Six hours makes a big difference with tides in Alaska. Last night I could have launched the kayak from right next to the tent. At launch time this morning, the tide was out so far that it was at least 200 feet to the waters edge and 22 feet below me. I had to carry my kayak and all the gear down a 20 foot jagged rock face and then across the seaweed covered cobble beach. By 7:15am, the boat was in the water and I was heading to today’s destination, Anan Bay.
Heading up Seward Passage.
I followed the east coast of Deer Island to the narrowest spot in Seward Passage then crossed over to the mainland side. Throughout the day, there was almost no wind and no detectable current. The overcast sky was full of low gray clouds that brought rain off and on all day. I kept an eye out for possible campsites, but for the entire 24 miles paddle there were none at all. The whole day passed with no wildlife sightings and only a couple of boats visible off in the distance.
Looking up Bradfield Canal.
It was raining fairly hard when I reached the Anan Bay US Forest Service ranger station at 2pm. and I was cold, wet, hungry, and looking for a place to camp.
Anan Bay is popular with tourists who come to see the large population of Brown and Black Bears that feed on salmon during their annual summer migration up Anan Creek. Most come for a short visit by tour boat or seaplane from Wrangell, Alaska, which is about 40 miles away. The ranger station here is on a large floating platform that has no connection to the shoreline, presumably to keep bears from having access to the building. It's dock was well made, and most likely cost a few hundred thousand dollars to construct.
I was hoping to rent the one cabin there but predictably, it was already in use for the night. Reservations for the cabin are available in advance but a kayaker has no way of telling exactly what night they will arrive. I asked the ranger if I could set up my tent on the big floating dock connected to the ranger station and he told me I could not. Apparently, it is OK to tie up to the dock and spend the night if you arrive in a yacht but kayakers are forbidden access. I actually could not believe what he was telling me so I asked him again to make sure I understood correctly. I had.
I then asked him if there was any place in the area that I could camp. He replied, “Anywhere I want as long as it’s not on USFS property”. Here is the best part. During our conversation, he actually asked me twice if I would like to take a hike to go see the bears. See the bears! The last thing I wanted to see was “the bears“. What I did want, was to find a safe place to spend the night, which was rapidly approaching, get out of the rain and my wet clothes, and get something to eat. He did not have a clue as to the situation I was in and that my life was actually at stake. After he asked me the second time if I wanted to go see the bears I just paddled off in complete amazement at this ranger’s lack of understanding.
Blake Island from Anan Bay.
I had marked on my charts that there was a campsite on Blake Island four miles away so I headed off in the rain for what I hoped to be a bear free place to spend the night. When I arrived at 3pm at the spot marked on my chart, no place to camp was immediately obvious, but after landing the boat and walking around a bit, a small level spot just above high tide could be made out. This was by far the worst campsite of the entire trip but it was all that was available and would have to do.
Bear Poop right next to my tent.
As I was setting up the pyramid shelter thinking that things could not possibly get any worse, I spotted a big fresh bear pile right where I was putting in a tent stake. Someone else had recently spent time here as I could see where a fish had been cleaned and some of its parts left on a log. I was beginning to feel like bear chum.
My campsite on Blake Island.
There was no choice but to spend the night here so I decided to sleep in my clothes and just throw the sleeping bag on top of me in case Mr. Bear came back. To lessen the chance of a bear encounter, I decided to launch at 3am just as it would be getting light.
Blake Channel from my campsite on Blake Island.