Alaska: On the Water Part 2

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Finally day 4 of our Alaskan multi sport adventure brought clear blue skies and a bright warm sun. After breakfast we hiked to Davidson Glacier. After hiking through thick forest we came to the flat sandy moraine where the Davidson glacier river flows. We walked across the glacial sand to the rocks and boulders where we climbed to get good views of the glacier. It towered hundreds above us, the turquoise glacial ice peaking through, and the river commencing beneath and roaring past us. It was magnificent.

We lingered for an hour, eating lunch, refilling our water bottles with clean cold glacier melt, and climbing boulders.  It was such a beautiful day. Finally we hiked back to camp where (after a few more wild strawberries) we packed up camp. It was thankfully high tide, and our guides paddled the kayaks right up to the grass where we easily loaded them with our gear. Then in the bright sun we headed out into the canal again. After several perfect hours on the water we reached our next campsite on Dalasuga Island.

It was a lovely although cold night. Bald Eagles were everywhere, and there was a wolverine sighting. July in Alaska allows for only a few hours of near darkness each night. This took getting used to. But one great by product of this is that we had lingering sunsets on clear nights as the sun just skirted behind the mountains for hours.

Day five was our last day kayaking, and it would be a memorable one. The wind was back, and we launched into 3-4 foot swells. The waves came from our rear left, and lifted us up. Water rolled over our kayaks, and we worked to keep from rolling over or crashing into nearby kayaks. It was a bit of an adrenaline rush, and was actually a lot of fun.

Fun until…one of the kayaks capsized. With panic we all realized one kayak was upside down. We held our collective breath until one, then two heads popped up. Two guides quickly headed to them as the rest of us grouped up and followed the third guide. The Twin Coves beach was nearby and we headed to it. We paddled hard and once we were all inside the cove and starting to land the guide headed back out into the canal to help. We quickly landed and dragged all the kayaks to higher ground. Knowing that soon we would have two hypothermic victims (the water temperature being about 48), we set up a tent and tossed about 5 down sleeping bags inside. We gathered dry clothes and began boiling water. After an eternity (about 15 minutes) the guides returned with Cameron and James. We stripped their clothes off and sent them into the tent to get dry and warm, bringing them hot drinks. They had left the kayak behind, unable to right it. The guides did an amazing job with the emergency, as well as our group for our preparation.

After an hour they were warm and dry. We could no longer kayak out as we had planned, so we had to backpack out instead. Unfortunately, we did not have backpacks with us and had to hike 3 miles with all our gear…awkwardly held in trash bags and stuff sacks, a few of us hiking in rubber fishermen’s boots. We made it to base where we dried out our gear, and took much needed showers. What a day!

Day six we headed to Canada to white water raft in the Yukon down the Blanchard and Tatshenshini Rivers. We loaded up our van and drove a few hours up the Haines highway into the Yukon. It is beautiful tundra, with little to no trees and rolling hills of green and orange mosses and lichen. We climbed up over the mountains through Chilkat Pass into fog and saw not a single structure or sign of human presence on the long road. But we did see two bears! Finally we arrived at the rafting place. Housed in hollowed school buses and a few shacks, we were all fitted with full body wet suits, booties and helmets. The water on parts of our expedition was a mere 38 degrees. And of course, it was 45 degrees outside and raining for most of the day. But it didn’t matter. We had four glorious hours of class III-IV rapids in front of us, and 7mm of neoprene between us and the cold.

We had an amazing time. I could do that 50 times and not tire of it, and heartily recommend it to anyone visiting the area. We stopped for lunch and hot drinks along the shore midway, and had a blast navigating the rapids and splashing other rafts on the tamer parts. Our guide was brilliant at steering our raft and urging us along with commands. Four hours later and we were finished. We were bused back where we peeled off the wet suits, put on dry clothes and headed back to Haines. Six days in and we were done with our water portion of Alaska. It had been tremendous.

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