beach and working with a small 8” pan and MSR whisperlite stove that only wants to cook on high and the highest snow melting temperatures. You get about 1 out of 4 properly flipped cakes, no matter how much butter you apply. We used up the last of the chocolate chips Traci brought along. She declared 2 days ago; “I am done with chocolate!” So I will have to keep eating the chocolate bars we have left over the next several days. (That’s just too bad, isn’t it?)
Traci attempted to get me to eat up a big bag of raisins this morning since she has been packing them around for the past 6 1/2 weeks. I stopped at 1 handful, at least for this morning. We have been eating as well as you can with the great variety of dried fruits and vegetables and soup mixes Traci brought along. Although, I find that for long paddling days and cold ones the venison jerky and cheese keeps me going the best. We can both feel the difference mid-morning between days when we have had coffee and oatmeal before heading out and the days when we are getting off the beach quickly, just eating our various energy bars. When you are lean, a full happy stomach results in an easier day on the sea. Right now as this marvelous SE Alaska sun warms up the white sand and rocks, the tide is low. About 20 – 24 feet below the log I am using as a backrest as I write. When I finish this I am going to pull on my wet paddling top and neoprene vest, pull out my mask and snorkel and see if I can stand the cold water temperature and dive around these rocks. Perhaps I will find some urchins down there for miso soup, this afternoon?
Any artist would have subjects to paint here on this little beach for years. Last night as the sun slowly marched Northward across the thin scattered cloudy sky, the colors on the rocks, trees, sand and water changed about every 20 minutes. We landed around 6:45 pm floating on turquoise colored water over the white sand, with reflections of orange and brown from the fucus laden submerged boulders. The sky was bright blue with high stratus clouds of various hues of greyish white. As the hours went by, those colors slowly darkened into oily greenish grays reflecting on the gunmetal black colored water. The trees became silhouettes of every dark emerald green you can imagine. The white glimmering sand picked up interesting shadows adding texture to its surface. Truly, can this be Alaska? An artist would use every tint and color in the palette to paint just the transitions in color from last night on this lovely beach.
Today I will swim, tan, rest, work on my fishing tackle, clean and dry the tent, collect firewood from the beach on the other side of this island.. (The Westward side) beachcomb, perhaps make some jewelry, charge up all of my cameras via the sunlight. My Goal zero solar charger is working great. Just to name of few things I will do.
Over the past, almost 7 weeks Traci and I have camped and slept in 0ver 40 new places. Staying in place for a day or two is really enjoyable. Being on a little island beach paradise like this in the sun is really more than I could have imagined possible a few days ago. I think we should remain for a few days if this beautiful weather holds. We are ahead of schedule and we can pound out the final 50 or so miles to Ketchikan anytime we want to at this point. As I look towards the South end of the beach I see what reminds me of the old copper tan commercial. The one with the little girl laying on her stomach on a beach, half naked buttock up towards the sky as her small dog pulls down her shorts. Only this is Traci C, floppy paddling hat covering her head and neck, purple tee shirt and small black shorts pulled halfway down her butt. There is no one here but us. So clothing is always optional. It’s very relaxed, you don’t have to be self-conscious at all. No men or any people, just us 2 fit, lean, very salty, middle aged sea gypsy women. It’s quite relaxing actually, without any thoughts about appearance, sex, etc. that come along with taking off your clothes, when you are raised in our culture. I have never been much of an exhibitionist, even when I lived on Maui I always wore my bikini at the nude beach when diving or body surfing. I am just not comfortable taking it all off. So this is another nice experience that comes along with a journey like the one we are having. Sorry guys – you have just missed out on us 2 old gals sans clothing at every sunny beach we landed on with warm rocks. As Traci C put it a few weeks ago as we lay on the sun warmed rocks in Desolation sound warming up our cold bodies…. “If David knew how much I would get naked out here when camping, he would want to come along!” Hey, perhaps that is the incentive for future trips, shorter trips, with our husbands. I just looked down the beach, no more sun hat, tee shirt or shorts down there. I think I will try the cold water now. See if I can take the cold and explore what’s under the surface.
3:30pm Fishing Report
I Just finished tying up a new hook and trimming a pink hoochie on my salmon killer spoon. I’m ready to go out fishing again. Yesterday, while travelling here; around 30 miles, I trolled whenever I could. I really, really, really, wanted to get another salmon. As soon as we crossed Point Fox and headed North there was a US gill netter about every ½ mile, setting and pulling in nets full of salmon. Unfortunately, a big black rock fish grabbed my line and stressed my poorly tied on hook. At least protein for dinner was in the bag. I kept on trolling, having to use my back up leader, (pink skirt with double hooks, one trailing) There was a ton of eel grass and kelp, so at least half the time my hooks were not fishing and every time I slowed down, my line dropped and a rock fish hooked up. I let 3 of them go before keeping the last one for dinner and reeling in my line. So…. no salmon last night. We did have an amazing 4 cut up filet’s of rockfish sautéed in flavored rice with carrots and tomatoes. Traci is a real trooper and patient partner in all of this, because fishing slows down my kayak speed especially when I have to stop to check my line or fight a fish. She never complains, just talks about how good the fish tastes. I really appreciate this because being able to fish and dive for the occasional urchin is a major reason for my doing this trip. To just paddle on by some of the best nature in the world and not partake in the natural food web and miss out on all of that great fishing and gathering fun would be crazy, the way I see it.
Recap: Yesterday I hooked 5 rockfish, kept 2 , No Salmon would bite!
I braved the cold but beautiful waters off this island with my mask and snorkel. It was truly beautiful under the water, worth the hour or so it took me to warm my body back up in the sun. I found no urchins or crabs large enough to grab. I floated over 6 foot tall eelgrass fields covered in epiphytic algae, periwinkles, egg cases and a myriad of other life forms just a bit too small to try to identify. Besides, I was looking for things to eat. Small olive green kelp crabs were in abundance and several different species of kelp and ulva covered, actually littered, the bottom making it impossible to see anything underneath them. The many shades of olive green and browns of the kelp and brighter greens of ulva were broken up now and again by pink splotches of coralline algae. There is so much life that the water itself here is not clear. There were clouds of algae and plankton floating all around like drifting snow in the water column.
As we paddled up from Cape Fox yesterday, we paddled through rainbows of bright orange and slightly pink algae blooms. Campbell’s tomato soup mix came to mind to both Traci and I. That is exactly what some of the water looks like in places. This morning even our beautiful turquoise water over white shell sand beach had a pinkish orange line on the shore from the algae. No shell fish would we consume here this time of year, even if I found it.
The colors here on a day like this are amazing! I attempted to wash my hair and scalp with soap today after snorkeling, no go. I can’t get the suds into my scalp at this point. My salty dreadlock hair is too stiff. It will have to wait for hot clean fresh water. Sea Gypsy that I am. My once clean and state of the art new Epic 18x is now a true sea gypsy craft complete with the following items I have brought along or collected from the sea.
Old wood paddle
Fish net with fish in a white bag.
Smart wool sox.
Skull of a dead predator (I might not be able to carry this one)
Time to go catch dinner. Its so calm and there still 5 more hours of sun!
10:30pm – Oops that’s 9:30 Alaska time. Sitting alongside the beautiful bonfire up on this white sand beach. The seas are calm, the sky is dark in various shades of grey, still pinkish light on the far northern horizon. I am hot. Sweaty even, here by the fire in my long pants and black sweater – bug protection. The tide is low again and far below me. Traci has gone off to bed. This is likely the last beautiful night I will be able to enjoy like this – so I will linger. “Never sleep away the summer night”, so Knut says and of course as all people of the North know, he is right. (I just knocked a big ½” bug off my left hand) I am using my headlamp to write. Bug attractor. No salmon this afternoon. I paddled out to troll. They are jumping everywhere, I even watched them swim under my kayak and follow my spoon. One strike only, no real biters. Frustrating! So I jigged and brought up a true cod and the largest rock fish I have caught to date. Dinner was exceptional. Battered and pan fried fish with garlic mashed potatoes. First class, Traci can really cook and what a view we have here on this beach!
The weather is supposed to change, perhaps fog and some rain tomorrow. So we will pack up and head North. Two giant cruise ships passed on the Sound this evening and you can hear the low drone of fishing boat engines in the background at all times. Ketchikan draws near. Time for bed.
Rest day: DeLong Islands
Conditions: sunny and warm, low/mid 60s; barometer steady at 1019
Unlike the past several days, many days, this day started clear and bright. Simply lovely. I will take pictures, but no one will believe this is SE Alaska. I wouldn’t either if I weren’t here myself! Slept in, listening to the varied bird calls, now stuffed with pancakes and looking forward to a sunny day in a beautiful spot to do nothing. No paddling, no gear schlepping, just a whole lot of nothing. My body is tired!
Unbelievable. Sunny hot lazy day. Everything is dry, all the electronics are charged up. Unfortunately, it sounds like the rain will return tomorrow, and settle in for a few days. Tracy wants to hang out here another day, but if it rains I want to move on. Today was a gift, a blessing, but we can’t expect another.
This whole trip has been a gift and blessing. The areas that were supposed to be tough and difficult ended up being mild and calm. This was partially due to planning, looking at tides and currents, listening to weather forecasts, listening to the birds, listening to ourselves, watching the sea and sky, and some sheer luck and good fortune. Other spots turned out to be unexpectly difficult or challenging: constant headwinds in Johnstone Strait, barbed wire on Yorke Island, Broken Islands bear, pinned by wind at Lewis Cove and Bedford Island; it sounds trite, but without the trying times would we truly appreciate these glorious days of beauty?
And today I got *sunburned*? In southeast Alaska?? I put sunscreen on my face and arms, but I was running around in shorts. Yes, even at latitude 54 the sun will burn! Not bad, just pink. Stupid! The sun was sure nice though…!
Mink occasionally run across the beach. I just saw on catch and carry off something almost its size out of the corner of my eye. A rat?
What I am looking forward to in Ketchikan:
1. Shower – hot and soapy!
3. I am going to drink a quart of the best, freshest orange juice I can find