Monday, September 5, 2016

Footsteps of Giants: Lost coast north day six.

Drizzle continued off and mostly on throughout the night.  When said drizzle ended it was replaced by heavy rain.  Each time I stirred to shift or shiver my ear was bent outward in hopes of hearing silence replacing the drum of rain on tent skin. That wish never was granted.

When finally we had to rouse and move, we ate quickly, packed without much conversation, savored what there was to see while it was there to be seen.  Low cloud, fog, and rain obscured many of our views on this day.

First order of business was to cross the White, which Jaybs got to do 3 times after forgetting a critical piece of clothing at camp.

Slack tide beyond gave us a wide berth within which to choose lines.  All of them were wet, and most had been fluffed by the constant deluge.

Paralleling Umbrella Reef as we continue SE.

Perhaps the visual highlight of the day, for me.

The rain had the added effect of coloring all of the creeks we crossed, not just the glacial ones.

So what?  The flavor didn't really change, but the texture of the water we drank sure did.  Good for our gizzards, is what I told myself.

Full current, over-knee depth, and zero visibility: Doom still damn near rode this one out.

We'd all noticed an increase in the number of full-sized trees washed up at high tide, but somewhere near Big Sandy they became impossible to ignore.  We advanced and debated theories on why so many, here, now, but couldn't come to agreement.

Our arrival at the Big River crossing coincided with possibly the heaviest rain of the day, as well as high tide.  What we found there wasn't just terrifying, it was a complete deal-breaker where further forward progress was concerned.  Heavy current plowed straight into ocean swells, while carrying whole trees along for the ride.  Not just tree skeletons as seen above and below, but whole living-minutes-ago trees with full crowns of leaves and branches, and massive gnarly rootballs plowing wholesale into each other, tearing hell out of the bank, the bottom, and everything else along the way.  It was impossible to slip past them, impossible to even find a safe place to blow up boats within proximity of the carnage.  So we retreated to a place where we might safely wait for low tide and hoped for a change in circumstances.

This few-hour long break did nothing to increase our chances of success at getting Jaybs out on time. But it somehow coincided with a brief break in precip, allowing us to dry out clothing, tents, sleeping bags, cameras and lenses and camera bags, build a fire, eat a meal, even catnap for a few.  

In that sense it was priceless.  Possibly the biggest, luckiest break we got the whole trip.

Gear re-stashed and attitudes adjusted, at low tide we rolled back down and found a much different scene.  The ocean was no longer damming up the river, which meant the river lost it's steam before entering the surf.  Specifically, this meant that the massive trees were grounding out just before they reached us, so that we'd only have fast current into breakers to contend with.  It was spicy but doable, and as exclamation point to achieving the delayed-gratification crossing we were rewarded with a few moments of honey light and atmospheric surf-spray while watching gulls get tubed.

Jaybs, celebrating.

Riding in a drysuit?  Every day.

Moments after the Big crossing sun was replaced by cloud, laughter by apprehension, dead tree skeletons by live ones hanging by a thread from a 40' bluff being pounded relentlessly by waves for ~half of every day.  It seemed we'd found the source.

This one may have come down moments later.  We didn't hang around to find out.

Waiting to cross the Big at low tide gifted us the ability to skirt Icy Cape on the same low.  The riding was good, buoyed by adrenaline and the realization of how much carnage was happening a few hours before, and coming again a few hours later.

To help illustrate the destruction we saw, Roman shared this visual reference after the trip:

On the lower right search “Guyot Buy, AK”.

Click on “Topo" at the upper right.

Put your fore-finger on the airstrip shown on the old topo and your thumb on Icy Cape. 

Hold them there as you click on “Satellite”.

Now,  marvel at the mile width of coastal erosion as you toggle between “Satellite” and “Topo”. 

Icy Cape and Guyot Bay are gone. 

We concluded our lengthy day with a few miles of high-speed doubletrack and some great beach riding to camp at the cusp of our next obstacle: Crossing Icy Bay.  

1 comment:

  1. With respect to the disappearance of Icy Cape.
    There is no question that climate change is happening, and that human activity is, at the very least, playing some sort of part. I wonder though if the disappearance of these features is due simply do the dynamics of this very active coast line.
    Regardless, your trip report is making me soggy as I read it...