Day 47, Thursday August 9, 2012

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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.

Quote(s) of the Day

TL: First 2 things I will purchase in town:
1 contact solution.
2. waterproof mascara ( I want my dark brown eyelashes back!) and then… a new pair of pants and golden pirate earrings.
Traci C wants orange juice. She wants, craves and goes on and on about orange juice, freshly squeezed. Oh yea, she also wants a massage

TL Random thoughts and moments: Last night I attempted to file down the broken edges of what’s left of my fingernails. Problem was that my nails are so weak, flexible and broken that I could not pull out the nail file tools on my Swiss army knife.  Thank goodness Terry has lots of tools in his mudroom.  I had to use a screw driver edge to get to my nail file.  Sure wish I had strong fingernails like my boys.  My weak ones plus having my hands wet for all day long are long are less than useless.

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Day 46, Wednesday August 8, 2012

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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!

Daily Menu
2 cups of coffee upon landing. (1 with whisky in it.)
1 bowl of split pea soup
2 energy bars on the 13 mile paddle to here.
1 70% dark chocolate bar with peanut butter.
Chocolate Bar count: 36
Comments on friendship
Traci C and I now know each other in a way that on one else ever will. Since no one else will or has spent 7 weeks in the wilderness with us. Sharing these at times mundane and then amazing experiences, sties and adventures we have had together. Nature time, wilderness time, a time that can not be duplicated in our normal city lives and daily routines, nor on a shorter hike or kayak trip. This shared experience, as amazing as it is, has produced a life long unique friendship that we will always know and I will always cherish.
Now that’s cool stuff. – TL

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.

Quote(s) of the Day

TL True confessions:  “I have had and enjoyed more hard alcohol on this trip than in my entire life.” (That would be about 2 flasks of whiskey and 1 of rum,)

GoPro video by TracyL
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Day 45, Tuesday August 7, 2012

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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.

Gear Notes
Things that work great:
Trash compactor bags – storing gear, keeping down food odors & slide in and out of the kayaks well.
Ikea laundry bags – great for hauling gear, minimize trips.
Foam rollers – for rolling kayaks over rocks & muck
Thick blue tarps – large one for over the tent, small one for under it.
Spare paddle cover/tarp poles – great use for holing up the tarp.
Steri pen – water purification made ez.
Traci’s hanging water purifier – no effort, works great.
Joos Orange solar recharger – Traci’s 2 panels need 1 day of sun to reacharge the iPad.
Goal Zero solar recharger – every 3-4 ays sun for 4 hours to recharge gopro & camara
My underarmor cold gear – no skin problems in over 800 miles of salt.
Boots- dry feet on land is worth the boat space.
wool sox – a must.
garden gloves – good bug protectors and great for climbing on barnacle rocks.
Tracy L
Chocolate Bar count: 36

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.

Quote(s) of the Day

“Smoke in my eyes, up my nose, everywhere.” TL

GoPro video by TracyL
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Day 44, Monday August 6, 2012

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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.

Abalone shell
Old wood paddle
Fish net with fish in a white bag.
Carpenters level.
Smart wool sox.
Camping spoon.
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.

Chocolate Bar count: I’m sure we had some today…

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!
2. Laundry
3. I am going to drink a quart of the best, freshest orange juice I can find

Quote(s) of the Day

“I think I really want a carbonated beverage”  TL

GoPro video by TracyL
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Day 43, Sunday August 5, 2012

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Sunday August 5th

We left Beautiful Boston island and headed North towards Fox point. Stopping along the way to collect water at stream located the day before on my gps. It was an amazing steep beach with giant round boulders and river rocks. We climbed up over boulders and huge drift logs to find the stream and mini water fall that poured out of the Forrest. After collecting several liters of tea colored water we both braved the ice cream headache and rinsed out our hair in the small pool made by the stream. Then back to climbing over giant logs and boulders and down to our kayaks. We launched again heading towards Cape Fox and beyond. The seas around the Dixon entrance were calm and although we had to fight a current most of the day we slowly worked our way North. It was not boring paddling because of the dynamic scenery and gill netters every ¼ mile to pass. We stopped at Tree Bluff light house for a break. This was a cool spot that could be campable, even old building still in place, but it is very exposed to the West, so we pushed on and on despite being tired, to the Delong islands. A fisherman told Traci tomorrow will be even nicer weather – of course he was right. Fishermen know weather, they have to. We landed on the beautiful sand beach!

Amazing moments –

 The colors of the bonfire on Delong island.  Glowing embers orange, on the white sand beach, as the water was an oily, gun metal grey and the sky turned dark with a glowing pink horizon.

Dolphin escort in the fog as we left Blundon harbor early in the morning. The sound of the large pod as they swam and then turned to pass near us….. Amazing!

Fishing out near the navigation buoy off of Tree Point amongst all of the feeding birds as humpback whales bubble net fished all around me.

The Eagle clutching a seabird in its talons as it squawked its death words……

The absolute stillness and grace of a Big Grizzly bear as it approached our tent in the tree line on Broken island.


Chocolate Bar count: lost

Paddling the entire BC coastline!

Mile 786, DeLong Islands

Conditions: cool grey morning, clear afternoon, low/mid 60s; barometer steady at 1019

We took a lazy, leisurely approach to the start of the day. Well, not exactly lazy, but while we didn’t rush, we didn’t dawdle either. Got a good breakfast of oatmeal, did the gear schlepping, and got off the beach. Then Tracy realized her GPS batteries were dead, so I just drifted gently in the cove while I waited. Quiet. And then there was a head, right at the junction of my kayak and my paddle held perpendicular across my lap. Good morning seal! My thinking brain was torn between the desire to reach out and touch the nose (that close!), or to try for the camera. The rest of me merely stayed still, in the moment, and experienced the connection with the seal. After a moment, she slipped under my boat and popped up several yards away on the other side.

Tracy got her batteries set, and we paddled over to Sitkan Island where her GPS showed a stream. Yes indeed, right on target. We filled our bags with the tea-coloured water – should be enough to get us to Ketchikan. We got back into our kayaks, with no particular destination in mind, but several options open to us. Two miles later we crossed the border into Alaska/USA. We have paddled the entire coast of British Columbia!

When we reached Nakat Bay, the last opening before Cape Fox, Tracy set up her fishing operation. We could see a few other boats fishing in the distance around us. We soon encountered red algae, which flowed around us the entire width of the bay. At some points it was as thick and orange as Campbell’s Tomato Soup (condensed). It would thicken and thin, in striated layers, but never completely disappeared.

The sky was still and grey, with a light early mist – heavy mist – giving way to lighter greys. We passed between Cape Fox and Fox Island. More fishing boats appeared, and as we rounded the cape they were lined up every quarter mile as far as the eye could see. Gill netters.

We ate a quick bite, and because the conditions were so mild we took advantage of that and kept going. More red algae out here, and incredibly it was even thicker and brighter than in Nakat Bay. At Tree Point, the first US lighthouse (manned until the 1970’s) we spotted a small beach just south of the light. We pulled into a steep, cobbled beach, which turned out to hold the buildings and winch for the old lighthouse crew. More tomato soup sea and a very steep beach, so we didn’t stay long.

The wind was still mild – switching/variable from light NW to W, supposedly eventually to S. We thought it best to clear Dixon Entrance while the conditions were good, so back into the kayaks. Very tired, we ended up making it to the DeLong Islands, at the north end of Foggy Bay. This area was supposed to have some good camping, and we found a superb white sand beach still in the sun. Paradise, after a lovely day! We came ashore, and like good sea nymphs stripped nekkid in the sun. Glorious. Eagles in the trees, mink on the shore, sand above high tide – we will take a rest day here. And I thought I wouldn’t see the sun again this trip.

GoPro video by TracyL
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Day 42, Saturday August 4, 2012

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Saturday August 4th The sun is out!

I thought I was done with beautiful white shell sand beaches on this trip after Brown island in Smith Sound.  I was wrong. I am sitting propped up against a log using my life jacket as a back rest as rolling waves crash into the logs on the beach in front of me on Boston Island. The sun is out; I have washed my main sleeping clothes and attempted to get a tan on my body, not just my hands and face.

It is Fucking, awesome, beautiful here!

I quickly caught a 4-5 lb. humpy in about 15 minutes on the way here today. A 17+ mile slog of a paddle against strong currents the entire way, but we got up really early and the seas were so calm that we just ran a direct course away from land navigating by our dual gps units in the light fog. The effort took us just over 6 hours since our speed was so slow, 3.5mph. A great speed for trolling, however that did not last long. We will eat our 3rd species of salmon tonight. I hope to hook a fatty king tomorrow.

We left Tree bluff and cut across the Milbank Sound and the mouth of Portland Inlet today arriving here just before 1:00pm to a rapidly rising tide. A humpback escorted us this morning in the fog for the first few miles.

Boston islands are quite beautiful. Comprised of contorted, twisted, tilted and uplifted igneous rock with brown and white striations, white shell pocket beaches, surging blue waves and a backdrop of alder, spruce and beach grasses. From the beach I can see ribes, thimbleberry and cows parsnip in the underbrush, just to name a few species. Being a sea gypsy I will not leave the drift logs and beach if I can help it – So a short list of plants viewed from the beach is all there is.

Getting up early – making our miles in morning calm and arriving to spend the entire afternoon and evening on a beautiful beach is the way to go – and we do it.

Tonight we will eat…..
Steamed pink salmon filets with butter and dill.
Instant red potatoes, perhaps some cheese.

Today, I set out pink salmon roe (eggs) for a big raven on this beach to eat, it did not take long – Raven feasted and calls to me for more treats.
On Kitson Island, a juvenile eagle patiently waited and watched as the tide dropped, so it could retrieve the Coho carcass I tossed into the water. Then it dragged it over to a large rock and ate as 2 ravens stood about steeling pieces of the meat when the opportunity to do so came. I sat up on a log watching and feasting on steamed Coho as they maneuvered to make off with a few scraps the young eagle did not get to.  Yesterday afternoon at Tree Bluff a mature eagle flew overhead with a seabird in his talons screeching its final song.  I paddled out off shore and caught a large orange rockfish for dinner as 100’s of sea birds ate and frolicked while humpback whales fished in bubble nets all around me.

After paddling for over 6 hours, sitting here and watching the incoming water and waves surge against the sand beach and logs in my shorts in the sun is awesome. I have a very interesting odor – a mix of smoke, musky body smell and salt. Not stinky, I bathe every day in some way, but I am certainly not laundered either.

When I think about what I was most looking forward to on this trip one of the things was the opportunity to live off the clock and live on natures clock. Live by the tides, currents, weather and sun. It takes quite a while and an observant eye to catch onto the pace that exists for all of nature, (us modern humans excluded for the most part.) After living outside for six weeks, moving slowly in our loaded kayaks, moving up and down with the tides. Lying low in bad weather, and catching fish in good weather – some days the miles go by quickly others are a slow perseverance, you come to realize our modern civilized world’s sense of time is so unnatural. These past 6 weeks we are moving in the easy days. The summer days of long daylight and oceanic feasting, warm weather and light winds. On days like these you must feast and soak up as much sun as you can between the tides. Soon fall will come, we will return to our unnatural chaotic schedules under the artificial lights of our modern world and move about in our scheduled, unnatural time. But I will have experienced and lived in natural time – even if just for a few weeks- A true life experience.

Saturday August 4th Marine Radio Forecast
“Quasi stationary trough located on a ridge off of SE Alaska. Fog banks forming before morning Dixon Entrance East winds NW 5 -15 knots light in the morning, then becoming Southerly Sunday evening. SWEET, SWEET, SWEET.

We do Dixon entrance in the morning, Alaska is only 1 mile away from these Beautiful Boston islands. It looks like we might just have good weather for the last few days of this journey into Ketchikan, I can hardly think that is true, since after all this is SE Alaska. But if so…. AWESOME, I will be able to fish and eat and dry out on the warm rocks. Perhaps even tan more than just under my chin and nose, hands and face. My knives are so rusty. I have been honing them every day a bit to keep my filet knife working, but those Rock fish are killer on a sharp blade. I should have brought a small wet stone.

The old Raven just poked her head around the log looking for more of my fish egg treats.
Kwaaaa Kwaaaa.   Now I should move again, set up the tent and think about cooking dinner. Turn over some drying clothes on the logs. Perhaps a bonfire tonight??? If I have the energy.

#1 Substrate
Traci & I give the #1 substrate vote for camping to the pea gravel beach under the power lines on Texada island. Gravel heats up, is easy to move, its clean and does not stick to everything and your kayak slides easily on it without scratching.
Chocolate Bar count: we’ve lost count

Mile 756, Boston Island

Conditions: cool overcast foggy morning, clearing to a spectacular sunny afternoon, low 60s; barometer 1019

We got up super early (4:30am) or the dropping tide would leave us stranded in a rocky, muddy flat. Nice sand at high tide, treacherous rocks at the low. Lights and markers abound in these waters, as aids to navigation. Because of the fog – which wasn’t all that thick, but covered the land in a grey blanket – we just set course directly to Tracy Island. Our final goal was the Boston Islands, but we wanted to pass by our namesake. This was actually the second Tracy Island on this trip; another is near Eden Island/Joe’s Cove in the Broughtons.

Slow going. A slight NW breeze at 6am died a few hours later. Mirror calm. A Humpback escorted us north in the first hour, a few seal heads popped up, shy Dahl’s porpoises raced before us. Slowly Pointer Rocks came into view, and even more slowly we approached them. Enter the Twilight Zone – or Groundhog Day. We stopped to eat and drink, and drifted back a tenth of a mile in mere moments. Repeat. We set course directly for Boston Island, which theoretically would save us a couple miles, but it turns out we had to ferry across the current so it was no savings after all.

Tracy dropped a line, and within minutes bagged a salmon. Pink/Humpy this time. A little smaller than the last two salmon, a little more reasonable for the two of us.

We glimpsed a white sand/shell beach, and it is beautiful. We reached it as the tide was coming in, and now at high tide a small stretch of sand is still usable. Unbelievably, I have cell coverage. I called US customs in Ketchikan, and it sounds like no big deal. Then I called home and got to say “hi” to both David and Rachel this time. Yay! Tomorrow we will re-enter the US, but may have to back-track to Wales Island to fill up on water.

The evening sun hitting the trees and rocks in golden hues is unbelievably beautiful. Tracy says it is a crime to leave such a lovely place; I agree.

Quote(s) of the Day

TL Sea Gypsy version – YO, HO, HO, IT’S THE PIRATES LIFE FOR ME.
I come on shore and drop my drawers…. to pee, YO HO
I rip off my clothes, if the sun is out…. and wash in the sea.
Drink up mates, YO HO.
I fish, clean, and eat, my fare down the beach, YO HO
I swill from my flask, either Whisky or Rum, YO HO
So drink me up mates YO HO
YO, HO, HO It’s the pirates life for me. – TL

Tracy lands a humpy, video by TraciC
GoPro video by TracyL
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Day 41, Friday August 3, 2012

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Friday August 3rd 2012 9:15pm Tree Bluff.

This past morning we left from Kitson island around 7:30 am in light fog. Used the GPS to navigate safely from islands and rocks, paddling quickly across the shipping lanes going into Port Rupert. The fog lifted as we got to the main shipping area and no large vessels were near. Smooth sailing. Then we had to work against the strong current all the way here. It was slow going in cold cloudy skies. The 22 miles covered seemed to take longer than usual but we arrived here before 1:00pm just the same. I think it was the expected sunshine that never came that made it seem harder than it really was. No rain although and only a small head wind (breeze).

The long expected sun finally came out today at 8:15pm. It is way beautiful. The tide has gone so far out here, that we would not be able to leave this long, beautiful, cobble stone beach even if we wanted to. We are camped on the pea sized cobble just up against the blue spruce tree line behind the logs on the beach. The trees are amazing. Bright greenish blue spruce draped in veils of moss. When you peer into the forest the floor is covered with moss and trillium with giant devils club scattered about. Its magical and bright green, eerily quiet, except for the loud crackling sound that Traci C heard earlier today that sent us moving our food cache another ¼ mile down the beach. We positioned our kayaks along both sides of our tent and pulled a big log back behind us under the spruce tree. This area should not have any cougars or bears hanging around – but neither should there have been a grizzly on Broken island – so we just take precautions and sleep soundly. The next 2 nights we should be on islands again.  So a much lesser chance of dealing with large predators in the next few days. I had success again this evening at being one myself. I had to paddle out about 1 mile to the navigational buoy to get deep enough to try to catch a lingcod or rockfish for dinner. I floated out there in the Chatham sound surrounded by 1000’s of feeding seabirds. More Artic loons than I have ever seen, gulls auklets, etc. The sounds they make are amazing and they paid me no heed and just splashed, dove, fished and floated all around me as I worked my wrist jigging my dart up and down, trying to find just the right depth, while not snagging my treble hook on the bottom or the profuse amount of kelp that grows here. Fishing like this is like you are the only person in nature. Truly amazing! I thought for a while after failing to get even a bite, that I might get skunked and have to paddle the mile back to shore empty handed. But, then that has not happened yet and I hooked a very large orange rockfish as a couple of humpback whales swam around me fishing by making bubble nets. I paddled right over one on my way back in to shore. Got a few pictures on my camera as well. Then returned to shore and paddled half a mile away from camp to a sand bar to clean and filet the fish and get rid of the carcass. I dropped the filets off down the beach by our food cache along with my filet knife and net, washed off my kayak and returned to camp. Later, we walked down the beach to cook dinner. Steamed rice a roni and pan fried rock cod filet. It was amazingly good. Tomorrow we head towards Boston islands just 2 miles shy of the US border. I will try for salmon once again. I can hear crackling in the trees as I write this, I hope it is nothing big. I can also hear seabirds galore calling and whales spouting far off shore. Of course, there is the ever present hum of the bugs trying to get into the tent. We will get up at 4:30 am to catch the 2nd half of the ebb tide and avoid being stranded. That will put us near Boston island near mid-day. Who knows it might be sunny?? Anyway, it won’t be windy and we should get a favorable current. I found an old heavy wood paddle on this beach today, I am going to keep it as a souvenir and it would make a good weapon as well. OK – now I heard a louder sound in the forest, (makes it hard to sleep, that is for certain, it woke up Traci C).

The sun came out after dinner. It makes everything seem so wonderful when it comes out.

9:50pm I need to sleep now. Very tired and 4:30am will arrive soon.  I can hear an Eagle screeching as it hunts for sea birds. The tent is covered in small bugs trying to squeeze through the netting, humpback whale just breathed again……We are starting to smell, well musky in this tent. Too many days without laundry in the same clothes….

10:00pm still light outside especially to the North. We are at latitude 54 now.
Nature knows to never sleep away the summer sun. Just the same, I need to sleep.

Chocolate Bar count: 33

Mile 735, Tree Bluff

Conditions: cool foggy morning, overcast afternoon, low 60s, light wind from NW; barometer 1023, down from 1024 earlier in the morning

Both T2 and I slept damp and clammy last night. Not sure why; possible reasons: processing all the fish we ate? Tent site in woods instead of beach? Airflow reduced because the back flap of tent was closed? Cooler temps? Some combination of any/all the above? Not sure.

Went out to the beach to make breakfast around 5:30am and heard a *thunk*. I looked up – kayak. Really? I mean, really?? This island is grand central station! Another paddler just making a pit-stop, on his way to Porcher. Calm and foggy, so he was a bit concerned about his course. Tracy brought out her GPS to confirm his compass headings. He took off, and a short while later so did we. Farewell, lovely island. Nicest campsite since Brown Island. Did I mention the huge hammock? And water caches? Thoughtful amenities. We took brief advantage of the hammock, and left the water for others.

The fog lowered a bit by the time we launched; a little unnerving with the potential shipping traffic around Prince Rupert. We headed to the next island group (K-something), out of the shipping lanes. We saw the BC ferry head south – good news for us. The fog lifted a bit and we had good visibility, and an assisting current. Crossed the shipping lanes uneventfully. Phew. We then lost our assist and it was slower, cooler going along the outside of Digby Island. We saw Metlakatla in the distance, but were disinclined to visit. I think we are both a bit weary and reluctant to add miles.

Rock hopping and dodging we reached Tree Bluff, with long sandy (but not too fine of sand) beaches. Looks like high tide will allow us to camp on the beach head. Good. Especially since I heard some larger critter in the woods. Not sure what – our last bear encounter was silent. Full critter protocol though, food and garbage waaay down the beach. T2 is out fishing right now, and I’m almost hoping she doesn’t catch anything. Other critters: a pair of eagles when we arrived, and a mink loping up the beach when we ate lunch. He got quite close; I don’t think he saw us. He turned and went the other way when I stood up…

Well, T2 did catch a fish, and it was delicious. Rock cod steamed over Rice-a-Roni. We had a long-ass beach instead of a tiny island for a change, so all our food and cooking was far from the tent. Just after dinner the sun finally broke through the clouds for a gloriously golden evening.


Kitsun Island in the morning, video by TraciC

Tree Bluff in the evening, video by TracyL
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