Loc: Cape Kuyuyukak
Acc: Hilleberg Keron 4 tent
Dist: 36,2 km
Start 07:10 End: 15:50
Thanks goodness the carry of the kayaks and gear down the steep gravel beach this morning was much easier than the nasty choice of campsite yesterday…so we got on the water early. It was fore casted following winds stronger in the morning, very light the afternoon, but we couldn’t really say it was very helpful…the seas went now criss cross, no real surfable waves developed, and later on, it was rather calm winds than pushing. But no complaints, paddling in general was surely easier, and the seas were much lower than yesterday!
We crossed first over to a beach marked on the chart as “good landing” – which was truly a fine natural harbor, even on low tide! We filled our water bags on the river, and found a bear while we were paddling to the next beach. As soon as he lifted his head and saw us, he also smelled us, turned around and galloped up the grassy cliff. The guys are simply more scared about us than we (I…) about them…
We went around the headland with no issues, seas were low, not much breaking and not man inviting gaps for me to hop through…the crossing of the next bay of 18 km went by fast with chatting along and not really paddling hard, no winds to “fight”, no swell to ride, just lightly choppy water, low hanging clouds, many rocky reef islands to the right…nice, but not extremely entertaining today.
Until we neared “Cupcake Island”…on a straight line, we would have been passing it in 750 m distance, far away enough to not see much details besides a huge round open water arch, but close enough for me to sense this must be a spectacular place! Only having passed it fully, we could also hear the sound of the many birds in the lightly following wind…and this made me asking Catriona if she wanted to turn in and to investigate this obviously very special bird island? A mere detour of 750 m paddling off the straight crossing line, plus a full circle around, in easy conditions…?
Catriona was not keen about the small exploration detour, but said I could go by myself and she would wait at the corner of the next island.
So I paddled off to explore Cupcake Island! And this WAS worth the detour! I think I found one of the most exciting nature paradises of my whole paddling career…fascinating rock formations, huge monster cave, and a smaller one sounding like thunder on the swell rolling over the massive gravel beach inside – really like the hell’s gate! -, a magical stunning huge arch, and all decorated with millions of birds couples nesting on the uncountable tiny square “apartment” ledges all around the clustered rock island, inside the cave and flying around in the air. I caused a major “stampede” on my approach on most sides, two of them sounded incredible swelling up and down noisy in the movement of the thousands of birds taking off at once and landing again. I kept my hood on my head, and was expecting to come out white sprinkled again from all their droppings, but it was actually not too bad.
The arch was stunning in the clustered rock formation pattern, the water channel was wide but pretty lumpy if I wouldn’t have timed it right…not to talk about the big kelp field on the island’s backside with about 100 sea otter mummies hugging their babies! What a nature life!
I paddled up to the other island where Catriona was waiting, slightly worried about me taking an hour 10 for the detour, and if I’d have climbed the island meanwhile or such…no, I just paddled around, took pictures and extremely enjoyed the scenery! You chose to not have come with me, lady! I convinced her to paddle back together and to enjoy this highlight of the trip together…still easy conditions, but my “hell’s gate” cave has somehow disappeared in the raising tide…and no more huge noisy “stampedes” of bird swarms…and even the otters field had diminished…still very enjoyable!
While Catriona was waiting for me at that other island’s corner, she reported she had seen three swimming bears climbing up the cliffs…
The second small “detour” didn’t really matter also, as we were both not too keen on another 20 km crossing…so we found a sandy beach, and set camp. We were both inside our tent, when Catriona shouted “Oh shit! Where is my bear spray? Where is my camera?” as she spotted a bear outside on “our” beach…about 100 m away, and his paw prints later showed he was strolling from the other end of the beach towards us, but in reasonable sight, smell and hearing distance, he decided to turn in and to be gone over the cliff edge…we grabbed bear spray and cameras, and also climbed the grassy cliff, but the relatively small bear was gone…instead we saw a huge mommy or daddy bear about 300 m across the lightly yellow colored meadow upfront some green trees peacefully grazing…he (or she) didn’t look disturbed by us, and we watched for a while until he was gone. Hoping for a quiet night!
We were calculating as every evening Catriona’s remaining time to catch her flight back home and the distance left, and came now to the final decision we won’t make it safely in time within the maximum left 12 days to Sand Point, and she will fly home from Chignik. Plans changed, all good, and we can relax (and I later can also take my time with Michal on the leg from Chignik to Sand Point…)
Catriona: Another very different day. As Freya said, we did not get the following wind we hoped for, but it was still a lovely start to the day, lots of chatting, calm sea, not millpond but still very easy paddling and great company. The first corner, Freya shot through a wee gap, while I went around the headland on the outside. She had hoped I would have been sitting waiting to take a pic as she went through the gap…. but it was looking a bit sporty, I didn’t have helmet on so thought better of it and headed for quieter sea just around the headland. After that we decided to stay together lol. When we seen our first bear for the day my camera died but I didn’t worry as knew we were doing open crossings so sights were going to be minimal today. We planned to change batteries when we stopped for lunch. We had been calculating the distance left to do over the past few nights and knew we would run short on time if we didn’t make up some distance especially as weather could change and allowing for normal days off the water. We had planned to cross two bays today, hoping to do 50 plus kilometers to make good on some time we lost with the early stop on Paradise beach yesterday.
All was looking good until Freya spotted the Cupcake Island… she does have a sweet tooth lol. The island indeed held the shape of a cupcake and the cliffs were indeed like the paper cupcake. After she asks did I want to go around the island, and me saying “not really” as I was thinking of the long distance ahead and left me saying you go ahead and I suggested I wait for her there but then we agreed I would wait at the tip of the next island which was barely a km away. As I approached the island I thought I could get the battery changed in my camera while I waited so as not to hold things up later on. As the island was only 2 km around and it was barely a km away, I really didn’t expect her to be long so I wanted to be as quick as possible. I approached the island and rounded the corner to find a beach, but three bears got there swimming before me, mum and two fairly large smaller bears, maybe 1 or 2 years old were just swimming up to the beach and walking onto the shingle…. I quickly reversed!!! … but curiosity got the better of me and I decided to nudge around the corner again for another look. As soon as they seen me they ran up the hill and away. My heart steadied again lol So I though I will try the next beach further up, I didn’t have any contact lenses in today so sight was poor to say the least!!! As I paddled a few meters more, another bear… maybe daddy bear, stood and stared at me. I didn’t know whether to move or stay!!!. I tried the camera for one last shot and managed 3 or 4 pictures before the camera died again… the bear then also ran away. Lets just say I decided not to get out on the beach to change camera batteries and instead, I waited for Freya. I really only expected that she would be about 30 mins behind me as it was only a tiny island of 2 km around.. but as time passed I did worry. Stupid I know, this girl travels all around the world on her own, I’m sure she is fine on cupcake. But I couldn’t help it, maybe just my nature but I did become increasingly aware we had no means of communication between us, and I had no means of communication at all not to mention I was bloody freezing lol. I knew it was silly we parted again especially after us agreeing to stay together.
When Freya came back, first I was glad to see her, then I listened to how this was the most unbelievable experience she has had in her whole paddling career lol She was just excited. Again, the insisting started for me to go back and see it …again I did decline… but in end I really didn’t have a choice…so off we paddled back to Cupcake Island. It was spectacular. Very like the Saltees Islands, southern Ireland, except no seal colony here instead lots of otters. It was an island with an amazing bird colony, the same while washed cliff walls like the Saltee islands. The birds were often squawking and fighting, stealing bits of nest (sea weed) from each others nest, then they would fight, others flew to the sea, picked up some more bits of sea weed and returned to their nest. Many were simply love birds huddled close together. The archway was fun, needed a bit of timing when I went through, thankfully all good. The usual picture taking followed. As I didn’t have a camera, Freya gave me hers spare so I could grab some pics of her coming through. Water was a tad bouncy so it was not the easiest of pictures to grab. We looked for the deep cave Freya seen but no luck, maybe higher tide covered it. So we set off again, back across to mainland and it now approaching 3pm.
As I sat waiting for Freya I was thinking and I knew I couldn’t be chasing time. This adventure is ultimately Freya’s amazing trip around North America and she should see as many corners of it as possible. Thankfully she isn’t just flying around and she does get itches every now and again to just cut in, explore around a cliff or corner, paddle up a stream or into a harbor or have a climb. And right she is!!. So I did the maths, currently, between having a day off, and a few early days and 10 out of 12 days into force 4 and sometimes 5 headwinds we are averaging about 35 km per day. I know if we lost another day or two, either to bad weather or needing time of the water, I would miss the flight in Sand Point. It is not like other areas with lots of get out spots. Here is very different. We have not been near any civilization since leaving Kodiak, Chignik will be the first village we come across and the next after that is Sand Point, another 200 km along a beautiful but unpopulated coastline. The decision had to be made, so I will stop at Chignik, 200 km short of my hope, but that’s expeditions for you and I will still have done over 500 km from Kodiak to Chignik. So all good. We still have a few days before getting to Chignik so lots of great paddling and camps between now and then. As Freya said…. when the bear came into camp tonight.. I didn’t know if I should grab bear spray or camera….. So I grabbed the camera and got a picture before he ran off lol
More good learning tips today. Before the day started, when we were expecting good following wind, I let Freya know that I wasn’t great in downwinds… she replied “I would never say that, instead say you have just not practiced it enough” basic self statements, that is so true. This certaintly is one for my work book and personal learning. Tonight as soon as we landed, Freya set to normal household chores, basically check all nuts and screws in place, makingher gloves more functional but cutting thumb and two finger tips so the she can slip her fingers out when needed, and recover them again when cold. She is always adapting gear to better suit her needs. Something I think we could all do a bit moreof.
Now all good for the evening and we can look forward to some more headwinds tomorrow!!!