Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Grace Ridge Hike

We had a wonderful day hiking Grace Ridge across the Bay in Kachemak Bay State Park a few weeks ago.
The weather was great and we were treated to some outstanding views.
We also ended up with a bunch of blueberries. The hills were literally covered in them and we managed to gather up 7 lbs.!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Kayaking in Prince William Sound - Deep Water Bay

The last stop on our 8-day kayak trip was Deep Water Bay. We had a really nice paddle to our final camping beach and got there with just enough time to set up camp and cook before night fell.  We didn't do too much exploring of the bay until the next morning. We woke up to thick, cold fog, but we could tell right away that is was going to burn off pretty early.

Photographing in the fog was a lot of fun as we watched the sun slowly peel away the mist. The water was flat calm as well, which made for a really dramatic scene.

Once we finished breakfast and got in our boats the fog was completely gone and in its place we're some amazing views of the surrounding mountains.

It was as if we had woken up in Yosemite National Park (and the park had flooded over night!). Deep Water Bay is surrounded by big granite peaks.  They jut up from the spruce forests in dramatic fashion.  We were very fortunate to catch this amazing place on such a good day. The sun lit up the granite, crisply defining every crack.

We lingered a while in Deep Water Bay, taking in the views but eventually paddled out to do some exploring before our water taxi came and picked us up in the afternoon. The highlight of our little excursion was Greystone Bay.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Kayaking in Prince William Sound -Nellie Juan Glacier

After several days of rain and wind we were so ready to get in our boats and check out the Nellie Juan Glacier.  We got extremely lucky and the entire day was absolutely perfect, with blue skies and no wind!  This was Clare's first time paddling near a tidewater glacier and she thoroughly enjoyed it.
We kept a respectful distance from the face of the glacier given the amount of large ice chunks in the water and the narrowness of the fjord, we wanted to avoid being too close if a house sized ice chunk decided to rip off the glacier face. Fortunately that didn't happen and we were able to enjoy the magnificence of the glacier in relative calm (though we did get to see a few smaller chunks calve off).
The scale of everything in the fjord was truly impressive. Everything seems so much larger from the cockpit of a kayak!
We then took a hike to get a view of the glacier and rest of the by from a nearby ridge. We climbed up the side of a large granite outcrop that provided great climbing and a fantastic view.
House-sized ice bergs looked tiny from our perch. For awhile we watched several seals climbing onto one of the flatter ice bergs, while other seals lounged on the ice looking very disinterested.
Clare and I decided to toast the occasion with some bourbon from the flask! And then we headed back down the cliffs and to our boats. We still had a long day ahead of us, packing up camp and heading to our next destination, Deep Water Bay.

Kayaking in Prince William Sound - Dereksen Bay

We took our time making the transit from Picturesque Cove to our next camp spot in Dereksen Bay. Along the way we explored Mink Island and popped into several little pocket coves, including one that had a white sand beach! With the clear water and white sand it felt very tropical.
Unfortunately we took a bit too much time to get to Dereksen Bay, and the tide switched on us, so we went from having the tide and a nice stiff breeze pushing us, to fighting the out rushing tide from the bay. It was a tough way to end a long day of paddling but it was very worth it. 
Our campsite in Dereksen Bay was on a spit of land that until recently (in geologic time that is) had been the terminal moraine of the Nellie Juan Glacier.  The glacier has long since retreated up the bay, but the spit was a very nice, convenient place to camp.  We had a teaser view of the very top of the glacier from our camp and that was enough to get us excited for paddling up to the glacier later in the week.
We managed to make some friends while we were camped on the spit.  A family of marmots were busily munching away at anything they could get their paws on. They seemed largely unglazed by us and approached to within a few feet of our cook tent, busily snacking on beach greens and pushkie seeds.
Unfortunately the weather turned crummy on our first full day in Dereksen Bay and we were forced to postpone our kayak journey up to the Nellie Juan Glacier.  We endured two days straight of pretty constant wind and rain, though we managed to get out and take a nice hike behind our camp.  There is a large waterfall that was running really hard with all of the runoff, and we climbed up past it to access the large granite outcrops behind our camp. On the third day though the weather cleared and we hastily got our kayak gear together and headed for the glacier.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kayaking in Prince William Sound - Culross Passage

It's been over 20 years since I first visited Prince William Sound, and 10 years since I last visited, so Clare and I decided to plan a seakayaking trip for the end of August. We knew we wanted to cover some ground and spend several days exploring, so we scheduled an 8-day trip in the Western Sound, starting in the north end of Culross Passage and finishing down south in Deep Water Bay.
Although the first few days were pretty rainy that didn't stop us from getting out and seeing the sights. The paddling in Culross Passage was really good and the wildlife was abundant. Picturesque Cove was the highlight of the first few days, particularly when the monsoon-like rains ended and the sun popped out to provide a rainbow.
The camping beaches in Culross Passage were perfect for kayak camping. The sites were well protected from the strong east winds that were blowing at the time and most of the beaches were composed of small, rounded gravel or sand, which made landing our fully loaded fiberglass boats much easier.
Several of our nights were spent camped in close proximity to salmon spawning streams.  Chum salmon were spawning at the time and their carcasses littered the beaches and mouths of the spawning areas. The dead and dying fish also drew in a number of predators including lots of gulls, harbor seals, and bears.
After a few days in the mossy rainforests of Culross Passage we made the transit down into the glacially carved fjord lands of Port Nellie Juan.  We had perfect weather for the 14 mile trip from Picturesque Cove to Dereksen Bay and we took our time to enjoy the scenery.