Loc: Stuart Island North Bay
Acc: Hilleberg Keron 4 tent
Dist: 71,6 km
Start: 06:35 End: 20:35
It was a long day yesterday in my small (or rather large 4-person) Hilleberg-Hotel. Unfortunately, it feels occasionally like a prison when you can’t really go out in storm and rain and the day becomes long despite e-book and laptop and satellite phone. I might need some old-fashioned paper-booklet crossword puzzle or such…or a new cheerful paddling partner to talk to. At least around 7 pm after I had dinner, the wind calmed down, the rain stopped and even one or two sun rays broke through the clouds. I got up for a walk and felt like usual like a patient having just recovered from a tough disease. When you are forced to laying down most of the day, sleeping on and off, you feel weak getting finally up to the vertical again. Inside the tent, I try to find different sitting or kneeing positions to prevent the worst.
I walked up to the river where I had my big washing day when I arrived and found many, many larger fish trying to swim up the river or just to stay there in the shallow current. It seems like my biodegradable shampoo did not kill them all . Are these all some salmon species? No idea, they might, in the dark tanned water, it was hard to tell. Not that I can tell them apart anyway…Some of them did not make it in the falling tide into the 2-3m – wide but deep river mouth but got half or fully stranded in the very shallow delta leading to the open sea. I could have caught about four or five of them just with my hands, all real-size fish for a meal for two, but rather helped three of them getting off their stranding destiny. They finally get eaten by the seagulls. The other two were too weak already and gave up again once I kicked them in deeper water. Now I know why a shallow river mouth is usually occupied by a flock of those greedy birds! An I also saw two fish already with freshly picked eyes and body…
Well, I must admit when a fishing-skillful person like Fylkir would have been still by my side, my compassion for the stranded guys might have rather ended in the cookpot, but my myself, I don’t feel like catching, killing, gutting and filleting fish if I don’t have to.
This morning, I started early on a calm sunny day and knew Karel’s forecast was perfect. It would be a long paddle to reach the top of Stuart Island to have the best starting position to cross Norton Sound likely on Sunday.
I happily paddled along a solid gravel beach on high tide, pleased to be on the SEA again. Well, at least until I rounded Point Romanzof, where the gravel ended in a river delta and the following coast was back to the never-ending steep grassy mud-cliffs.
I got out on the last gravel, and found the first dead animal still afloat upfront the beach since before the Yukon Delta Was it a seal? It had its size, but I realized it was a small whale, I think that must have been a Beluga Whale. I didn’t really know they were so small? I took a few shots with the help of a wooden pole to keep the poor animal in position for my “scientific research” pictures.
The next section behind the point up to the small village of Steppins at Cape Steppins was only more or less entertaining black steep grassy mud cliffs. On high tide around 11 am, it was not much left to flood the wide flat grassland behind, when the tide fell lower, the lightly clashing water displayed some interesting small cave formations under overhangs. I saw sometimes huge crystal-like washed rocks under the grassy knoll, amazing combinations of nature. I could stop a few times easy for a pee and to have an overview over the grassy land upfront the mountains about 10 km away. Not much to see, no moose, few cranes. Four big river mouth opened to the hinterland, but there was basically nothing that caught my eye.
When Steppins and Stuart Island came closer, my original plan was to round the island past Steppins on the right side, but I could not resist trying the channel going straight through the middle of the island. I changed direction about 15 km before the channel entrance, and aimed for a low land which I guessed must be the entrance area. I was very wrong my GPS told me soon, and I was just hoping the waypoint of the entrance I made only on my chart would be matching reality. The entrance was supposed to be way more to the left, even past an impressive huge colorful cliffy rock, and past the next mountain also. Perfect just where my waypoint was.
As it would be meanwhile low tide at 8.30 pm, we are still here on diurnal tides only, I was worried I would have enough water in the channel? The entrance had some rocky barrier but with gaps, I could paddle through. The whole channel was wider than I thought, and looked not much different than the channels in the Yukon Delta, minus flooded logs on the shores, plus huge rocky boulders at least on the first half, less later. Also, the water was finally crystal clear, and lightly salty as meanwhile, the water in the whole area here was. I found no moose either to watch, even no tracks on the low water mud banks, but many, many cranes, ducks, seagulls, and other birds. When I had seen eight cranes at once initially in the Yukon Delta, here many many flocks of twenty or thirty cranes onshore on in the air move around with their typical sound. Mother ducks with a bunch of ducklings everywhere, trying to get my attention rather on the “injured” mother duck while the ducklings hurry to the other side, and a river otter mom with three pups played around my kayak curiously for a while. What an idyllic place!
Unfortunately, the light current ran against me, and the water got more and more shallow. You can not see from the kayak if you are paddling into a dead-end soon or if the mirroring river water and reflecting mud banks turn around a bent very soon. Surprise for any meter as long as the about ten-kilometer channel lasted….the water depths stayed fine, but finally, I had to exit over a shallow sand bar into the sea at lowest tide, but I was at least able to drag my kayak for those few meters.
Some abandoned and one newer cabin littered the channel mouth in the North Bay, I let them be and aimed for a secluded last beach before the crossing I had marked on my chart. But as soon as I left the wide sandy beach of North Bay, the coast turned rough and rocky with, who knows, sand enough to land? My gut feeling was to stay better stay those next two windy days in this North bay area, and paddling further was not that much gained less distance fr the crossing.
I checked two smaller side beaches but finally paddled back to the end of the long beach. I am usually too proudly independent to camp in the shelter of some cabins when strong wind up to 40 knots is forecasted, I do rely on the strength of my Hilleberg Keron-4 tent. I chose a flat spot of the black sandy beach where the tide should not reach on the downgoing moon cycle. I kicked the solid sand pegs extra deep into the sand and tied all tent lines tight in expectation of strong winds. I opened my clean kayak front- and back hatch to catch some rainwater, just in case I need to stay here longer than until Sunday, and felt relaxed and tired into my tent just when the rain slowly started. Perfect timing!