Friday, March 2, 2012

Lost and Found: Eight.

Morning came as early as ever--sleep ended around 4:30 for me. Eyes open but as yet unmoving, I smiled, reveling in the soreness spreading through my body. You don't often wake in your own bed feeling this rough. Must be doing something right.

Nobody but nobody was moving fast this morning, perhaps everyone felt as raw as I did? We finished breakfast, laid in the sun, did dishes, fiddled with bikes, laid around some more, dinked with random gear repair, then finally got moving. Felt like noon but it was just after 9. Time to admit I can't get used to this amount of visible daylight.

Although the beach was rideable as far as we could see, the group decided to paddle straight across Palma Bay, headed for Astrolabe Point. I gathered that the others saw this route choice as a means to an end--shortest distance between two points and all that. But paddling is still new enough to me that I jump at the chance to do it anywhere. I was thrilled to be paddling flatwater.

Getting dumped by the wave off La Perouse yesterday exacted precisely two casualties: The death of a camera body and the loss of my sunglasses. Normally in SE AK you'd be more concerned about a good set of Xtra Tuffs than any kind of shades, but this day dawned bright and kept getting brighter. A short distance across the bay I knew I was in for a long day. Some combination of the bright sun bouncing off the water, squinting to be able to see, and the small but persistent chop and swell had my head swimming. About halfway across I was nauseous, and long before we'd sighted a place to land my head was banging and it was all I could do to keep breakfast down. Doom earned double bonus karma points that day by sticking close, feeding me sweets, and occasionally loaning me his Lionel Richie signature shades. All of it helped to keep me moving.

Photo by Eric.

In a trip full of exciting moments, Doom may have managed more than the rest of us. Somewhere in Palma Bay, roughly 2 miles from any sort of landfall, a humpback whale surfaced just off of his bow. It blew as it hit the surface, scaring both of us nearly out of our boats. We screamed involuntarily, frozen in place as it arced gracefully and dove back under. The group had been spread out until that moment. We stayed a lot closer after that.

We attempted a landing near Astrolabe Point as everyone was anxious to stretch and pee. I was hoping that a few minutes of horizontal time, eyes closed, on a non-moving surface would straighten out my head. Alas there was no place to land: cliffs into water, barnacles on every surface, a dead seal floating and stinking. Roman consulted the maps and thought we might be able to find something on the other side of the peninsula, so we moved on.

No landing presented itself on the flip side, so we committed to crossing Dixon Harbor and hoping for a landing on Sugarloaf Island. Doom nursed me across this one too, while the others paddled ahead to escape my sniveling.

On the backside of Sugarloaf Roman used his secret blend of ESP and Mariah Carey sunglasses to sniff out a haulout.

We dragged our boats delicately out onto barnacles. I shuffled to the first ~level spot I saw and flopped down. The boys built a fire, made coffee, and shared snacks while I snoozed. No idea how long I was out, but I woke with a clear head and slightly chilled. It felt wonderful to shiver.

Back in the boats we crossed Torch Bay, stopping briefly in a neat little nook on Horn Mountain to piss out the coffee, tank up on motivation, and for Eric to patch his boat.

Roman was diligent about keeping notes of camp locations, start and stop times for each day, a general crib sheet of interesting happenings--and for that we should all be thankful. Many of my recollections in this series were close because I had pictures with time stamps to reference, yet just off enough to be inaccurate had I not consulted his daily scribblings.

Waiting for the glue on Eric's boat to cure.

We paddled lethargically across Murk Bay in the last of the sunlight. As shadows descended our pace rose--gotta keep warm somehow.

Reveling in the last light of the day.

After crossing Murk we ascended to the head of Graves Harbor to camp.

There we found a trickle of water to fill our bottles, a sandy spot to pitch the tents, an adequate supply of driftwood to cook over. Although the night was warm enough to let it burn down after dinner, we kept it going deep into the night. For the atmosphere.