Alaska Out

I haven’t seen a tree that wasn’t green that wasn’t dead for 5 months. Seattle was a bit of a rough transition there isn’t a lot of nature going on there that isn’t masked by the city. Walking along, the neon signs buzzed around every corner and down every street. Like a moth to the flame Charles and I were drawn to the colors. Our destination was decided by the luminescence of each path to take. There were people everywhere pretty girls, handsome men and plenty of fat Americans to boot. It was absolutely bewildering to see this place as a spectacle, we had forgotten what people do in cities like this.

After the contract ended in sitka the former employees were either elated or experienced some bit of depression, I was that of the latter only to be wrenched back the other direction by a 17 day boat trip south, a little under a 1000 miles at 8 knots. Cruising through Fredrick sound I met my first pod of orca viewing them almost exclusively through the view finder yielded three or four decent shots but I am still so inexperienced. I had waited so long for these elusive creatures to appear I was “shutterbound” just in case it was the only pod we found on the trip.

black and white

The dolls porpoise were consistently entertaining riding the bow waves in seemingly effortless fashion making our slow boat ride look even slower. They are so fun to watch probably because the look like they are having so much fun.


We stopped in Baranoff warm springs which were barely tepid it was very like having the prospect of taking a warm bath ripped away from you after already having taken your clothes off, in fact that is what happened. There was only one “working” stall and the water in it smelled like an egg fart which I am told is standard for warm springs but it was exceptionally farty.

Petersburg didn’t disappoint, the size of the houses and the quantity of boats was surprisingly severe. As the story goes due to fishing, at one point the little town held one of the largest populations of millionaires in the country, per capita goes with out saying. So it was the elks club for dinner stake and seafood night. I payed 22$ for my medium rare 16oz rib eye washed down with an Alaskan Amber Ale. For most days on the boat I cooked, I tried to assemble some sort of menu which fell apart when time came to shop, forgot the list. It made me feel good having something to contribute to the group besides just being a good eater. Prince Rupert was made interesting mostly by way of Charles and his obsession with an imaginary scavenger hunt that involved him being a tourist from Texas, it was a little embarrassing for me one, that tries to blend in. They live just like we do, but in Canada, for some that is all it takes to get excited. One anchor and bay after Prince Rupert delivered us into alert bay similar in feel to Kake there was a large native presence made apparent by the display of totem poles strewn around the town memorializing this and that.

Alert bay

A night there and off again to Gibsons. It was a shame to see the state of things observing the coast of Canadian waters, the timber industry, though profitable and powerful, was destroying the even more valuable Eco system. Waste runoff from pulp mills, floating wood chips and the nature of the lumber harvesting made a deadly mix to kill off huge salmon runs, and generally creating a large deficit of key marine species. Wondering the coast I found the expected biodiversity simply absent and what was there appeared weak and sickly. Not a single anemone could be found, the barnacles were covered in brown sludge and the normally abundant black muscles were tiny like helpless crying infants, nothing much larger then a finger nail. The clear cutting had also left scars on the hillsides triggering huge landslides from the lack of stabilizing vegetation.

When was the last time you flew a kite? Charles as he often does creates a compelling desire to do the simpler things in life with vigorous gusto and the enjoyment of a child. We finally found a kite after forgetting to buy one in Sitka with only 2 days left in the trip. We tied it to the end of a halibut fishing rod and in gale force winds slowly fed line to the trembling piece of fabric. The seagulls found it intriguing and hovered next to it, welcoming the new synthetic flying companion to the air. After 10 minutes I gave it a go and yes enjoyed it immensely, the joy of flying something with so little control is exciting to a degree. After a bit Charles took the reins back and a few minutes later it took a huge dive toward the harbor. In a panic he reeled as fast as he could but it continued to plummet. After 20 minutes of pulling and tugging on the line it was hopelessly stuck under the rocks of the breakwater. We cut the line of 50lb test and tied it off to the pier in hopes of retrieving the lost treasure at lower tide. He eventually got it back just minutes before it was time to leave, perseverance, another virtue of Charles.

The last full day of travel was littered with 5-6 foot wind chop, sloppy deflections, rocking boats and puking Charles. I have never seen such a sight that wasn’t open ocean from such a small boat. I was accustomed to traveling in a catamaran which has the stability of a tank. Queen Charlotte apparently had something to settle and took our clean sailing away with a gust of wind. We made it across but there is something special about traveling in a boat. In a plane, car, or foot customs is open 24 hours a day and ready to help. In a boat customs is only conveniently open for your border crossing enjoyment from 8am- 5pm you have to spend the night in Canadian waters if they are closed. We checked in with customs in Friday harbor at about 9:30 the next day, the only boat on the dock, the only hiccup was my passport wasn’t signed. Steve had arranged to have the boat pulled out the next day at 8 am so we spent the night right next to the ship yard with much of our stuff loaded into a vanagon. After picking the boat we started to unload all the stuff that was left so the cabin of the boat could be cut off and redone.

One night in a hotel and it was time to depart to Seattle with one of Steve’s friends Tony a green power guy that actually does something about it. Before reaching Seattle we had to stop off by the fishing docks and tour the tenders that had been frequenting the Sitka area. Then to the motel 6 to spent time trying to figure out the bus system.

Charles and I went to the aquarium because we were missing being around the wildlife. We spent quite a bit of time near the otter tank, there were 4 of them swimming around scrapping with each other and grooming themselves, it made me kind of nostalgic for the times past. I also gave a little talk about them because there wasn’t much information on the walls and people were muttering questions I just couldn’t help myself it seams as though the little guys had an impact on me. Strangely enough, they can’t even talk. As i notice that the distinct transition from small rural Alaska to stinkin’ huge Seattle was abrupt for me to say the least, remembering what it is that people do in a large city with everything at their fingertips is hard for me to do. We were wandering the streets looking at florescent lights and highrise office buildings “beautiful” in its own right but starkly unnatural. I long to return to the woods. I suppose I will be there soon enough.

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