Inian Islands

5/18

Pond Island and Kelp Bay

Pond Island is an island in the Chatham Straight, which is the channel of water that is east of Sitka on Baranof Island. Like the name implies, the island has several ponds with all kinds of interesting life going on. The best part is that the wild flowers are now starting to bloom, so the Island is even more beautiful this time of year. We spent the morning exploring the island and doing some kayak ops around the area. This was the sunniest day we have had in Alaska to date, not one drop of rain at all. This made it pretty good for exploring, because there was no mental set backs from being all wet.

5/19

Today we were back to the Inian Islands, this time I actually got to explore around for a bit. We took a trip around the Island of Inian on a zodiac, there is so much wildlife in the water now. It’s pretty interesting to be here this time of year, the animals are all heading up here from their winter homes and they are getting some good food because of it. The water is so rich with life, the whales and the other migrating animals get nice and fat up here in the spring and summer. I’m glad that I get to see it all happen.

In just a couple of days now I get off the boat, 4 more full days left! I’m excited to get home and return to some type of normalcy, but on the other hand, I have grown so used to this life that I have no idea what “normal” really is anymore. Either way, it will be good to see friends and family, go for a nice long hike, and even drive my old rust bucket truck. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also going to miss the routine that I have now. I’ve got some good ideas for things to do, so it’ll be good.

The boats net has been REALLY BAD!!!

We are back on line now, sorry for the delays!

In 1794, Captain George Vancouver cruised by what is now the entrance to Glacier Bay and found it to be filled with a tidewater glacier. In 1879 when John Muir visited the same area, the glacier had retreated 48 miles north into the bay. Today, those same glaciers have retreated a total of 60 miles in a little over 200 years and left behind the huge bay that is now protected as Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.Our entire day yesterday was spent cruising the length of the west arm of the bay, where we stopped to view the seabird nesting South Marble Islands, beautifully exposed geologic formations and the faces of the glaciers themselves. Along the way we saw Black Bears, mountain goats, and several seabirds. The the head of the bay we got to hang out for a bit viewing Margerie Glacier, the most accessible glacier in the bay. On the way back we were lucky enough to catch a clear view (a rarity this time of year) of the Mount Fairweather, which was the first attempt of Alaskan mountain climbing by climber Brad Washburn who then when on to be the first to ever summit Denali in 1937.

5/10

Today we got a chance to hang out by George Island in the morning and then the Inian Islands in the afternoon. George Island was a military camp in World War II, housing up to 40 people at one time or another, it was put here for protection against the Japanese invasion. It’s not a whole lot to look at now, but the landscape is very nice around the island, with a couple of really nice beaches to hang out on if one cared to.

5/11

Tracy Arm is home to Sawyer Glacier, a very popular place to visit for smaller tours out of Juneau. Today we went up for a visit, and it was even better than the glacier that we saw in Glacier Bay National Park. Sawyer Glacier caught my eye, because the way that it has carved the mountains around it so severely over the years. The sides of the mountains are exposed granite, with a very nice color to them, but the best part of Tracy Arm is the way that the ice that is so very blue it blows my mind when I look at it. The other thing that is very cool about Tracy Arm is that (unlike in Glacier Bay) we are allowed to do zodiac cruises up to the face of the Glacier. I have to tell you that there is nothing like siting on a piece of rubber a foot above the water, listening to the ice in the water around you make a bubbling/popping sound as it melts, then if you are lucky enough to actually see the ice calf (fall off) you will truly know the power of ice and water. It’s also very intense to see up close, very interesting the way that it melts. Very interesting indeed.

5/12

The wind and rain today has made exploring pretty difficult. We woke up to the winds howling and horizontal rain in LeConte Bay. LeConte Glacier is the southernmost of the tidewater glaciers in the northern hemisphere, it’s also one of the most actively retreating glaciers. Because of this, the glacier is constantly calving and there are a ton of icebergs at the mouth of the bay to prove it. The worst part of all this is that we couldn’t get up the bay to see the glacier, the conditions were just too bad.

In the afternoon we made it over to Petersburg for some time in town. There’s not very much going on in Petersburg, but it sure is nice to get off the boat and walk around for a few hours. I did get a pretty nice walk in town, but I paid the price by being completely sopping wet by the end of the day. I’m greatful for the time anyways.

Life on the boat is getting a bit rough for some of the crew now. It’s funny how some people get into a cycle, then when it comes to the end of the cycle they get pretty cranky. There is a pretty common thought around the boat right now, and most every one is looking forward to getting off in a week and half. I am not even close to ready to leave, though, I’m still loving this job. I do suppose it will be nice to spend some time at home, but I will look forward to heading back.

5/13

Wow, it’s been a lot of days now that I haven’t been able to get on the net. I didn’t realize how bad the internet connection would be up here, but it really is bad. Not much I can do about it, it’s a small price to pay for the what I’m doing right now. Alaska is amazing, there is few places in the US that are like this, and most of those are no where near the size. Since we arrived in the area I have seen more than my mind can even really process, it’s not like Baja was at all. Baja was very beautiful in it’s own rights, there was little that I saw down there that wasn’t interesting and pretty to see, but Alaska is so very much more on so many levels. Everything about the way the landscape has been molded over the life of the terrain, and the way the waters are so rich with life, as well as the weather that varies so much from season to season, and even day to day. I see why people have raved about it for so long, and so many stories have been written. I’m greatful that it’s everything that it has been built up to be, and more, because I was unsure about how I would have handled it if it wasn’t. I am ready to explore the area on my own, off of the boat, there is just so much that I’m not really sure where to start. The good thing is that I am surrounded by people who have tons of good info that can help out immensely with making that decision.

5/14

Elfin Cove is a little tiny town on the Pacific north of Sitka and just south of Glacier Bay National Park. We had some pretty foul weather all day, so a decision was made to drop in and check it out. The town only has 20 or so people living there for most of the year, so it must be pretty crazy for a 100 people to get off of a ship and converge on their little town. The town has no roads, no cars and there is a board walk way that circles the island community. There is a bar, a post office, a general store, a gift shop, and a couple of lodges in the town, as well as what appears to be a school and library, but they both looked pretty unused. The place is very interesting to say the least. I am still not totally sure that I like it all that much, but it is a beautiful place.

Aside from exploring, I got a chance to talk to my wife on the phone as well. Bad news, she had a miscarriage and lost the baby, but she also lost a ton of blood and had to go to the ER. She is doing ok, but unfortunate to say the least. I have no words to describe the way that I feel about this, but I will say I am greatful she is ok. Life is interesting, so many things in life are interesting.

5/15

Back to Glacier Bay for me today, we got into the Park a bit earlier this time so we got to see quite a bit more. There was a fresh coat of snow on the ground and that made this place look even more amazing. There is little that settles my mind more than staring out on a horizon full of snow capped and wind swept mountains. There is just something that settles my every nerve in that, I’m greatful to have it in my day. In the evening we made it back to the lodge after dinner, then for another much needed walk around the camp ground. Unfortunately the lodge won’t be open until Memorial weekend, so we won’t get a chance to see it in action. I’m sure that I will have plenty of opportunity this summer, though.

I just got word that the boat would not have internet at least until Sitka on saturday, maybe even later than that. I’ll have to try and post up the couple of places that we are in during the week that have wi-fi. Lucky that there is those places around, hello technology.

5/16 and 5/17

We finished up the last day of the second to last trip and all is well. I probably wont post too much the next week in preparation for my voyage home next week. I’m going to try and work on editing some video and other info that I have in raw form. Then I’ll post it all up when I get home.

Glacier Bay National Park

5/7

The whole day today has been cruising from Sitka to our big day tomorrow in Glacier Bay National Park. We got to see some more of the previously mentioned Dahls Porpoises, they are amazing, making even a common dolphin look like a slug. The way that they move through the water, you would think that they had jet engines or something. It really does amaze me at how an animal can control not only their body, but their environment like these ones do. That and the way they look like mini-Orca’s of sorts is just very entertaining to watch. The other animals that we got to watch today was the humpback whales, there were a couple of them using the bottom of the boat and their bubbles to control a school of fish, so that they could have some lunch. It was an interesting thing to watch, I had heard about whales using bubbles to make a type of net to control fish that they are stalking, but this is the first time I have seen that.

I’m looking forward to the big day, tomorrow. This is the premier event for this boat, supposedly the best thing we see on any trips all year long. I’m ready to check it out.

5/8

Today we woke up at the entrance to Glacier Bay National Park. The scenery is very much like many of the high country parts of Colorado that I visited, the dirt is an almost sandy texture and grey in color. The sea water is the same type of grey color as well. There are many mountains and very interesting islands. The highest mountain in the park was visible earlier today, Mt….at a little over 15 thousand feet is the tallest I have ever laid eyes on, it consumes a big part of the skyline. We made it up into the bay to the Muir Glacier, a beautiful piece of ice falling into the ocean. I guess the reason that they look the way they do is that the water is so much warmer than the air, so the bottom of the glacier is melting faster than the top. This is why it looks like a sponge from the top, because ice is falling through to the sea water underneath the ice shelf.

It’s pretty interesting to be on a boat going through water with a bunch of ice floating around, the way it pushes out of the way and leaves a little trail, but then the ice forms back around the boat like it never passed through. My bed is right up against the bottom of the boat and it sounds pretty crazy to listen to the ice scrape along the side of the boat.

After we went to the glacier for the grand view, and it was grand, we spent some time by the lodge and campground at the Glacier Bay. I got to go on my first good hike up here in Alaska, it was so nice to get out. The spruce trees and scenery are great very cool, I’m looking forward to getting to know the area better in the future. I will be back twice more before I head back home, so I’ll get to know it a little bit better.

A float plane tour for me!

5/5

Today I went on one of the best trips I have ever been on. We got into Petersburg just as we were eating breakfast, then I caught a shuttle to another dock, the public float-plane dock. Six people including myself got into the navy blue float-plane and had the trip of our lives. After clearing our take off the pilot went out of the harbor and into the ocean, where we took off, just like on a runway. From there we flew north to a valley where there were several glaciers, the biggest being nearly 4,000 feet deep. I had absolutely no idea the magnitude of it all, until I laid my own two eyes on them. The colors, the extremes, the way the ice melts in chunks making a pattern across the top of the glacier that seems so fragile, yet so ragged. On our way up we flew over the top of mountains that have been carved by glaciers, so that we could witness first hand the effects of the ice, in many different stages. The power is awesome. Mother nature is awesome. Once we got to the glaciers themselves, I was amazed at the way the plane could circle the same area for so long, we got such a good view from so many angles. If you have never witnessed the things I am describing right now first hand, you need to. It’s that amazing.

After flying around the glaciers for a while the pilot took us on a little tour of the area around Petersburg. The area is known for fishing and the season is just now starting, so we saw some fishing boats heading out. He explained the different types of fishing that are done here, trawling and netting. After that he showed us the town of Petersburg and where the hot steelhead fishing hole was on the Petersburg Creek. Once we got all that we had to head back, but it was enough. this is not the kind of thing that one needs to be greedy about.

The rest of the day we just cruised up the Alaska coast line, we are headed for Sitka tomorrow. I can’t wait.

Finally in Alaska!

Looks like the internet is going to be skechy up here, it seems that whenever we are traveling north the thing doesn’t work so well….I’ll post when I can.

5/3

Lowe Inlet and Grenville Channel were the two places that we visited today. The Lowe Inlet was a tiny little cove off of the Grenville Channel, basicly the mouth of a river that had a very nice fall into the ocean. There is so much beauty here, both the water and the land. The only thing that I can say is that I will not allow this to be the last time I come to this area. I just hope that you come back in a couple weeks when I can put up the pictures and videos I have been taking.

Tomorrow we get into Alaska. This has been my dream since childhood, so I’m almost a bit nervous, though I know that there is no reason to be. I’m traveling with a group of people that are well versed in this, and I’m sure that I am in good hands. As we travel north the terrain gets more and more severe, the Glaciers have carved the mountain sides into cliffs that blow your mind, and they just keep getting better and better. Today was actually a first in that this was the first time I have ever seen snow floating in the ocean. It’s an odd sight of sorts, though I knew it would happen. It’s interesting when you see something that is not normal in your mind, and you have to try and convince yourself that it is normal, it’s not always an easy thing.

I’ve started to plan my camping trip when I get home. I really need to get a snow report from someone, hopefully there is a website somewhere. I haven’t ever really looked. I know that I could probably check some local ski resorts and see how they are shaping up, which would be a pretty good indicator. Either way, I have some good plans for a camp trip with friends and family. Anyone interested?

5/4

Punchbowl cove in the Misty Fjords was our location for the first part of the day today. I have no idea how anyone could possibly get any work done when they work in an atmosphere like this. 3,000 foot cliffs carved by glaciers, snow covered and dripping with some of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen. Miles and miles of this! It’s great to see, but there is work to be done. I’m so greatful that I get the opportunity to look out my window every day and see what I see every day. I’m truly blessed.

We got into Alaska at about 2 am this morning. My dream has been realized, this is amazing. At around 8 am we got a visit from the local customs agents, the took the opportunity to fly in on a float plane for their visit. All went well and we were on our way after about an hour or so. The whole trip was pretty interesting, I’m still not quite sure why they couldn’t just meet us when we went through Kechecan later today, but I have a feeling like it was more of a benefit for them than anything else. Lucky them, and well….lucky me too, because tomorrow morning I am all signed up to go on a float plane ride myself. From what I understand we are going to take an aerial tour of the area around Petersburg. I’m so excited I don’t know if I’ll even be able to sleep tonight. I’m getting so much more than I bargained for.

Butedale Cannery

I know, I’ve said it before, but every day of this trip has been getting better and better. Cruising through British Columbia has been one of the highlights of my travel career so far. The area is simply amazing. There is no other way to describe it. To see the snow on a mountain top melting off into a roaring stream that then free falls 400 feet to the ocean is extraordinary, really. From what I hear, this is nothing compared to what we are headed to Alaska to see, but it still dwarfs any winter-snow time sights I have ever seen.

Today we stopped off at this place that was where a river terminated into the ocean, this river being maybe 30 feet across and raging, but the coolest thing was the last 1/8 mile of it descent. It had two miraculous free falls in a row, the first I would guess to be in the 100 foot range, then the river turned at 45 degrees and fell another 300 feet down to the ocean. At the mouth of the river is the site of an old dilapidated cannery that is half falling into the ocean, and apparently there is one building still being used for something or other, because there was smoke coming from the chimney of one of the buildings. It reminded me of a scene from an old mining site in the Rockies or the Sierras, very nostalgic. The name of that place was the Butedale Cannery in the McKay Reach, a narrow stretch of water about 2/3’s of the way up the British Columbia coastline.

I now have about 3 weeks left on my rotation here on the Sea Lion, I would suspect that they will go fast. I’ve adapted to life on the boat pretty well now, I’m actually thinking it’s going to be quite strange to get OFF the boat now. Everything is so interesting here, and then there is the fact that I will have to spend my money again when I get off, and that’s no fun! Actually I have been looking forward to going for a drive, and even a nice night or two in a tent for a while now. It’s going to be good to see some familiar faces as well, I’m sure that some one misses me.

Alert Bay, BC, Canda

This morning we spent some time exploring the Johnstone Strait, which is a pretty area, along the lines with everything else that we have been seeing along the way. Trees, cliffs, snow capped mountains, and all kinds of other great British Columbia treats. We’ve seen some pretty fine examples of the bald eagle, along with several other types of cool birds, but not much for the marine species up here so far. I’ve been trying to keep an eye out, but nothing much so far, except for the wayward log. We actually had to do a crazy maneuver to avoid some mostly submerged logs. It was a little exciting watching pots and pans go sliding, but we are pretty used to that now.

After lunch we stopped in a town called Alert Bay, a town of about 1500 people that is only accessible by ferry from BC. It’s the home of the second largest totem pole in the world, and several others that are quite fascinating. We got to get off of the boat for a bit and walk around, and I even scored a pretty nice patch for my collection. Oddly enough this tiny town has been my first score on the patch since I got on the boat. I couldn’t find one in all of Baja for some reason, I guess that not many people that head down there are patch collectors, but I have no idea why. Anyways, Alert bay was pretty cool, just in that it was a “typical” town for this area and it had a nice kind of down home type of feel. I enjoyed our very short stay there.

Cruising the BC coast

4/28

Our day in Seattle has been long and very interesting. This is the day we start a 12 day cruise up through the islands of BC on our way to Alaska. The problem is, that this is the only stop for food that we will have until we get up there, so we had to pack the boat so full of food that I can’t even believe it. Literally, it was a 50′ trailer full of food and supplies waiting for us at the dock. I have no idea how we did it, but we got it all on the boat and it even slightly fits. That’s the good news. The not so good news is that two of the crew on the boat were pre-screened for passage into Canada and were denied. So now that means that the Stewards and the Deck Hands will both be a man down for the next twelve days. The plan is to fly the two that can’t get into Canada up to Alaska, then we will pick them up once we get there. It shouldn’t be too bad, because oddly enough it was the two that we on the lower end of how much work effort was put out, and so every one should be able to step up and overcome the problem.

We did a really cool thing tonight, we went up into Union Lake, which is in the middle of Seattle. I can’t even begin to explain how cool it is to be on the boat in the middle of a major city like Seattle. The only bummer was that the video I took didn’t end up being very good. My camera is just not that great at taking pictures at night. We also went through a Lock on the way into and out of the lake, this was my first time doing this, so I thought it was pretty cool. From what I understand, when we go onto the Columbia River I will get my fill of these, but for now the whole concept is pretty intriguing.

The plan is to head up and explore the San Juan Islands tomorrow. I’ve wanted to see them for a long time now, so that ought to be cool. The Olympics off in the distance have been pretty enticing as well. I really need to come back up here and back pack the area some day. I’ll add it to my list of things to do in my lifetime, boy that list seems to get longer now a days. I think that’s a good thing.

It looks like the internet on the boat is under some kind of maintenance, so we are denied access for the day. Looks like it will be another double post for tomorrow….

4/29

We made it up through the San Juan Islands this morning then on to Sydney, British Columbia on Vancouver Island where we had to stop for customs. I’m sure that I missed most of it, because I was working when most of the process occurred, but getting through customs wasn’t all too bad. I’m sure that if I had had driven up to Canada by myself it would be a different story, but I’m glad to say it my first time was no big deal.

After we made it through Customs we headed up to the Gulf Islands, where I was pretty impressed by the way the glacial ice had shaped much of the area, it looked like many of the mountain tops were cut off with a knife. I was told that as we go north the terrain only gets more and more beautiful, but this is already the most amazing place I have ever been. It’s going to get real good before the trip is over, I can already tell. In the afternoon we made it up to a place called the Strait of Georgia, the best that I can explain this area is that it makes the Olympics look pretty lame, and I love that mountain range. I see why my mother is so in love with this place, though I’m not sure if she even really got to see how cool this place really is. I’ll have to email her and ask.

The boat has been plagued with all kinds of maintenance issues lately. Most notably would be our dishwasher in the Galley, and more obviously the internet, but also the chlorine system for the drinking water has been giving the engineers some serious trouble. I’m just going on record as saying those guys do some amazing things, with practically nothing, very cool to see and I’m very greatful to have them on board.

Tomorrow we head up to Alert Bay, a town with some interesting history supposedly. I will let you know more tomorrow, I can’t wait.