Saturday, leave the boat day and travel day. Leaving the boat was sad. The crew was fantastic. They felt like a new set of friends I will never see again, and that will never think of us again. We had to kill a little time around Juneau again waiting for our flight. Then it was on to the airport for a quick flight to Anchorage. From there we had to get a charter flight into Wrangell St. Elias National Park. Kennecott/McCarthy Alaska to be more specific. I assumed the flight would be utilitarian, uneventful, a form of travel at best. It turned out to be a highlight of the trip so far. It was 2 hours in a tiny 3-person plane with
View from the sky, WOW!
Bill McKinney, our pilot. He was so much fun. The views were marvelous, just stunning the entire way. Flying around and next to almost 20k feet peaks, over top of glaciers, lakes, rivers, animals, civilization, lack of civilization, everything imaginable. He kept maneuvering the plane so I could try to get better pictures. “Hey Bill, can you move that wing please?” No problem. He offered to let me drive for a bit, but someone in the back seat would not have enjoyed that very much. Turns out that Bill the pilot is an old deadhead. That makes perfect sense. We talked about the recent finale shows. The 2 hours flew by. Once we landed we were shuttled to the Kennicott Glacier Lodge where we spend 1 night and the next day. We arrived just after dinnertime. They eat a communal family style dinner with everyone at the lodge. Everyone was already seated and eating. They threw us into dinner, our heads were spinning. If felt like they were speaking a different language around us. We didn’t know how to act or what to do. We were in a different world with different customs. Wifey said it felt like we landed in Oz. that is a great analogy. This place could not be more in the middle of nowhere. We will kill the next day here exploring the glacier next door and touring an abandoned copper mine, which is supposed to be amazing. Then it is off to the backcountry adventure for the next 5 days. A few pictures HERE if you are interested.
Get that wing out of my way Bill.
Look who’s driving
Friday, glacier day and our last full day on the boat. The entire day was dedicated to the glacier viewing. We anchored inside Endicott Arm to view Dawes Glacier. They put us on the skiffs for the 5-mile ride to the face of the glacier. As soon as we get in the skiffs the temperature dropped drastically. There are ice chunks all around us. Some as big as busses. We saw seals resting on top of mini icebergs. When we got to the face we saw a huge calving almost immediately. It was super loud and exciting. There is nothing like seeing global warming tear this planet apart. We saw several other smaller calving. Lots of other harbor seals popped their heads out to say hello. Our skiff was the last one standing of the 4 skiffs. The others got too cold, or had to change their tampons. One the way back to the big boat we saw 3 orca whales in Endicott Arm. This is something that never happens. The entire crew said they had never seen whales that far inside the Arm. The whales were heading for a dead end, the Arm ends at Dawes Glacier. We could not wait around to see what happened, we had a hard BOB at 1230…back on board. That evening all cocktails were served with ice from the glacier’s broken pieces. Joel also made the dinner table centerpiece out of a piece of retrieved ice from the waters. The night ended with a group goodbye and an amazing slideshow of the week made by Larry. He used crew pictures and pictures from some of us passengers. Lots of pictures from the day HERE if you are interested.
First thing this morning they retrieved the shrimp pots that were set out last night. The high hopes were for fresh shrimp as a meal. They hauled in a whopping 16 shrimp. But the kids onboard had fun. Delicious breakfast then steaming ahead. The entire day was derailed because we came across a large pod of whales. It seemed like they were on a human sight seeing expedition. Watching and following us, when in reality we were just sitting still. They were first spotted pretty far away, and then proceed to get closer, I can only assume to put on a show for us. It was truly amazing. At least 8 whales could be seen at one time. There were several breaches, and lots of whale tails and blowhole action (get your mind out of the gutter). The only problem was they got too close for the lens I had on my camera. That’s truly a big problem. Dammit, the amazing whales are too close, can you guys back up so I can get a better photograph? Some of these sights were for the mental photos only. Once we got to the anchor location we set sail in a kayak. We tooled around the bay, out into the open water strait, and then looped the other side of the bay. There were a few waterfalls along the coastline that drained right into the bay that we were able to navigate right up against. We saw a ton of crazy looking starfish and a sea otter that came out to play. It rained on us the entire time, which only added to the experience of kayaking in Alaska. Finished the night with a birthday dinner for a mother and daughter from the Sweet Family Reunion. Another unforgettable day aboard the small boat Liseron. What a lucky boy I am. Some more pictures HERE if you are interested.
Day 2 on the boat. We went for a short walk on an island to go stream fishing. We have no fishing experience, but that was ok. They set us up, showed us what to do, how to look like a fishingperson, and turned us loose. The spot was gorgeous. So serene it felt like we were in the most remote part of the world. Neither of us caught any fish. I did catch a lot of plants and some amazing photos of Eagles. They were hanging around overhead. One even ate a fish that someone in the group caught. We did not get to see that happen but saw the remnants of the dead fish body after the eagle was done it’s lunch. An eagle was on a small island in the stream watching fish. Then it went up on a very low nearby tree branch. I sat and watched and shot photos for about 20 minutes. I was hoping to catch it diving for a fish. That didn’t happen, but I did get some great shots sitting still and also in flight. Back on the boat for lunch where we had fresh king salmon caught yesterday by the professor and his wife. Non-Sweet Family People.
The afternoon activity was a “meadow walk”. Wifey decided to skip that and turn me loose. It’s a good thing she did. It turned into a disaster in some people’s eyes. For me it was the highlight of the trip so far and nothing but fun. The closest thing I will ever get to an actual Alaskan adventure. I was secretly hoping they would have to air drop us some supplies and tents. It was supposed to be a nice leisurely walk around a beautiful meadow. This meadow was at the edge of the forest tree line. We got dropped off on shore by a skiff. The tides changed quickly and we were all of a sudden trudging through water looking for ways to avoid deeper water. We backtracked, rerouted, and kept trying to stay dry from the ankles up. Larry, our guide, was trying to keep his guests safe and dry. It got to a point that was unavoidable. We had to wade through waste high water. I loved it, some of the other people not so much. There were 7 of us including Larry the guide. I thought we might live on this island now. I was quietly forming alliances in the background, figuring out who we would sacrifice first to the Bear God. After we took the plunge, got soaking wet all over, we were able to get back on the skiff to bring us home. What was supposed to be an hour or so of leisurely meadow walking turned into several hours of bushwhacking, wading through water, and crossing head high grass fields. I did get to eat all the salmon berries I could handle most of the walk. A treat within a treat. Some pictures HERE if you are interested.
Went for a hike to sea lion cove. We anchored and took a skiff to shore. There was a maintained trail by Alaskan DNR. It was about 6 miles round trip. The destination was the other side of the island, which was the Pacific Ocean. As soon as we starting walking across the island we saw a brown bear just across the way in a small meadow. He didn’t see or care about us. The walk was beautiful through the rain forest. It was a well-maintained trail by humans, which was obvious. There were a lot of man-hours put in to making the plank walks, bridges, and stairs. Once at the Pacific Ocean it felt like the edge of the world. The next thing from where we were was Japan. Quite an enjoyable day and hike. A little strenuous at times, but well worth the payoff to see the Pacific Ocean. Some pictures HERE of bear, eagle, the Sweet Family Reunion, and scenery if you are interested.
Finally after all the shake ups and changes we got on a boat named The Liseron. We gathered at the hotel and met up with the other passengers, there are 20 of us total. Most of the boat is sold to 1 family and there are 3 other couples. So my first introduction to these people is a conversation with a guy in a Trey tee shirt talking to his uncle about the Dead 50 shows that were happening at the time. I threw myself right into their conversation. I knew there was never going to be a better way to break the ice. What a perfectly kick ass start to having to meet strangers that I live with for a week. The boat is small, in comparison. The staff are all pleasant and this seems to be a fantastic alternative to our original choice of boat. We sail for a couple hours and then anchor to go kayaking or out on a skiff for sight seeing and visual animal hunting. I was surprised when Wifey chose the skiff. Whatever she wants. We saw some deer, a bunch of Eagles, and lots of other birds. The scenery is indescribable. If there was such a thing as heaven, it should be designed to look like this. After the boat tour it was time for our first sit down meal with the Sweet Family Reunion. 20 of us at a big oval table. The meal was top notch, king salmon, baked broccoli, and a rhubarb crumble for desert. After that it was sleepy time. Waking in the morning to a spectacular sunrise, coffee with a view, and awaiting threat of the world to come alive. Some pictures HERE.
is that an eagle?
Coffee with a view
Home for a week
What Would Paul Claus Do? This is how I am living the rest of my life.
Paul Claus my hero
Due to an unfortunate and unforeseen set of circumstances we are stuck in Sitka Alaska for an extra day. The boat we were supposed to journey upon blew an engine the day before we were to depart. Thanks to Greg at Expedition Broker, the best guy ever, he scrambled and got us on a different boat that leaves a couple days later from Sitka instead of Juneau. So we had to fly to Sitka and spend a couple days here. Wouldn’t you know it, Alaska’s first and oldest geocache is here in Sitka. I looked it up and saw that it was only 6 miles away from our hotel. Up a mountain called Bear Infested Mountain, or something like that. I knew I had to get there. Wifey gave me the go ahead to do whatever it took, she knew that once I found out about this I wouldn’t be normal again until I tried to find it. It was the 4th of July. The bike rental shop was closed. The rental car company had nothing available. Cabs were a pain because of a parade. I was running out of options and going crazy. I felt trapped and helpless, a very unusual and uncomfortable feeling for me. I considered walking but it would be about a 10 mile walk one way along the main roads just to get to the trailhead. I finally got a cab. A local kid named Matt dropped me off at the trailhead. I made sure I had cell reception to call for a cab to pick me up if I survived and needed a ride back to town. I had cell reception along the road but nowhere else during the day. I started my hike and knew I was in for a real treat. The views were beyond amazing. The geocache I was going for is found 2 maybe 3 times a year. As I started up a the mountain I ran into 2 other geocachers coming back down. What an odd coincidence! We chatted for a long time and then I kept climbing. The trails I strolled were lined with red and salmon berries the entire way. I stopped to eat these delicious candies of the land. My adventure was a complete success. I finished at Beaver Lake for a nice rest to take in the surroundings. Then back down I came. Since it was downhill I jogged a lot of it. I had no phone and wifey had no idea if I was inside a bear’s stomach or already turned into bear shit. I got to the bottom, called a cab and he was there surprisingly quick. A Hawaiian native and throwback to a different time. He dropped me at the hotel. $80 in cab far, 6.5 miles of walking in the woods, risking life and limb, just to sign a stupid piece of paper in the woods. Life doesn’t get much better.