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Outer Coast - Sitka to Juneau - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip

Report Type: Extended Trip Report
Trip Dates: June 2008
Nearest City: Sitka, AK
Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult
Submitted by: Umnak View Profile

Description:

This was a fast 12 day 260 nm trip along the outer coast from Sitka to Icy Strait and on to Juneau through Cross Sound and Lynn Canal; with a bit of a jog north to spend the night in St. James Bay toward the end. Oh, we also decided to cross over to Glacier Bay for lunch and a shower, but that was just for the day and not really part of the trip.

Our group of four included my wife and I and our friends who are a father and daughter team. We have been paddling longer trips each summer for the past 8 years together and this was one route that was still not logged on the chart. The daughter had been married the week before our departure, but the new guy wasn’t an experienced paddler, so he didn’t make the cut at the dock. Marriage is still going strong though.

In the past we have traveled from Juneau to Sitka along the inner channels, which requires a passage of Sergius Narrows and its 8-10 knot current. This trip was our first that included the outer coast, at least the first with all of us together.

Our route was from the ferry terminal in Sitka through Olga and Neva Straits and into Salisbury Sound. Then with a fortunate wind and tide we moved along the 15 nm of totally exposed Kahz Peninsula before entering the protected waters of Elbow Passage. The Kahz Peninsula has a rugged coast with no option of putting in, except for the “potato patch” toward the northern end; when we passed it was being bombed by huge breakers. Once inside the safety of the protected passages we coasted the lee of barrier islands.

One night was spent at the old Hearst-Chicagof mine’s bunk house, which is leased by a friend and kept open for kayakers. From there we paddled a long day for a quick soak at White Sulpher Hot Springs and then into Lisianski Strait. A few days later and we were camped near Pt. Adolphus with noisy whales. That’s when the idea for lunch at Glacier Bay Lodge came to us, so we took off across Icy Strait toward Gustavus. The $160 cab ride was a bit steep from the store to the lodge and back. However, we were treated well by the staff at the lodge and I had a chance to see a Ranger friend while we were there.

Once we got back to our kayaks it was getting late and we were full, so we only paddled a few miles and camped for the night. The next three days were sunny and awful. It was too hot and too calm, but we had to make the 22-25 nm to keep our self-esteem. I do not like the sun. The wind and rain finally returned as we were north of our route home – having decided that we were making such good time we should paddle an extra couple of days beyond Juneau and then turn and come back – and required the only 1/2 beach day of the trip. The flowers were in bloom and we enjoyed the rest. After a final 30 mile day we made it back to Amalga Harbor where a car was waiting for us to load our gear and kayaks for the return home.

Eve and I decided to go as light as possible on this journey in preparation for a multi-day hiking trip we were planning for July. Our 2lb bivy sacks were replaced with ones weighing 6.5 ounces each, we brought only the 10x12 tarp and a 7x9 kitchen tarp. The tow of us carried about 35-40 lbs each with food, not counting safety gear like PFDs, extra paddles, tow lines. We packed 20 days of food that I had made in pre-measured and easy to cook recipes. Half of the dinners could be re-hydrated with hot water the others required some simmering. The extravagance was the evening battle of the desserts. Each pair made dessert every other night. They were kept secret until the unveiling; flan and chocolate dipped apricots were the highlights.

All of us enjoyed the outer coast portions of the trip with the swell and whales. We were fortunate with good weather and low winds.

This trip requires good wilderness and navigation skills, as well as confidence in your kayak. There are a couple of 6 mile crossings and the Kahz portion of the trip can be difficult, worse if there is a wind that picks up from the north.


You can check out more pictures on my flickr site:
www.flickr.com/photos/umnak
Look for the photographs uploaded on June 23 starting with Cross Sound. They are not in chronological order on flickr.

Outfitting:

two Mariners-- Xl and Express
two CD Solstice -- GT and ST

Fees:

No, you can spend the day at the Hot Springs with no cabin fee; just keep clothed since you really don't know who might come along.

Directions:

None! Take the ferry to Sitka and slog along the road to the beach south of the terminal, which has a little park.

Watch out for the cigarette smoking ferry terminal lady who doesn't like kayaks and probably anything else. She is not happy with unattended kayaks while you haul your gear. We were fortunate in having a truck stop before we left the lot and asking if we needed a hand.

Resources:

You must have charts to navigate the passages north of the Kahz Peninsula, and you should bring along a GPS for help along the way. Also look for the Coast Pilot online for that part of Alaska. Really helpful information.


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