Saturday, September 4, 2010

On weather...

Our last leg of the journey was perhaps the hardest. We were getting tired but the lure of Ketchikan was seemed finally within grasp. The whole trip until this point, we had enjoyed unspeakably good weather...that is, we couldn't speak about it! We have enjoyed perfect conditions this entire trip: slightly overcast and calm in the morning when we paddled clearing away to an amazingly sunny and windy afternoon when we could enjoy camp and do the food gathering close by camp. However, every time we told people we had good weather, then it rained! It happened to us when we told people in Klemtu, then we had those rainy days in Cougar Bay when we went searching for spirit bear of the Pacific rainforest and only found rain in the forest. I guess the weather was like, "Well, I've been awfully nice to you and here you go ruining my reputation!" So we didn't speak about the weather and enjoyed amazing days.

...This worked until the last part of our trip. Around Prince Rupert, the weather seemed to drastically change. The fog around Prince Rupert was so thick that when we were trying to get to Kitson Island, just outside of Prince Rupert, we couldn't see the island even though we were right infront of it. There is something slightly unnerving about an island that runs away from you as you try to paddle to it. That was Kitson for us. On our approach to Prince Rupert, we had started our 12km crossing from Lewis Island and Kelp Passage, passing Genn and Little Genn Island, towards Kitson when Kitson dissappeared in the fog. We unconsciously started paddling towards Smith Island, which we didn't intend to but could see a hazy point in the fog. When we were under a kilometer away, we still coudln't see Kitson Island...or anything else for that matter. The current made a disconcerting twist on things as a heading on a compass helped until you drifted to a different perspective.

We finally caught that tricky island and was rewarded by the sun coming out in all her glory revealing a beautiful sandy beach with water that was an amazing turquoise, sparkling sapphire. Porpoises meandered by in pods. Porpoises are like the laid back version of dolphins and seem to slowly casually swim about instead of the jump, jump, JUMP! of dolphins which always seem like they're racing to some appointment that they are late for. Kitson Island is a gorgeous place and totally recommended... if you can find it!

The next weather challenge was crossing Portland Inlet. Portland Inlet sort of divides Canada from Alaska. I say sort of beacuse it is a little messier than that with some islands on the northern shore in Canada. The northern shore of the inlet fades into the mist as we begin our 8 km crossing. Portland Inlet is completely open to Chatham Sound and is very long. It is over 100km in length making it the the longest fjord in North America! The length, which winds get funneled down and picks up speed, plus the openness make for notoriously bad conditions. As we got around the middle, the calm and drizzly conditions quckly deteriorated as wind gusted down the channel, picking up wild whitecapped waves. The rain downpours and the water covers my glasses. I can bearly see and the raindrops pelt my face and stings my eyes. The shape of Tracy Island was only a faint outline in the fog that was visible if you stared intently and the rest of the shore right behind it remained cloaked in white. It was a very wild and wet crossing that took our complete concentration.

As we were able to see more of the shore, Boston Islands and the mainland becoming faintly visisble, there was a feeling of relief. Yay! We had almost made it and was virtually on Alaksa's doorstep!

However, Alaska would have to wait a couple more days. We landed on a little island just off of Wales Island with Alaska as the next set of islands across Tongass Passage as we were cold, shivering and on the verge of hypothermia. The rain continued to pour so we set up an old tarp in the forest. Even after changing, Bryan and I were shivering wrecks. I just wanted to curl up in a little ball and go to sleep. However, that was a very bad idea. A good idea was to keep moving and doing stuff. We went through our usual motions - I prepped hot chocolate and cookies then dinner and he carved out camp. By 6pm, we crawled into our nice dry tent into our sacks of delightful warming.

The next morning, we woke up to the downpouring rain pelting our tarmp and promptly rolled over and went back to sleep. Weather systems will pass and as yesterday's taste of hypothermia was still very fresh, we decided to take a rest day and stay warm and dry. Alaska was so close but would just have to wait another day.

For the rest of the trip, we danced with the rain. There were beautiful sunny breaks but for the most part, we weaved in and out of misty, drizzly weather. Big, fat raindrops showered as we kayaked down the coastline of Alaska's Misty Fjordlands, living up to its misty name. The wet weather made the trip considerably harder as all our stuff became damp and clammy, if not completely wet. My clothes supply diminished steadily as I couldn't dry stuff and then when I could, it had been sitting wet in my kayak for so long it stunk like you couldn't imagine. Wet weather at the end of the trip has made me realize that we have been so lucky to have amazing weather for most of the trip. Bad weather makes the trip considerably more uncomfortable and challenging. I don't know if we would have made it if it had been really wet in the beginning!

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