Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Blackstone Bay Sea Kayak - August 2019

Anthony and Sarah's trip to AK started with six days of crashing thru the brush, swimming across the sloughs, sleeping in the swamps, and crawling along the bear trails of the Kenai Peninsula. It was time for some Type 1 fun, so we headed towards the emerald waters of Whittier and the Prince William Sound.

We left Anchorage early on Thursday morning, checked in with Lazy Otter, and by 10:30 were cruising out Passage Canal in the shiny landing craft. Turning at Decision Point, the giant icefields of Blackstone Bay rose in front of us.

The boat dropped us off at 13 Mile beach, waved goodbye, and disappeared.

On the little black beach we ate an apple, adjusted our footrests, and carried the kayaks into the surf.

The problem with tides and winds is that they on their own schedule, and its often not the same as the yuppie schedule. This was just such the case here; fighting the wind and tide, the paddle up the bay was a slog. We hugged the coast, using the cover of points and coves to provide as much protection as possible.

By Lawrence Glacier we needed a break. Pulling out in a cul-de-sac of a cove, it was Moose's Tooth pizza for lunch then a walk to the glacier. Like so many glaciers, the Lawrence has retreated rapidly; left behind is bare bedrock yet untouched by the return off life. On the exposed rock were the telltale lines of eons grinding ice:

The terminal lake also had an awesome ice arch. The icy lake reminded me of paddling the Spencer Lake with my mom and the recent video of a giant arch collapsing there. That would have been exciting for mom and I.

Done exploring the ice-plucked bedrock, wandering bear tracks, and frigid cascades of the outlet stream, we pushed the kayaks back into the water and continued upstream towards the Beloit Glacier. Fighting the cold, dense winds flowing off the glacier was a battle.

We got as close as we could, craned our necks back at the huge face, then let the windy conveyor belt rocket us out of the fjord.

Finally going with the wind, travel was oh so much easier. At Envy Point we peered in at Blackstone Glacier, then took a left past Willard Island.

By 6:30 we'd found a campsite at Inner Beach complete with amenities of fresh water, flat ground, and an unlimited supply of pink salmon.

For dinner we had fajitas and Merlot. Kayaking is such glamping.

After dinner we fished for salmon with our paws, watched the alpenglow on the glaciers, and fell asleep to the sound of the waterfalls.

Next morning it was time to paddle towards Surprise Cove. With the wind at our backs, the tide on our side, and flat water, the travel was fast and fun. Coming around a point, a large flock of flustered mergansers waddled back and forth anxiously.

Salmon jumped around us as we paddled the two miles across the glassy waters of the bay.

Passing the giant Tebenkof Glacier, we marveled that such a huge river of ice could tumble off of peaks not even 5,000 feet tall.

Tebenkof was quickly behind us and we were looking up Port Wells towards the giant peaks and glaciers hidden in the smoke. Somewhere up there was Marcus Baker, where Mary, Sarah, and I had a memorable trip years ago.

Then we turned into Cochrane Bay and glided in Surprise Cove. This summer's extreme drought meant the creeks here were so low the fish couldn't get up them. Instead they swirled in dark masses in the cove. I wondered if these fish were the nieces, nephews, and grandchildren of fish we sampled years ago.

We explored the nooks and crannies of Surprise, went swimming in the unnaturally warm water, fell asleep on the smooth rocks, and found a secluded campsite on a little island.

After dinner we went for a hike to the south lake. Zack had told me that there is a trail to the lake, but maybe that's the other lake. Snacking on plump watermelon berries and blueberries, we followed trails covered in berry bear poo.

Hiking above the lake, we looked down on Surprise Cove and across the water at Esther Island.

A pair of loons were fishing in the lake, and let us slip into the warm waters for a swim with them.

Back at camp we had a little fire and Anthony enthusiastically analyzed my fashion. Its a work in progress.

Saturday morning's alarm clock was the echoing and eerie calls of loons flying low overhead. We packed up and pushed off our little island into the glassy water of the protected cove. In the cove we found Kyle and Rachel who were taking their new kayak for a test drive. We catch up, talked otoliths, and then continued on.

Rounding the corner in front of Blackstone, Carpathian towered above us. I'm still waiting for the stars to line up for skiing its south face.

With a slack tide, a tailwind, and smooth water, the crossing to Decision Point was easy.

None of us could believe how warm, calm, and dry it was. Our shirts and tank tops were a treat compared to the usual dry-suit attire of Prince William Sound.

For lunch we stopped at one of the perfect little beaches decorating Passage Canal. We soaked up Vitamin D and picked a handful of huckleberries for dessert. Refreshed we paddled into Whittier.

Home in time for dinner, we ate barbecue caribou from Adak and a raspberry slaw from the garden, then dried out our gear for the next adventure.

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