Today’s destination, the mouth of Taku Inlet, would put me within a day’s paddle of Juneau so I was anxious to get going and put some miles behind me. I found that as Skagway got closer, it was possible to predict with more accuracy on what day the trip would end. This gave me an even greater incentive to paddle longer each day and give it everything I had to try to finish as soon as possible.
Crossing the mouth of Port Snettisham.
The first thing I had to do this morning was to cross the two mile wide opening of Port Snettisham and an early start would ensure not being hindered by strong winds. After waking at 3:45am, I was launching into Stephens Passage at 5am and heading north.
A cruise ship heads north up Stephens Passage.
Unlike the previous two days, there was no fog today. The whole day was beautiful, with calm dry air and patches of blue everywhere in the sky. By 6:40am, I had made it across the mouth of Port Snettisham and past Point Styleman and was safely cruising up the rocky shoreline.
Commercial fishermen set their nets in Stephens Passage.
Today must have been the start of fishing season because Stephens Passage was full of commercial fishing boats putting out gill nets. The season apparently started at 9am because all the boats started putting out their nets at the exact same time as if on queue. The beginning of the net would be set close to shore and was marked with a big orange float, and then a series of small white floats would keep the top of the net at the waters surface. These nets would be unwound from large spools mounted on the rear of the fishing boat and would extend maybe 200 yards out from the end near the shore. The nets were so numerous, and set so close to shore, that it was necessary to paddle over the tops of some of them as they were set right in my path. At first, I was worried that the fishermen would have a problem with me going over their nets, but none of them gave any indication that it bothered them.
As I approached the entrance to Taku Harbor, a pod of Orcas was swimming at a very fast rate of speed into the harbor. I stopped paddling for a while, and just watched in amazement at the speed they were traveling. They went a short way into the harbor, then turned back and headed out, just as fast as they had gone in.
A huge male sea lion checks me out as I paddle past.
A few minutes later, I spotted another huge sea lion out ahead of me, but this time I made sure he saw me before getting too close. His head was as big as a basketball, and he looked similar to a large bear fishing for salmon with wet facial hair. I waved my paddle in the air and called out to ensure he knew a human was around. He just looked at me and held his ground, obviously not intimidated at all by my presence in his territory.
A beach comes into view far ahead.
I reached Circle Point at 11:45am and could plainly see a beach about four miles away. The location of this beach would put me in a perfect position to make the crossing of Taku Inlet first thing in the morning. This whole stretch of Stephens Passage has plenty of gravel beaches that would make good campsites. Many of them have streams providing a convenient water source. My water supply was running low so when I saw a creek flowing across one of these beaches I stopped to refill my bottles just in case the beach I ended up on this evening didn‘t have a stream of it’s own.
Home for the night in sight.
After paddling 24 miles, I reached my destination for the day at 1:05pm. This beach turned out to be a great place to camp, being composed of smooth rounded pebbles all the way to the waterline and providing great views up and down Stephens Passage.
My campsite at the mouth of Taku Inlet on Stephens Passage.
One of the interesting things about camping in this area is that four water channels all meet in this spot creating a large intersection used by boats of every size. Cruise ships leave Juneau every evening after the tourists have spent the day shopping in town. Early the following morning, more cruise ships head into Juneau to start the process all over again. Unfortunately for the cruise ship passengers, the ships travel at night while they are sleeping, so they miss seeing much of the incredible scenery along the Inside Passage.