By Janelle Eklund
We lucked out with the rough waters. The scary rocking and tipping of the boat subsided as the waters mellowed into Wells Bay, erasing my fears into the calm depths. As we anchored in Cedar Cove a young seal greeted us at the door to its home.
The evening was peaceful and our hearts were content feasting on the fruits of the sea and land - a beautiful view, fresh baked succulent salmon, fried potatoes and fresh green beans from the greenhouse. The night was cloudy and threatening to rain but we went exploring before it wetted the land. We took the dinghy to shore and walked the short distance to Cedar Lake. A beautiful rocky meadow graced the end of the lake we were standing on. Profusions of the same wildflowers we saw yesterday decorated the meadow. Colorful salmon orange to brown mosses covered everything – rocks, trees, stumps, dead logs - living in harmony with their accepting host. Pockets of miniature pond dark tundra eyes stared at us.
We rowed the dinghy to a couple places on the other side of the cove in anticipation of climbing the nearby hills. The vegetation was too dense to maneuver through so we explored the shoreline while warning Mr. Bear that we were visiting. Small colorful starfish clung to rocks in the undulating cycle of the tide. Wolf scat warned us that a wolf had been here recently.
Back at the boat we sat on the deck reading the rest of the evening away as eagles silently soared and the boat swayed a lullaby. As we prepared to go to bed about 10:00pm a black bear showed itself exploring on the same shoreline we walked earlier. He wandered around a bit, probably investigating our scent, and then disappeared into the bushes.
Woke to rain, fog, and a grey calmness in the little cove. Leaving around 8:15am we headed to Valdez. As we left the bay we encountered some fairly good swells that fortunately had left the wind behind. When we got out into more open water the seas were even more playful. Definitely a sitting journey, secure everything and get out the ginger to ease the stomach for a choppy ride home. No white caps but waves coming at us sideways making for another hair raising ride. I hate those sideways-coming-at-you waves. They are very disconcerting! My beating heart kept in sync with the waters as they calmed the closer we got to Valdez, and was back to normal by the time we docked in the harbor at 12:15pm.
Despite the rocky ride, it was another wonderful experience that kept us anticipating the next adventure to hidden coves, sea life encounters, and speaking glaciers.
From my light to yours-
By Janelle Eklund
We rose at 8:20am to a nice warm calm day of sun poking through lazy clouds. The darkness of the boat cabin made for better sleep compared to 24 hour daylight at home. Jelly fish did their exercises around the boat in the cover of this peacefully calm cove.
The tide was going out heading for a minus tide at 11:20am so we pulled anchor and puttered out to the bay and had breakfast. I stood up front as we left the cove and watched the water for rocks as a few were visible in low tide – they were covered when we came in last night during high tide. There were jelly fish everywhere as we slowly motored out. A sea otter swam by the boat as we stopped for breakfast. Paul put the fishing pole in to try and catch some rock fish. His first catch was a small linc cod.
We motored through Esther passage which revealed snow covered mountains in the distance. A somewhat narrow passage at the upper end opened into Port Wells. As we crossed over into Barry Arm and Harriman Fiord the view to the north opened into a parade of glaciers marching into College Fiord. Straight ahead at the end of Barry Arm a large glacier spilled out of a steep mountain and then lapped it’s tongue at the ocean surface. The closer we got, two more glaciers came into view to meet the other, all three lapping at the water to quench their perpetual thirst. Small bits of ice floated in the water and we were able to get fairly close to the glaciers. Another smaller boat ventured in amongst the ice even closer for an up close and personal look. We stopped and turned the engines off and feasted on egg salad sandwiches while we listened to the glaciers moan, groan and creak. Thunderous growls came from deep inside – giants rolling over in eternal nap. A braided waterfall fed by upland glaciers spouted off cliff walls like a fire hose in full operation.
After absorbing the beauty of these dynamic glaciers we motored back across to Esther Passage, passing many pods of sea otters floating on their backs, some diving if we got too close. Round faces with big brown eyes and whiskers jutting out around their small noses and mouth. Pups lay on the protection of their mother’s tummy, little heads and feet sticking out of the water. Their little hands are held together either feeding or grasping their tail that’s folded up between their legs. Sea otters live together in large families.
At the entrance to Esther Passage we fished for a bit with no luck. Then we headed over to Wells Bay. On the way we stopped at a rocky outcrop and dropped our lines in the water to try and get some rock fish. Just after Paul’s line hit the water a king salmon took it. It was a small to medium male. That was a fluke! We fished a bit longer but only had empty hooks so Paul cleaned the salmon and we kept going.
The seas started to get pretty rough - scary enough for me to put on my life jacket and practice putting on the survival suit. I came to the determination that it would be very difficult to get it on fast enough in a emergency. But of course the adrenalin runs pretty fast in an emergency - so maybe it would slip right on - hah! I was hoping not to have to test that!
Stay tuned next week for the continuing adventure.
From my light to yours-
By Janelle Eklund
We motored out of the harbor in Valdez at about 11:45am. As we neared Columbia Glacier we saw a line of ice that looked to be solid all across the bay. But as we got closer there were spaces to maneuver around. Paul decided to take the inside passage. It was a bit like tip toeing through a mine field. Weaving in and around the large chunks was fairly easy but after we got through that there were many small bergy bits all floating together, seeming to be holding a convention. Paul slowly managed to get through them with only hitting one or two small ones – no big deal. It certainly kept us on our toes, though, scouting a course. We probably won’t do that again. Arriving at Shoup Bay about 4:15pm, we anchored at a tucked in little cove. On the way here we saw what looked like a whirlwind and couldn't figure out what it was caused from until we saw a large whale tail slide under the water. The next time it surfaced was about a mile away.
After anchoring for the night we motored the dinghy to shore and went for a short hike. The sun peaked through hazy clouds as we hiked up through a warm, calm lush meadow. A bear had stood on the edge of the meadow - evidence lay in a pile on the ground. So we yelled out letting him or her know we were visiting.
A babbling brook ran through this beautiful meadow. Brook wore a colorful necklace of pink shooting star, chocolate lily, purple and pink daisy, yellow cinquefoil, purple iris and purple violets, along with prolific pinkish white flowers hanging from the blueberry bushes. Iris was just starting to bloom. Shooting star, daisies, and cinquefoil stood tall. Violets small and shy dotted the meadow in a pretty pattern. Brooks Saxifrage large green leaves provided the background, while salmon hues and dark brown mosses carpeted the meadow in a mosaic pattern. The brook fed this microcosm of life and the meadow responded in brilliant glory.
We headed back to the boat in the dingy to have dinner and end the night. The water is teeming with large jelly fish trailing long translucent tentacles. Their bright orange bodies pulsated to the rhythm of the sea.
While we waited for our dinner of tasty chicken pisole wrapped in tortilla shells to warm up we sat on the deck of the boat enjoying the peace, solitude and a drink. After a game of Mexican Train dominoes, which Paul won, we retired for the night to the gentle swaying of the boat and a lullaby of lapping waves.
From my light to yours-
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.