This note comes to you from Petersburg which Louise and I have reached in 9 eventful paddling days. Unfortunately, this marks the end of Louise’s vacation so she will return to work and Conor will continue Leg 3 on his own.
But – wow, what an incredibly wonder-packed leg it has been so far!
After leaving Ketchikan, we paddled north through Clarence Strait. It was here that we had our first encounters with graceful giants – the humpback whales. On the second day out we sat transfixed by two mother-calf pairs that fed all around our boats. The sound was quiet except for their breathing and the calls of gulls and terns, diving for their remainders. Farther north at the confluence of Clarence Strait and Ernest Sound we watched a young male launch himself from the water in a spectacular series of four breaches. The penultimate experience may have been a very quiet moment on the water when we heard whale song transmitted through the water below and ring into the air. There was no mistaking it, we had entered the realm of the giants.
Humpbacks weren’t the only animals we shared the water with. Daily we have been treated to glimpses of dolphins, Dal’s Porpoises and, on one occasion (we swear), a group of Orcas in the distance. Numerous birds including Guillemots, Murres, Cormorants, Terns, and various ducks have worked the water’s surface and bald eagles were frequently visible overhead.
On reaching Ernest Sound we turned east and paddled along the east side of Deer Island. On Day 4 we reached the Anan Creek Bear Observatory at Anan Creek. In July and August when the salmon are running, Anan Creek is a prime location for brown and black bears. We didn’t have any bear sightings but, after periods of rain and swell, we had a clear and sunny evening. Time for the Roll Me Challenge ! Clad in his drysuit, Conor clocked out 17 perfect rolls. And then, he gave finished an additional 4, just for good measure. We’ve uploaded the video here and it’s worth checking out. Yes, Conor gets an ice-cream headache from the cold water. And yes, watching the red keel strip of his boat surface each time is a thrill. Thank you to all our wonderful donors for making the Roll Me Challenge so successful by raising over $3500 for MedShare !
The weather wasn’t always with us. Our crossing to Wrangell Island was in heavy rain and winds screaming to 35-40 knots. Fishermen we met in Wrangell town later asked “where were you when it blew up yesterday ?”. On the whole though the weather was cooperative and the days are getting noticeably longer ! Sunrise cracks the skies at 4am and the skies darken at 10 pm. These 18 hour days are just made for paddling !
Maybe the most humorous afternoon of the leg was crossing the Dry Strait. They don’t call them “Dry” without reason ! The Stikine River moves sediment around a delta as it enters the ocean so there are many shallow sections. After passing Dry Strait, we entered Frederick Sound and we didn’t time the tides perfectly and ended up walking about a mile into Le Conte Bay.
Le Conte is the southernmost tidewater glacier in Alaska and an awesome sight to behold. We spent a morning paddling into the caved ice pack for a close view. Conor filmed a movie that will give you an idea of the ethereal, cold world of the ice pack, also uploaded on YouTube here.
We have now arrived in Petersburg and lodged last night in the First Presbyterian Church. Thank you to Pastor Bob for offering us such warm and generous accommodation! Louise is packing for her ferry ride back to Ketchikan and Conor is preparing to head out again. We hope you have enjoyed this update 🙂
Conor and Louise