Day 59 - Thursday - July 24 - A beach near Eldred Rock to Haines
Haines was now just one day’s paddle away and I really wanted to get there before the food ran out. I had gone without food for four days once, and I did not want to have to do it again. The wind had been dying down overnight and then picking up again during the day. Getting off to an early start before the wind picked up made the most sense. I would try to go as far as possible before conditions got too bad. With this strategy in mind, I got up this morning at 3am and was launching the kayak at 4:30am.
After going only about 4 miles, the wind had become so strong that it was too dangerous for me to continue. At 5:45am, I reached a small beach that had protection from the wind and waves so I pulled out intending to wait and see if the wind would die down. This beach was unusual because the gravel was so rounded and slippery that I could actually slide my loaded kayak high up the beach to a level area. On most beaches, sliding the kayak very far was not an option as it would cause damage to the hull or would just be impossible. I set up the pyramid tent, changed into dry shore clothes, made some coffee, and just hoped the wind would let up enough for me to be able to paddle later. As I was setting up, I noticed the beach was covered with bear scat that looked to be about a week old. I just hoped Mr. Bear did not come around for breakfast. After a while, I resigned to the idea that this would be home for the night, and then, all of a sudden, at 7:20am, the wind stopped as if switched off. Down came the tent, and on went the cold wetsuit, and off I went headed for Haines.
The Islands of Kataguni, Shikosi, Anyaka, and Taisani lined up south to north in Lynn Canal and provided a good reference point for me to gauge my progress.
Far behind Kataguni, Shikosi, Anyaka, and Taisani Islands, the Davidson Glacier spills out of the snow covered Chilkat Mountains, making an awesome sight off in the distance.
Around this area, the wide expanse on Lynn Canal is split in two by the Chilkat Peninsula forming the smaller but still formidable Chilkat and Chilkoot Inlets.
One of the most amazing wildlife displays I had ever seen happened today. As I was paddling up the eastern shoreline of the Chilkoot Inlet, I spotted a large herd of sea lions very high up on the rocks. They were so high up that they could have only gotten there at high tide and had stayed there as the tide dropped around them. Nearby on both sides of them were solar panels powering video cameras, and long distance microphones, so they were obviously being watched by a conservation organization. I did not want to disturb them so I altered my route to pass them about 100 yards offshore. They stayed put for a while, but just as I got straight offshore from them, one of them headed for the water and all the others followed. It was like a waterfall of animals, as maybe 20 of them slid off their high perch and hit the water creating loud splashes. It was not over yet, as around a dozen of them swam with me for the next mile staying just ahead and alongside of me. There were so many of them swimming around me that I could smell their fishy breath.
As I approached Haines, I had to skirt the wide shallow delta of the Katzehin River that squeezes the Chilkoot Inlet to a narrow 1-mile channel. The water in this area has been clouded by the sediment being disgorged into Chilkoot Inlet by the many swiftly flowing channels of the Katzehin River. The wind was starting to get strong again but I was almost there, so I held on and after going around the harbor was finally landing in Haines at 2:30pm.
I pulled up to the beach in front of the Oceanside Campground and after a precarious and difficult series of portages up a steep cliff, I had my boat and all my gear safely stowed at the campground. After checking in and getting set up, I took a shower, washed my clothes, and went into town for dinner.