Friday, August 26, 2016

Footsteps of Giants: Lost coast north day four.

Waking to the sound of rain wasn't what I'd dreamed about.  Although honestly, at first, I wasn't sure that was even what it was.  The optimist in my drybag hoped that it was Doom, just outside, slinging handfuls of sand at our tent while taking a selfie and mouthing 'perf!' at the camera.  Once I scraped the crusted sand from my eyes and focused, I could see a million+ droplets beaded up on the outer skin of our 'mid, a few hundred of them sliding earthward.  Going to be a wet one.

Two men cooking breakfast, getting dressed and packing bags inside of a 2-man 'mid is a process, one which requires coordination, consideration, and proprioception.  The space is so confined and your gear so strewn that you need to think each movement through in advance, lest you find an elbow in your eye or dip a foot into your tentmate's soup.  That process was one level more delicate on this morning, owing to condensation on the inner walls of the tent which rained down onto us each time we bumped a wall or the center pole.  

We bade farewell to Brad and John and rode out into the drizzle, which initially wasn't as bad as it had sounded inside the tent.  Rounding a point of land soon after starting brought us face-on to the oncoming wind, driving rain straight down on our noses.  Already thin conversation grew yet more scarce as we burrowed inside of hoods and kept our heads tipped down to ease the sting.

Best to stand upwind of this'n.

I'd love to wax poetic here, spinning yarns about how the adverse conditions made us stronger, or forged a bond, maybe increased camaraderie.  Probably all of that did happen.  What stands out about the day, now, is that the sand was soft, the beach was steep, the rain and wind relentless.  We had to grovel at the very edge of the crashing waves to find a barely rideable surface, which meant that every few minutes one would dump right there and engulf our feet, chilling us yet more.  

Shivers were my first clue that something was changing ahead.  Then came the bergy bits in the intertidal.

Then we rounded a corner and saw this big blue marble standing sentinel at the mouth of the Seal River.  In bright sun or even heavy overcast I could have found limitless angles to explore and shoot here.  From within the heavy downpour we had, I fired off a few from-the-hip bursts with my gutless point and shoot and kept moving.

The Seal flows out of the Bering Glacier, carrying many thousands of cubic feet of water per second, with a few hundred cubic feet of ice floating, sloshing, and fizzing along within that current.  I may have been colder at some point on this trip, but I really can't remember when.  

A slack current on the put-in side of this crossing lulled me into thinking it would be easy.  That current increased imperceptibly, likely with each paddle stroke, until I suddenly became aware that my ferry angle and speed were insufficient to miss a grounded many-ton iceberg near my hoped-for landing.  I paused two beats then dove for the eddy behind it, amazed at its size and the power of the current whipping me past it.  And then I was almost upside down as the slack water of the eddy spun me around and pulled my unstrapped bike most of the way off the deck.

We packed haphazardly after the Seal, fingers too leaden to manage delicate tasks, cores too cold to care.  Popping over the dune line and back to the outer coast we nodded in amazement and appreciation as the temps instantly climbed an easy 10 degrees relative to the cold-hole of the Seal behind us.  Not to say it was warm...

I have no recollection of sunshine on this day.  I do remember being intensely grateful for the moments when either the rain or the wind (but rarely both) lulled.

After our third or fourth lunch-and-bootstrap break we found engaging riding high against the dune line, but it didn't last long enough -- maybe 10 minutes -- before we got squeezed back onto the apron at waters edge.  More groveling.

At the mouth of the Kaliakh River we stopped to admire dozens of seals sliding down the bank and into current to escape the predators (us) they saw approaching.  Look beyond Roman's right shoulder for their slides in the pic immediately below.

We didn't cross the Kaliakh until the next morning.  Perhaps we didn't want to disturb the seals any further.  Perhaps.  More likely we'd just run out of gumption for the day, so when someone suggested climbing up into the dune to camp we all moved that way without another word.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this MC Slammah. I know there is plenty on your plate lately. And I know you want to kick much of it to the curb in order to go pedal/float/wander.
    So thanks for keeping this trip going.