Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Memorial Day

I had heard that there was supposed to be a good low tide on Monday, so after breakfast Mr. X and I went to Point Louisa to see what we could see. We were told upon arrival that Douglas is really the place to be...and that the lowest tide was Saturday. Good thing we spent Saturday's low tide scrambling on the beach and Sunday's low tide paddling past beautiful star fish.

We spent an hour looking at starfish. Green, orange, pink, silver and purple. We were able to identify red anenomies and sea cucumbers. A dad out with his kids caught a dolly varden trout and released it in a deep tidepool for everyone to examine. We saw green and purple urchins. Our sunburns were bugging us a little in the early morning sun, but this was Mr. X's chance to use the good camera for beach picture taking, (since we don't take it rafting with us) and I didn't want to miss it.

In the afternoon, I made potato salad with potatoes John left in the fridge and we continued to put away our camping gear. Seriously the living room looked like a sporting goods store.

 I'm afraid I'm seriously in need of a vacation now.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Back-side of Douglas

Mr. X has been gunning for this trip since we got the packrafts. He happily says Douglas looks like a giant pork chop, and I'd wondered if that was his true attraction to the place.
When we kicked my brother out on Monday, I told Mr. X we needed to get a bear canister since I'm not going tent camping without one. Our lack of a canister also prevented me from feeling good about dropping  said brother at the local campground 'cause I didn't want to be responsible for a mauling or a $5,000 fine.

So we ordered the container on Tuesday and Mr. X started talking about Douglas. I reminded him that the canister wasn't supposed to arrive until May 31st, and I felt confident that I was going to have a nice relaxing holiday weekend. You can imagine our surprise when the carrying case arrived on Thursday. At this point Mr. X procured a promise that if the canister arrived Friday we would go camping or at least make an attempt on going around the west side of Douglas aka the back-side. The canister arrived Friday and Mr. X started packing...
Starting out. Laughing about just where I put my keys, wool socks and pb&j sandwich.

Saturday morning we finished our packing and left on the Outerpoint/Rainforest Trail on North Douglas. After walking on the beach for a little way, we crossed the peninsula and bushwacked through the trees to a beach on the backside of Douglas. It was low tide, so we had plenty of room to scramble and pick our way over the rocks, boulders, seaweed and barnicles. We hiked along with a humpback whale to our right and greeted a marten that had just emerged from a swim. He look awful weasely all wet.

Continuing to hike along, Mr. X dropped back and I was walking by myself. I slipped on some rocks and fell over on my side. My pack was so heavy, I couldn't move and the rocks were holding me in a position so that I couldn't roll myself over. Eventually I managed to get to my knees and back on my feet. If only we could get to that nice sandy point up ahead with fresh water we could have our lunch.

Finally we neared the point and I heard a loud crash in the trees. Thinking it was a bear I backed away down the beach a little and then realized we had walked right up to someone else's campsite. Actually 8 adults and 16 kids campsite. It was one heck of a party. They talked to us and said if we had trouble to come back and share the crab they were pulling from their pots.

Thinking it was high tide we prepared to put the packrafts in, only to discover the tide was still rising and we had dropped our packs right in its path. We felt dumb. Good thing they were drybags.

We then headed out paddling. It started to rain. Then it stopped. Then the sun came out and we were singing about lollipops and rainbows. It was beautiful. Admiralty island looked like a hop, skip and a jump away and once the tide turned, I made it my goal to make it to church the next day. Everything was just going swimmingly.

We heard puffins, loons, saw two more martens on the rocks, scoters, eagles, mountains. It was beautiful.

At about 4:30 pm we made it around the fat part of the pork chop also known as Point Hilda, got checked out by some seals and decided that we would not stop there to camp for the night, but push for the southern tip instead since the tide should keep pulling us until 8:30 and slack tide would help us until 10:30 pm. It took us an hour and a half to make the crossing to the narrow part of the island and then we started looking for a beach to take our dinner break on. We saw cliff after cliff with raging waterfall and another marten took a good look at us from the beach.

After dinner we had a tug boat and barge pass us. Then a cruise ship. At about 8:30, Mr. X started looking for a campsite, but I thought it was too early. We passed some kayakers already camped out in the best looking spot, enjoying the golden hour as the sun slipped down casting a golden light on the peaks of Admiralty. The water was glassy; it was so calm.

Eventually about 10:15 Mr. X pointed to a cliff and said, that looks like a great place. Not convinced, I humored him and went might have had something to do with the sea lion that was huffing behind us though.

Mr. X ran up the beach and onto the cliff and sure enough found a cozy spot, just big enough for our tent. We hauled our gear all the way up the beach and tied the boats to the driftwood. We cleaned up the tent site, clearing away sticks and pine cones, finding enough evidence of deer beds, that we knew it would be a protected spot, away from wind. By 11:00, two more cruise ships had passed. We were tucked into our beds and had the gps alarm set for 1:22 am. We were expecting a 19 foot tide and Mr. X wanted to be sure to check our gear at the highest point. We were lulled to sleep by the lapping of the rising tide and the "Who-cooks-for-you?" query of a barred owl.

At 1:22 am, with the golden, nearly full moon low in the sky, Mr. X checked the rafts and paddles, assured that a rogue wave would not wash them away, he came back to bed.

Squirrels and ravens alarmed at our tent, Mr. X smiled in his sleep. We had a bear canister afterall.

At 6:30, a whale spout just outside had me leaping to my feet. A humpback was trolling just off the cliffs where we were camped. It was so fun to watch it work its way along spraying water as it went.  

Knowing that time and tide wait for no man, just before low tide, we rustled up a cold breakfast and headed out to finish the last 9 miles of our trip. We floated along, the current pulling us quickly in the direction we wanted to go. Mr. X checking the beach for dozens of star fish, me paddling through bull kelp. We quickly passed the South Douglas point and Marmion island. We spotted a dozen harlequin ducks and now wished for the flood tide. Eventually it came and pushed us up the Gastineau channel at 1.5 miles per hour. 

Of course, just what I didn't want to see behind me? A mammoth cruise ship. I headed closer to the sandy shore, terrified of the wake that would be coming. A couple jet skiers rushed to jump through the wake. And while Mr. X was saying, "Wheeee!" I was saying "Shoot!" Unfortunately, I caught a cresting wave at an angle and predictably, my fears were realized as my raft flipped in three feet of water. I rode out the rest of wake waves on my knees holding on to my paddle and raft as best I could. The poor guys on jet skis couldn't tell it was only three feet and paused their wave running until I could hoist my paddle, flip the raft and leap back in. Nothing hurt but my pride.  

Tortured now that we had seen downtown Juneau for hours, we just wanted to be finished with our trip. We paddled on, now making good time despite our aching muscles and blistered hands. We finally passed Juneau island and crossed into the Douglas boat harbor at 12:30 where we packed up, called a cab and cooked chicken and rice for lunch. After a quick ride to North Douglas we loaded the car, drove home and then I headed to church since I hadn't made substitute arrangements for nursery. I got a couple strange looks and comments about "who manages a sunburn in Juneau?" Me! That's who.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Benjamin Island

Mr. X has been angling to take this trip for some time. After our Spuhn Island trip on Monday, we packed up on Tuesday and attempted to find a place to put the boats in out the road. Despite the incredibly good weather, the tide would have been against us, so we bagged that plan.

Saturday, though we got out the road by 9 am. We decided to park at Boulder beach and hike on the beach as far as we could, then put the boats in to make the crossing to the island. First we had to cross a couple of snow melt streams. We tried a couple times in crocks and shorts, but I nixed it and said through chattering teeth, "Why are we doing this!? Let's put on the dry suits. That's what they're for."

We inflated the boats in a little notch in the rocks. We saw anenomies and sea slugs. Mr. X spotted tiny sea stars in the water.

We made the mile long crossing in calm waters. Watching for sea lions diving and swimming, making the same crossing. Eventually we approached the Benjamin island beach and we were surprised to see what we think was a horned grebe. He let us get very close to him. Beautiful bird, common but, since they're pretty tame, I don't think their survival is very good. I'd never seen one before :)

At the beach we portaged to the other side of the island only to be greeted by a raft of curious sea lions. We opted to go back to shore and walk along the bouldered beach. That's when a kayaker told us there was a trail through the trees to the sea lion haul-out.

That's really why we went to Benjamin island, why everyone goes there. This island is one of the major haul-outs for sea lions, which means it regularly gets over 200 animals congregating on its rocky beaches.

We hiked about a half hour through the trees. Then had our lunch above the barking and belching mammals.

On the paddle back, the tide pulled us right to boulder beach. It was easy going, so we went straight to the car (instead of bouldering back).

Friday, May 10, 2013

Monday: Smuggler's Cove

Monday was sunny! We headed out the Fritz Cove road and put the packrafts in the water. We paddled to a small island, then carried the boats over the top and put in again. While we were putting in, Mr. X spotted a sea star. It's the coolest one I've seen in our travels so far.

Then we paddled around the west side of Spuhn island. A couple seals came and checked us out. One of them was super close and kept eyeballing us.

We pulled the boats out and crossed one of the island's reefs, watched by eagles and a scoters.

When we put in again, the current whipped us around the back side of the island where we could see why that portion of the island is a state marine park - it is all cliffs rather than buildable land.

We cruised back into Smuggler's cove passing Coghlan island, Battleship island, Suedla island. We saw a couple houses being built on the island. Lucky homeowners.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Ferry passenger

Monday at 4 a.m. my brother's ferry got in. I got a picture of the boat, but not him. Thankfully he asked us to pick his luggage up on the way to work so we just had a quick - "hey's there's where you'll be working. Here I'll take your suitcases. See you later." He apparently got to take a 3 hour wildlife cruise up Lynn canal.

Thursday the first cruise ship arrived.

We've been setting rain records all week. Yes. The day he arrived was the sunniest, most glorious day. Now he's seeing what it's actually like here. He's camped out on our floor. Here's to hoping he finds something better soon, otherwise he'll be camping in the rain.