Nick and I arrived in Ketchikan yesterday afternoon. This is our last port in Alaska before we cross the border into Canada in about a weeks time. This next section, the Dixon Entrance, will include some of the most exposed waters that we have seen. This section of coastline leaves the protection of islands to the west buffering and leaves us to contend with the open Pacific and ocean swells. The truly exposed portions should only take us about two days to cross, and we will of course, choose our timing wisely.
Arriving in K'Kan with TEMSCO Helicopter headquarters in background
Highlights since Wrangell include the Anan Creek Wildlife Observatory and the seaside town of Meyers Chuck. Anan Creek is more like a river that flows down rom the moutains through a turbulent rapid and then into a large open lagoon before finally pouring into the sea. This creek supports a large salmon run which at the time of our visit, were primarily humpbacks. The fish all congregate in the lagoon before attempting the rapids, which they must pass before reaching their spawning grounds further upstream. Through the rapids, the fish pile up as they are working against the fast flow of the river. Then the black bears arrive. From our viewing platform, we spent about two and a half hours watching the bears gorge themselves on the abundant salmon. A few of the bears were so indulgent that they would consume only a quarter of the salmon before discarding it into the stream, only to minutes later pick out another. It seemed wasteful until we realized that the half eaten carcasses were fodder for the lesser bears, bald eagles, ravens and all the other scavengers of the woods. Watching these bears feed was both a spiritual experience and a sobering reminder of the cycles of life.
Nick at Anan Creek, notice how thick the salmon are
From Anan we paddled a few days along the Cleavland Peninsula to arrive at Meyers Chuck. We had read that Meyers Chuck was a bit of an eccentric town and worth a stop. As we paddled into the protected waters of the "chuck", or saltwater lagoon in the trade language Chinook, we were struck by the coziness of the village. Most of the houses were built on stilts and were spread about the numerous islands that created a protected central harbor. In the harbor, we found the state dock and tied up our boats to have a look about. Within about ten steps, we were approached by a gentlemen who asked where we were from and if we were looking to stay in town. There are no formal accommodations in town, but the gentlemen immediately offered to let us stay in one of the spare cabins on his family land, and there was a pizza potluck that night as well. Were else can you arrive and be immediately offered a bed and meal, no questions asked. We found the potluck to be a very enjoyable experience. Almost all of the Chuckers came out for the affair, all arriving in their various skiffs (you pretty much need to boat to get anywhere). The pizza was the best I've ever tasted, cooked in a homemade pizza oven and topped with all sorts of garden grown veggies. Then the desserts came out and the selection was equally as impressive. Beyond the festivities of food, this was a special evening organized to decided whether the community should fight the impending incorporation into the Ketchikan borough (county, in Alaskan). For the most part, this free minded community would rather remain under self rule but the question became, at what cost (in lawyers fees to fight the borough). Nick and I were able to sit through the meeting as flies on the wall and both seriously enjoyed this slice of Alaskan politics. Thanks to the Chuckers for there generous hospitality!
Our cozy accomodations in Meyers Chuck
While in Meyers Chuck, we met up with a Japanese man named Shinya and have been paddling with him the last few days. He is in a wooden frame traditional Inuit style skin kayak, and has at times made Nick and I feel like sissies with all of our Gortex, coffee and booze. Shinya is an origami machine and thus is his greeting to everyone he meets- a crane, a frog, an elephant and if you're really lucky, a red rose.
Our next port is Prince Rupert in about seven days. Talk to you then!