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Our route was simple; we left from Douglas Boat Harbor and followed Stephen's Passage to Cape Fanshaw, where we turned into Frederick Sound for the run into Petersburg. The longest crossing was on the first day across Taku Inlet, and that only because we wanted to avoid moving up toward Pt Bishop. One of the great advantages of this trip is the lack of long crossings.
We were somewhat disappointed in the tides, a minus 4 ft tide was shown for the first two mornings and then decreasing gradually to a plus 2 in a week. The timing was also poor, with minus tides occurring in the mornings, as we would be leaving the beach.
Our six camps were a mix of the familiar and the new. Three were places we have camped in the past, one a well-known luncheon spot and our final camp completely foreign and a surprise. All were comfortable and a few were amazing in their view or location.
All meals were cooked over a fire; there is an abundance of drift wood and the forest is bountiful. We brought our 10x12 tarp and a kitchen tarp, which was set the last night, though it proved unnecessary. A huge difference from our first time on this route when it rained hard every day for a week.
The paddling was superb. The eddies were often in our favor and the tidal current not too far off shore. The geography of the coast varies each day, making it easier to put in the long hours. Crossing the deep bays along the coast is a mixture of boredom and reflection. Pushing across the mouths takes two hours of plodding, hoping that trees on the far shore will start to focus, but also thinking about what we might see if we were to head in along the shore. It would take two days to follow Port Houghton’s coast and perhaps more to explore the salt chuck and long arm that stretches toward Farragut Bay on Frederick Sound. Something we will do our next time through this way.
The view down Stephen's Passage is broad. Admiralty Island is always off to the right. The full view of the Glass Peninsula from across the water highlighted just how large an island it is. High snowcapped mountains emerge from the horizon and become the dominant view, then fade as the days unfold.
The paddling begins between 8 and 9 am, after hauling the boats down the beach and packing them as the tide ebbs or floods. Once in the water we typically stay close to each other, talking, singing and reflecting quietly. Around 12:30 we start looking for a spot where we can stop for lunch. These were often short and on questionable beaches. Twice we had to stand to eat. We stopped during the 3rd & 4th hours of the tide cycle for a few days, causing us to constantly move the boats. After lunch it is another march of 3-4 hours ending by 6 pm. We made 25 miles a day for most of the trip.
When we land on a beach in the evening we look for a place to put the tarp, set it and then move the boats to the grass. We camped on the beach all but one night. The forest is best left for the possibility of rain. Once the tarp is up I build a fire and start dinner while my wife "fluffs" the bivies. This involves leveling the ground, placing the bags in the bivy sacks and laying out the necessities of the tarp camp-site. We find wood above the tide line drying in the late afternoon sun. Breaking or sawing their bleached limbs also uses the dead trees lining the beach. When accessible, we find dead standing spruce in the forest. Dinner is always fun and eagerly consumed.
When the day's work is done, we have a cup of something hot and look out to the sea. Sometimes there are whales or seals. Sunsets on this trip were spectacular and long. Then it's to bed, most often by 10 pm for a 6 am rise. We enjoy so much to sleep on a beach. The occasional wave set from a passing vessel makes a low, repetitive sound on the shore, but for the most part it is quiet. At day-break the birds do sing.
The emerging theme of this trip was the paddling. There wasn't an abundance of animals, the weather was gentle and we were familiar with the coast. We paddled our kayaks, stopped to rest and eat and then moved out again. We love to be in our boats and that defined our days. Even in our attempt to make this a longer trip than it should in the past.
Need to check the Alaska Marine Highway for ferry departures from Petersburg
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