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Misty Fjords
Around Revillagigedo Island - June 2004

Journal - Page 5

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6/24/04 - day 16

The mist makes a showing

You wouldn't think, with my 2-week unshowered body in the way, that I could smell anything at all anymore. But my sense of smell feels heightened here. Each of our foodstuffs perfumes the air as I stuff them into our Ursack, and I can't imagine now a bear could miss them, or the dry bags the bear came out of. Even the vitamins have their own peculiarly strong, mediciney smell. Sitting here in the tent, with the wind gone, I can smell the particular odors of the plants we've tromped to set up this tent. Even the paper I'm wringing on has a scent to it.

Last night in our rainfly-less tent, I watched the clouds roll in. We were trying to sleep early, but I wasn't tired, and the wind that stopped our paddling blew steadily north. Scattered grey clouds rolled quickly across the pinkish sky until it was solid-covered and darkness blocked my view.

We woke up to dew, a cool breeze, and a low gray mist that muffled the world around us. A few sprinkles of rain fell. The grey mist had replaced our blue haze and the mood of the world had changed. It was an early morning for us as we set out paddling at 7. The ocean was a rough steel grey, reflecting the sky. No float planes zoomed overhead, and only the wind made noise. It was the kind of morning that made me want to whisper. A sailboat sat silently moored, asleep as we passed it. The few motorboats in the channel seemed further away, and quieter.

We could see the Asian kayaker paddling ahead of us, in the distance. It was calmer weather than yesterday, but not so calm as we'd hoped. The wind blew against us and sideways, and the waves were messy. Confused by the rock walls, they popped up, small mountains upon bigger peaks of water, weaving in every direction, jabbing and pushing at the boats.

We passed the Asian kayaker in Smeaton Bay. He didn't return our hello, but paddled parallel to us for a few minutes. In all this space, the one other kayaker just looks at us silently with no expression on his face. I found him a little unnerving.

Smeaton Bay is to be one of our last side trips of this voyage. We have 5 days left to paddle, if we do not want to be stuck in Ketchikan for too long. Smeaton bay seems empty, next to where we've just been. Empty, but for seals, birds, and our silent companion.

When we woke to clouds, we were sure they would last forever - that the mist had returned to Misty Fjords. But the clouds burned away by afternoon, the wind grew stronger, and our blue haze evaporated with the clouds. We are left again, ever more improbably in clear sun and blue skies.

6/25/04 - day 17


It doesn't take long for something to feel like always. I always paddle. Every day I wake up look at the sky outside our tent, and arrange my few things into dry bags. Then boats are dragged down to the water. We load them up and the rhythm of paddling begins.

I always paddle. My torso twists and my arms push in turn, as the paddle sloshes through the water. Each arm strokes 23 times per minute and almost 1400 times per hour. My hands have each pushed the paddle forward over 138,000 times this trip.

I always paddle. Every day I wake up, paddle alongside forested hills and rocky cliffs, eat lunch on a beach, and paddle until evening. We are alone. We know nothing of events in the larger world save for the bit of its weather we can see from here.

17 days is not very long, but it is long enough to feel like always. Routines build habits quickly. And paddling is simple. We have nothing to think about but the waves and the wind and the curves of the shoreline. But we have the time to think about everything.

We spent today in a mix of cloud and sunspots. We paddled out of Smeaton Bay and across the channel, against the wind and with the wind and sidelong to it. In the bay we watched seals and sea stars but during the crossing we kept focused on the waves. It's cooler than it used to be. I'm sitting at the dying remains of our campfire, thinking of the short day we have planned for tomorrow, and the few short days until civilization. Civilization passes by us here, in cruise ships and yachts, and it zooms by in the float planes. But we are still alone and nowhere near it.

It seems like always, but I can measure the change in the muscles in my arms, the weight of our food bags, and the line on the map. We've stopped eating much, as if we can now paddle so efficiently that we barely need food to fuel us. Fruit and nuts I am sick of eating, but mostly I am just not hungry.

The world of our food is small and my favorite food in the world are a snickers bar, and the strawberry yogurt coating of a strawberry yogurt granola bar. My least favorite foods in the world are soggy handfuls of mostly crasins and peanuts, and cookie crumbs that leave me with and aftertaste of stove fuel.

6/26/04 - day 18

Sea stars

On the beach in Alava Bay, I am sitting here looking at the tide line that wasn't. There's a distinct line running across the sand and gravel - wet below and dry above, with scattered bits of popweed throughout. My tide book page says tonight's tide is the highest in 5 days, yet the water got nowhere near our line. Perhaps it rained only on the lower half of the beach.

The rain fell this morning from 7AM to 9AM. We scurried to put on the rainfly, and listened lazily to the pattering from the newly opaque tent. Those two hours were probably the most rain our parched rainforest has had in weeks. But the clouds remain, and our tent is opaque again in preparation. Neither of us can really believe it won't rain on us eventually.

We took a short and lazy day today in preparation for rounding the point into less protected waters tomorrow morning. Paddling slowly and hugging the shoreline, we watched the sea stars. On a three week kayak trip, one can't help but become a naturalist of the intertidal zone. Kayaking into and out of bays, we watch the popweed, happy everywhere, the slimy green seaweed that only appears at low tide, and the kelp, which seems more common just right here. We see the barnacles everywhere the mussels in their band in the upper intertidal and the sea stars below, keeping mussels off the lower rocks. Clams appear where it's sandy, seals cover the rocks in every protected cove, and sea stars and jellyfish stay close to the main canal.

We always look for the sea stars. Bright purple and orange, five-armed pisaster cover the rocks here. They squish themselves into pig piles of dozens crawling on top of each other in the choicest of rock crevices. We never see them moving but they always appear as if they've been frozen in the middle of an intrepid crawling cliff climb. We find them jammed into crevices, splayed out across the rock wall in awkward-looking positions, and dangling from one or two arms beneath an overhang. The slimier bat stars cling at the edge of the low tide line, and their many-armed cousins watch serenely from under the water, occasionally waving their extra arms. Even after 18 days, the sea stars are still worth hugging the rocks to look for.

We are next door neighbors of the Alava Bay cabin tonight. We raided their stream for water, but have left them otherwise in peace. The children over there are remarkably quiet.

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Last modified: 10/20/2004