Wilderness Adventurer Cruise
August 11 – Aboard the Un-Cruises ship Wilderness Adventurer, Punchbowl Cove, Misty Fjords National Monument, Southeast Alaska:
Wow.. not sure I have enough adjectives to describe this day. The silver 737 with the winding channels and thousands of islands of the Inside Passage passing below, Ketchikan on a rare t-shirt blue-sky day, and our little 160’ ship with just 21 of us passengers and a 15 person crew just laying at the dock, cleaned, fueled, and ready for us.
Aug 12 – Wilderness Adventurer, Short Bay, Upper Behm Canal… Whew, boy do these guys fill the days! Woke up at Punchbowl Cove with the tops of the cliffs lost in the clouds, cruised an hour to another small bay for all hands into the kayaks. The day cloudless, salmon flipping, and us spooking a constant stream of eagles young and old from the trees, as we paddled along these almost vertical walls: spectacular!
Two groups in PM: hikers and paddlers, my wife Mary Lou (ML) in the former, me in the latter. When I got back, it was so amazingly warm and I was sweaty from paddling so JUMPED IN FOR A SWIM – IN ALASKA – and we’re not talking your polar bear dip: breathless in and out, this was paddling around.
Then got the report from ML – the trail was muddy, muddy, muddy, with a lot of ups and downs, but when they got to the lake, it was so warm that they all went in swimming too!
Aug 13 – Canoe Pass, Etolin Island – Another wicked busy one yesterday – started off with yoga on the back deck just as the sun was coming over the mountain on another cloudless gem. Then it was eat up and into the thick wetsuits for a bit of snorkeling among salmon, kelp, and sea anemones. But the salmon! Commercial fishermen all over the state were having a bang-up year and all the creeks were full as the fish prepared to spawn. Paddled up a creek so full I was getting spashed when the fish would panic and make a rush for deeper water.
When our guide saw how many fish there were around me, he buzzed back to the mother ship, grabbed two couples who were hanging out in the hot tub, gave them snorkles and fins and they jumped into the creek with the thousands of fish!
Aug 14 – Off Cascades Creek, Thomas Bay – another stunning cloudless morning: wow oh wow, pinch me, pinch me! Such a day yesterday – woke off Anan Creek, yoga, breakfast and then off to meet with guides on shore and hike the boardwalk around Anan Creek Lagoon, passing at least one black bear on the way, having a nice salmon breakfast..
The viewing platform over the stream full of fish was quiet at first, just one bear, but as the morning progressed, we saw more and more – bears crawling under the deck, bears climbing the trees, Momma and cub fishing together… no one went away disappointed…
Back aboard to run just a hour to the south end of Canoe Pass to launch the kayaks for just the most pleasant 2 1/2 hour paddle – the kayaks all spread apart, the water crystal clear – just wicked fun.
Aug 15 – Headed for Scenery Cove, looks like another great day.. But wow – what a stunner yesterday – up at 5 just as we were going through the lower end of Wrangell Narrows, really nice light, we stopped to look at sea lions on a big buoy off the north end, then out into Frederick Sound with two bunches of humpbacks on just the most spectacular morning… and into many armed Thomas Bay.. hook down, morning yoga and into the inflatible for a hike up to a glacial lake to kayak. Long paddle up a river and up to the remote glacier; nowhere, except our bright kayaks, a sign of man’s existence. Back to massages all around, and tales from the hikers who did the Cascade Lake Trail: not for the faint of heart with log bridges over roaring frigid rapids. None for me, thanks…
Aug 17 – on the silver bird south, but whew.. lotta catching up to do… Not much laptop time on the Wilderness Adventurer…
As soon as the hook was down in Scenery Cove, it was launch the inflatibles and head for the shore near Baird Glacier. And what a hike: Baird is receding so we had to pick our way over cobble shore, then a desert-like moonscape to the 70’ high terminal moraine, then finally picking our way around patches of boot-sucking mud, past these weird deep holes in the ice, pools of water and finally onto the ice itself – and apparently it was the first time any of the guides or passengers had actually made it to the top of the glacier, as previously a meltwater lake had totally blocked their way! But what a totally great feeling to be on top! Met by hot toddies on the back deck and then it was anchor up and out of shallow Thomas Bay for some very good whale watching in Frederick Sound including one that did a breach right in front of the ship!
Dawn on the 16th found us just crossing the Wood Spit shallows into Endicott Arm with the first bits of ice here and there. Another couple of hours took us a half mile from the dramatic face of Dawes Glacier. Before we launched the kayaks it was safety talk time: use the kayak skirts, stay together and be careful not to get too close to the bergs….. And we all launched into the head of Endicott Arm near Dawes Glacier.
And OMG – what a totally exhilarating experience – picking our way through the ice with the little chunks tinkling against the hulls of our kayaks! Then over to the other side where we passed close to this large waterfall, and just hung out for a bit about a quarter mile from the glacier – about as far as we dared go… And two or three times heard the impressive thunder as it calved, and there even was a landslide as well: what raw country, Plus ML and I were in this double kayak so that we could share all that we were seeing! And the day was hardly over: Hot toddies waiting again when we got back to the boat, and into the hot tub as it was kayaks aboard and down the line to another anchorage, while ML and I chilled out in the hot tub – it did get a bit chilly out there…!
And Un-Cruise keeps the activity level going: kayaks launched again with ML and I and a handful of the hardy to paddle around the shore of a sweet little Wood Spit anchorage.. with a party barge complete with White Russians etc..Do these guys know how to have a good time or what..?
Note: Paperback includes map, Kindle digital version does not, suggest getting map below.