Friday, September 9, 2016

Footsteps of Giants: Lost coast north day eight.

Laying in our bags all night while listening to the rain continually intensify, you might think we'd had to agonize over what our next step would be.  Get up onto the glacier with already soaked gear, in a whiteout, for 2 days of just-above-freezing rain?  Then another 2 or 3 days of sodden riding and paddling from there?

In reality, once we took a quick glance at the calendar and did some basic math, we really didn't have a decision to make: Our time was already up.

It was more complicated than just that, of course, but knowing that we had ~100 miles left to go, with ~half of that on the glacier (2 days travel), then a long day across Yakutat Bay in the boats, then another day to ride and schlep down to Yakutat proper, then ~half a day to box bikes and ensure there was room on the milk run out meant (assuming all went well) that we needed ~5 more days to finish.

We had just a shade over 2 to work with.

Given that there was an airstrip near Icy Bay lodge -- a mere few hours from where we lay listening to the rain fall -- made our "choice" to pull the plug purely academic.

All that remained was to pack our sodden gear, call in a plane, and make it to that airstrip.

We rode a few hundred meters to where the Cetani flowed out of the glacier, inflated boats while shivering in the rain, then climbed in and went for a ride.  Highlights of our float included Grand Canyon-sized wave trains, reading and running everything, and (ahem) watching Brett both swim and self-rescue.  

The water was so cold it didn't feel cold -- it burned any skin it came into contact with.  The fact that Davis immersed himself into it, got himself and his craft out of it, floated another ~40 minutes festering in his own slushy juices, then packed up and rode a few miles without a single whimper bore testament to what we all already knew: Davis doesn't dwell on minutia.

Rolling through the fog back out to Icy Bay, aiming toward a cabin we'd spied the day before.

If you could step outside of your borderline hypothermic state for a moment you were likely to notice unbounded natural beauty everywhere.  It required discipline, sodden and shivering as we were, to maintain that mindset.

We kindled fire, dried gear and selves, cooked a meal in the hunting cabin, then fired up the sat phone to arrange pickup.  Dry clothes in a warm room felt indescribably blissful, tempered only by the knowledge that our trip was ending.  All that remained was a few miles of riding to the airstrip.

Something about knowing the plug has been pulled makes me pay closer attention to the small details along the way.  Almost like I'm already missing them.  Megatons of kelp, trillions of mussels, a single apex predator, and a dearth of traction beneath our tires were the highlights of the ride up to Icy Bay Lodge.

A few short crossings kept us engaged, especially once the ceiling lifted enough to allow up-bay views of the Yahtse.

After a few hours of coasteering we rounded a point and saw a tender, a landing craft, and even some pleasure craft moored.  The folks at the Icy Bay Lodge were friendly, inquisitive, and informative (sharing that their little harbor here is the only safe anchorage between Cordova and Yakutat -- which explained the crowd) not to mention hospitable.  While Mike inquired about our trip and answered the volley of questions we returned, he also made sure we each had a cold beverage in our hands.

At dusk we climbed a steep, greasy track up into the woods, then rolled along through the trees to the airstrip beyond.

I'll be back to share some video and a bit of 411 on gear in a few days.  Got a specific gear/bike/boat/kit question?  Ask and ye shall receive.


  1. Thanks for the great report Mike. I've been working a lot lately to squirrel away $$ for bike trips so your updates have been a welcome distraction from my To Do List!

  2. Thank you for sharing your journey!!


  3. I'm looking forward to any kit information you want to share. I'm particularly interested in what clothing systems were used and how they worked out.

  4. Thanks for sharing your journey. How do the bikes hold up to the sand and salt? Sounds like hell on mechanicals.

  5. Thoroughly enjoyed reading and seeing y'all's adventure. Looking forward to the continued saga.