Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Wednesday, August 17

I wake to a pattering on my tent and I emerge to a windy, rainy, charcoal grey morning. Everything that isn't wet is damp, and I surprise myself that, instead of feeling sad to be leaving, I'm worried that we will not be able to make it back to Girdwood today and I will have to spend another day in dirty, damp clothes. It's the first time since coming out here that I've missed the comforts of modern life, though a turn at a washing machine and a shower would set me up nicely for another week in the fiords.

But despite the blustery weather the water is calm, so we pack up and trek our soggy gear down to the low-tide shore, a slippery muddy walk. Then it's a kayak back through icebergs, seals and diving ducks to Serpentine Cove and the Dora Keen. Loading the gear aboard and hoisting the kayaks up to the rack on the roof of the cabin we feel the lack of Barbara's muscle, but I try my best not to let the kayaks slip back into the fiord like the sleek dolpins they resemble.

By the time everything is battened down the rain has increased to a downpour.  Tim starts up the DK but again has trouble with the sonar. This could be a real problem as there is an underwater morraine that protects this cove, with only a narrow channel deep enough to accommodate the propellers. Tim pulls up one of the two motors so that if we do hit the morraine, we may only damage one.

Tim navigates carefully and we make it through the channel without incident, drop the second motor and head back up Harriman Fiord.  Coxe, Barry and Cascade Glaciers are hidden in the fog, and as we round Point Doran and start down Barry Arm the DK rises and slaps the surface as the water get choppier. With visibility limited we have to be aware of the increasing number of  small boats. Sitting in the "co-pilot" seat, I call out their locations. "One at 11 o'clock" "There's a boat at 3 o'clock", though Tim has usually spotted them before me. 

I'm entranced by the color of the water as we pass through Port Wells, an opaque turquoise reflecting a graphite sky.

Entering the harbor at Whittier we are far from done, there is refueling, unloading, navigating through the hundreds of boats into our narrow berth, just making the northbound time slot through the tunnel, then back to the storage building to drop off and clean the kayaks, before we finally arrive back in Girdwood where I can shower off a week of wilderness living and change into clean, dry clothes.   I am soon damp again though, standing in the pouring rain to photograph the first moose I have seen, first the homely little babe, and then the mom, making sure her little one stays out of trouble.

Tomorrow Barbara and Tim return to the field, and I return to Anchorage to play the tourist, visit the zoo where I safely encounter bears and wolves, the Anchorage Museum once again to see the art of the region, and also again, to The White Spot for the culinary art of their famous halibut sandwich.

I was warned that once visited Alaska I would be compelled to return. As it turns out, I will.