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The route was from Douglas (a community across the channel from Juneau) south to Pt Arden on Admiralty’s north-east corner, then along the Glass Peninsula to Pt Hugh. From there the group split in two, with the other set rounding the Glass Peninsula and moving north through Seymour Canal back toward Juneau. They had less time than we for the trip. In the end it took us just another six days to completely circle the Island, even with a detour to Baranof Warm Springs.
The three of us continued south crossing to Gambier Bay then Pybus and eventually along Frederick Sound to Pt Gardner. From that southern most point on the Island we moved north and then across Chatham Strait to Baranof Warm Springs. Our route then moved along the coast of Baranof and Chichigof Islands crossing again to Admiralty on our next to last day, which was spent in Funter Bay after a 20 mile crossing.
It was not an easy trip. The first nine days the wind and currents were strong and often working against us, causing us to struggle to make our mileage. We even had a beach day due to wind after crossing Peril Strait.
Admiralty Island is known as the Fortress of the Bears, and we saw many along our route and on beaches where we stopped for lunch or camped. On Baranof Island we saw a beach where bears have made foot print tracks along the edge of the shore by stepping in the same place for generations. I had read of these tracks but never seen them prior to this camp. An amazing idea; the bears consciously move along this path in that manner. Are they walking in their ancestor’s steps as a way to acknowledge this salmon stream as their own?
There is no shortage of places to camp along the coast of Admiralty. The Glass Peninsula along Stephen's Passage and the coast from there to Pt Gardner is littered with steep beaches, though one does have to be careful of taking what is offered before the chart shows rocks for the next few miles. We erred on the side of steep and available. Four days of morning minus tides were punishing as was the wind, and later, the sun. The doubling of Pt Gardner can be a challenge, though we have been fortunate in our passages. People in large boats die there every year. Like all other major points in this country it is best to round in an incoming tide as close to high as possible.
We cook with fire and eat well. On this trip we shared camp jobs of cooking, fire making and water purifying. Our menu did not include any freeze dried dinners. We use a pantry approach with bulgur and couscous as grains. Tortellini, smoked salmon, pesto, mac and cheese and a soup mix created for each trip. Breakfast is oats, protein mix and tea. Lunch is retort packaged salmon, salami or cheese. All dressed with olives and sun dried tomatoes.
Our paddling is done in two four-hour sets, with the second often moving into five hours while we look for a camp. We make between 20 and 30 nautical miles a day, every day. One way we can keep that pace is to carry light-weight gear – even the shotgun is light with its pistol grip. We use sil-nylon tarps for shelter – my wife and I have 200 sq feet of shelter in a tarp bag that weighs less than 4 lbs. We take a minimal amount of luxuries. Our camps, however, are comfortable.
This is a classic Southeast Alaska paddling trip that can start and finish along the Juneau road system. Plan on taking 3 weeks with decent weather, unless you enjoy a constant 25 nm/day pace.
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