Saturday, September 12, 2015

Knight Island to Whittier via Icy Bay in 2015

8/22 - It has been a few years since Jean and I have paddled in the Sound.  We got a water taxi share with Lazy Otter to Knight Island for $230 each. This is late in the season for us to paddle in the Sound but various schedule conflicts for Jean and I prevented our usual July trip.  We ran into Nelly at Lazy Otter, which was a surprise.  I hadn't seen her since we paddled on the Kenai River in June.  She and her friend are chartering to the top of Colross Passage for a 3 day trip.  It was very windy in Whittier and blowing in Passage Canal but it was dry.  We requested a drop at the kayak site in Johnson Bay on Knight Island that is shown on the Trails Illustrated map. Unfortunately there was no beach so we went to a great beach we saw at the north entrance of the bay. This is a good campsite for the current 11' tide not for the 14' tides we'll see in a week.  We set up camp and paddled around Johnson Bay.  We saw sea lions, land otters, sea otters, eagles, and whales spouting in Knight Island Passage.  

8/23 - It was a calm night with temperatures in the high 40's.  We heard sea otters munching and pups crying.  I saw the Northern lights last night.  There was a heavy dew in the morning.  We paddled to the beach at the end of Squire Island that is on the Trails Illustrated map.  The day started calm for several hours then became breezy with a north wind. We saw a whale north of Dire Bay that swam near us.  Quite exciting.  We saw 3 land otters going into the sea from a beach and also seals, sea otters, and eagles.  The outside of Squire Island has lots of small beaches for breaks at low tides. The campsite is set in the trees and a good storm site but there is no fresh water.  The day was partly cloudy to cloudy and in the low 60s.  We saw very few motorboats.

8/24 - It was another clear night with dew on the tent in the morning. We heard lots of salmon jumping in front of the beach last night and in the morning.  A deer was near our tent in the morning.  A sea lion in front of the campsite probably was going after fish.  We paddled to the Pleiades Islands in an hour and saw porpoises nearby.  There were lots of seals and sea otters, some with pups too.  We then paddled to Countess Point in 3/4 hour.  The beach to the south is campable at low tide ranges.  We continued to the Dual Head camp marked on the Trails Illustrated map.  This is a bomber site with a great landing beach and sites even in the trees.  It is great for storms or large groups but there is no fresh water here. There are lots of icebergs coming out of Icy Bay.  There are also some biting gnats here.  Six land otters swam past us in a group first one way and then the other.  We saw three motorboats today. We had a mostly clear day with light breeze and small seas.  

8/25 - The night was warm and the day sunny and calm.  Heard a whale spouting in the morning in Whale Bay.  Paddled to Nassau Bay.  Lots of ice was coming out of the bay.  The Nassau glacier is noisy but we didn’t see much ice coming off the face.  Had lunch at the campsite marked on the Trails Illustrated map.  This site is susceptible to surges from calving.  I’d not camp here.  We headed for an island in Icy Bay, 3 miles from the Tiger Glacier.  The campsite is high above surges with a great view of the glacier.  It has a poor landing beach and is an uphill haul for the gear and boats though.  Saw eagles, sea otters, and seals.  Gnats are at this campsite too.  The Tiger Glacier is noisy but not much calving.

8/26 - The glacier was very noisy last night and there are lots of ice bergs in the bay this morning.  Cloudy night and day.  Started paddling before the showers began.  They continued off and on through mid-afternoon.  Camped at the northern entrance to Jackpot Bay.  A little alder trimming made it a nice sheltered spot.  Saw sea otters, seals, and eagles.  Also only one motor boat and one sailboat.  It is much more quiet than in July when there is commercial fishing.  Calm winds and seas.  Heard the Nassau glacier groaning as we paddled past.  Lots of ice was coming out of the bay.    Saw a  humpback leaving Jackpot Bay.  It blew several times then went straight up out of the the water 20’ with its mouth open then sank back down.  First time I’ve seen that.

8/27 - Misty and calm morning.  High winds are predicted for tonight so we want to get to the bomber campsite at Point Nowell.  High winds are predicted through Friday night so we’re planning for a storm day tomorrow. The first three quarters of the paddle was with gentle following seas.  That switched to a headwind and waves.  Point Nowell has no water source and we can carry only one days worth of water.  We found two nearby water sources.  One is a stream feeding a brackish back-beach pond behind a north-facing beach south of Point Nowell.  There is also a pond near Point Nowell on the topo map.  It is easy to reach in a north wind.  We poured our full water bag into Ziploc bags and place them in a paddle float for safekeeping.  I paddled over to the beach south of the pond.  There is a brackish pond behind the beach.  From there I hiked several hundred yards to the freshwater pond and filled the water bag.  After getting adequate water we lazed around on the sunny south facing beach watching sea otters, seals, sea lions, and whales.

8/28 - It was a very windy night with gales in the sound.  Quite exciting.  A clear night and day.  Strong winds continued during the day with high seas.  We watched a sea otter, sea lions, and lots of whales. The best thing of this whole trip was when a pod of 6 to 8 Orcas came into our bay and hunted fish for 15 minutes.  They came within 20 feet of shore.  We could see them swimming sideways hunting under the clear water.  They are much larger than I expected.  One had a huge dorsal fin.  Glad we took a weather day here and saw them.  The beach at the south end of Point Nowell was warm and we spent most of the day there.  The east facing beach was shaded, windy, and cool.  No small boats today with the small craft advisory.  In the evening the pod of orcas came past our camp from the south. We saw them from a mile away and they rapidly went past our point and went out of sight to the north.  Their dorsal fins repeatedly cut through the waves.  While we watch the orcas coming towards us another type of whale was spouting in the distance.  What a great place.

8/29 - Windy last night.  Calm morning and day. Seas gradually subsided during the day. We paddled to Applegate Island another bomber campsite for the forecasted two days of high winds.  Having such strong wind and no rain is odd.  Normally there is rain during our storm days so we can collect water off the tarp.  The Applegate campsite is near two streams so we can get water during the upcoming wind storm.  The streams are protected from the north winds.  Saw a sailboat and several sport fishing boats today. Still no kayaks.  A whale surfaced several times near us as we paddled.  A sea lion swam beside us for 15 minutes.  It would turn and look at us as we paddled.  Also saw seals and lots of sea otters.  We had a pleasant evening watching the sunlit clouds.

8/30 - Today is a storm day but a weird storm day with sunny skies and high winds.  Normally we would expect rain with such a storm.  Colross Passage is solid whitecaps and water is being whipped off the sea surface between Colross Island and Perry Island.  Jean paddled in Colross Passage and could make no headway in the wind.  We saw only a sea otter and one boat all day.  When we went to the stream to get water there were two great blue herons feeding.  They flew off when they saw us.  It was hard to find a place out of the wind because the strong winds eddy around everywhere.  There is a kingfisher singing at the top of trees.  These must be his islands.

8/31 - Another storm day.  The high wind and waves are similar to yesterday.  It was cold and cloudy in the morning but sunny by noon to warm us up.  We saw a sea otter, eagle, kingfisher, and heron today.  This campsite Is so beautiful especially to the southwest.  There are nine islands in a backdrop of mountains with flowing glaciers. What a great spot for a storm day.  There are small craft advisories and gale warnings around the Sound today.  Whittier has been especially windy.  There have been very few days when we could've paddled back into Whittier because of the high winds there.  The forecast is for 3 good days of calm weather so we hope it holds for us to get in.  The air is remarkably dry and the absence of rain is unusual.

9/1 - Winds decreased to 10 to 15 mph overnight.  The night was clear and today was sunny. We started paddling at noon and went over to the old Forest Service cabin location across from our campsite. There is a lagoon there where we've seen bears taking salmon on previous trips. This time though there were no bears and the cabin has been removed. There were 1 to 2 foot seas in Colross passage and a few whitecaps.  We paddle into the north wind as the seas decreased during the day. We paddle to the new Forest Service cabin in Goosebay to see it.  The cabin is at the very back of the bay.  It was occupied so we did not land and get out.  There were many sport fishing boats out, which we had not seen in days. We camped at 20 mile beach at the top of Colross Island, the same beach Nelly was dropped on over a week ago.  We had sun there until 8:30 and the wind was calm.  I should note that most streams had salmon trying to get up them.  And there were lots of dead and dying salmon on the beaches.  There have been stellar jays at every campsite and dragonflies on most beaches.  We only saw an eagle today.

9/2 - Rain is predicted for tomorrow so we’re going to have a big 21 mile day and paddle all the way into Whittier.  Last night was cool and clear.  The day was clear with a few high clouds.  It was calm, making for a safe passage across the endless crossings.  The longest is Cochrane Bay, which can be scary when there is a north wind because the seas have miles of fetch to build as they come down Port Wells.  Today it was calm and just as this long crossing was getting boring a military cargo jet started circling the area.  The President is visiting Alaska so we speculated that it might be related to that.  Suddenly 5 parachutists appeared in the sky from the jet and seemed to drop into Blackstone Bay.  Then a military helicopter started patrolling in the area.  By the time we started the crossing of Blackstone Bay we could see the helicopter performing maneuvers in Passage Canal.  People were hoisted from the water.  Quite entertaining for part of this next boring crossing.  We also had a sea lion following us near Pt. Cochrane, the only marine mammal of the day.  We  saw a group of 8 jet skiers, which is unusual.  Haven’t seen them in the Sound for many years.  After 11 1/2 days of paddling we saw our first kayakers.  They were paddling out of Blackstone Bay.  We also saw two other paddlers when we were almost to Whittier.  After the entertainment provided by the military, we finished paddling to Whittier on calm seas and sunny skies in 6 1/2 hours.  We got the car keys from Lazy Otter, loaded up, and went home.  One great trip with NO rain, lots of sun, and more whales than I’ve ever seen.  We covered 125 miles and stayed at some great campsites.  

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