Thursday, August 18, 2016

A trip with Danny on the Moku Iki

 Ok, this will be a huge post.  I just got off the Moku Iki, a small Albin 28 sportfishing boat that my friend Danny's Dad owns.  We arranged to borrow the mighty craft for the past two weeks, and went out on an alaskan adventure.  Let me recount it for you...
Here's Danny at the wheel of the beast, as we cruised out of Juneau Harbor and headed south to find high adventure.  We started at the Sumdum Glacier, or just downhill from it.  We arrived in the evening of the first day and walked around on shore, looking at the birds and hoping for bears.  It was a rounded pebbly shoreline with a lot of swampy marsh inland, but some passable forests as well.  When we got up to the river that runs off from the glacier, the going got rough enough to stop us; there were lots of blueberries everywhere.  It was also getting kind of late and we wanted to get back by dusk.  On the way we found an interesting tree reaching for the skies...

 And a porcupine!  We actually found two of these, and chased them around until we could get some good pictures.  They don't run very fast and mostly just turn and swat at you with their tails, but that doesn't reach very far.  They can't throw quills, so we were safe, and they have very poor memory and bad vision, so this one had forgotten I was there when I took this picture.  Mostly they look like a spiky behind.

Here is a picture of the Moku Iki

After a night at the base of Sumdum Glacier, we wandered up Endicott Arm and turned into Ford's Terror.  Ford's Terror is a very narrow fjord and has a narrow and shallow pass to get into it, which runs at very high velocity and makes rapids that struck terror into an officer of the Patterson, a US steamship in the 1890s charting the area.  It strikes terror into me as well when it gets running.  I've heard about 8 ft standing waves and seen the current smash into cliffs that overhang like fangs...
 Beyond the terror of the entrance, it is fantastic to behold.  We paddled up a river to paradise, to a foggy and misty meadow with sand and the promise of gold all over.  We also caught a small female King Crab, and then let her go.
We spent two days in Ford's Terror and loved every moment of it, despite the fact it rained the whole time.  We went on an 8 hour bushwack up a river, through more devil's club than I had seen before and past a few waterfalls.

 This picture is from the north end of Ford's Terror, and you can see the steep walls and smooth faces of the fjord.
 There was a big chunk of ice waiting for us as we exited the terror again, back into Endicott Arm.  We spent the night in a new place, Sanford Cove, before going onward to Windham Bay.
 Windham bay was neat, there is a settlement there, or was.  Nobody was home when we stopped by, so we tried our hand at panning for gold and looked at the salmon all around the streams.  The rivers were high from all the rain, and it rained still.  Rain was actually the most consistent thing of the whole trip.
 The next day we went to Port Houghton and met up with the WEX!  I had known they were going to be there and made plans accordingly.  We raided their pantry and I went polar plunging with their guests (a few I had known from the earlier week) and it was a nice time visiting with everyone.
Then we headed in to the Salt Chuck of Port Houghton.  I've been to this place a few times before and last year had seen two wolves there and resolved to come visit and spend more time if it was the last thing I did.  The resolution paid off, so there I was, going up the salt chuck in the coming darkness.  The depth sounder read off small numbers but we crept along and made it through with plenty of room to spare.  We anchored off the river that feeds the salt chuck from the north.  The next morning, a Heron was there to greet us, as well as a ton of seals and the fast flowing current and a low tide.  It would have been nice to have a high tide in the morning to paddle further up the river, but it was not to be, so we paddled up the swift current as far as we could go and then began walking.  It was raining, and we were quickly soaked, but we trod on.  We found a cool fungus thing, some newts, and a beaver pond and stopped for lunch (thank you WEX).

Shortly after lunch we happened upon some very fresh moose track and poo and I began to suspect that the maker of those pieces was still nearby.  A little while later we saw the moose!  It walked away into the brush, but we decided to stalk it and see how close we could get, since it was not with a calf.  After about 30 minutes we got to a small pond and got about 50 ft from the moose, which quickly forgot of our presence.  It was the most magical thing to see such a huge creature that closely.  They are the most rare creature I've seen up here, so it was great to get a good look.

 We got back to the river and found Harbor Seals on logs in the middle of the river, about 4 miles upstream from the salt water.  I can't figure it out, why they don't get eaten by bears or wolves or something.
 We turned back and retraced our steps, getting back in the late afternoon.  As the darkness fell, the moon came out and we paddled around the sloughs and river mouths.  At one point we heard a rustling in the grass and turned to see a wolf poke his head out at us for a moment, then decide we weren't important and go onwards.  Shortly after, a huge creature came bounding through the grasses nearby and it was hard to tell, but I think it was a moose, probably scared up by the wolf.  We paddled back to the boat and watched the moon and a wolf began to howl, soon followed by a few more.  It was the most enchanting thing.

We went to the Sanborn Canal after that, still in Port Houghton, but I didn't take any pictures.  It was a really neat spot I think I'd like to visit again, a very straight river that comes down very slowly, so it was easy to paddle up a long ways.  We saw a mama black bear and cub while we were walking along, but they yielded the path and scampered up into the forest.  There were tons of salmon in this river, as with every river at this time of year.
As we left Port Houghton the next day, we came upon a bunch of humpback whales that were lunge-feeding.  We shut the engine off and they came pretty close, and at one point the boat was surrounded by a school of little fishes splashing and sounding like a rainstorm.  I expected a whale to come and try to eat them all right next to us, but they did not.  I got a few photos of the baleen and open mouths.

We went to Five Fingers Lighthouse and the occupants invited us ashore, so we tied the boat up to the leeward side and let the wind blow it into deep water, like being tied to a ship.  It worked beautifully, and we visited the family that was staying there for a few hours.  They had great stories to tell and knew some people we knew, and Danny had never been up the tower before, so it was a good time.

 From there we went to Hobart Bay.  I had a prejudice against this bay because people told me it was logged, and it is next to Port Houghton, so I have a favorite.  I guess that skewed my vision of the place, but it is second growth all around it, and the salt chuck there is impassible by anything deeper than a kayak.  I paddled up and looked at it, but since the tide was low there was a waterfall coming out.
 We then got passes to go to Pack Creek Bear Observatory and headed over to Admiralty Island to do so.  On the way we saw some Orcas!

 Pack Creek is just a few logs overlooking a meadow, but the bears are big and plentiful and come quite close.  We saw about 15 bears in one day, and the observatory is open from 9 am to 9 pm, so we stayed the whole time.  It was neat to watch them eat and interact with each other and to see all the birds.

 They only allow 24 people per day to come to see the bears there, and in the afternoon all the other people opted to go away, so we had the whole place to ourselves, except for the rangers who were interesting and friendly.  It was a very nice way to spend an afternoon; bears romping around all over and only a few folks watching them.

 I would like to do this kind of a trip every year if I could.  The last time Danny and I did this was in 2009, on Altair, and hopefully I'll bring Altair or something like it up here again before too long and we can do this again.  Moku Iki is a really great way to do this, however, as she can do 20 kts (actually 27.3!!!) and that helps to visit lots of places in a short amount of time.  Tomorrow we will clean up the boat and then Abe comes up to visit in a few days for a week before I have to go back to work.

No comments: