We all landed at the Salmon stream across from East Flank Island on Sunday morning. With the tide out, many of the Salmon had been stranded or picked out and eaten, so the beach was pretty smelly, but still inhabited only by birds. Although the fish in the pool at the top were expiring through crowding and oxygen starvation, many more were fighting their way up the tiny stream, doomed to the same fate.
King Salmon fighting upstream to certain doom
After getting enough water to survive a day or so visiting only islands, we headed out into the Sound, aiming for Bald Head Chris Island, a crossing of about 2.5 km. We quickly passed this and continued SE, with a slightly longer crossing to Dutch Group. Here we landed for lunch and explored, looking for the “Abandoned Oil Tank” marked on our maps. It looks as though recent construction work has been in hand to remove all traces of such wartime installations, so there was little left to see except a rather scruffy road made of rafts of planks penetrating the rainforest. We soon headed on round the south side of these islands and noticed a lot of noise from a big skerry over to our right which had many sea lions hauled out. These guys can be a bit aggressive, so we chose not to make a closer visit, and headed for Axel Lind Island, passing another set of skerries on our left towards the end of this crossing, which was just shy of 4 km. There was now a little doubt over island identities and we paddled a little way along the north coast to be quite sure that our destination was not hiding out of sight just round the corner, but as soon as it became clear that we had correctly identified Eaglek Island, a break was made to cross to this, heading downwind. We aimed for what seemed like the biggest beach, and on landing, found that we could just about fit the three tents in gaps in the forest above the high tide mark.
Monday saw us off from the south-facing beach, rounding the east end of the island and heading west. The weather was threatening to deteriorate as we hit the next island and headed north towards Eaglek Bay. We followed the coast round, but avoided being fooled into paddling through the cut towards Ragged Point which would have taken us the wrong way. Instead we turned right again and headed north, taking another little cut between islands to visit an oyster farm (not much to see, as it happened, just buoys) by which time it had started to rain. However, by the time we were crossing Derickson Bay, it had cleared up somewhat, with visibility good enough to allow a choice between straight-lining to the next headland, or following the coast more closely and still remaining within sight of each other. We found a small beach with a little stream, and took the opportunity to fill up on water again. Another brief landing was made to scope out a possible camping spot where a small tidal lagoon drained out. I didn’t much like the look of this, as there were some very obvious trampled trails, and we would be very much open to being surprised by a bear emerging from the forest. Ahead, we could see the small wooded Cascade Island, which was on the far side of Cascade Bay, which was our immediate destination. Rounding a small headland, we could see white beyond some trees, and as we paddled into the bay, we soon got a better view of the biggest waterfall in Prince William Sound. We were able to paddle right up to this, where a sizeable river falls directly into the sea. The final drop, seen in the photo, is less than half the total fall, which is around 60m.
Andy getting a close view of the Cascade, Cascade Bay (Photo: Mary)
Back down the bay, we checked out an alluvial fan with a fine view of the waterfall, as a possible campsite. However, bits of seaweed strewn among the tall grasses suggested that there was nowhere for tents which was reliably above the high water mark, so we paddled back out into Squaw Bay and had a bit of debate. I favoured crossing the bay to where a number of beaches and grassy patches could be seen. However, a check with binoculars made these look less attractive and we decided instead to head south – a kilometre or two down Eaglek Bay, Derickson Bay opened and looked to have less steep slopes. We checked out a couple of small beaches at the entrance, but a short way into the bay a larger beach offered a definite camping opportunity, so we hauled the boats out. Examination of the ridges and seaweed lines here convinced us that as we were now at neaps, we could set tents on the highest level of the shingle and expect to stay dry.
Camping in Derickson Bay – at neaps we can afford to be on the shingle
As Tuesday’s route would, again, take us out to islands, we were keen to stock up with water as soon as any could be found. We could see a couple of small but steep valleys on the opposite side, and as we paddled out into the bay, could definitely hear a stream. But even as we got close to the far shore, no water was visible until we had almost landed, when a stream could finally be seen pouring over rocks under the trees and sinking promptly into the back of the beach. A bit of shingle moving dammed up enough of a small pool to allow us to work our filter pumps, with the added benefit of being able to work under the shade of the Alders.
We could hear this stream from across the Bay, but it was well hidden !
We now reversed our course of yesterday until we reached the narrow channel leading south west towards Ragged Point, which this time, we duly took, heading south down the west-facing coast of the island which it isolated. From the tip, we crossed back to Axel Lind Island at the point we’d briefly touched two days ago. Now we headed round the south west side, being stalked by a couple of sea lions on the way. This was an attractive coast with various small wildlife, and several beaches where camping would have been possible. However, still no large wildlife. We skipped past Jenny Islands and on to Little Axel Lind Island, paddling along its south east side. A tombolo beach might have provided a route across the island at a high spring tide, but there was no way without a carry today. Another narrow cut near the eastern end looked as though it would go, and did indeed continue beyond the large rock apparently obstructing it. However a couple of smaller rocks just beyond meant we’d need another 30 cm of tide to get through. We duly backed out and went right round the eastern tip of the island.
Rounding the NE tip of Little Axel Lind Island
The plan now was to head back to Jenny Islands, before crossing back to our camping spot of two nights earlier on Eaglek Island. A couple of skerries provided a channel to hop through, but Eaglek Island looked a little different from this angle and we couldn’t immediately identify the beach we wanted. As we got closer, however, a distinctive fallen tree at the west end of our beach became visible, so we changed course a little and landed at just the right place.
Half a moon – neaps on Eaglek Island
Heading west on Wednesday, we left Eaglek Island, passing the bigger island almost joined to Ragged Point, and hit the “mainland” again. Once again, we were in search of fresh water, and hoping to avoid the Salmon stream where we felt there was a real risk of meeting bears. A narrow bay contained another oyster farm, but didn’t seem to have a stream at the head, so we passed on, heading for Squaw Bay, where a river was marked on the map coming in on the west side at Papoose Cove. Reaching this was no problem, though we could guess from the number of Bald Eagles and Glaucous-winged gulls wheeling around that this one, too, had a salmon run. Unfortunately, arriving not far off the bottom of the tide, we found the sizeable stream cascading directly into the sea (into a pool full of salmon) and no freshwater pool. A rope offered a tantalising chance to climb up – but as it ended more than a metre above the current water level this was not going to help us today. A scrambling route did look possible, but there was nowhere close enough to land and reach this, so we reluctantly concluded that this stream was not going to supply our needs.
Getting fresh water proved impossible in Papoose Cove at low tide
Back out into the bay, nowhere else looked a likely prospect, so we headed round the headland and visited the salmon stream for the third time. By now, the smell of dead salmon was oppressive, and fish skeletons were everywhere as the Eagles and gulls rose into the air from our disturbance. We hastened to the little waterfall to fill up. Most of the fish in the pool were now dead, so Mary and I climbed up the little waterfall to get to clean water. There were obvious game trails both sides of the stream, and with the noise of falling water and lots of vegetation we felt there was a real risk that an approaching bear would have little warning that we were there, so tried to make plenty of noise as well as being as quick as possible in filling up. John and Pete filled up in a little pool at the bottom of the waterfall and we escaped without incident, back down the beach and into the boats where it was less than a kilometre to paddle across to East Flank Island and the same beach we had used four days ago. There was still plenty of firewood, so a last evening was spent relaxing and watching yet another sunset from the beach.
Yet another perfect sunset on our last night – East Flank Island
Thursday was pick-up day, but not until 2 p.m., so we had plenty of time to tidy and pack up gear before Epic Charters arrived to take us back to Whittier. The boat, “Ellen J” is well equipped for carrying sea kayaks and kit, and even had a cooler with beer for us !
Pick up at East Flank Island for return to Whittier (Photo: Mary)
With the boat cruising at 29 knots, it was just about an hour through Wells Passage south of Esther Island, across Port Wells, and up the length of Passage Canal to Whittier, to meet Levi. Boats and kit loaded into the trailer, we still had half an hour before the tunnel would open in our direction, so had a wander round the general store (some buying clean tee-shirts) before piling into the truck and waiting for the tunnel to open. Back at Hope, we all had to shower in double-quick time to make it to the restaurant in time to eat, but Halibut and chips, and absolutely no shortage of beer made a definite return to civilisation. We had a day to get sorted and packed up, and a leisurely walk into Hope for lunch. Another fine meal of Sockeye Salmon on curried lentils followed, with rather less emphasis on the beer tonight. Up and off by 08:30 on Saturday, for the drive to Anchorage, where we put all our baggage into storage and took a cab to downtown, where we visited the museum. There are a number of baidarka frames, some definitely historic and weather-beaten, but one appeared recently built and noticeably different from the classic baidarka shape such as the Lowie Museum specimen which has been used as a base by so many modern baidarka replica builders (including my own Borealis project).
All trips must end, so we cabbed back to the airport, checked our bags in, and flew back, getting some splendid views over Greenland as we flew a slightly less polar route than on our outward flight. It was strange to look down on the snowy landscape below and realise that the shadows were on the south sides of the hills, as the midnight sun shone from the north. We also got a glimpse of the east coast of Iceland, but cloud covered the Orkneys, and we flew over the North Sea on our way to Frankfurt. A much shorter layover here soon saw us on the short hop to Manchester, and the drive home.
There is a page of additional notes for this trip. covering outfitting, watertaxi, maps, charts, tides, etc.