Kake to Sitka

(Mostly copied verbatim from our journal)


Day 17, June 18--Hamilton Island to McCarthy Point (NW tip of Kupreanof Island)--8 miles

Got up about 8 AM to rain on tarp, which we had strung up with the threat of thunderstorms last evening.  Bath last evening definitely marginal—stream minimal and easily roiled.  Banks deep muck, but bath felt good.  Paddled across to Kake, but couldn't tell where store or services were.  Went on at least a mile to dock.  Found Timothy there—a native fellow who told us store was back 3 miles the way we had just come.  Answered "no" to all our inquiries about library, cafe, laundromat.  Very discouraging. 

Paddled away, then reconsidered and came back to tie up and try to catch ride to store.  When got back Timothy was just returning to his boat and offered to take us to store.  He took us and waited while we purchased $173 of food for next 2 weeks.  Now standing in post office while camera charges.  Folks say hi, but no one but Timothy has asked questions. 

Later:  North wind blowing fairly hard during much of the early afternoon and water a little choppy as we paddled north around 2:30PM.  But died to mild breeze and while it made paddling harder, water calmed as we went and not bad at all.  Paddled up to McCarthy Point and found beautiful campsite right at isthmus near end of point.  Looking across Frederick Sound to mountains of Admiralty.  Evening pleasant and warm, but marred by sudden realization that we had left tarp ridgeline/siwash anchor line at last site.  Humpback blew in Frederick Sound while we prepared supper.


Kake, Alaska (Kupreanof Island)


Timothy, who generously gave us a ride to the store in Kake, waited while we reprovisioned and then gave us a ride back.  Thanks, Timothy!


Sunset at McCarthy Point (NW corner of Kupreanof Island)


Day 18, June 19--McCarthy Point (NW tip of Kupreanof Island)--0 miles

Up to alarm at 4 AM.  Listened to forecast, which stated NE winds at 15 knots in AM, switching to NW in afternoon.  Although calm at that time, decided to not take chance on 11 mile crossing of Frederick Sound.  Also, feeling like day off would be welcome.  Went back to sleep and woke about 9:30.  Calm and sea flat.  Moving slowly got some breakfast, then walked over to island peninsula and scouted out some mostly freshwater pools.  Decided to bathe and do laundry.  Totally beautiful site for bath, right out above shoreline looking out on Frederick Sound.  Filtered sun, warm day.  Hung up clothes on limbs of tree fallen out of forest onto beach.  Lunch of bagels peanut and butter and jelly, dried pears and apples. 

Feels like a wonderful life except some level of feeling duped by weather forecast.  Try to just enjoy the beauty and relaxation.  David now trying to find leak in Thermarest pad—not able even though dunked in pools.  Messing around with other little odds and ends of improvements and repairs: how to reef sail more quickly, purifying water (we love the Aqua Mira drops--way easier than filtering), trying to neutralize the velcro at the necks of our rainjackets that catches on everything.  Also watching boats on flat sea:  1 sailboat, lots of commercial fishing boats (10 at one time), 1 cruise ship.  Drone of fishing boat engines all afternoon.


McCarthy Point camp comes with laundromat...


And clothesline


Tide pool with barnacles, chitins, snails, limpets, anemone, etc.  (McCarthy Point, Kupreanof Island)


Day 19, June 20--McCarthy Point (Kupreanof Island) to Herring Bay (Admiralty Island)--16 miles

Slept lightly.  Up at 4 AM to alarm.  Forecast good—W winds 10 knots.  Got up and had breakfast and struck camp.  Off at 6:05.  Light west wind increased to about 10 knots from SW.  Sailed for 30-40 minutes.  Then wind veered more to west and became lighter and decided to paddle.  About halfway across, watched cruise ship approaching from west.  Eventually decided to make contact by VHF.  Officer said they had us in sight and were veering slightly to port to give us more room.  Water somewhat choppy at times.  Landed on sandy beach west side of Chapin Bay about 10:50 AM.  Many horse flies. 

Had lunch, then on Timothy's suggestion, headed around point to Herring Bay to look for bears.  Within minutes sighted the first one—very blond grizzly with big hump.  Sailed to head of bay to get water, then sailed across east half of bay.  Went ashore looking for tracks.  Pebbly, not good for tracking. 

Paddled around to west side of point in middle of bay and set up camp.  Much bear sign.  Many waterfalls from steep slopes above head of bay.  Few drops of rain just after set up camp.  With Admiralty's reputation for brown bears, more diligent about hanging food several hundred feet from camp.  Swarms of large biting flies encountered as we came into the kelp on Admiralty Island.  The forest in camp area very open with large trees, some 5-6 feet in diameter at base.


Heading across Frederick Sound to Admiralty Island


Halfway across Frederick Sound with Baranof Island mountains on horizon


Pearl enjoys view from camp in Herring Bay on Admiralty Island


Horse flies (Herring Bay, Admiralty Island)


Pile of bear scat (Herring Bay, Admiralty Island)


Pearl beside large western hemlock (Admiralty Island)


Day 20, June 21--Herring Bay to Murder Cove (Admiralty Island)--13 miles

Woke about 8:30 to blue sky and brilliant sunshine despite forecast of rain.  Had breakfast and took walk along to stream, then back through forest.  Saw much recent bear sign including fresh tracks and scat obviously from this morning.  Didn't see any more bears.  Sun and warmer-than-usual weather may have kept them in forest.  Looked for salmon in stream, but saw none yet. 

Left around high tide at 1:20 PM.  Paddled west along shore in sun and on mirror-surfaced water.  David hot paddling.  Both in only jerseys on top.  SW wind sprang up as we approached Carroll Island.  Stopped to look at cormorant rookery in cave on west side of Carroll Island.  Paddled inside large cave as several cormorants flew out.  Before entering cave had seen a couple dozen cormorants fly out.  Strange pinkish-red fleshy creatures hanging from walls. 

Continued on toward Murder Cove against fluky, generally west and NW and SW winds.  Shores very reefy.  Significant tide rip coming into Murder Cove—2-3 foot waves, some breaking.  Had doubts about finding place to land, but sand beach appeared on east shore about halfway into cove.  Good camp with nice view of Baranof Island mountains.  Another open forest with countless open tent sites.  Several hard gusts of wind and some sprinkles from SW as we schlepped gear.  Clouds scudding fast and low over Chatham Strait.


Schlepping gear at Herring Bay camp on Admiralty Island


Searching stream for bears and salmon (Herring Bay, Admiralty Island)


Sea cave with cormorant rookery in cave roof


Strange gelatinous growths inside sea cave


Day 21, June 22--Murder Cove to north of Point Gardener (Admiralty Island)--7 miles

Rain all night+loud surf=light sleep.  Woke to overcast skies, but rain had stopped by 7:30AM.  Had breakfast, then walked about half mile along shore to Tyee.  Surprised to see house/cabin with wood smoke and generator running and satellite dish.  Hollered “Hello” and 50ish woman came out surprised to see “people.”  Initially reserved and guarded, but warmed up  She's summer caretaker of a resort-to-be.  Many years in the making and apparently many years left to go.  She (Corinne) showed us whaling harpoon from whaling days, old bottles she'd collected, and then took us out to see old steam plant from whaling days. 

She had operated store in Port Alexander for 2 years (lots of drama there according to her).  Winters in Sequim.  On way back we stopped to look at collapsed buildings from cannery days.  Got back to camp, broke camp and had lunch.  Departed about 1:40PM. 

Since we'd enjoyed reading The Cheechakoes by Wayne Short about his family's homesteading adventures in the 1940's and 50's, we wanted to look for their homestead site.  Paddled around to Surprise Harbor and found Short family homestead remains.  Bear sign everywhere.  Some burned boards, engine parts, probably from sawmill.  Got water from creek.  Decided to head out and on around Pt. Gardener.  Camped on Chatham Strait about half mile north of point.  Beautiful spot, though somewhat challenging for loading/unloading at low tide.  We're in the spring tide cycle.  Much coming and going of fishing boats up and down Strait.  David spotted bear with 2 cubs in grassy area by shore to north of us.  Watched for about 20 minutes.  Sun was out on and off toward evening.  Many no-see-ums. 


Tyee whaling station as it appeared in the early 1900's (Murder Cove, Admiralty Island)


Remains of buildings at Tyee (Murder Cove, Admiralty Island)


Steam plant from whaling days in early 1900's at Tyee (Murder Cover, Admiralty Island)


Harpoon at Tyee (Murder Cover, Admiralty Island)


Pearl on beach in front of Short family homestead described in The Cheeckakoes (Surprise Harbor, Admiralty Island)


Bowl at Short family homestead ruins (Surprise Harbor, Admiralty Island)


Bear trail near Short family homestead ruins (Surprise Harbor, Admiralty Island)


Day 22, June 23--North of Point Gardener (Admiralty Island) to Warm Springs Bay (Baranof Island)--11 miles

Wakened to cloudy skies, but no rain during night.  Rocky, surgy loading situation.  Off about 10:05AM.  Paddled up coast a couple miles, saw no bear activity and none likely ahead, given trees right down to rocky shoreline.  So headed across Chatham Strait to Warm Springs Bay.  Saw humpback.  Calm, almost glassy all the way across. 

Warm Springs Bay has impressive waterfall at head, 10-12 houses (most unoccupied) and fishing lodge.  Several people doing humpback research.  Well-designed public bathhouse with 3 large metal tanks in private rooms for soaking.  Water warm, but not hot.  Still felt very good.  All free.  Then walked up board walk about quarter mile to hot pools beside thunderous waterfall.  Water very hot.  Incredible setting.  Walked on up to Baranof Lake.  Picturesque setting with snow-covered peaks all around. 

Chatted with various folk from boats.  Chuck and Laura on a 27' sailboat invited us for coffee and then breakfast in the morning.  Pitched tent just above dock.  Took last soak in private hot tub per info from Andy of whale research station.  Spectacular setting for hot springs.  Day cleared toward evening.  Stunning evening with sun on snowy slopes above waterfall. 


View from tent door across Chatham Strait toward Baranof Island

Warm Springs Bay (Baranof Island)


Free hot baths on dock (Warm Springs Bay, Baranof Island)


Soaking in amazing hot springs (Warm Springs Bay, Baranof Island)


Water roaring past hot springs (Warm Springs Bay, Baranof Island)


Day 23, June 24--Warm Springs Bay to Kasnyku Bay (Baranof Island)--13 miles

Up to alarm at 7:30AM and sunny skies.  Easy camp dismantle and boat loading.  Chatted with purse seiners and then to Lea Lea, Chuck and Laura's boat, for pancake breakfast.  Good coffee, great pancakes with Vermont maple syrup. 

Left about 10:05AM.  Paddled out to gusty north wind, which was rather discouraging, but fortunately ended once we were well outside the bay and became light northerly breeze.  Stopped at large waterfall just before Kasnyku Bay.  Then on to Hidden Falls Hatchery dock by around 3 PM. 

Chatted with Trenna, Jason's wife (whom we had met at Warm Springs), about living here, her concerns about the kids and bears.  Walked past fiberglass nursery tubs about 20 in diameter and over to weir where king salmon were coming up into holding pond and where sow grizzly was catching them as they did so and teaching cub. 

Adam (hatchery manager) invited us to camp on new float, which we accepted.  Paddled back over to check on bears, but none this evening. 

Hatchery raises mostly chum salmon here for Asian market.   

Clouds moving in by evening.


Waterfall near Kasnyku Bay (Baranof Island)


Fish hatchery, Hidden Falls (Kasnyku Bay, Baranof Island)


Nice salmon caught by hatchery worker (Kasnyku Bay, Baranof Island)


Day 24, June 25--Kasnyku Bay (Baranof Island) to north side of Catherine Island--20 miles

Woke at 4 AM to boat motor at dock.  Looked out and saw seiner tied up.  Turned over and went back to sleep, awakening again at 7:30AM.  Were packing up on float when a voice said, “Good morning.”  It was Mitch, owner of the seiner, the Rose Lee, who invited us for coffee.  We went over and met the crew and sat at their galley table for a half hour or more, chatting about their work and our trip.  We learned what a high-dollar game it is, with boat worth about $1 million and permits for various fisheries up to another $1 million or so.  The net alone, made of a high-tech material, was $80K.

Very friendly group:  Mitch, Greg, Lance, Mitchell and Chris, who was subbing as skiff operator for the regular guy whose brother recently went overboard and was lost out in Gulf of Alaska. 

We asked about Portage Arm, a potential shortcut for us, and whether it goes through on high tide.  None of them and no one at the hatchery seemed to know.  Mitch's spotting plane came in while we were there and when he returned, he'd flown over Portage Arm for us.  Report of many logs on north side dissuaded us from trying it. 

Finally off about 10:45.  Saw an orca shortly after leaving.  Bay fairly calm, but rougher as we got out to Chatham Strait.  Put the sail up in SE breeze and moved along nicely.  Occasional breaking swell/waves, especially when tide worked against wind,  but mostly very nice downwind ride all the way up to NE point of Catherine Island where we turned onto Peril Strait.  Before making that turn we had already noted helicopter in constant motion on north side of Catherine Island.  Turned out to be logging operation on Native land.  Helicopter would pick up 3-4 logs at a time on a long cable from the slopes above, then carry them down and drop them on a barge at the shore, where a crane was piling them up.  Tug standing by in channel.  Looked like a recipe for an accident. 

Had some tail wind in Peril Strait, then it switched abruptly to NW and quickly became quite strong and miserable to paddle against.  Still made another mile or 2, but started looking for campsite.  Found one on a small island with cobble beach.  Shack just in from edge of forest.  We decided to sleep inside on the lower bunk tonight.  Took little hike after dinner.  Lots of clams squirting on tidal flats all around us.  David checked out stream on Catherine Island.  Some bear sign, though not like on Admiralty.  A few drops of rain today, some sun, now very overcast.  Lots of pleasure boats and fishing traffic in Peril Strait. 


Mitch and crew of purse seiner Rose Lee.  Thanks for the invitation to coffee, Mitch!  (Kasnyku Bay, Baranof Island)


Rose Lee (Kasnyku Bay, Baranof Island)


Float plane takes off with Mitch to look for salmon (Kasnyku Bay, Baranof Island)


A good following breeze carries us up Chatham Strait


Helicopter logging on Native land (north shore, Catherine Island)


Day 25, June 26--North side of Catherine Island to Big Rose Island (Peril Strait)--32 miles

Rained much of the night.  Glad to be under shelter, though didn't sleep all that well inside shack.  Up at 6 AM to launch before tide got too low.  Left 7:50AM and had to move boat way out because tidal flats so extensive.  Paddled out between islands and soon picked up nice tailwind, which we rode most of the day.  Saw humpbacks, harbor porpoises.  Mostly cloudy with a few spots of sun. 

Stopped at little island off NW point of Duffield Peninsula—nice sand beach.  Decided to go on, given Sergus Narrows current times.  Got to Big Rose Island about 6:45PM.  Pearl spotted sand beach and we stopped.  Few sprinkles during dinner.  Watched brown bear grazing across channel.


Tug and barge in Peril Strait near Sergius Narrows


Day 26, June 27--Big Rose Island to Kalinin Bay (Kruzof Island)--14 miles

Awakened to alarm at 4 AM to catch tidal current.  Gray, misty, drippy morning.  Off at 5:00AM without breakfast.  Paddled and rode current.  Confused by current at channel marker, which showed current dead against us.  Discovered later it was a large eddy, as current definitely with us overall. 

To Sergius Narrows by 6:30AM.  Rapids impressive on down-current side of Narrows.  Navigational buoy almost pulled under by current.  Many whirlpools, upwellings.  Spun back and forth and gradually moved out of it. 

Pulled into Salmonberry Cove a little before 8 AM and stopped for breakfast.  (Put boat out on siwash anchor.)  Paddled on to Salisbury Sound and pulled into Kalinin Bay about 10 AM.  Found pebble beach about halfway down east shore and set up camp.  Stream nearby, so immediately went for bath.  Lunch, then napped.  Then paddled up estuary, looking for bears, but none to be seen.  Currently 2 sailboats, 3 pleasure boats, 1 fishing boat and possible research boat anchored in Bay.  Beautiful sunny evening. 


Buoy pulled over by current as we enter Sergius Narrows in Peril Strait


Out of Sergius Narrows, we find calm water on a gray, damp morning


Kalinin Bay estuary (north shore of Kruzof Island)


Day 27, June 28--Kalinin Bay to Shelikof Bay (Kruzof Island)--19 miles

Up to alarm at 6 AM.  Listened to weather and decided to do first leg of outside of Kruzof Island.  Mostly cloudy with breeze up bay as we paddled out shortly before 8:00AM.  Salisbury Sound mellow, little swell.  Breezes remained light as we paddled out to open ocean.  Had hoped for some sailing and tried briefly when breeze shifted from light SW to NW, but inconsistent and too light. 

Humpbacks blowing frequently—one breached in distance in Salisbury Sound.  Out from Gilmer Bay 8-9 sport fishing boats.  To Shelikof Bay entrance about 2 PM.  Breeze just then filling in from north.  A few light showers during paddle.  Found beautiful sand beach on north side of bay about half mile in from entrance.  By then mostly sunny and Mt. Edgecumbe appearing out of the clouds across bay.  All together stunning spot.  Plus beautiful stream with flat rocks, so bathed again.  Ate dinner and then put kayak back in water and paddled toward head of bay—David hoping to find major steam and see bears.  Saw camp in distance on back beach, then to our horror, 4-wheelers started buzzing down beach—very disappointing when we had found the place so enchanting.  From our beach watched whale in bay fin-slapping over and over.


Paddling down the outer coast of Kruzof Island


Humpback whale dives in front of us (outer coast of Kruzof Island)


View from camp toward Mt. Edgecumbe (north side of Shelikof Bay, outer coast of Kruzof Island)


Day 28, June 29--Shelikof Bay to Fred's Creek (Kruzof Island)--27 miles

Up to alarm at 5 AM.  Forecast still good, though some confusion about whether coastal forecast or off-shore forecast more applicable.  After breakfast watched river otter taking sand bath on beach.  At least 5 minutes we watched and he seemed oblivious, then started and ran away.

Left at 7 AM.  Passed about a dozen charter sport fishing boats off south end of Shelikof Bay.  Mt. Edgecumbe in view all morning.  To Cape Edgecumbe by 11:45AM. 

Light swell, no wind waves, calm.  West breeze began to fill in as we rounded Cape.  Sailed to St. Lazaria Island.  Amazing rookery for seagulls, murres, puffins, cormorants.  It was like one big party of birds.  Striking rounded geological forms on island.  Much of it covered with moss.  Mostly cloudy in AM, sunny during afternoon,  

Got to Fred’s Creek about 5:30.  Landed, had dinner and set up camp in light sprinkle.  Then walked down beach and chatted with folks from Sitka in Forest Service cabin.  Group of 4, led by Gary.  They had climbed Mt. Edgecumbe today and highly recommended it.  Longest day in boat so far.  Tired!  


Rugged south coast of Kruzof Island


Bird refuge on St. Lazaria Island


Day 29, June 30--Fred's Creek (Kuzof Island)--0 miles

Slept till 8.  Up and had breakfast looking across Sitka Sound.  Hit trail to Mt Edgecumbe about 9:25AM.  Hiked on extraordinarily well-maintained trail of crushed gravel, boardwalks, stairs and footbridges across mostly boggy meadow and lightly wooded terrain.  Streams mostly dry draining side of volcano.  Trees in bogs stunted like a bonsai forest.  Reached timberline, then began following dozens of posts about a hundred feet apart up steep alpine slopes for last .6 mile.  45 degree angle on pumice ball bearings.  Slow and treacherous going (for Pearl). 

Seeing clouds moving in David went on ahead.  He met party of 3 people from Sitka at top and 6 more apparently on trail around crater rim in addition to lone woman near beginning of steep slope.  Got a couple photos to north before clouds descended.  David to top about 1:15 PM.  Pearl arrived at top about half hour later, totally exhausted. 

View opened up again as she got there revealing Fairweather Range 150 miles to north and eventually south almost to end of Baranof Island also.  Magnificent views as clouds shifted from time to time.  Also of Shelikof Bay and large meadow/bog at head of it.  Rock and snow in summit crater.  No steam or other evidence of activity.  Ate granola bars, cheese sticks and dried apples.  Then hiked around crater rim. 

Long descent, but pleasant in evening sun.  Back to camp 7:50, where we met 2 young women, med techs from Sitka, who had paddled a triple kayak with a dog from Sitka and were backpacking heavily laden to shelter.  We doubted they would make it by dark.  Doubted they had listened to weather forecast either, as rain predicted for tomorrow. 


Mt. Edgecumbe trail (Kruzof Island)


Mt. Edgecumbe trail (Kruzof Island)


Mt. Edgecumbe trail (Kruzof Island)


Mt. Edgecumbe trail (Kruzof Island)


Pearl above timberline on Mt. Edgecumbe trail (Kruzof Island)


Summit of Mt. Edgecumbe.  Snow-covered Fairweather Range visible on horizon, 150 miles away.


Summit of Mt. Edgecumbe, looking east north toward Baranof Island


Day 30, July 1--Fred's Creek (Kruzof Island) to Sitka (Baranof Island)--8 miles

Rain much of night, sometimes fairly hard.  Woke about 7:30AM.  Leisurely pack-up and breakfast.  Left about 11:45AM across Sitka Sound.  Wind picked up to 15-20 knots, with seas 3-5 feet.  Took several crests across deck.  Boat handled it well even if Pearl didn’t.  David sat for 10 minutes trying to get photos of heavier seas.  Shortly thereafter SE wind picked up even more, but we were soon in lea of islands. 

Had lunch of PBJ at north end of Kasiana Island—well-protected.  Paddled across and made landfall at white bucket with red flag put out by Doris.  Carried kayak up boulder seawall then loaded gear into Doris’s car.  Met Linda Schmidt briefly and left kayak beside her house. 

Doris made us at home, with our mountain of gear.  She's a remarkable lady, 93 years old, but lives alone, leads Tai-Chi class several times a week and drives (stick shift!).  Chatted with Doris, then decided to go out for groceries.  Pearl collaborated with her on a dinner of rock fish, rice, broccoli, pumpkin pie and ice cream.  All tasted fantastic.  Then Doris set up computer and David started on email update.  Wonderful hot showers before settling down on her sofa bed. 


Crossing Sitka Sound


Wind and waves build until they begin to break over deck (Sitka Sound)   


Day 31--July 2, Sitka (Baranof Island)--0 miles

Up about 7 AM and to downtown with Doris as she left for Tai Chi at 7:20AM.  Walked all over downtown looking for breakfast spot, and finally went to Victoria’s.  Paid $25+ for a modest meal.  Went to library and caught up on email, then a variety of errands, plus some groceries.  Caught bus back and helped fix dinner.  Doris had made blueberry pie.  Very cloudy, with rain off and on and continued south wind.


Doris Smith, our amazing host in Sitka.  We miss you, Doris!


Day 32, July 3, Sitka (Baranof Island)--0 miles

Spent AM working around Doris’s house and on kayak.  Trimmed bushes for better view, cleaned gutter, fixed toilet.  Chatted with neighbor Ken Davis, who stopped by.  Then had lunch of soup with Doris and she offered to take us to town.  Went to library and printed charts for Glacier Bay, then went to Sitka Conservation Society and got tips from Adam (whose group we'd seen kayaking in Rocky Pass) about what to see there.  Picked up new foam mats for kayak at Marine Supply and finished grocery shopping.  Caught bus back, finished work on kayak and made dinner with Doris.  Still windy, from the south.


We tour the Russian Orthodox Bishop's House, built in the 1840's (Sitka)


Day 33, July 4, Sitka (Baranof Island)--0 miles

Went into town with Doris and walked around Sitka National Historic Park and Visitor Center.  Then toured Bishops House, built in 1840's.  Watched parade, then got ride home with Linda Schmidt and went with her to Starrigavan Park for botany walk.  She's an avid amateur botanist and we learned many new plants.  Dinner with Doris, including rhubarb pie, then finished organizing for departure tomorrow.


4th of July, 2013 in Sitka


Xtratuf boots--all the fisher folks wear them (Sitka)


Linda, who let us keep our kayak in her yard.  Thanks, Linda!


We learn lots of new bog plants from Linda (Starrigavin Park, Sitka)