Today was spent exploring Dundas Bay with kayaks. We had been divided into three groups according to our preferred activity level. Chris and I had of course chosen level ”9-extreme”. Well, let’s just say that our interpretation of what that means is different to the others on the trip. The boat has a range of people, from those who have never sat in a kayak before to hard cases like us who have a lot of experience (and own kayaks). Our group of six (three couples – ourselves, Peter and Marta; Brian and Brenda) all had the most experience on the boat, but even within our group we still had a range of levels.
All the kayaks were doubles, so Chris and I were obviously together. Chris was still suffering from his strained tendon in his right arm, so the plan was that I would do most of the paddling and he would be kind to his arm. Fat chance—as those of you who know Chris would already have figured out. So with elbow taped, voltaren anti-inflammatories and 8-hour Tylenol painkillers ingested, he was ready to roll. I would be merrily paddling along (way ahead of the others), and then Chris would kick in and the kayak would lift out of the water as it powered forward at mach 3 speed. We quickly discovered that even with just one of us paddling, we were constantly having to wait for the others to catch up. So we had to accept that this was not an exercising holiday, but it’s a great way to see Alaska (you either fly or sail – there are few roads) in comfort.
The nature consists of majestic snow covered mountains in the background, with mixed growth forests of spruce and cottonwoods and western hemlocks in the foreground. Our group saw plenty of black bears along the shore grazing – we kept our distance of course, and enjoyed them through the binoculars that Chris’ colleague Genie had loaned us. There were too many eagles to count, and the occasional sea lion would stick his head up and follow us with curiosity.
Our guide naturalist for the day was Andrew, and we had a nice mix of kayaking, and walking in forest. The weather treated us to slight wind, overcast, occasional watery sun, and occasional showers. As we were landing the kayaks, we surprised a moose, but alas, he was too far away to really have a good look at him even in the binoculars before he disappeared. We were fortunate enough to find a bear trail which we followed into the forest with frequent loud calls of “HEY BEAR” just to ensure there were no surprises. Apparently bears make these paths and will put their paws in the exact same spot every trip, so the paw marks are quite distinctive. Eventually, they form a trail such as that shown below.
Andrew introduced us to bear scratching posts (living trees) where we gained a new respect for their height when they are standing upright. They raise themselves on their hind legs and scratch away at the tree, shredding it as though it was paper. The scratches cause the tree to bleed sap (see the photo below). We were given advice on how to react to bears- don’t run being the key message - but Chris pointed out that running could be a good solution. You don’t need to outrun the bear, just one of the other travelers!
There were also plenty of interesting plants to hear about and bogs to wade through. The ship had outfitted us with gum boots – great idea! The forests are so quiet, and other worldly up here – sphagnum moss hanging off the branches in drooping festoons. Sometimes as much dead wood on the forest floor as what is still upright. Moss covering everything and hastening the decaying process. Swamp and dry ground interlocking with the occasional serious bog. And once one is out on the rocky beach again, it’s 360 degrees of snow capped mountains and glaciers coming down to meet the sea.
We were back on the mother ship by 16:00 hrs and set sail for our next destination. On the way we were intercepted by sea otters – I am in love! They were preening and combing and playing – or just floating on their backs – folded hands on chest, little scruffy wet heads regarding us solemnly. One obese character was doing front over and back over rolls, bopping up and down frantically, and combing his hair into a fashionable peak. Too cute, as you can see from another of Zhang’s photos below. We left them behind all too soon. That’s been the highlight of the animal spotting for me thus far. Black bears and whales don’t quite make it into the cute category.
It was cold on the deck of the boat but bundled up with several layers we could watch the mountains go by. Some of the more hardy types stayed out longer but we soon retreated to the lounge to thaw out. The photo below was taken while we were braving the elements.
Over-ate yet again, and managed to sleep somewhat despite the racket. I think the engines were stopped by 23:00 hrs.
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