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Around Revillagigedo Island
Misty Fjords - June 2004

Journal - Page 2

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6/13/04 - day 5

Lake Shelokum bushwhack

Well we tried to go hiking. We got up late, listening to the rain falling outside and deciding to doze a little longer than usual. It was a wet and cloudy day, so we decided that a hike up to a peak was unlikely to be worth the climb. Instead we planned to trek to a nearby lake, and possibly to some other lakes around it. Shelokum Lake is basically surrounded by them. We chose one called Lake Rowena. To get there, we needed to cross the stream by our shelter, go about a mile and a half or two miles along the lakeshore, up and over a 1000 foot ridge, and down to the lake.

We never made it to the climb. We went maybe a mile, maybe a mile and a half before turning back. And it took us about 5 hours. We got back at 3 PM, and found that someone had come and gone to the hot springs while we were away. The bushwhack was harder than I'd expected. Harder than I'd hoped for, anyway. I know that lakeshores can be harrowing places to travel, but they're not all bad, and some of them have nice trails. This one, however, was a straight bushwhack all the way. We had lots of logs and rocks, and holes, and alder, and salmonberries, and currant bushes, and devil's club, and swamp. It was a mess.

After a couple of hours of this, Niki said she wasn't enjoying it and didn't really see the point. I couldn't argue with her. How can you make a case for a wet difficult slog to an unknown lake that may be no prettier and just as brushy as the one you just left only to turn back and do the whole thing in reverse?

So we made our way back and soaked in the hot springs which were not as hot today as they were yesterday. Niki said I could go hiking without her if I wanted. I thought about it, as I lay in the warm pool, spraying myself with the pipe from a hotter part of the springs. "I should do it," I thought. " It'd be good training for later in the summer." But that would be all it would be. Training. Lying there in the warm water, I couldn't muster the enthusiasm for spending the rest of the day in a nasty bushwhack to nowhere in particular (there wasn't enough time left in the day to get anywhere) by myself. So I sat there a little longer, letting my skin wrinkle, breathing the sulfurous fumes, and noting that the silver on my bracelet now sports and interesting blue shine in spots. I wondered idly how healthy it was to be sitting in a hot spring. As I dressed, I noted that the dip gave me a temporary respite from the from bugs, at least, which don't seem to recognize a hot spring smelling human as food.

We're hoping the smell fools the bears too, since we've got the little food we brought with us stashed in and odor-proof bag in a bucket at the hot springs. It worked last night. Otherwise, today I've read some, poked around the campsite and the hot springs, and made a campfire. Considering I had a bit of dry wood stashed in the cabin already, it was harder than it should have been. 3 matches. It's hard to find wood in a swamp. So all I had was logs from the pile in the cabin. One was rotten enough to break off starting wood from, but there was nothing medium-sized at all, which made for some interesting fine building. I'm the fire expert here, which is a bit of a novelty for me.

So far, I've had a great time, but have been disappointed by the hiking. Day hike bushwhacking is really not the same as traveling. There's really nowhere to go in the time at hand, it seems. And the 2.3 mile trail to Shelokum Lake doesn't cut it either.

6/14/04 - day 6

Anchor Pass cabin

We're not supposed to be in the cabin. We haven't reserved it, and haven't paid for it. But these luxurious accommodations will be none the worse for our presence here. We've added a bit of dampness, easily dried, and a bit of dirt easily swept out, and aren't planning on removing anything. This cabin is a solid affair, with beds, table, cabinets, a wood stove, windows that open and close an outhouse, and even a paper towel roll - holder. It seems hardly worth the 5 or so visits a year recorded in the log book. Though there might be a number of unofficial visits like ours. No one's written in there since last September, but someone left a 2004 tide book here.

We were thinking of parking our tent on the beach outside here, but the bears helped change our minds on that one. Anchor Pass brought us a flood of bears, just when I was starting to wonder if we'd ever see any. The first bear pulled off a surprisingly successful imitation of a log. I noticed it on the shore as I was paddling by, planning to snap a picture of the mountains up ahead. It sure looked like a bear. It had such a bear-like face, and didn't I just see it turn its head? No. It wasn't moving. I stared at it for a little while longer, hoping. It didn't move. A little way behind me, Niki was going through the very same thought process, staring at the same patch of brown. I finally gave it up for a log, and turned to take my picture. Just as the shutter clicked, I heard Niki yell "A bear!" Sure enough, the log was gone.

Well, after that I was really on the lookout for bears. The second one was nothing but a distant light brown blob, running across the beach. It was a bear, but really only by process of elimination as I knew it couldn't have been anything else. The third and fourth bears were the grazers. We had pulled the boats up on the cabin beach, and were sitting on a rock, discussing whether to camp illegally in the cabin, or on the beach next to it. The bears helped us make up our minds. Luckily, they were far enough away (and upwind), that they didn't notice us. People don't usually think of bears as grazers, but before the salmon come in, that's what they seem like. These two were slowly, lumbering along the beach, industriously chewing on the tidal grasses. Niki ran down to get the binoculars, and we watched them for awhile. One big black one (presumably mama), and one smaller brown one (an older cub). They both had the distinctive hump of the brown bear, and faces too buried in the grass to see. I'm happy to see bears again. They are certainly the most intimidating animals I see, but also the most wonderfully impressive.

The intertidal life is decidedly less impressive in these narrow arms and fjords. Mussels are still abundant, but sea stars, anemones, sea cucumbers, and the rest are all missing. We suspect there may be too much fresh water pouring into the ocean here, diluting the salt for the sea life. The seals don't seem to mind though. I've always seen seals lounging on rocks at low tide, but apparently they lounge on them at high tide too. We saw at least ten of them today, popping, diving and splashing, all around a rock with barely a foot square patch out of the water, just waiting for their lounging spot to be returned by the tide.

Today's paddling was calm, scenic, and remote. We haven't seen a motor boat in days, and only a small and bizarrely placed patch of logging on one Bell Arm hillside. The water was glassy calm, and we watched the reflections of the trees and the brightly colored kayaks, until a rain squall would come and turn the whole thing to raindrops and ripples. Then the rain would softly disappear, leaving us again with reflections of forested hillsides, and misty snow-capped mountains up above.

I still hold out hope that we can hike up to one of those mountains. On a clear day, at a slope that is neither too far from shore, nor too steep to climb, nor too covered in brush. It may be hopeless, this day hiking idea. But I am greatly enjoying this dallying at sea level, and someday I'll come back on foot to Misty Fjords.

6/15/04 - day 7

Out of the salt

Today we paddled from Anchor Pass across Behm canal and into the milky cold waters of Burroughs Bay. The water swirled a pale green-brown and cloudy with sediment. It looked more like a glacial river than a bay. It felt colder, and tasted fresher. The spray evaporated from our coats without leaving rings of salt.

First we noticed that the mussels were gone. Then the barnacles disappeared. Finally, as we paddled up to the mouth of the Ukuk river, only popweed remained as a sign of the ocean.

Coves and crannies show up on my map, but the 200 foot contours give me nothing but the most general sense of the slope of the land. What we need to know, of course, is the slope and character of the 20 feet above sea level. Burroughs Bay is lined with rocky cliffs, and we had 10 miles to paddle this morning before reaching a spot to land for lunch. The rocks on our little lunch island were coated with sea gulls, and the one just offshore was piled with seals. They were packed so tightly they looked as if they would all fall off if one of them moved before the tide ebbed. But as we shoed up, they all scrambled off, to pop up and spy as we ate. I felt sorry for having driven them off their rock for so long. There's a seal splashing in the water here, just off our beach. I wonder if he's playing, or if he's trying to tell us to leave.

The signs of humanity for today consist of one petroglyph, three float planes, one mooring buoy, some driftwood logs with cut off ends, and the Asian kayaker on the beach next door. We saw him just past Naha Bay, we saw him at the trail to the Shelokum Lake hot springs, and here he's just around the point. There aren't many good beaches around here. I assume he's going around the island with us. We waved, but he doesn't seem interested.

We are off on the edge of my map in waters as remote as I've been to on a boat. There aren't even any signs of logging, or any motorboats. It's beautiful here. Now we head down Behm Canal into the heart of the Misty Fjords monument. I expect it to be perhaps more beautiful, and almost certainly more populated. I am curious to see who will be there.

6/16/04 - day 8

3000 feet is a long way up

3000 feet is a long way up. And it's not that much shorter coming down. We woke up this morning to a brilliantly clear and sunny day. It was hot. Dead calm and hot. I had no fleece on at all, and was still almost sweltering as we paddled. The mountains were beautiful all around, but looked better with sunglasses and somehow were always too washed out in a picture.

We left Burroughs Bay for Behm canal proper, and saw our milky green water turn to a deep and clearer blue green, at a sharp line just beyond the point. We lazily explored Fitzgibbon Cove, noting that mussels have returned to our waters, but still no sea stars.

Saks Cove is ringed by green hills, and on one side a snowy peak seems to rise right up out of the ocean. From shore, it looks like all of ten feet from the ocean. I had to try it. I'd been waiting to hike up into the alpine, all trip, and it seemed the perfect day for it, beautiful and sunny, with great views. And hot, but I didn't pay attention to that.

Up I went. Niki stayed at the beach, washing and lounging while I left on my mission to reach above the trees. Treeline in these parts is at about 300 feet. And 3000 feet is a long way up from sea level.

I thought of this, as I scrambled over logs, pulled myself up steep and slippery slopes with a handful of huckleberries, and lay panting in a slightly swampy meadow, listening to the birds. Those damn birds got to fly up the mountain. It was hot, I was tired, and 3000 feet is a long way up. I plodded more, near the end. I certainly rested more. And I decided that I didn't need to climb to any peak, but that alpine meadows and a view would be good enough.

My climb ended 3 hours from when I started, at about 3000 feet in a meadow with patches of snow. I had a view of the whole Behm canal. I could see the different shimmer of the water everywhere a river flowed into the ocean. I could see mountain peaks all around, and I could see pretty wildflowers. I took a lot of pictures, figuring that I was darn well going to take advantage of my hard earned lofty perspective, and that I was going to prove that I did make it up above sea level.

It was bright up there, and I reached into my pocket for my sunglasses, unsuccessfully. The list of artifacts left in the Ketchikan area wilderness on my account now includes one paddling glove, one cotton bandanna, and one pair of sunglasses. The bandanna I'd had soaking wet and draped on my neck to cool me off. But the sunglasses? I must have gotten them caught on something and pulled right out of my pocket. They were brand new. They made the journey and I'd just brought them out for the first time today, carefully tying a string around the earpieces, so I wouldn't lose them. They didn't distort colors much, were polarized, comfortable to wear, and all of 15 dollars. I knew it was too good to be true.

After savoring my breezy elevation, I had to return to Niki in Saks Cove. I have just two questions to ask the god of topography. Why is up so hard? And why is down so confusing? I started bombing down the slope, headed roughly in the right direction enjoying the speed of travel, and not paying all that close of attention to where I was going. I thought I was paying attention - just trying to go back the way I came. It wasn't worth getting out the huge scale map for, just heading back to Saks Cove.

Needless to say, I started heading precisely the wrong direction. I was descending right into the canal, rather than the cove, necessitating a long and brushy traverse. And on the way down I found more devil's club than I could have believed to exist on that slope. Somehow I saw none of these on my climb.

Finally, at 8:45, I scrambled the last few feet down to the ocean. I looked to the right and saw our kayaks, several beaches over, and separated from me by some rather enormous rocks. So I spent the next half hour bushwhacking just above the cliffs to get back. I need better aim. My desire to hike up into the alpine has been satisfied, probably for the remainder of this trip.

I'm watching the tide closely tonight, as last night we miscalculated and had to move all our gear a few hours before the tide would have hit it. There's an hour left on tonight's tide, but I believe we're safe enough to go to sleep.

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Last modified: 10/15/2004