Friday, June 6, 2014

Day 1: Juneau - Hoonah - Midway Island

 After spending all of Memorial day having our chains yanked by the air service, we were hoping our butane and bear spray were ready and waiting for us in Hoonah Tuesday morning. We were all set for our 8:05 flight on Wings, just finishing up those last minute things, when they called us and asked if we still planned on taking the 7:30 was 7:20 and we hadn't checked in yet. Gulp. We were five minutes from the airport and thankfully after giving our weights and tossing our drybags at them, we were ushered out to our plane, a 9-seater Cessna Caravan.

After a quick 20-minute flight over Auke bay, Admiralty Island, admiring the pollen in the tideline over Colt and Horse Islands, we landed in Hoonah. And hoped that what looked like calm seas in Icy Straits meant smooth waters for us in Port Frederick.

Hoonah is a predominately native community of 800 people.The tradition is that the Huna people relocated from Glacier Bay when the glaciers were advancing. Hoonah means the place where the wind doesn't blow. The town is tucked around the corner from Icy Strait so I believe it.

At the Hoonah airport Collette confirmed that our package had not arrived and reimbursed us our money after Mr. X asked twice and then she asked the Juneau office to hold our gear until we returned.

A taxi dropped us off in front of the hardware store about 40 minutes before they opened. Mr. X waited and I went walking, looking for the tackle shop which was already open. I went in and thankfully the staff person took me right over to the bear spray, but she didn't have an butane and said nobody had ever asked her for it before - she wondered if it was a "new" thing. Not new, I said, must not be popular though.

The hardware store didn't have butane either and at this point Mr. X was wondering if we should just cancel the trip. Fortunately, the trading post had a propane stove and propane, so I said we were going.

We walked down to the boat harbor and found a rest room to enjoy running water for one last time and a place to assemble the rafts. As we inflated them, a coast guard helicopter passed over us and I heard the gasping of what I thought were whales.

Launching into the calm cove, we soon discovered that there were 1 - 2 foot waves and a headwind. All around us there were eagles hunting herring, porpoises diving, and as we passed the log booms at the logging site, a row of cormorants.

We paddled for a few hours and then pulled out on a pebble beach near game point for a chicken salad pita lunch. It was a good rest and we needed it for the rest of the day would be head to the wind. At one point we hauled out  on a sand bar 'cause Mr. X boat seemed to be losing air.

When we spotted grassy rock 1.5 miles away - where we planned to have dinner - we decided to walk on the shore with the boats. I enjoyed seeing the different colored rocks and the crystal clear salt water.

We enjoyed a dinner with seals feeding in front of the rock, porpoises diving while Mr. X did the dinner dishes and a black oyster catcher alarming as we launched from the western shore of the rock. Although we were more than 7 miles from Hoonah we could still see the cruise ships docked at the old cannery.

The waves were crashing and I was just glad to have successfully launched from grassy rock when Mr. X realized he had lost one of his neoprene gloves. We went back to shore and he wandered the rock. I was convinced that the glove was a goner. But just as he was about to give up and put his boat back in, he snatched the glove up off the beach. We had been looking for a green glove the color of algae, but the glove was black side up and we missed it on the rocky beach.

 Chimney rock

 Looking back toward Grassy rock and Hoonah


 hole in the rock on cliffs at Midway Island

After another couple hours of paddling we approached Midway Island. This is where we planned to camp. We floated around the whole island looking for a good place to pitch our tent. Mr. X picked a spot and we hauled out of the water, passing star fish as we climbed up the fairly steep beach. Walking around the campsite, Mr. X discovered a dead bald eagle; needless to say we found a better campsite on the west side of the island rather than the south side.

We saw no sign of bear on the island fortunately and we had a somewhat restful night on a slightly slanted tent site. Early in the morning I heard and explosion. Since we had passed old clear cuts and logging camps I wondered if someone was dynamiting. Later, I decided it was a whale breaching. 

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