Ketchikan to Misty Fiords

 

Day 47: July 29--Ketchikan to Behm Canal--26 miles

Up shortly after 5:00 AM.  Paddled into town on a whim to have breakfast again at Pioneer Cafe, then back to camp at Calvin and Sherry's.  Broke camp, bid farewell to Phil, Apryle and Sherry.  Seemed a little sad leaving them behind.  Sunny, calm and hot paddling.  Got to sail for about 1 hour in Revillagigedo Channel, then had to paddle against current.  Eventually paddling against light breeze as well.  At Behm Canal were able to sail again and current now with us.  Were planning to camp at Alava Bay, but somehow missed the recommended landing.  So went north another mile or so north and found a nice beach, though with many black bear tracks.  Had the remaining halibut for dinner, so lots of clean-up.  Long day, about 26 miles, mostly paddled.  Both tired, but revived by bath in stream. 

 

Bald eagle swimming in Tongass Narrows

 

Day 48: July 30--Just N of Alava Bay to Checat's Cove--19 miles

Up about 6:30 AM--Pearl feeling very tired after yesterday.  Fairly leisurely pack-up as waiting for tide to rise.  Saw 2 kayakers in double heading north while we were packing--appeared heavily loaded.  Didn't see them again.  Day heated up quickly under cloudless sky.  Paddled slowly against current.  Wind calm and water flat.  Very hot for paddling.  Not much boat traffic except occasional high-speed tour boat.  Stopped at north end of Smeaton Island for lunch.  For the first time on trip put boat out on "siwash" anchor so we didn't have to tend boat and could enjoy lunch and even take short nap in shade.  Don't know why we haven't tried this before.  Felt better and current with us when we departed at 3:15 PM.  Also SE breeze came up and increased to point that we were moving along briskly under sail--felt so good!  Considered stopping to check out Forest Service cabin on north end of Winstanley Island, but wind still good and decided to continue under sail to Checat's Cove.  Found well-established tent site in forest on north shore.  Stream nearby--took baths and felt so much better after heat of day.
 

Kayak on siwash anchor, Behm Canal

Under sail in Behm Canal

 

Day 49: July 31--Checat's Cove to Punchbowl Cove--9 miles

Awake around 7 AM to another clear sky.  Departed about 9:15AM heading north to Rudyerd Bay, really an inlet.  High-speed sightseeing boats already showing up from Ketchikan as well as flightseeing planes.  And small cruise ship "Hanseatic" also in, along with several motor cruisers.  Met 2 other kayakers from Portland about our age on a several-day trip.  Woman was counting flightseeing trips and had counted 30 by 11:30 AM.  They recommended hike up to Punchbowl Lake, so we set up camp in nice camping area at head of Punchbowl Cove then got some lunch.  Both quite tired, so lay down for about 15 minutes.  About 2:30PM hit trail up to Punchbowl Lake.  Impressive waterfall beside trail.  Got to lake in about an hour.  It was a steep climb and trail gone in one area due to fallen tree but otherwise good.  Nice 3-sided shelter at lake, with canoe and aluminum skiff on shore.  Paddled canoe around lake.  Spectacular glacier-carved scenery.  Many loons calling.  Stopped at muskeg covered island in lake and walked to high point, then down to lake on island.  Water warm and took dip despite lots of oozy organic matter at bottom.  Then back to canoe and over to small island, where gulls were extremely alarmed.  Swam and bathed in lake and Pearl washed hair--perfect.  Just got dressed again when flightseeing plane touched down on lake.  Otherwise altogether lovely excursion.  Back to camp about 7:30 PM--supper and bed.

Punchbowl Lake, Misty Fiords

 

Punchbowl Lake, Misty Fiords

 

Day 50: August 1--Rudyerd Bay--22 miles

Up around 6:30 AM and off by a little after 8 AM.  Sunny again, with a few clouds in inlet, but they disappeared soon.  Paddled out past boat anchored in Punchbowl Cove and chatted briefly with very friendly folks on board.  Offered us halibut, which we declined.  Headwind in the cove, but once in Rudyerd Bay proper we were able to sail and did so most of the way to Nooya Creek where we arrived a little after 11 AM.  Scenery splendid--reminiscent of Yosemite Valley with granite domes and bowls.  Saw many salmon jumping at mouth of Nooya Creek.  Black bear (finally!) eating berries near trailhead.  Very conscious of bears and cautious on way up and saw much sign including tracks, though none of grizzly.  Nooya Lake also stunning with classic alpine scenery.  Skiff near lake, but way too heavy for us to get down to lake.  Floatplane took off from lake while we were there.  On way down went over to creek and saw lots of salmon in groups, mostly pinks.  Afterward paddled/sailed through narrows to head of Rudyerd Bay--more beautiful scenery.  Same boat that had been in Punchbowl Cove now anchored here and they brought out a Corona and offered whatever else we might need.  We chatted a bit and David enjoyed the beer while paddling.  The paddle back was entirely against headwind.  Left head of inlet about 4 PM and got back to camp at Punchbowl Cove about 7:45 to find Russian-American kayakers Eugene and Natalia.  Very friendly.  Their kayak is Russian made double folding called Tritan.  Expressed disappointment that they had been unable to catch fish.  David gave them Buzz Bomb and instructions on use.  Shortly afterward he came down with migraine.  They had offered wild berry compote and David had drunk a little before headache came on.  So Pearl ate the whole pot of supper, which was already cooking and chatted with Eugene and Natalia. 

 

Mouth of Nooya Creek, Rudyerd Bay in background.  Misty Fiords

 

Salmon berries beside Nooya Creek

 

David and Pearl at Nooya Lake, Misty Fiords

 

Pink salmon in Nooya Creek, Misty Fiords

 

Day 51: August 2--Rudyerd Bay to Hut Point--15 miles

Up about 6:30 AM, David feeling the aftermath of migraine and moving slowly.  Chatted with Eugene and Natalia, took photos and saw them off as they headed up to Nooya Creek for the day.  Finally got off about 10 AM.  Had headwind all the way to mouth of Rudyerd Bay.  Then calm and hot.  David feeling very low energy, so progress extremely slow.  Stopped for lunch in small cove and David lay down for about 20 minutes.  Then proceeded on.  As we reached Walker Cove wind picked up from north, fairly strong as we crossed mouth of Walker Cove.  Had to paddle hard to make progress forward.  Found nice upland tent sites at Hut Point.  Wanted to bathe but David just too tired.  Sky hazy, but cloudless and very warm.  David had to replace 2 more hinge rivets which broke during the day.

 

Eugene and Natalia with their Russian made folding kayak.  Punchbowl Cove, Misty Fiords

 

Day 52: August 3--Walker Cove--16 miles

Tenth day of mostly cloudless skies.  Woke about 8 AM, had breakfast and got stuff together for day trip up Walker Cove.  Left about 9:45AM.  Hazier than yesterday and could smell wood smoke--probably from large forest fire inland.  Paddled at leisurely pace in placid conditions.  Quite lovely.  Much less boat and plane traffic than in Rudyerd Bay.  Reached estuary at head of cove about 12:15 PM.  Landed and walked around grassy areas (estuary) and into forest and saw much sign of bears, and some smallish salmon in main stream.  Then continued on to another estuary on south side about 2 miles west.  Sailboat from Ketchikan on mooring buoy there.  Had lunch and David went to explore forest--many blueberries and salmon berries.  Meanwhile floatplane comes into cove and tourists descend to floats and exclaim over scenery, take pictures, climb back in and zoom off.  We paddled over to stream and up it a ways, where David landed and walked to explore meadow.  Again, much bear sign, including salmon head in grass.  Beautiful area with snow-capped peak behind.  Heard tremendous roar and looked up to see major rockslide coming down mountain on opposite side of valley.  Much dust, quite impressive.  Paddled back to camp, with a short stretch of 1-2 miles against moderate headwind.  Once back, bathed did laundry and got dinner.  Getting dark noticeably earlier--quite dark by 9:30 PM. 

 

Valley at head of Walker Cove, Misty Fiords

 

 

 

 

Cliffs in Walker Cove, Misty Fiords

Day 53: August 4--Hut Point to Saks Cove--20 miles

Awake without alarm by 6 AM and off by 8:00AM.  Long carry over mussel beds.  Paddled up coast to Chickamin River and in to land next to outflow of river--a long way in at high tide.  Water so thick with glacial silt that we could hardly see paddle blades just under the surface.  Lots of life, birds especially, of various kinds--gulls, eagles, loons and others, plus seals.  Could hear rapids and decided against paddling up-river.  Valley quite picturesque and intriguing though.  Proceeded on up coast against current, which was fairly strong at some areas.  Hot.  Occasional variable breezes, but water mostly glassy.  Still smoke haze, in fact more than yesterday.  Few cumulus clouds, but mostly hot sun.  Saw no boats all day and heard only 3-4 aircraft.  Paddled on and on as if in a dream.  Got to Saks Cove at about 5 PM and decided to stay on point on south side, mostly because of great view of estuary at head of cove.  Pearl not pleased with camp choice because of slippery rockweed- and mussel-covered rocky landing.  Went to take bath at nearby stream. 

 

The load of gear to be schlepped up and down the beach each day.

 

Chickamin River at confluence with sea.

 

 

Day 54: August 5--Saks Cove to Bell Arm--13 miles

Up about 7:15 AM.  Sleep somewhat fitful for Pearl, as site rocky and question of tide level and tent site.  Off about 9:45 AM.  Sunny--again!  Calm.  Paddled slowly on up to bend in Behm Canal, where came upon first boat in more than a day--small fishing boat (little buzzer)  Much less smoke haze today.  Hung at entrance to Burroughs Bay for awhile debating about whether to take extra day and explore Unuk River.  Decided we didn't really have time to do it justice.  As we turned into north arm of Behm, came upon 2 kayakers.  One was Forest Service employee from Ketchikan and her sister from New England.  Chatted with them and got report they had seen a brown bear and lots of bear sign at Short Bay.  We immediately decided to head there as we've seen only one bear the entire trip.  Stopped frequently to look at birds, etc.  A salmon collided with bottom of boat--watched it swim away.  Lunch at point where Anchor Pass takes off from Behm.  Truly lovely spot on rock outcrops that looks both directions--up to Unuk area and those peaks and across to snowy peaks on Revillagigedo Island.  David found spot on rock and took nap for a couple hours, while Pearl rested on mossy area in shade at edge of forest.  Would have been great tent site.  Lots of loons calling and doing dances in water.  Many seals.  Were considering staying for the night, but in the end decided to get jump on paddling to Short Bay.  Paddled on through serene Anchor Pass until at end we started to notice more "little buzzer" traffic, then a float plane came down the Pass, roaring right over us, maybe 15-20 feet above the water.  Then helicopters started coming, and then came around bend to see full-fledged construction camp on barges.  They're uilding power lines connecting Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg and Juneau.  Forest Service employee had told us about it.  David thoroughly disgusted at sight of poles and lines cutting across the landscape.  Especially since local hydro power so abundant near all those cities.  Didn't like camping in vicinity, but breeze was blowing in from west down Bell Arm, so decided to camp.  Site probably worst so far--clay muck at shore and rock-strewn high grass, though tent-site at edge of forest good.  Few high cirrus clouds by evening, but otherwise sunny.  Huge gold full moon rose over snow-patched mountains across channel.

 

Overlooking Behm Canal near Anchor Pass

 

Day 55: August 6--NE end of Bell Arm to Short Bay--5 miles

Awake before the choppers started, about 7:40 AM.  David depressed by power line activities--denatures wilderness.  Ate last bag of cereal and packed up--loaded with boots in glacial silt clay, still one of our least favorite campsites.  Paddled west, keeping in shade by south shore because already hot by mid-morning.  Got to head of Short Bay by 10 AM and David did a little reconnaissance.   Decided to land on east side of cove near head.  Sat and watched estuary area for couple hours--lots of eagles, seals and gulls and huge numbers of pinks jumping, but not bears.  Got some lunch and hung food and unloaded and brought boat up having decided to just stay and camp.  Then went to trail and hiked up about a half mile.  Loads of bear sign including partially eaten fish, trails through grass etc.  Out in grass also come upon black bear carcass.  Only hide and bones left, but fresh enough to stink.  Checked out creek near trail and pinks so thick you couldn't see the bottom in places.  Met trio of what appeared to be father and sons from California--said area was "crawling with bears" 6 years ago when they were here.  Decided to just sit where we could watch up and down creek.  After 1-1 1/2 hours black bear appeared downstream (distinctive white chest mark) and proceeded to plunge in and belly flop with legs spread, mouth open, hoping for best, and was able to catch 8-10 while we watched.  About to leave when spotted another bear upstream--larger, about 2 times the size of the first.  Went back across stream to get better look and realized it was a brown bear--watched it for most of next hour as it sat in pools, put its head in and pulled out fish after fish.  Sometimes it would carry them out to bank to eat, but often ate them on a rock in the stream.  Very efficient at tearing them apart as he ate.  Periodically raised up and sniffed our direction.  Very long claws visible through binoculars as he held fish down on rock.  Altogether solid powerful looking animal.  Was aware of our presence, but didn't appear worried, which black bear had.  While watching brown bear, smaller almost cub-size black bear appeared right below us.  Proceeded to catch a fish and run back up the bank with it--came out twice.  Then first bear came out and fished fairly near brown bear and brown bear took note and started heading downstream at quicker rate.  Eventually went up into bush and looked like coming down canyon which had us feeling it was time to move on.  Thrilling afternoon.  Saw fish eggs laid in stream and male and female swimming together as well as dead male and female lying together in pool.  By afternoon mostly cloudy, first time in about 13 days.  But still warm evening.  Bugs very bad on grassy shore.

 

Dead pink salmon in stream at Short Bay

 

Black bear in stream at Short Bay

 

A poor photo of the big Alaskan brown bear in stream at Short Bay.

 

Day 56: August 7--Short Bay to Brow Point--14 miles

Awakened at 5:30 AM.  Skipped breakfast and off by about 7:00.  Almost calm on departure.  About 2 miles down Bell Arm west breeze started to fill in.   Decided to take Blind Passage, as looked more protected, but even there SW breeze significant.  Got through pass, tide level just barely high enough to make it through.  Saw couple dozen small, somewhat spotted seals on rock on south side of Bell Arm.  Coming around SW end of Gedney Island very rough with rebound waves.  Waves seemed much higher than wind would cause.  Eventually got across to relative calm in lee of Brow Point and found unexpectedly nice place to camp with stone and pebble beach, place for tent and nice view.  Put up tarp and hard rain commenced almost immediately.  Ate lunch and continued to evaluate--windy by spells, but seas calmer.  Eventually decided to stay, and put up tent and took nap until 7PM.  Misty with heavy rain occasionally and drizzle almost continuously through rest of day.  Ate dinner cramped under tarp with tent, as no good tree protection.  Saw weasel, all brown on rocky shore of Bell Island.
 

Clouds and rain return to Behm Canal after 13 sunny days.

 

Day 57: August 8--Brow Point to Stack Island--18 miles

Up to alarm at 5 AM and again went on bars instead of breakfast.  Showers during night.  Mostly stopped while breaking camp.  Off by 6:20.  Calm and no rain to about even with Traitor Cove, then wind came up quickly SSW about 15 knots with gusts to 20.  Made for slow going.  Waves also came quickly, again more than one would think from wind.  Stopped at Escape Point for quick lunch break with little shelter from the rain.  Wind seemed to decrease a bit, so we headed on.  Wind again increased as we headed toward Indian Point, making progress quite slow.  Then cut across to Cache Island.  Rested in lee a few minutes, then proceeded on to Stack Island, arriving about 2 PM.  Nice place to camp on north side--stone beach and mossy forest tent site.  Set up camp, bathed in tiny stream.  David shaved head with much help.  Then walked around perimeter of island and were glad we found the site we did.  Quite a few fishing boats out.  Also some private land in area with houses, so the return to Ketchikan area feels like it's already begun.  Rain off and on throughout day.

 

Clear cut on Revillagigedo Island near Ketchikan

 

Day 58:  August 9--Stack Island to Ward Cove--16 miles

Rained off and on through night.  Up at 5 AM and set off without breakfast at 6:25 hoping to make it back to downtown Ketchikan today.  Wind SE light.  Paddled through steady rain through Clover Passage, past community of Settler's Cove with marina and lots of homes.  Many sport fishing boats off Survey Point trolling for salmon, which were jumping out all over.  Light SE wind as we entered Tongass Narrows around 9:30 AM.  Had just remarked that we would take every minute of the excellent conditions we could get, when wind came up quickly to 15-20 knots and choppy water.  Continued paddling making slow progress against wind and current.  Meanwhile raining heavily most of the way.  Also much chillier.  David finally put on fleece jacket under rain jacket and then was comfortable.  Pearl stayed with 2 shirts under rain jacket plus fleece ear warmer and hood and was OK, though not exactly warm.  Both wore our rubber gloves.  Finally made it past Ward Cove as wind built to 25-knot gusts.  Simply couldn't make headway.  Retreated to small beach near NW point of Ward Cove with decent camping spot around 2 PM.  Site has vestiges of homestead--collapsed house, wood cook stove and other remains of by-gone era.  Set up camp, took nap.  Wind still strong when we got up for dinner, so huddled behind large tree and back to bed right after dinner.  Very grateful to have found spot to camp in such a populated area.

 

Tongass Narrows from our last camp

 

Day 59: August 10--Ward Cove to Ketchikan--6 miles

Alarm at 5 AM after night of much rain.  Still raining moderately as we took down camp.  Calm and overcast as we paddled down Revillagigedo Channel with help of current.  Much nicer paddling than yesterday!  Checked ferry terminal as we passed, looking for landing options on Wednesday when we return.  Scooted between float planes as they taxied out.  2 cruise ships in place--nearly Ketchikan's full waterfront.  Arrived at Thomas Basin about 7:45 AM with great sense of completion.  Salmon jumping like crazy in Thomas Basin in front of bridge.  Tied up at Stedman dock and went to Pioneer Cafe for breakfast--blueberry pancakes as usual for David and biscuits and gravy for Pearl.  So delicious!  Meanwhile it had started raining more heavily with intermittent downpours.  After breakfast made phone calls and sent out general email.  Then ravenous again and went back to Pioneer for hamburgers which, uncharacteristically for us, totally hit the spot.  Then more phone calls, including arrangements for Ohlsons to pick us up in Bellingham.  Spent some time in Discovery Center and walked to fish ladder, then about 6 PM paddled over to Calvin and Sherry's.  They welcomed us warmly and invited us up for delicious homemade chicken noodle soup. 

 

A happy ending!

 

Epilogue: Ketchikan to Oregon by ferry, train and car

We spent August 11 and 12 enjoying the sights of Ketchikan, including watching large numbers of pink salmon swimming up Ketchikan Creek. 

On August 13 we paddled to the Alaska ferry terminal, then packed up the boat and gear and boarded the ferry for the 36-hour ferry trip to Bellingham, Washington.   It was most interesting to see many of the places we had just been through from the perspective of a ship, but there was also a sense of "losing" what we had just worked so hard to gain when headed north.  It was a strange feeling to sit in the dining room and enjoy a lovely and comfortable breakfast while moving forward without any effort on our part. 

We were met in Bellingham by our friends Gene and Merilyn from Whidbey Island where we had a wonderful get together with kayaking friends in the Seattle area.  We were then dropped off at the Tacoma train station and had a relaxed ride back to Oregon. 

 

Tents on after deck of ferry

Pearl enjoying breakfast on ferry