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Southeast Alaska – Trip 1516


We encountered amazing bear viewing at Pack Creek yesterday and stayed past our planned departure time. Today’s schedule didn’t allow any room for flexibility, so we traveled through dinner last night and arrived at our anchorage in the late evening.

The only illumination as we anchored was a waxing moon, so we couldn’t see if there were any animals in the meadow, but as soon as we had shut down the engine and started settling in for the night, we heard them.

Barking like dogs, yipping like coyotes and howling like, well, wolves, they carried on their conversations for over an hour. Perhaps it was two packs meeting, or one pack spread out and hunting, but their calls echoed across the water. Because we are able to sit in silence when at anchor with no generators erasing the subtle night sounds we are able to hear distant waterfalls, gentle rain ringing into the ocean around us like a thousand tiny bells, and once, every year or two, the sounds of a wolf pack celebrating a successful hunt.

Earlier in the week we encountered a large group of resident (salmon eating) orcas. Resident groups are typically much larger than the more common pods of transient orcas (mammal eating) that we typically find in SE Alaska. The pod we traveled with consisted of about thirty animals swimming in tight formation, with another dozen scouts ranging well ahead foraging for fish. It has been several years since we last came across residents in Alaska, and only in the San Juan Islands have I seen so many so close together.

After our late run last night we were up at 4:30 this morning so we could cruise to the head of Endicott Arm and spend time viewing Dawes Glacier. There were almost constant falls of ice from its three hundred foot high face, some small but some large enough that I felt it prudent to move back a few hundred yards.

This afternoon the rain has returned after three days of uncharacteristic sun and warmth. We opened doors and windows and had changed into shorts in an attempt to adapt to temperatures in the low 80’s. But, with todays’ heavy rain, all is back to normal.

The guests and our guide, Sarah, are now kayaking into the deep fiord of Ford’s Terror. The narrow entrance channel constricts the tidal ebb and flow into the inlet, and is navigable only at the changes of the tide when the inner inlet has the same sea level as does the outer reach. Inside are towering cliffs reaching out of sight thousands of feet above us as we paddle along the feet of myriad waterfalls. No one else is here. Only our guests and Sarah, accompanied by a scattering of curious yet wary harbor seals.

Tomorrow we will explore tide pools near the narrows before heading out of Endicott Arm and turning north toward Juneau. The warm and sunny week looks like it will have been bound between covers of rain, wind and cold, but it has been a perfect sampling of the conditions that create a temperate rain forest.