Chilkat Magic

After talking of it for weeks, my good friend Gene and I decide to take a weekend and sail his boat down to Sullivan Island, which is situated in the confines of the stunning Chilkat Inlet about a dozen or so miles south of Haines. The weather is remarkable: so good in fact there is no wind for sailing, so motoring down the Inlet we go, bound for glacial outpours, rugged mountains, hidden canyons, unnamed rivers, Grizzly Bears, and spawning Salmon.

That evening, moored just off the shores of Sullivan and drinking wine while gazing at the eerie mist engulfing the inlet, a ghostly and unexpected whale surfaces in the dark and breathes loudly through it’s blowhole. Neither one of us knew that any whales were in the inlet this time of year.. a gift.

The next day, calm and serene, the mountains and glaciers shining bright, we motor up inlet to an unnamed river to inspect. A massive Cottonwood sporting a huge Eagle’s nest, giant Grizzly tracks, unexpectedly hidden canyon and glaciers, and loads of coyote tracks. We hike perhaps a mile upstream before turning back. I vow to myself to return to this place and hike the distance through the hidden canyon to the splendid glacier beyond. Another trip; I must get a boat!

It is jaunts such as these that remind me that Haines is a most fantastic place on this Earth, and I call it home…

 

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Alaska Coast Range and Sullivan Island

 

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Un-named river and glacier…
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The Towering Granite Walls of the Alaska Coast Range
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Looking to the Chilkat Range from the Boat
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Eagle’s Nest and Sail Boat
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Rescue Bay Sullivan Island
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Shining Glaciers at Dusk
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Cap’t Gene

Glacier Point (Big Waves in a Little Boat)

Fine spring weather and a weekend off urges me to pack up the skiff for a first -time-this-year-sailing. The 12 foot Lund has some leaky rivets, and the 39 year old Johnson 9.9 horse motor is about as decrepit as they come. Still, it was time to get out across the water and explore. I pack the boat and call Angela to roust her from whatever she was planning for the day, and soon we are humming along in dead calm ocean water; headed for the opposite side of the Chilkat Inlet to explore the Davidson Glacier and the areas around Glacier Point. We spot River Otters, Sea Lions, and Humpback Whales along the way. The weather is the sort you dream of in Haines: sunny and partly cloudy skies, warm temperatures, and not even a wisp of wind. Soon we are beached on the shores of Glacier Point, and before we can get camera gear into backpacks for a trek up to the glacier, we spot a Humpback whale surfacing and spouting it’s blow hole. Within seconds the creature is back in the depths and without notice, the Humpy has breached the water and is airborne. Our jaws drop, and we expect it to end there. Over the next 5 minutes or so, the Humpback breaches and spins and tail swats airborne style at least 10 more times, causing great and rewarding splashes. We are in awe of the spectacle we have just witnessed. I have never seen anything like it, not even close. I was so riveted by the performance, I refused to grab the camera for some action video. My dinky 105mm lens likely would have produced unsavory results anyhow. As it was, I’m certain I got much more out of the experience with out the camera in my hand. As much as I want so bad that great shot, I want the experience even more.

Soon we are trudging up the dirt access road to the Davidson Glacier where we marvel at the beauty of the magnificent and engaging ice, as well as admiring spectacular views of Mt Sinclair and Mt Elba and the bulk of the heavily glaciated Alaskan Coast Range visible north of Juneau. On the way back we find a flock of twenty strong Snow Geese nestled into the coastal grasses of the surf plane, catching up on some well earned rest.

That night, the wind picks up and we are thankful we had decided to pitch the tent after all. In the morning, we see the storm clouds a brewing and the wind picking up even further. A quick escape is in order, and soon the boat is packed and we struggle to get the tiny skiff past the swelling surf and into deeper water where we can fire her up. Soon the motor is running and we hightail it back up the inlet, punching the small vessel through the two to three foot swells. This feels like survival boating and Angela is wearing the only life preserver we have. For fear of capsizing the boat, I stay on the decaying throttle to keep the craft moving directy into the oncoming surf. I am white knuckled, cold, and concerned. After a bit, Letnikof Cove appears and soon we are pulling up to the boat ramp and loading the truck. The storm never actually took foot, but it sure made for some big waves in a little boat.

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