|Return to Alaska|
Part 3: I kayaked over to the island cemetery to watch native Alaskans pulling weeds and planting flowers.
By Richard Thiel — February 2003
The next morning we ran for about three and a half hours, up into another arm, this one surrounded by Glacier National Park. On the way in we dropped shrimp and crab traps and passed a tour boat, our first real company. Later, on another kayak tour up a small creek, I found steaming scat, indicating I'd just missed Mr. Griz. I quietly paddled to a rock on which was perched an imperial bald eagle who tolerated my approach until I was close enough to hit him with the paddle, then leisurely departed for a nearby pine.
Underway by 8:30 the next morning, we stopped to pick up the well-loaded traps--fresh seafood for dinner! Passing Point Adolophus, whose plankton-rich waters make it southeast Alaska's whale-watching capital, we arrived at Hoonah, where on my previous trip the breakwater had been lined with 50-some bald eagles; today there were none. I kayaked over to the island cemetery to watch native Alaskans pulling weeds and planting flowers, and although white men are forbidden ashore, I did paddle close enough to get a good look at an authentic totem.
Our next stop, Tenakee Hot Springs, which I'd visited on a bareboat charter five years ago, is justly famous for its mineral baths, but before indulging, we hiked up a trail to a footbridge, hoping to see grizzlies. We weren't on the bridge five minutes when three males came sauntering down the creek, one stopping beneath us, then scrambling up the bank and pausing on the path not 50 feet away. He was so close I could smell his musk, and my heart continued to pound long after he departed. That night we recalled our brush with wild Alaska over a Mexican feed of chiles rellenos, Spanish rice, cheese enchiladas, jalapeño bread, and homemade salsa.
Our last anchorage, Poison Cove, is a short way from Deadman's Reach. Legend has it the names stem from an incident in which occupying Russians forced natives to show them their best fishing holes, then made them fix dinner. The natives retaliated by serving up some of the indigenous poison clams. The Ruskies died by the time they came to the reach.
By 11:30 the next morning, we'd passed Mt. Edgemont, the dormant volcano at the mouth of Sitka harbor, and were tied up. Gauthier, Miller, Cash, and Brown were already planning next year's charter itinerary. Eavesdropping, I wondered if every trip to Alaska is unique and thought maybe I should drop a hint that I'm available.
Ursa Major Phone: (206) 310-2309. www.myursamajor.com.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.