Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lost and Found: Ten+.

Lingering in camp didn't happen, primarily because we were all low on water and there would be no hot breakfast nor coffee to linger over. We briefly discussed our route for the day, options for which were only two: My preference was to 'schwack immediately out of camp for an unknown duration over to the head of Dundas Bay, then paddle with little tidal benefit for the rest of the day, hoping to achieve an exit of Dundas into Icy Strait. The topo's showed that the scenery would be splendid, fjordlike, and I liked the idea of avoiding the big tidal currents (whirlpools!) I'd been indoctrinated to fear.

But that was just what I wanted to do--no one else seemed interested in the initial 'schwack. So we went their way, dragging bikes and boats through slime (my GPS insisted we were under 14' of seawater) until we could put in, then paddling through the gorgeous North Inian Pass. All hail democracy! The route my compadres chose featured stunning alpine and marine scenery and a host of curious (sometimes frighteningly so) aquatic critters.

The water was calm and winds were light--we had nothing to do but paddle consistently and take in the world around us. That world included seals and sea lions, puffins and porpoises, an enormous quantity of humpback whales. Our mode of travel did have one minor drawback: We sit so low in the water that by the time we'd heard the whales blow, breach, or slap they were already gone from sight.

We rounded Pt. Wimbledon and tucked up into Dundas a bit, hoping that the trickle we saw on the map equated to fresh water on the ground. It did, so we lunched at that inches-deep creek while waiting for the slack tide to turn in our favor.

We crossed Dundas Bay in a confusing chop where the tidal flow split, tossing our wee boats about and keeping conversation minimal. Once back along the protected shore past Pt. Dundas the roiling waters calmed and paddling, talking became easy again.

Eric's boat has features the rest of us didn't get.

At high tide we pulled out on a protected beach and had a late dinner, nice fire, then slept a bit before waking early to catch the next incoming tide. It seemed odd to be intentionally shorting ourselves on sleep, but paddling against an outflowing tide makes even less sense.

The morning was breezy at first, then calmed as we turned into Glacier Bay proper. Whales were everywhere, but only if you happened to be looking exactly where they blew could you catch a glimpse. Limited sightings aside, it just felt neat to share the water with 'em.

You know you've arrived when...

5 hours after leaving our brief beach bivy we pulled into Bartlett Cove, stinking, smiling, punch-drunk, elated.

Minutes later a penis-implant-candidate NPS ranger busted Dylan ($160 fine!) for pissing at the waters edge, then harassed all of us for failing to pull permits for our "little grandiose adventure". As if anyone in the NPS could summon the wherewithal to imagine much less give permission for such an endeavor. We laughed, joked uncomfortably in his presence--the way you do when you pity someone but feel powerless to help them.

Bikes reassembled and boats stowed, we flapped our beach gears feebly down the paved road to Gustavus in search of sustenance--and an airplane. Roman took full advantage of his 2-speed setup to keep the pace high all the way in. It felt like a race. Hell it *was* a race. Inch your wheel in front of his and he'd immediately ramp into a 140rpm spin to beat you back down. We played that game for every inch of every mile to town. With a well-timed hyper spin I cleaned their clocks in the stop sign sprint that landed us on the lawn of the pizza joint.

The waitress brought pizza and beer as we laughed, ate, reveled in the last of our awful jokes.

* * *

The trip ends there--but I'll wrap it up with a post on gear geekery (what worked, what didn't, what I'll do different next time...) when I get a chance. Feel free to ask pointed questions on gear, the route, Roman's hairpiece, or anything I've omitted above, and I'll include those answers sometime next week.