Glacial Thunder: Sea Kayaking
in Prince William Sound 2001
Monday, August 13 Our first moving day. (Click here for a 623 KB gif map of the area with campsites marked.) Susie and I were up early, determined not to be the last ready to go, which is what we usually are. It was an absolutely incredible day: not a cloud in sight. How could we luck out and get this kind of weather?? Susie and I had a quick breakfast of oatmeal, and started working on the gear packing. Dealing with dry bags is a lot different than packing a backpack, although I did my best to make it as similar as possible. I labeled each bag with the general contents, and tried to organize them as I would my backpack: one bag for the stuff that goes in my lower compartment, one for the upper compartment where the tent is, one for my outer pockets and general gear. One has to be ruthless about remembering specifically where you put things: "Let's see, did I pack the polartek pullover in my clothing bag or my main pack compartment bag? Both would be logical." Susie was adamant that I make a diagram of how we practice-packed the kayak in Whittier, and I would thank her many times over. On that beach at the head of Whale Bay, it was not altogether obvious how all the bags went inside the hatches. I am sure after you have done it in your own kayak a hundred times, it is no big deal. This being the first time I had packed this boat for real, hey, I was happy to have my crude diagram. I was pleased with myself when it all went in.
Susie and I were first in the water this morning, unusual for us, to say the least. We waited patiently for the others, who were just a couple minutes behind. I had spoken with the others yesterday, asking them to be mindful of how slow Susie and I seemed to be, and to not leave us too far behind in their wakes. As it turned out, it was never an issue. Maybe the adjustments that she and I had made in the kayaks were the critical difference, or that I finally found my stroke, but for the rest of the day (and trip) we seemed to be able to keep up. Maybe it was the others making us feel better, who knows. Our route of the day was pretty straightforward: head around the headlands of Claw Peak, that separate Whale Bay from Humpback Cove. T&D really wanted to get back to the latter, and as we paddled around into the mouth of the cove, I could see why: on this perfectly blue sky day, the view of the glacially surrounded peaks and lovely, calm water was simply magnificent. We all stopped and took lots of photos, always mindful of the Alaskan weather to turn sour in a heartbeat. We all stopped and rested after about an hour of paddling, delighting in the clear sky and drop dead scenery. Our group picked up steam again, and it was not 45 minutes more that we were trying to figure out how to beach our boats at the bottom of the cove. The coastal navigational charts show a lot of hazards at the bottom of the cove: we arrived at low tide, and could see that the hazards were not rocks, but just lots of flat, grassy covered areas. Apparently, these plants thrive being flooded with salt water twice daily, and it makes for an interesting area. Since it was after noon, we pulled up our kayaks, after deciding that the first landing spot would be flooded soon, and moved them around a micro-cove and got closer to the camping areas, of which there were not many. We ate lunch, and decided that we needed to unpack, find some dry places to camp, and enjoy the afternoon. Tim, of course, was interested in thinning the silver salmon population, and of course, we were supportive of his endeavors.
We all took off to do various things: Tim fished, and Diane wetted her line a bit (he would ultimately catch a couple of small salmon). Susie decided to wash her hair. I poked around and took a few photos, and Dave, well, he was working off last night's salmon, in anticipation of tonight's feast, but making sure that Kodak or Fuji's profit margin remained high. I never did get a count of the total number of rolls Dave shot, but with both cameras going almost constantly, I would imagine the number was in the dozens. Andy and Sue poked around in another area. There is a stream coming off a glacier to the south of Claw Peak that feeds the southeast corner of the cove which was choked with salmon, all seeming in pretty good shape. I walked over to another creek, fed by a small lake to the south of us. It was lovely, and choked with salmon as well. But these were in much poorer shape, and many dead ones were washed up on the sides of the creek. Piles and piles of fresh bear scat indicated that the bears were getting their bellies full of salmon and salmon berries. I guess these areas are virtual paradises this time of year. On my walk, I also noticed that the air over the lake (I could not see the lake itself) rolling in from Puffin Cove to the South was very very foggy. Hmmm..... I thought: a preview of the future for us?
The breeze was brisk from the south, and we all decided, after such an idyllic afternoon, to take advantage of the "bug-lite" area for dinner. We had started to watch the tide, and noted that at the rate it was gaining on the boats, we would have to move them again. We all made a collective decision to filet the two salmon that Tim had caught, and nominated Dave to do the fileting. For never having fileted a fish before, he took to it like a pro. The filets were gorgeous, just the right size for pan frying, and far fewer bones than the salmon steaks. Plenty of wine was consumed that evening. It seemed that Dave, who could not stoop to bring a box of the stuff, would pull out partial bottle after partial bottle, and willingly share with everyone. No wonder his kayak had been riding so low. Susie and I made some Chocolate Cherry Mousse for dessert, and shared it, as we were stuffed. Too much salmon and a non-long paddle day. The evening's entertainment was watching for a bear on the creek to the south of our camp, and watching the tide creep up on Dave's tent. Eventually, we decided that he did not need salt water lapping at his door, so we moved it: it would have been a wet night for him otherwise. About 8:30 pm, the fog to the south started to roll into lower Humpback Cove, and the wind died down. We had decided not to try to build a fire, and since, with the flat terrain, the lake to the south, and the dying wind, our winged friends had decided to join us, we decided to hit the sack around 9:30 pm. Besides, we had a big day tomorrow (12 miles) and would need plenty of strength.
© Roger A. Jenkins & Suzanne A. McDonald, 2001